The possibilities are endless if the NHLPA approves the NHL GMs’ idea for 3-on-3 overtime next season. Which teams would field the deadliest trios for 3-on-3?
With Ryan Kennedy
The NHL’s GM meetings yielded some interesting news from Boca Raton, Fla., Tuesday. General managers recommended a coach’s challenge for goalie interference calls and penalties for pucks shot out of play. The other proposed rule change generated even more buzz: 3-on-3 overtime.
Oh, the possibilities. We could see five minutes of 3-on-3 in overtime as soon as next season, or we could see an AHL-style format in which teams play four minutes of 4-on-4 and a maximum three minutes of 3-on-3. Per the USA Today’s Kevin Allen, GMs will ask the NHL Players’ Association and competition committee which they prefer. The 3-on-3 format has drastically reduced the number of shootouts in the AHL, about one-third as many overtime games decided that way versus last year, so the idea is extremely exciting for anyone who hates the shootout.
Dreams of 3-on-3 danced through our heads in the THN office. Colleague Ryan Kennedy and I started talking about which team would field the deadliest 3-on-3 trio. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang? We pitched a Steven Stamkos-Tyler Johnson-Victor Hedman trio to Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, too. The main challenge for teams would be deciding on what positions to deploy. Three forwards? A dominant center and two speedy D-men? Two forwards and a D-man? Does Yzerman know what he would do with the Bolts yet?
“No,” he said with a laugh. “It depends on our players, I guess. Ask the American League coaches what they think would be best. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but there are lots of options for the coaches.”
Lots of options indeed. We’ve taken our best shot at ranking the top 30 teams in 3-on-3 overtime situations. Keep in mind that games will end quicker this way, so there’s nothing wrong with loading up on your best players for the first shift. Also, we’ve factored out current injuries since the format would start next season.
1. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin / Kris Letang)
It’s just downright mean. Two of the most dominant players of this generation, either of whom can play center, take the ice with one of the top three offensive defensemen in the game. An unstoppable force. Stacking Crosby and Malkin wouldn’t be a problem since they’d finish many games before Pittsburgh needed to change lines.
2. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (Jonathan Toews / Patrick Kane / Duncan Keith)
The Hawks’ trio comes a very close second to Pittsburgh’s group. Toews is the defensive conscience, Keith the force driving the play up ice from the point, and Kane…just imagine what he could do with that much space. Please let this happen, NHLPA.
3. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (Nicklas Backstrom / Alex Ovechkin / John Carlson)
Alex Ovechkin will score if given the time and space to unleash his laser-like wristers and one-timers. A 3-on-3 system just gives Backstrom more room to set Ovie up and makes Ovie more of a nightmare to cover. Carlson’s two-way game fits nicely here, too.
Dissenting opinion: It’s tempting to sub Mike Green in here for Carlson. Full-throttle, all-out offense, cram a goal down the other team’s throat. – ML
4. LOS ANGELES KINGS (Anze Kopitar / Jeff Carter / Drew Doughty)
The defending Cup champs ice the most well-rounded group. Kopitar provides outstanding 200-foot ability, Carter is your triggerman and Doughty can carry the puck everywhere while also backchecking to stop opposing attackers.
Dissenting opinion: For chemistry purposes, I feel you might gain a little having Marian Gaborik instead of Carter. – RK
5. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (Steven Stamkos / Tyler Johnson / Victor Hedman)
We deploy Tampa’s first- and second-line centers together because their speed can overwhelm opponents. And Stamkos can act as the primary attacker, of course. Hedman’s do-it-all game gives the Bolts’ trio a steady backbone, too.
6. ANAHEIM DUCKS (Ryan Getzlaf / Corey Perry / Sami Vatanen)
Dynamic duos carry even more weight in a 3-on-3 matchup, so the Ducks are set with one of the best in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Offensive dynamo Vatanen will push the pace, too.
7. DALLAS STARS (Tyler Seguin / Jamie Benn / Alex Goligoski)
We considered John Klingberg alongside the powerhouse Seguin/Benn combo, but Goligoski brings more defensive maturity right now.
8. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (Claude Giroux / Jakub Voracek / Michael Del Zotto)
The Flyers sneak up here. They’ve struggled this season but still have two elite scorers in linemates Voracek and Giroux. The 3-on-3 setup enhances Del Zotto’s value. His puck-moving ability will help Philly strike quickly.
9. NEW YORK ISLANDERS (John Tavares / Kyle Okposo / Nick Leddy)
Tavares and Okposo form two thirds of an extremely productive line, and Leddy’s skating ability works nicely. You can’t go wrong with the league’s leading scorer in Tavares.
10. DETROIT RED WINGS (Pavel Datsyuk / Henrik Zetterberg / Marek Zidlicky)
Datsyuk and Zetterberg would challenge for the top spot a few years ago. Still world-class players, but they’re a bit creaky.
Dissenting opinion: As good as Zetterberg has been, it’s crushing to me not to have Gustav Nyquist here – RK
11. SAN JOSE SHARKS (Joe Pavelski / Logan Couture / Brent Burns)
The Sharks were among our most hotly contested teams. Pavelski and Burns were locks, but Couture edged out Joe Thornton because of the speed factor.
Dissenting opinion: I’d go Joe Thornton instead of Couture since Thornton played with Pavelski and Burns when the latter was a forward last year. – RK
12. COLORADO AVALANCHE (Matt Duchene / Nathan MacKinnon / Tyson Barrie)
Our pick for the fastest trio any team could field. Opponents may have to rope-a-dope them and catch them gambling.
