Penguins top NHL in forward depth ranks

When judging NHL teams by their forward depth, a club that has two franchise-caliber centers will tend to land pretty high. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The Pittsburgh Penguins won it all last season because teams didn’t have an answer for their depth at forward. Once the Penguins spread out their star power, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on three separate lines, it made Pittsburgh a matchup nightmare.

The depth from top to bottom at forward is the reason the Penguins are reigning champs.

“A lot of times, our opponents didn’t have an answer for our third and fourth lines,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.

They won a Stanley Cup and the Penguins forwards also earned the respect of decision-makers around hockey. In preparation for the season, we polled a dozen NHL coaches and executives on the best forward groups in the NHL, and the Penguins won the forward category going away. We did the same for the top blue lines, with those results coming Tuesday.

Here’s a look at the results of the forward poll: