Best right wing for 2021-22 season debated by NHL.com writers

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Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs led NHL right wings with 67 points (20 goals, 47 assists) in 55 games last season, one more than Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rantanen led the position with 30 goals, and Kane was the leader with 51 assists.

The race for most points among right wings should be even tighter this year with Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins healthy heading into training camp.

Kucherov, one of the top forwards in the NHL, missed the entire 2020-21 regular season because of hip surgery, and Pastrnak, who led the position in 2019-20 with 95 points (48 goals, 47 assists), missed eight games after his own hip surgery and struggled to get back on track, scoring 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists).

Who will emerge as the best right wing, as listed on their player page, in the 2021-22 season? We asked seven NHL.com writers for their thoughts.

Here are their answers (listed alphabetically):

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Though I’ve gotten a front-row seat to Pastrnak’s brilliance over his career and Rantanen and Kucherov are truly great talents, I’d be remiss not to toss in a vote for Kane, somehow an elder statesman at 32. Kane was tied with Rantanen for second in points among right wings in the NHL and has a track record a mile long. Kane has the most points of any right wing since the start of his career, 14 seasons ago, scoring 1,088 points (404 goals, 684 assists), well above the 875 scored by Phil Kessel. He’s also used to knowing how to prepare for a season after a short offseason after all those Cup runs with the Blackhawks. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Video: Top 10 Patrick Kane Plays from the 2021 Season

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning 

Who has scored the more points in a single regular season among active NHL players? It’s Kucherov, who scored an NHL career-high 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in 2018-19 for the Lightning and has since helped them win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. Kucherov has led the Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring each of the past two postseasons, combining for 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 48 games, and has scored by far the most playoff points (127 in 113 games) of any NHL player since 2013-14. Despite missing all of last regular season because of injury, Kucherov reminded everyone that he’s still the best right wing in the game when healthy. — Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor

Video: Nikita Kucherov’s top 10 career highlights

Mitchell Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs

Marner was the top scorer on the Maple Leafs, one better than teammate Auston Matthews. Zach Hyman, left wing with Marner and Matthews last season, signed with the Edmonton Oilers, but no matter who fills his spot, Marner could score 100 points in 82 games; he scored 94 in 2018-19, the last time the NHL played a full schedule. Marner’s average ice time per game has increased, from 19:49 in 2018-19 to 22:26 last year. If Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals last season, picks up where he left off last season, watch for Marner not just to ride in his jetstream, but for the star center to be his wingman on occasion. — Dave Stubbs, columnist

Video: MTL@TOR: Marner gives Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead in 2nd

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

It’s easy to forget sometimes how young Pastrnak is, given the success he’s already had. The 25-year-old hasn’t reached the prime of his career. He leads all right wings in goals since 2016-17 with 175, 22 more than second-place Kane and Kucherov. It’s an impressive number since the position is stacked with talent like Kane, Kucherov, Rantanen, Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Marner. Playing with elite linemates like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, all signs point to the best being yet to come. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Video: NYI@BOS, Gm1: Pastrnak records 2nd playoff hat trick

Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche

The 24-year-old has put up outstanding numbers the past four seasons. Any reason to think he can’t do it again this season? I don’t think so. Rantanen, who has mostly played on the Avalanche’s top line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and center Nathan MacKinnon, was sixth among all NHL skaters last season, averaging 1.27 points per game. Dynamic, skilled, young, just entering his prime, it’s all positive for Rantanen and I expect him to be one of the best producers in the League again this season. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

Tracey has already laid out many of Rantanen’s numbers for you. It’s the uptick in those numbers that solidifies the case. Rantanen’s average of 1.27 points per game last season was up from the 1.18 points per game he averaged in 2018-19 and it would be wise to take into account that his 0.98 points-per-game average in 2019-20 was hampered by injuries. And then there’s the play-driving factor. No player in the League who played at least half of his team’s games last season had a better shot attempts percentage than Rantanen’s (63.4 percent). This from a player who isn’t yet 25. — Tim Campbell, staff writer

Video: COL@VGK, Gm3: Rantanen rifles streak-extending PPG in

Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

The debate isn’t over who will be the best offensive right wing this season. It’s who will be the best right wing. And no one will be better than Stone when you account for both ends of the ice. Stone scored 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) last season, fourth among right wings. He was also a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the best defensive forward as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. There is no reason he shouldn’t continue to excel this season at age 29 for a Vegas team that should contend for the Stanley Cup again. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Video: VGK@COL, Gm5: Stone rips puck upstairs for OT winner

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