Following the viral craze that was my SNES defensemen rankings, I needed a worthy follow-up. So here it is, a comprehensive list of forward line rankings for SNES!
I haven’t considered the quality of a team’s offensive defensemen in this ranking. This is based on Classic League rules (i.e. penalties on, no line changes), so I have not put a lot of value on the quality of players outside of the top 3 or 4 forwards per team.
1. Boston Bruins - Best line: Oates - Neely - Rucizka
It’s no secret that Cam Neely is a top ten forward in the game, and Oates is probably top 15. It could be argued that Neely is the best power forward in the game, although Lemieux and Lindros might have something to say about that. Oates can dominate both ends of the ice, with the highest combined offensive/defensive awareness rating of any player in the game. But the real secret to the success of this line is Vladimir “Rosie” Rucizka. He’s one of the more underrated forwards in the game. He has the size and skill to keep up with Neely and Oates, and he can crash and bang with the best of them. This line is exceptionally balanced. Juneau is solid off the bench as a setup man with solid skating and puck skills.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins - Best line: Stevens - Lemieux - Jagr
Mario Lemieux might be the most talented player to ever lace them up, so it’s no surprise that he’s an absolute beast in SNES. With perhaps the deadliest shot in the game, he can score from anywhere, at any time. Flanking #66 is the NHL 94 legend himself, Jaromir Jagr. While his shot is very average, his size, stickhandling, and skating make him a force to be reckoned with. The second winger position typically goes to Kevin Stevens, who is massive, although slow and lacking a high end shot. An alternative is the solid, but unspectacular, Ron Francis. No matter the combination, this line is extremely tough to defend, despite the lack of a true speedster.
3. New York Rangers - Best line: Tikkanen - Gartner - Messier
Size, skating and passing - this line has a bit of everything, with the exception of shot accuracy. Mark Messier is a legendary center and power forward, but his shot is below average in this game. He might be better suited as a grinding winger and set-up man. Esa Tikkanen is perhaps the best grinder in the game, with his size and speed. He’s great at forcing turnovers and creating havoc. Mike Gartner usually slots in as the de facto center, with his heavy shot and high end skating, but however you line them up, you can’t go wrong with this trio. Because of their low overall shot accuracy, this line can cause significant frustration at times. But when they’re on, they can control play in all three zones and score goals in bunches.
4. Buffalo Sabres - Best line: Hawerchuk - Mogilny - Lafontaine
If you recall the NHL 95 player ratings, you’ll know that every member of the Hawerchuk-Lafontaine-Mogilny line was rated 100 in that version of the game. Although the NHL 94 versions of these players are not rated as high, they’re still pretty darn good! Mogilny is the best player in the game according to many. He can be absolutely dominant, and win games and series, all by himself. Pat Lafontaine is a premier playmaker, one of the best. Hawerchuk is not far behind, although he has a comically terrible shot that severely limits his effectiveness. You might want to sub him out for a more well-rounded forward like Yuri Khmylev or Bob Sweeney. Regardless of the wingers, all offense should be funneled through Mogilny at all times, whether it’s a breakout pass or a blind centering pass for a lethal one-timer. Just get Mogs the puck!
5. Detroit Red Wings - Best line: Ciccarelli - Yzerman - Fedorov
Probably the most skilled line in the game, based on skating and puck skills. This unit plays like a dream when they’ve got open ice to work with. Yzerman is easily a top 10 forward in the game, and Fedorov is not far behind. Dino has one of the best shots in the game. The line’s only weakness is their relatively small stature, which can be an issue against other top teams. If you’re really getting pushed around, try subbing in Probert or Primeau, but you will have to deal with their limitations, specifically their slow speed and trouble handling passes.
6. Los Angeles Kings - Best line: Carson - Sandstrom - Robitaille
The Kings boast a deep forward group that presents lots of options. Sandstrom, Carson and Robitaille collectively have the best shots of any forward unit in the game. While they don’t have any physical beasts up front, Carson and Sandstrom have above average size and will certainly hold their ground against most defensemen. With that kind of size and shooting, you might want to sub in Gretzky for Robitaille. When he’s on, the Great One can dance around the zone, firing passes to the slot for one-timer opportunities. But when he’s off, he’s missing open nets and getting absolutely rocked by any opponent with average size.
