Patric Hornqvist vs. James Neal: Who’s Faring Better So Far?


With the Pittsburgh Penguins set to face off against the Nashville Predators tonight, all eyes will be on Patric Hornqvist and James Neal – two players who will be forever linked following the blockbuster trade that sent each to the other’s former city.

As the first month of the season nears its close, let’s take a look at how the two stack up against each other, and how they have performed with their new teams thus far.

Past Performances:

While Hornqvist tends to be thought of as a veteran of the league, while Neal seems to be a still-young sniper just now forming his legacy, both forwards are 27 years old, and both were taken in the 2005 NHL Draft. The draft was much more kind to Neal however, as the OHL alum was taken in the 2nd round, 33rd overall, while Hornqvist was in fact the draft’s very last pick (7th round, 230th overall).

While the gap between their draft positions was quite large, their performances in the NHL were not nearly as disparate. Both forwards have managed over 100 goals thus far in their career (though Neal has tallied 56 more than Hornqvist). Neal does have a considerable advantage when it comes to overall points, however, as his 320 points notably eclipse Hornqvist’s 224.

Not entirely unexpected when you consider that Neal has spent his career playing with the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards, and Jamie Benn, while Hornqvist languished on a Nashville squad that provided little stardom at centre ice.

Both players are coming off of respectable seasons in 2013-14. Hornqvist posted 22 goals and 53 points in 76 games, while Neal, who only suited up for 59 games, posted 27 goals and 61 points. Neal again has the better numbers, but again had the edge in terms of linemates.

When it comes to personally coming through in the clutch, however, the two players are dead even, as both have posted exactly 24 game-winning goals through their careers thus far.

New Surroundings:

So who are the two suiting up with now that they’ve settled in with their new clubs? This one certainly tilts heavily in Hornqvist’s direction as the burly Swede has spent all season alongside the undisputed best player in the game today, Sidney Crosby, and his longtime linemate Chris Kunitz. Not a bad pair to team up with. But who knows, if it doesn’t work out he may have to drop down and play alongside former scoring champion and league MVP Evgeni Malkin.

Must be nice.

Neal hasn’t been quite so lucky, as Nashville’s chest of toys is far less full and far less shiny. He’s certainly not playing with a bunch of stiffs though, as the Preds’ top line currently consists of Neal, former Stars teammate Mike Ribiero, and touted rookie Filip Forsberg – a trio that is certainly worthy of some healthy respect.

Sep 25, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left winger James Neal (18) during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Both Hornqvist and Neal have gotten significant time on the powerplay, and both figure to rack up some decent numbers playing on the man-advantage with some talented teammates (for Nashville: Shea Weber, for Pittsburgh: literally everyone).

How They’ve Fared:

Through the season’s first few weeks, both players have performed well – but Hornqvist has the edge in this one. While Neal has put up an excellent 5 goals (no assists) in 7 games, Hornqvist has tallied 4 goals, 4 assists, and leads the league with 34 shots on net. And he did it in one less game. Playing on Crosby’s wing certainly isn’t too tough a situation to be thrown into, but Hornqvist’s numbers are more a result of adapting a shoot-first mentality than of him receiving endless golden dishes from the Kid.

That being said, the two forwards seem to be traveling in different directions at the moment. Hornqvist started the season at a blistering pace, but has slowed down over the last week – posting zero points and only 6 shots through Pittsburgh’s last two games.

Neal, on the other hand, started slow with only 1 point through the Preds’ first five games. He broke through the wall in his last game, however, posting a hat-trick against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks.

Hornqvist is sure to rediscover his scoring touch soon, given the quality of his linemates, but Neal doesn’t look ready to slow down any time soon either as the chemistry is beginning to click and he remains the premier scoring option in Nashville.

It remains to be seen how the two will do in their new environments, but both look poised to attain success in 2014-15. The true test will come tonight in Nashville when both players will look to put forth their best performance against their former clubs, hoping to prove once and for all that shipping them out of town was a big mistake.

Who do you think is a better fit so far, Pens fans? Comment below and let us know!