When taking a closer look at the NHL’s leading scorers (after all Friday night games), there are a number of things that stick out for various reasons.
First and foremost, who could have predicted Henrik Sedin to be the first player this season to hit the 60 point mark? Or how about Nathan Horton being in the top 20 in league scoring? A lot of the NHL’s top scorer are the regular household names we know and love, but even mainstays like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby reveal interesting mini-stories. Let’s take a closer look at some of the league’s top scorers.
Henrik Sedin: To all the geniuses who predicted Henrik Sedin would lead the NHL in points this season, did you think it could be done without Daniel Sedin? (Daniel missed 18 games after suffering a fractured foot back in October). What’s even more remarkable about Henrik Sedin’s 61 points is 45 of his points come from even-strength play. That’s approximately 10-15 more even-strength points than the majority of the other league leaders (many top scorers generate far more powerplay points than Henrik Sedin does).
Sidney Crosby: Love him or hate him, most hockey fans expect to see Sidney Crosby’s name at the top of league scoring every year. What’s interesting this season is the number of goals Crosby has (26). He’s known as a playmaker, but is shooting the puck far more regularly this year. In fact, Crosby is only two goals shy of the league lead (Marian Gaborik and Patrick Marleau have 28 goals each) and is on pace to crush his previous best of 39 goals from his rookie year.
Patrick Kane: I’ve always liked the way Patrick Kane plays and although I’ve thought of him as a great player, I’ve never considered him a world class star. Until now. At this point in the season, Kane leads the Chicago Blackhawks in most offensive categories (goals, points, game winning goals, etc…) and is seventh in league scoring. The scary part about Kane is his age. Kane, who’s still developing/maturing, just turned 21 in November and is easily the youngest player in the league’s top 20 point scorers.
Tomas Plekanec: Here’s another player who’s producing at a rate far higher than any of his biggest fans could have imagined. Coming off an off year last season, Tomas Plekanec has returned on fire with 46 points already this season. He’s already surpassed last year’s total and is quickly approaching his career high from the 2007/2008 season. The most impressive part of Plekanec’s scoring this year is the fact he’s done so without Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta (both lost significant time due to injuries). Add in the inconsistent play of Scott Gomez and you have to admire Plekanec’s point-per-game scoring rate.
Nathan Horton: Along with Plekanec and Henrik Sedin, here’s another pleasant surprise. Nathan Horton is enjoying his best start to a season ever. He’s tied for 17th in league scoring and is only three points shy of his total from last season. What’s interesting about Horton’s point tally is the fact that the Florida Panthers only have one other player who’s scored more than 30 points (Stephen Weiss). The majority of Horton’s points are assists, yet no Panther has scored more than 18 goals and only four Panthers (including Horton) have 10 or more goals this season.
Alex Ovechkin: No list or write up of NHL scoring leaders can be considered complete without mentioning Alex Ovechkin in some shape or form. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Alex Ovechkin is right up there in total points and goals (of course). What’s interesting is Ovechkin’s production is coming at a rate far higher than any other elite point scorer. In some cases, Ovechkin has played as many as nine games less than other top scorers (due to injury and suspension), yet remains one goal back of the league lead in goals scored with Patrick Marleau and Marian Gaborik. Ovechkin averages 1.51 points per game – an NHL best – when most of the top point scorers average approximately 1.10-1.20 points per game. Yes, Ovechkin plays on one of the league’s best teams, but it’s still pretty impressive.
Honourable mentions to Dustin Penner, Brad Richards, Maxim Afinogenov, Ryan Kesler, Duncan Keith, and Paul Statsny for breakout or comeback seasons to remember.
Stay classy, NHL point leaders.