EP Rinkside Top 20 left wing rankings for the 2021-22 season

Here at EP Rinkside, I try to provide in-depth player analysis, using every statistical and scouting tool available to me to present a nuanced and insightful take on the most interesting athletes in the sport.

But sometimes the vegetables of a measured deep dive just can't compare to the temptation of a sugary player ranking, can it? To paraphrase Clickhole, screw it, let's rank the players.

This week, I'll be selecting the top players at every position entering the 2021-22 NHL season, presenting my case for each one alongside a concise summary of their biggest strengths and weaknesses. I won't be ranking these players strictly based on their projected wins above replacement, because not only would that be no fun at all, it would be ignorant of the imperfections of that metric.

Instead, I'll try to take these stats holistically, including not only WAR-style stats from TopDownHockey but a broad range of more detailed statistics from our partners at InStat and Corey Sznajder's All Three Zones project to assess what makes these guys so effective. I've also included a graphic that highlights some of their best skills using those statistics. 

Is it arbitrary to rank players who play different styles for different teams? Yes. Is there an insane amount of uncertainty involved? Absolutely. Is it fun enough to be worth the inevitable backlash? Let's hope.

To mitigate things a bit, I'll be using the tier system that has become widely adopted since Steve Dangle started using it in his Toronto Maple Leafs prospect rankings several years ago. Instead of agonizing over the difference between the 19th and 20th-ranked left wing in the league, I'll be breaking them down into tiers of players who, I think, provide roughly similar value to their teams. These include generational players, MVP contenders, superstars, All-Stars, and first-liners

Today we start things off with the top left wings.

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