13. ST. LOUIS BLUES (Jori Lehtera / Vladimir Tarasenko / Kevin Shattenkirk)
The deep Blues don’t have a massive gap in raw talent between centers Lehtera, David Backes and Paul Stastny, so we went with the one who plays with Tarasenko.
14. NEW YORK RANGERS (Derek Stepan / Rick Nash / Ryan McDonagh)
The Blueshirts bring a Kings-like trio to the table. Nash and McDonagh’s powerful skating and Stepan’s passing make them a threat to score, but this group is also defensively responsible.
Dissenting opinion: A fun argument: Do you want the size and power of Nash or the quickness and elusiveness of Mats Zuccarello? Such a good problem to have. – RK
15. MINNESOTA WILD (Mikko Koivu / Zach Parise / Ryan Suter)
Not the most tantalizing offensive group, but good luck scoring on these guys, if you can even get the puck from them.
16. CALGARY FLAMES (Sean Monahan / Johnny Gaudreau / Mark Giordano)
One of our favorite sleeper trios. Monahan and Gaudreau can fly, and Giordano’s outstanding all-around game lets them take chances.
17. OTTAWA SENATORS (Mika Zibanejad / Bobby Ryan / Erik Karlsson)
The Karlsson factor alone makes Ottawa dangerous. Zibanejad has also gelled nicely with Ryan, whose power moves make him a poor man’s Nash.
18. CAROLINA HURRICANES (Eric Staal / Jeff Skinner / Justin Faulk)
The Canes appear deadlier in 3-on-3 than “real life.” The extra space suits Skinner’s game, and Faulk’s ability to push the play is underrated.
19. VANCOUVER CANUCKS (Henrik Sedin / Daniel Sedin / Alexander Edler)
Are we not giving Henrik and Daniel enough respect? They have a lot of open ice upon which to work their cycle game.
20. MONTREAL CANADIENS (David Desharnais / Max Pacioretty / P.K. Subban)
Desharnais isn’t one of Montreal’s two most gifted forwards, but let’s not disrupt that chemistry with Pacioretty. Subban playing 3-on-3 is Sportscenter’s dream. Pure highlight-reel material.
Dissenting opinion: I prefer Alex Galchenyuk to Desharnais since Galchenyuk is the more dynamic player. – RK
21. BOSTON BRUINS (Patrice Bergeron / Brad Marchand / Torey Krug)
Bergeron and the deceptively quick Marchand work well together. It’s risky deploying Krug, a pure offensive guy, as your D-man, but Bergeron’s defensive play offsets that.
Dissenting opinion: I prefer Dougie Hamilton to Krug here. Hamilton chips in enough offense but is superior in his own end. – ML
22. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (Ryan Johansen / Nick Foligno / Ryan Murray)
Johansen and Foligno’s powerful forecheck takes opponents out of the play, and Murray’s stable two-way game plays like that of a young Ryan Suter.
23. EDMONTON OILERS (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins / Jordan Eberle / Justin Schultz)
Taylor Hall probably would’ve occupied Eberle’s spot a year ago, but Hall has become a defensive liability.
24. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (Tyler Bozak / Phil Kessel / Morgan Rielly)
Bozak and Kessel still have chemistry. Their slump has a lot to do with team morale. And Bozak is one of the league’s most underrated breakaway scorers.
Dissenting opinion: Rielly is better than Jake Gardiner, but Gardiner’s cowboy style would make him extremely interesting 3-on-3. – ML
25. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (Mike Ribeiro / Shea Weber / Ryan Ellis)
The Predators break the trend here with two blueliners. Ellis functions as Del Zotto does for the Flyers, since Ellis’ game is all about moving the puck quickly.
Dissenting opinion: I think we need a sniper here instead of Ellis. James Neal or Filip Forsberg would do. – ML
26. WINNIPEG JETS (Bryan Little / Blake Wheeler / Dustin Byfuglien)
The Jets tumble because Little and Wheeler lack the “wow” factor of other teams’ top two forwards. They’ve played together for years, though, and ‘Big Buff’ is a force behind them.
Dissenting opinion: I’d like to see Wheeler with current liney Mark Scheifele. – RK
27. FLORIDA PANTHERS (Nick Bjugstad / Jussi Jokinen / Brian Campbell)
In a few years we’re more likely to see Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad here. But Bjugstad is a beast, Jokinen is a proven 1-on-1 demon and Campbell hasn’t lost his smooth skating ability at 35.
Dissenting opinion: Jokinen is a logical choice, but it pains me not to see Jaromir Jagr here. I guess he’s not fast enough for 3-on-3 now. – ML
28. ARIZONA COYOTES (Sam Gagner / Mikkel Boedker / Oliver Ekman-Larsson)
Ekman-Larsson could make things work for this group, but Gagner and Boedker, while bringing speed and shiftiness, would get pushed around.
29. BUFFALO SABRES (Tyler Ennis / Evander Kane / Zach Bogosian)
Three decent players, sure, but put them against the trios above. Imagine them against the Crosby-Malkin-Letang group. Gulp.
30. NEW JERSEY DEVILS (Travis Zajac / Mike Cammalleri / Damon Severson)
New Jersey’s forward corps might be the league’s weakest, especially after GM Lou Lamoriello traded Jagr and Ryane Clowe was shut down for the season with career-threatening concussion woes.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin