When people start talking about the top offensive players in the NHL, the usual suspects are thrown around.
Alex Ovechkin is by far the league's elite goal scorer while Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby make up a two-headed dragon in Pittsburgh. Patrick Kane has all-world hands and speed. John Tavares and Steven Stamkos are the next generation. Even Claude Giroux sneaks into the conversation once in a while.
The Dallas Stars duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are generally considered to be in the second tier of the elite - not quite good enough to be compared to Ovechkin, Malkin and Crosby but still pretty darn good.
Is that fair, though? An examination of the statistics shows that Benn and Seguin, at least in the 2014-15 season, are among the elite of the elite when it comes to offense. The case can even be made that Seguin is the single most dangerous forward in the NHL this season.
To look at the full picture, players were examined that met three criteria this season - 60 or more games played, a pace of 30 or more goals for an 82-game season and a points-per-game ratio of 1.00 or better. This captured all of the point-per-game players except Jakub Voracek, who is on pace for fewer than 30 goals.
All statistics for the first two charts were compiled after Tuesday's games and taken from NHL.com.
Here is the list ranked in order of pure points per game:
That's heady company for both Stars forwards. But what happens when we start looking at offense from other angles?
One of the big talking points around scoring in the past has been players who feast on secondary assists. The logic goes that a player is more likely to get a secondary assist by chance while primary assists are often much more integral to the eventual goal.
So let's sort these eight by goals plus primary assists only, with the primary assist total coming from the statistics at NHL.com. This includes points from all situations - even-strength and special teams.
Looks quite a bit different, doesn't it? Ovechkin remains high on the list on the strength of his goal scoring alone (as he should, given that he's the league's only consistent 50-goal scorer), but two guys who get derided as all flash and goal-scoring rather than helping their teammates move up on the strength of their primary assists alone - Seguin and Kane.
The Pittsburgh duo are by far the biggest drops here, meaning they get the biggest bounce from secondary assists in the overall scoring race. Does that prove their scoring is somehow overrated? Not at all. Plenty of secondary assists are brilliant and instrumental in setting up an eventual goal. But general hockey logic does dictate they're not quite as valuable as primary assists.
Players who excel at primary assists are noted for being elite setup men. The league leader right now is is Daniel Sedin at 33 in 80 games (a rate of 0.413) followed closely by Seguin (32 in 70, or 0.457), Ryan Getzlaf (31 in 76), Voracek (31 in 80) and Benn (30 in 80).
In fact, the Dallas duo are the only two players in the league in the top 10 in both primary assists and goals, though Patrick Kane almost certainly would have joined them there if he'd have stayed healthy.
(Also worth noting, in the rookie defenseman scoring race, John Klingberg has 11 secondary assists among his 11-28-39 statline while Aaron Ekblad has 15 in his 12-25-37 line.)
All this leads to the inevitable question - who are the biggest all-around offensive threats in the NHL this season, and can you make the case that Seguin's name is at the top of that list?
Another place we can look for that answer is the possession statistics.
All statistics are from War-on-Ice.com, except for QualComp, which was taken from BehindTheNet. They are calculated at even strength, 5 v. 5 situations. These had not been updated after the results of Tuesday's games when they were compiled late Tuesday night.
Points per 60 is a measure of even-strength points per 60 minutes of ice time. CorsiForRel is a measure of how much a player drives shot attempts for his own team while preventing shot attempts for the other, as measured relative to his own teammates. ScoringChanceForRel is a similar concept, just involving shots taken from the "dangerous" area of the ice. In all cases, larger positive numbers are better.
PDO is an attempt to measure luck, with the idea that 100.00 is average. All players on this list are within reasonable distance to not be considered overly lucky or unlucky. Offensive zone start percentage is self-explanatory, with the idea that the more starts you get in the offensive zone, the easier your minutes are and the better chance you have to score. Finally, QualComp quantifies the quality of competition faced - the higher and more positive the number, the more difficult the competition.
The Penguins players and the ageless wonder that is Datsyuk have the best possession numbers in terms of the possession and shooting metrics while Patrick Kane looks worse in significantly easier minutes than everyone else on the list. Tavares gets hugely favorable zone starts, though he does face relatively tough competition in doing so.
Jamie Benn faces the most difficult competition at even strength while putting up the best points per 60 with Datsyuk and Seguin right behind him, very impressive numbers from all three players given their production.
So how to summarize the rankings of the NHL's elite scorers?
Benn and Seguin are the clear dominant forces at even strength while facing the most difficult combination of competition and usage patterns. All of that was accomplished with a rotating right wing (and sometimes center, depending on injuries and if Jason Spezza was playing up). Patrick Eaves and Cody Eakin are nice role players, but neither is an elite complimentary winger.
And Seguin, despite playing about 25 percent of his season on a busted MCL and wearing a bulky knee brace that limits his natural skating ability, has a strong case to be considered the best pure offensive threat in the league. He has essentially the same points-per-game rating as Sidney Crosby (a 0.02 difference) and far fewer secondary assists in his point total.
All that with a power play that sputtered for long stretches of a season.
It isn't a flash in the pan for either player either. Since combining forces last summer, Benn and Seguin are second and tied for third in the league in scoring respectively, trailing only Crosby. And the gap from Seguin to Crosby is made up of entirely second assists - Seguin has 21 over the past two seasons, Crosby 59, a different of 38, or more than the 27 point gap between the players.
Regardless of how you feel about the single "best" offensive player the past two seasons, and there are merits to every side in that debate, it's safe to say that Benn and Seguin should no longer be considered just outside that top group. They are clearly the elite of the elite when it comes to offense in the NHL.