April 15, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg (40) shoots and scores in the third period of game three of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals against the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena. Nashville won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Top Five Forwards In Central Division

Continuing with our 2012-2013 previews, it’s time to take a look at the top five forwards throughout the division. Whether it be high speed goal scorers or rugged two-way centers, the central is packed with talent up front, and should produce multiple all-stars this season. Here are my top five, with the #1 being the best in the division:

April 16, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues center T.J. Oshie (74) warms up before game three of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. St. Louis defeated San Jose 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

5. C/LW TJ Oshie, St. Louis Blues-

Oshie is a workhorse for the Blues, generating scoring chances with his quick skating and physical play. Seen as the Blues’ franchise player, Oshie is the kind of talent to build a team around – he is skilled offensively, gives great effort in the neutral zone and on the forecheck, and is capable on both special teams. Last season, he posted a career highs in goals (19), assists (35), hits, shots on goal, and power play points. He is still developing his skills to be an elite goal scorer, but at this point he is definitely an elite playmaker. At only 25, Oshie recently inked a four-year extension to remain in St. Louis, and will help lead a team who is seriously vying for a Stanley Cup for the first time in over a decade.

4. RW Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks-

The 2007 first overall pick burst onto the scene that very same year, appearing in all 82 games and putting up a ridiculous 72 points in his rookie season. He became a household name in 2009, helping to lead the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup victory. Kane is one of the most skilled forwards in the NHL, frequently showing off his wicked dekes and ridiculously

April 7, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Kane (88) prepares for his overtime shootout attempt against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

low angled goals. He is not a great defensive forward, but is consistent on the forecheck. He is one of the most dangerous lefty finishers on the power play, averaging more than eight PP goals per year.  The one major knock on his game is a lack of physicality, but being only 5’10” and 180 pounds, you can’t really blame him. This past year, Kane’s production fell off, as many of his playmaking teammates (Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews) missed major time last year. However, he was still as clutch a player as he was in the Stanley Cup run, putting up five game winning goals in 2011.  To be sure, I expect him to regain 2010 form, and put up at least 75 points for an improved Blackhawks roster.

April 17, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) skates with the puck against the Nashville Predators in game four of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

3. C/ Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings-

The 34 year old NHL veteran has been the hallmark of consistency, putting up at least 50 points in nine of his 10 seasons. Datsyuk, along with teammate Henrik Zetterberg and recently retired defenseman Niklas Lidstrom, has led Detroit to eight Central division titles and a Stanley Cup in 2007-2008. He is a finesse forward, who concentrates on playmaking over scoring, and looks to create for others – like Jiri Hudler or Niklas Kronwall. Datsyuk also excels on the power play, putting up 27 points (23 assists) while managing the point responsibilities with Lidstrom. Although he is past his prime, Datsyuk is still an elite player in this league, and will be an offensive force for years to come.

2. C Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

The ultimate playmaker, Jonathan Toews is one of the elite centers in the Western Conference. Playing in only 59 games last season, Toews tallied 57 points, and had a +/- of 17. He is a great special teams playing, contributing heavily to both the power play and penalty kill, even registering 3 short handed points last season. The third overall pick in 2006, the 5-year NHL veteran helped lead to  Chicago’s Stanley Cup title in 2009-2010, and has had at least 50 points in all five seasons. He is the Blackhawks’ workhorse, spending almost 21 minutes on the ice per game this season, while also taking on the duties of number one face-off man, with a 59.4 win percentage. The Chicago captain suffered from some concussion issues, but came back and played well in the playoff series against the Coyotes. With Marian Hossa hopefully returning to form, and Patrick Kane rebounding from his off year, expect Sharp to build off of a solid, albeit injury ridden season, and register upwards of  80 points next season.

April 14, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) in game two of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Jobing.com Arena. The Blackhawks beat the Coyotes 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

1. C Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

The heir apparent to Niklas Lidstrom, Zetterberg has been a pivotal player in seven division titles and one Stanley Cup, and has scored at least 68 points in his last six seasons in Detroit. Over that span, Zetterberg has been the Red Wings top center, averaging over 19.5 minutes on the ice per game. He is the prototypical all-around player, who contributes consistently on both ends of the ice,

and is a fantastic special teams player. Zetterberg registered 14 power play points while feeding scorers Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler. Perhaps the most dynamic part of his game is how great he is under pressure, putting up 102 playoff points in only 109 games. He is the leader for a Detroit team full of playoff-tested veterans, and at age 31, should be a staple for the Red Wings for years to come.

Tags: Chicago Blackhawks Detroit Red Wings Henrik Zetterberg Jiri Hudler Johan Franzen Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa Niklas Kronwall Niklas Lidstrom Patrick Kane Patrick Sharp Pavel Datsyuk St. Louis Blues TJ Oshie

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