7. Vancouver Canucks - Best line: Bure - Linden - Courtnall
The Nucks forwards are a fun and speedy group, led by the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure. Perhaps the fastest skater in the game, Bure will stretch out the D and test any opponent’s reaction time. While you may be tempted to use the dynamic Bure at center, consider Trevor Linden. He’s a prototypical center, with good size and soft hands. He’ll help clog the slot in his own end, and capitalize on plays started by his speedy wingers. The last forward spot should go to one of two speedsters, Geoff Courtnall or Cliff Ronning. Regardless, this line is all about the Bure/Linden duo.
8. Chicago Blackhawks - Best line: Roenick-Larmer-Ruutu
The Blackhawks have one of the smaller forward trios in the league, which really hurts their overall ability. Jeremy Roenick is supremely skilled but he’s one of the lightest in the game, which doesn’t bode well against the league’s best teams. As a puck carrier, he’s highly elusive but highly vulnerable. That said, he owns one of the best shots in the game, and can do a lot of damage on the rush, or anytime he’s open in the offensive zone. Steve Larmer is an excellent all-around player, but doesn’t excel in any given attribute. The other wing position should go to either Joe Murphy or Christian Ruutu, both fairly vanilla players who offer a similar skillset. This forward group can be one of the best if you know how to dangle with J.R.
9. Winnipeg Jets - Best line: Steen - Selanne -Zhamnov
Teemu Selanne is an offensive dynamo, and instantly elevates the Jets forward trio, the same way Mogilny elevates the Sabres. Flanking the “Finnish Flash” is a group of Europeans that know how to put the puck in the net. While both Steen and Zhamnov are excellent passers, you might want to inject some more speed and shooting ability with Evgeny Davydov. Just be ready for him to kick some passes due to his subpar stickhandling. The main downside of this forward group is the lack of “grit”. Although not small by any means, none of them are bruisers, and they are lacking defensive awareness.
10. Quebec Nordiques - Best line: Sakic - Sundin - Nolan
The Nordiques boast a deep group of sharpshooters up front. Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic and Owen Nolan are all talented offensively, with good shot power and very good shot accuracy. On the bench, you have two guys that would be starters on most teams in the league: Valeri Kamensky who skates well and can has a heavy shot, and Mike Ricci who is solid all around, with a very accurate shot. They are both great options to sub in if your starters falter or get injured. While this forward group gets around the ice well enough, none of them are speedsters or heavyweights, by any means. In a line changes league, this forward group would easily be top five, but as a trio, the Nordiques lack a truly elite talent to be considered one of the best.
11. Washington Capitals - Best line: Khristich - Ridley - Bondra
A little bit of everything is a nice way to describe this forward group. You have a pure sniper in Dmitri Khristich (His shot is the same as Lemieux and Lindros), a pure speedster in Peter Bondra (one of the fastest in the game), and a very solid, but unspectacular forward, in Mike Ridley. If used properly, within their roles, each of these guys can thrive and feed off of one another. You might want Khristich’s sniping ability at center, but Ridley is much bigger, faster and still has a decent shot. Any way you line them up, this trio can be deadly in the right hands.
12. Calgary Flames - Best line: Nieuwendyk - Roberts - Fleury
The Flames sport some colorful characters up front, but no elite talent. Gary Roberts is very solid across the board, with a nice accurate shot, but at 196 lbs, lacks the weight needed to be a true power forward. Theo Fleury can be dangerous cutting in off his wing, but for such a tiny player, you wish he had an extra gear like Bure. Nieuwendyk is about as vanilla as they come, and has a very low passing rating for some reason. Luckily, the Flames have a deep bench to keep things interesting. You might want to sub in the small but skilled Robert Reichel, shifty playmaker Sergei Makarov, or big man Joel Otto.
