It has been a long time since the era of the tough guy. However, the two way game has never been more important than in the modern day NHL. Offense and point production will always be huge, but advanced statistics have shown us the benefit of having stellar two way players. All the elite rosters around the league have a few guys on the team who are willing to bring it defensively. I have created a short list of all the greatest two way forwards from around the league.
Patrice Bergeron: The "second line" center for the Bruins tops my charts on this list. Last season, he held the title for most face-off wins. Most of these draws are on shifts where he is expected to shut down the oppositions top line. Sure, Boston has a good defense core; However, Bergeron rarely gets the chance to play a purely offensive style. Even while shutting down the opposition, he managed to put up 62 points last season. He was also second in the league with a plus / minus rating of +38, only beat out by teammate David Krejci.
Marian Hossa: Hossa has found a home playing with some great talent in Chicago. His style is based purely around puck possession. He has phenomenal hands, which he uses to create turnovers and take away shooting lines from the opposition. When he has the puck, he turns into a nightmare for defenders. He puts the defender on his back and literally skates around looking for openings. He draws a lot of penalties and allows his teammates to find open spaces. This big Slovakian winger put up 30 goals, 30 assists and finished the regular season as a +28 skater. His two way game is unmatched, and I believe he is crucial to the success of any team he plays on.
Pavel Datsyuk: Datsyuk is quite possibly the most dangerous player on this list simply because he has the smoothest set of hands in the league today. His career is packed with highlight reel goals which most NHL players can only dream about. He has been a cornerstone on the Red Wings for many years, and has had a lot of success with the team. He has won the Selke and Lady Byng awards multiple times. He also had his name engraved on Stanley's cup twice, in 2002 and 2008 with his fellow Red Wing teammates. His offence has been tailing off the last couple years with age and lack of surrounding talent. He is still nearly a point per game guy, but I am anticipating that these numbers will further tail off this upcoming season. I anticipate 50-60 points from the future Hall of Famer, and at least a couple highlight reel moves to add to his portfolio.
David Backes: Backes is the captain of the Blues, and has made quite the name for himself in his last few seasons. I chose him for this list because he plays a very well rounded style. However, what sets him apart is his "old school" hockey mentality. He is an extremely competitive player who never quits, even when the whistle blows. It is not uncommon for him to engage players during and after plays. He is a hit machine, and drops the gloves fairly frequently. When he is not engaged in the extracurricular, he is usually grinding down opponents and taking away space for opposing forwards. He takes the bulk of the Blues' important draws, and is one of the best penalty killing centers around. Offensively, he is no slouch either. He put up 57 points, and finished the regular season as a +14 skater. I expect him to maintain these stats and help the team make a more successful playoff push this season.