Each Tuesday on NHL.com, select screenwriters will each make their case for which player in League history has had the best number. Each Friday, in an additional room, the debate will focus on the current players.
Today, the discussion is focused on the best current player to wear # 88.
Tracey Myers, Writer
After having watched Patrick Kane in person since the start of the 2010-11 NHL season, I’m a bit of a fan here. When I think of number 88, I think of glare, the ability to play games from anywhere and spin-o-rama (even if Kane doesn’t do it as much as before) which all combine to define the Chicago Blackhawks forward. And of course, I’m also thinking of those three Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015, and the fact that Kane was voted Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the player of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL player of the year in 2016.
Video: EDM @ CHI: Kane chooses the upper corner for the first goal
Amalie Benjamin, editor
If you are looking for dazzle, Tracey, I have a # 88 for you! It’s not Kane, it’s David Pastrnak. Although the 23-year-old Boston Bruins forward in his sixth NHL season has no career statistics or Kane’s legacy, he has 379 points (180 goals, 199 assists) in 390 games. In Kane’s first five seasons (399 games), he has collected 369 points (126 goals, 243 assists), making the two players roughly equivalent at the same time in their NHL careers, even if Kane had already have a Stanley Cup championship. So I take the future bet: Pastrnak is my number 88.
Tim Campbell, editor
I’m going to see your dazzle and raise you a flattener in the blink of an eye in our game that measures in debate # 88. I’m arguing for the only defender of the mix here, Brent Burns San Jose sharks, so it’s not apple to apple if we’re going to look at the numbers. But what Burns has done for the Sharks since the start of the 2011-12 season, when he started wearing 88 after racing with No. 8 at the start of his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild, is a mix elite. At 6 feet 5 inches and 230 pounds, he moves easily on the ice. Burns can lean on a shot as easily as he leans over an opponent, and sometimes you can’t say what he will do next. The 35-year-old can have a huge impact on an entire game.
Video: CGY @ SJS: Burns’ sons hit Rittich for PPG
I think we can agree that the three players are great. But I go on the potential. Two years ago, I spoke with Petr Klima, a Czech compatriot who played in the NHL. He told me about Pastrnak: “I think he’s going to be next [Jaromir] Jagr if he continues [like this]. “And the name Jagr is not lightly abandoned by those from the Czech Republic. Two years later, Pastrnak – tied for the top of the NHL goals (48) with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals when the season was interrupted on March 12 due to concerns over the coronavirus – harnessing all this potential and talent, and is truly poised to be one of the league’s top scorers for a long time , especially since he continues to work on his defensive game.
Video: BOS @ EDM: Pastrnak defeats Smith on breakaway in OT
The potential is cool with me, but I’m going to stay in the present for the best 88 of the game today. I believe that Burns’ unique abilities qualify him for this honor. He has 511 points (155 goals, 356 assists) in 660 games with the No. 88, a total surpassed only by one defender during this period: his teammate Erik Karlsson (532). Burns has averaged more than 25 minutes per game in three of the past four seasons and is 25:25 this season. He is difficult to plan because he is unpredictable and his talent is well documented: he was elected winner of the Norris trophy in 2016-2017 as the best NHL defenseman and was selected twice in the first all-star team of the NHL (2016-17, 2018-19) and the second all-star team once (2015-16).
Absolutely, this is a debate with three big 88s, but I stay in the present too. Kane has 1,022 points (389 goals, 633 assists) in 973 NHL games, all with the Blackhawks, all number 88. At 31, he shows no signs of slowing down, having scored 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists) in 70 games this season. He is still a constant threat on the ice. The defenders can’t play too close or he’ll go around them, and they can’t give him space either because he will beat you that way too. With all due respect to others who wear 88, Kane is still the best.