13. Philadelphia Flyers - Best line: Brind’amour - Lindros - Recchi
The Broad Street Bullies are actually quite bullyish upfront because they have Eric Lindros, an absolute beast. He is one of the biggest players with one of the best, most accurate shots in the game. If he were just a bit faster, he’d be mentioned in the best forward conversation, along with Lemieux and Mogilny. On the wing, Mark Recchi isn’t overly big or fast, but he’s agile, with strong puck skills including a high-end shot. Similar to the Sabres and Hawks, the Flyers’ third forward is a significant drop off from the top duo. Rod “the bod” Brind’amour is a solid choice, but Pelle Eklund and Kevin Dineen can offer more dynamic skating if the Flyers are struggling to enter the offensive zone. Overall, this forward group is slow, but Lindros alone can dominate. He can snipe one-timers from almost anywhere in the offensive zone, or take it to the net with authority.
14. Edmonton Oilers - Best line: Klima - Simpson - Corson
Petr Klima is an elite talent up front for the Oilers. He is one of the better skaters in the league and has a lethal shot. Shayne Corson is a bruiser with size and skating, so he’s an excellent winger, but can kick passes at times. Up the middle, Craig Simpson is the man. What he lacks in skating, he makes up for with his lethal shot, and good offensive awareness. A fun trio with well-defined roles, but challenging if any of them are off, or injured. Doug Weight is a capable sub but don’t expect much from him.
15. New York Islanders - Best line: Thomas - Turgeon - Hogue
The Isles have an underrated group up front, given their top two forwards are actually very good. Based on his ratings, Pierre Turgeon is probably a top 25 forward in the game, with good size and a terrific shot, but he doesn’t always play like it. Benoit Hogue offers speed on the right side, and another excellent shot. Completing the trio is Steve “Stumpy” Thomas. He does not do anything particularly well and will struggle to accept passes at times, but he skates well enough, and there are no other forwards worth considering as starters. Ray Ferraro and Derek King have some nice skills, but lack the overall package.
16. St. Louis Blues - Best line: Janney - Hull - Shanahan
With good size and shooting ability, the Blues are a dangerous team when controlled by an experienced coach. Brett “the Golden Jet” Hull has the size and the killer shot you like to see at center ice for those one-timer opportunities. He is a top 20 forward according to most. On the wing, Brendan Shanahan has a tantalizing combination of hulking size and an accurate shot, but his speed and agility can hold him back. In the other winger slot, Craig Janney is competent as a set-up man, and speedy Nelson Emerson is a solid bench option. The Blues can be tricky to find consistency with, but they’re very dangerous in the right hands, or when Hull is on a heater. They have some powerful weapons, but ultimately lack the skating ability needed to place them in the top half of this ranking.
17. Montreal Canadiens - Best line: Lebeau - Muller - Bellows
Les Canadiens feature a couple of solid two-way forwards in Kirk Muller and Brian Bellows. The centreman Muller is the leader of this group. He is basically a left-handed Trevor Linden, with good size and soft hands. Bellows is very similar to Owen Nolan, which isn’t a bad thing. The other wing can be filled by any one of Stephan Lebeau, Vinny Damphousse or Denis Savard. Lebeau has the most accurate shot on the team and is likely your best option. Another sleeper option off the bench is the hulking John Leclair, who can bang home the garbage goals. The Habs lack the dynamic skill of the top teams in the league, but they have enough talent to compete, and maybe capture some of the magic from that ‘93 Cup run.
18. New Jersey Devils - Best Line: Semak - Richer - Lemieux
The Devils forward corps is deep, but lacks an elite talent. With Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer, they have two big men that can actually skate well, a rare and valuable commodity. At 228 lbs, and with decent shot power, Lemieux can deliver bone crushing hits to the opposing centers, crash the net, and finish plays. Richer is a natural fit at center, with a hard shot and good size. Just be prepared to miss some open cages. For the left wing, Semak and Zelepukin are nice little complementary players. Another option off the bench is Hall of Famer Peter Stastny. He’s got great size and an accurate shot. A fun group to play with if you like crashing and banging, just don’t be surprised when they hit the post or miss the net completely.
