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Building the ultimate NHL team: Left wingers

The best team money can buy: this is the RealSport ultimate hockey team. Next, we pick the left wingers. 

USA Today

Welcome to part two! If you made it through part one, and now want to read the second part, you are the reason I do this.

This second part is about the left wingers in my line-up. It won’t be as long as part one, because I don’t need to do a soliloquy to explain myself.

If you remember from part one, I used the 17-18 cap numbers that is projected to be around $75 million. I didn’t pick forwards who were drafted in the top five of their draft class, or won the Hart Memorial Trophy (League MVP), the Calder Trophy (Best Rookie), or the Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward). The only stats I looked at were scoring chances for and against per 60 minutes, as well as goals against and for per 60 minutes. For my wingers and defenseman, I decided to add penalty differential as a part of it.

So, without further ado, the starting left wingers of the Real Sport 101 ultimate team.

Max Pacioretty

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Pacioretty: a speedy goal scorer who is also adept defensively.

Out of 88 left wingers who have played 46 games or more, Pacioretty ranks 16th in scoring chances for per 60 minutes with 9.5. 44th in scoring chances against per 60 minutes with 8.05. 22nd in goals for per 60 minutes with 2.74. 18th in goals against per 60 minutes with 2.01, and tied for 77th in penalty differential with -13. 

This season, Pacioretty amassed 67 points (35 G, 32 A) and 15 in the +/- category. Pacioretty is 28, and his contract doesn’t run out for another two years. When his contract is up, he will be 30ish and a UFA (unrestricted free agent). It’ll be decision time to see if Pacioretty will be willing to stay for less than his 4.5-million-dollar cap hit, or if a replacement will have to be sought. Either way, the team gets a good swift goal scorer who will take on the role of a leader. Pacioretty will be an alternate captain. 

Pacioretty has a great offensive mind that is highlighted by speed, excellent hands, and amazing sniping ability. Being 6′-2″ allows him to use his size to his advantage, and fight for the puck. As I stated earlier, Pacioretty brings another leader, behind Tavares, on this roster. His main downfall is his open ice awareness that isn’t the greatest, since he gets hit excessively in open ice. His offensive ability makes up for it. His size also allows him to be a skilled two-way player, which is what is the attractive part of this roster thus far. 

Mike Hoffman

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I love the way Mike Hoffman plays, he’s another two-way, speedy, offensive-minded player. 

Out of 88 left wingers in the NHL who have played more than 46 games this season, he ranks 57th in scoring chances for per 60 minutes with 7.51. He is 42nd in scoring chances against with 7.99, 4th in goals for with 3.27, 12th in goals against with 1.88, and tied for 36th in penalty differential with 3. 

Hoffman played in 74 games for Ottawa this season amassing 61 points (26 G, 35 A). Since establishing himself in the league three seasons ago, he has only missed 15 games in total, and his points have consistently risen from season to season. 

Hoffman has a nose for the net, and has an amazing release. He is another speedy, two-way player who adds another scoring threat to this already loaded roster. Hoffman is always someone to pay attention to when he is on the ice, and his speed makes him a huge factor on the offensive end. One of his main downfalls is size; Hoffman is 6′-1″ and only weighs 180 pounds. His weight is a factor, but if he bulks up, he will most likely lose his speed. 

I chose Hoffman because of his scoring ability and speed. If you remember from the last article, I said that I’m looking for speedy players who can score and Hoffman is just that. Hoffman adds another scorer who sets up his teammates well. He does need to work on his consistency from game-to-game, but it was something that I was able to look past. Hoffman is 27, and his contract isn’t up for another three years when he becomes a UFA. He’ll be 30-31 at that time, and will hopefully want to resign at a lower cap hit than $5.1 million, and for the rest of his career. If he doesn’t though, we’ll be getting him when he is on the rise, and the next three years of his career should be some of his best. 

Nikolaj Ehlers

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One of the best second year players out there is Nikolaj Ehlers. 

Out of 88 left wingers, Ehlers ranks 30th in scoring chances for per 60 minutes with 8.66, 76th in scoring chances against per 60 minutes with 9.52, 11th in goals for per 60 minutes with 3.1, 80th in goals against per 60 minutes with 2.83, and 6th in penalty differential with 19. 

Ehlers played all 82 games for the Winnipeg Jets racking up 64 points (25 G, 39 A) with a plus/minus of one. Since coming into the league two years ago, he has only missed 10 games in total. 

When looking at Ehlers, the one thing you must realize is that he was a member of the Winnipeg Jets, who were one of the worst teams in the NHL. With that being said, he still does need to work on his defense. Ehlers is 6′-0″ and 172 pounds, which doesn’t allow him to really compete with someone of the bigger, bulkier players in the NHL. To me, his size is the excuse for his bad defensive numbers, but if he gained some size then those numbers should improve. Along with his defensive numbers improving, it should also see his offensive numbers improve, because he’ll be able to fight in front of the net. 

Ehlers is still an amazing player. He has an insanely good skillset, extremely talented with the puck, and the ability to start plays and finish them all by himself. He is also one of those guys who can make his teammates better by setting them up, and helping them improve their game. He can also play either wing position, which is an added plus for a team. 

I chose Ehlers for his playmaking ability. His knack pass the puck when needed, means that we’ll retain his rights. He will want a pay raise, but it should work out within the cap growth, and with the other players who I would want to resign or sign. Ehlers has tremendous upside, and at this rate, it’s only up from here. 

Jason Zucker

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The perfect player to fill out the last line on the left side is Jason Zucker.

Out of 87 left wingers, Zucker ranks 45th in scoring chances per 60 minutes with 8.04, 2nd in scoring chances against per 60 minutes with 5.32, 2nd in goals for per 60 minutes with 3.8, 10th in goals against per 60 minutes with 1.77, and 5th in penalty differential with 20.  

This season, Zucker garnered 47 points (22 G, 25 A) for the Minnesota Wild with a plus/minus of 34. Since establishing himself as an NHL player in the 14-15 season, he missed 31 games in the 14-15 season, but has only missed 13 in the past two seasons. Injuries do plague him, but that’s something that is possible to overcome. 

One of the main problems with Zucker is his size. He is only 5′-11″ weighing in at 185 pounds, which has given him some injury difficulty in his career, but as I stated earlier, is an easy problem to overcome. If this were a real team, I would want to follow the blueprint laid forth by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks, and use their player-swapping technique of swapping fourth/third line players if they aren’t working within the offensive system. 

Zucker is an inconsistent player, and his stats show that. His size is also a problem, which has led to his injury troubles, but I did choose him for a reason. When he is on top of his game, he plays with an amazing combination of skill and energy that leads to great playmaking and goal scoring. He is very responsible with the puck, and is the perfect fourth line guy. I wouldn’t be asking much out of him besides regular fourth/third line production. I believe that Zucker’s athleticism, and ability, will allow him to be exactly what I need for a fourth line guy. 

Final Thoughts

The order of my left wingers will be Pacioretty, Hoffman, Ehlers then Zucker. Pacioretty will be paired with Tavares on the first line, Hoffman will be with Coyle on the second line, Ehlers will be with Monahan on the third line, and Zucker will be paired with Byron on the fourth. 

We have just right wingers and defensemen left to go for this team, and I hope you’ll stick around to see whom I choose for those positions. 

Thanks for reading, and if you made it here, I truly appreciate it. 


What do you think of my left winger choices? Do you think that these are the “best money can buy?” Would you have chosen someone different, or paired them differently? Tell me in the comments below! Look for my right winger’s article in the next week or so! 

Building the ultimate NHL team: Left wingers

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