19. Toronto Maple Leafs - Best line: Gilmour - Clark - Borschevsky
In the early 90’s, Doug Gilmour was an absolute beast in the NHL, but in the game, unfortunately he does not have any one attribute that makes him elite. Here he serves better as a left winger, with a bigger body like Wendel Clark or Dave Andreychuk at center. Nikolai Borschevsky is a decent finesse winger, but don’t expect a Bure or Klima-like performance. Another option off the bench is Glenn Anderson, who plays similar to Borschevsky, but with a bit more jam. The Leafs have a fun forward group that features some iconic players for the storied franchise, but they leave a lot to be desired.
20. Dallas Stars - Best line: Courtnall - Modano - Dahlen
Speed speed, and more speed. What the Stars have in speed, they lack in shooting accuracy and size. Mike Modano is an elite skater with a hard shot, but often misses the net with his wild shot. Some additional target practice could have placed Modano among the elite forwards in the game. Accuracy issues also plague fellow speedster Russ Courtnall. The other winger spot should go to either Ulf Dahlen or Dave Gagner, whoever is “on”. Gagner might be the better skater, while Dahlen might have a better shot, but neither of them will be a game changer. If you think the forwards are lacking, wait till you see the defence.
21. Hartford Whalers - Best line: Sanderson - Verbeek - Cassels
The Whalers have two decent forwards that keep them rated above all the expansion teams: Pat Verbeek and Geoff Sanderson. Both players have good shots, and good skating skills. Verbeek might be a better fit at center as he’s a bit more solid and able to make defensive stops in his own end. Sanderson is able to burn down the wing with his lighter weight and better agility. Regardless, your offense should run through these two, and leverage the strength of Zalapski on the back end. The third forward is usually Andrew Cassels, but he’s not particularly good at anything. Other options include Patrick Poulin, who weighs 220 lbs, Mark Janssens, or Robert Kron, who could be useful if you catch him on a hot streak.
22. Tampa Bay Lightning - Best line: Andersson - Bradley - Kontos
The Lightning forward unit is small but skilled (for an expansion team!). Brian Bradley and Chris Kontos have good, accurate shots, and Mikael Andersson is a strong skater. They will get pushed around, but they can put the puck in the net at a decent rate. Not much else to say.
23. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim - Best line: Semenov - Yake - Loney
Anatoli Semenov and Terry Yake have some skill and are complemented nicely with the size of Troy Loney on the wing. This unit can actually do some damage if they are on. Rumour has it that Lonnie Loach can be a decent sub.
24. Ottawa Senators - Best line: Kudelski - Turgeon - Baker
The Senators forward group is very underwhelming, but you can squeeze a few goals out of them, as there are a few decent/average attributes to work with. Sylvain Turgeon actually has great size and skating, equal to that of Trevor Linden and Kirk Muller. He lacks all the puck skills of those two star players, but he can, at times, appear competent. Bob Kudelski has a decent/average shot, along with good size, but limited mobility. Jamie Baker is a below average starter across the board, but when he’s on, he seems decent. There are no good bench options unless you want more dynamic skating, in which case Mark Lamb is light and agile.
25. San Jose Sharks - Berezan - Kisio - Falloon
The best attribute the Sharks forward group has to offer, is decent skating, for an expansion team). Both Pat Falloon and Perry Berezan are strong skaters. Falloon, a former 1st overall pick, even has good stickhandling that will prevent those frustrating booted passes. Unfortunately his shot is lacking both accuracy and power. The center on this line should probably be Kelly Kisio, as he has the best shot on the team (which isn’t saying much!). The bench does not have much to offer, outside of Robin Bawa and his big body. Despite all these shortcomings, there isn’t much that separates the Sharks from the four other early 90’s expansion teams. Plus, they are a fun team with those cool teal uniforms and the Jaws theme song!
26. Florida Panthers - Best line: Lomakin - Skrudland - Mellanby
Aside from the glacial speed of Scott Mellanby, this forward trio is not bad (for an expansion team!). They can bang some bodies and bang some pucks into the net. Andrei Lomakin is considered the skilled one, while Brian Skrudland has decent size and overall skills. Mellanby is one of the worst skaters in the entire game, so you might want to consider Dave Lowry or literally anyone else.