Pop quiz – other than Alex Ovechkin, how many players have scored 50+ goals in a regular-season since 2010-11? Would you believe just four, three of whom (Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin) did so in the first two seasons of the decade, with the fourth (Leon Draisaitl) having accomplished the feat in 2018-19. For this week’s poll, the question is simple: which of the listed players, if any, can you envision scoring 50+ goals in at least one season of their career.
Names you won’t see on the list include David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews (whose goal-scoring pace has them projected to finish over 50) and Nathan MacKinnon (his pace is essentially 50). Also omitted are Malkin, Ovechkin, Stamkos Draisaitl and – lolz – Perry, who’ve each accomplished the feat, as well as Sidney Crosby and Ilya Kovalchuk, who both also did so, albeit prior to 2010-11.
With that out of the way, what follows is a list – in alphabetical order – of what I see as the 19 forwards most likely to pot 50+ goals in a season before their careers are over. You should vote for as many as you think will accomplish the feat; or, if you think that none of them will do so, you can choose the “none of the above” voting option. I’ll put a link at the end of the column to access the poll where you can cast your votes.
Sebastian Aho – After a highly publicized slow start to this season, Aho righted his ship with a point per game second quarter. Beyond that, his goal-scoring is way up this year, as he’s tallying just under one per every other contest. Yes, his personal shooting percentage is slightly elevated; however, with him being only 22 and still in just his fourth NHL season, he seems like a good candidate for 50+ at some stage of what should end up being an accomplished career.
Kyle Connor – In this, what some might forget is just his third full season, Connor has quietly upped his goal-scoring rate as well as his SOG per game, both by good amounts. While Patrik Laine (more on him below) is who most poolies envision as Winnipeg’s future sniper if Connor’s metrics continue climbing he could make a run at 50+ goals.
Alex DeBrincat – As covered in last week’s Forum Buzz column, Debrincat’s low goal total for 2019-20 is a by-product of unsustainable bad luck. In other words, think of him more like what we saw last season when he hit the 41 goal mark at age 21; and him potting 41 at that young an age is significant, since it puts him among the likes of Stamkos, Malkin and Ovechkin, who all had at least that many goals in a season by age 21 and, as noted above, who each posted one or more 50+ goal outputs.
Jack Eichel – Although Eichel has always fired plenty of pucks on net, this season it’s paying dividends, as he already tied his career-high in goals by just game 46 of the season. What’s the catch? His personal shooting percentage is well above what it had been for his career entering this season. Beyond that, the gap between Eichel’s goals and assists had been widening with each passing campaign, suggesting he’s more of a set up guy despite being a high volume shooter. Still, though, we saw that playmakers like Crosby and Malkin each made it to 50 goals once, and Eichel is still just 23, so he has room to improve, giving him a seemingly realistic shot at 50 at some point in his career as well.
Jake Guentzel – Those of you who might recall my 15 Fearless Forecasts for the 2019-20 season will remember I pegged Guentzel as the 2019-20 Rocket Richard Trophy winner. With him out for months clearly that won’t happen; but we saw enough from him this season to know he can sleepwalk to 40 goals and, with a full season playing with Malkin or Crosby and, just as importantly, on PP1, 50 goals seems like not such a tall order.
Nikita Kucherov – It might be surprising to realize that despite all his points over the past three seasons, Kucherov averaged only 40 goals, as he looked more to set up other players than to be a sniper himself. Even still, with his talent and a high SOG rate, it’s difficult to imagine there not being a season where he connects all the dots and hits the 50 mark.
Patrik Laine – The big question entering 2019-20 was whether Laine would rebound from his very poor 2018-19 campaign. And while he’s done so, his once nearly Cy Young points totals have flip-flopped, as this season his assists outnumber his goals. But the fact remains he scored 44 goals as a teen; and in the history of the NHL, only four others scored that many (or more) before age 20, with two going on to hit the 50+ mark in at least one season and the other two having subsequent bests of 49 and 47 goals. So past comparables suggest he’ll rekindle his sniper skills, perhaps enough to hit 50 in a season.
Connor McDavid – Could McDavid hit 50 if he wanted to, in any season? Probably; however, he sees his value for the time being in setting up other players to score. Still, with 41 tallies in each of the past two seasons and at better than a goal per every other game so far for 2019-20, McDavid should someday wake up and decide to dedicate himself more to goal scoring and then coast to 50.
Artemi Panarin – In his four prior seasons, Panarin’s goal total varied hardly at all, ranging from 27 to 31. But this season his SOG rate is a good bit higher and it’s paying off in the form of a goal-scoring rate of more than one per every other game. With there still room for him to shoot the puck even more and for the Rangers to improve as a team, Panarin suddenly seems like a legitimate candidate for 50+ goals at some point in time.
Elias Pettersson – Already this season we’re seeing Pettersson’s game morph from pure playmaker to a bit more of a goal scorer. Beyond that, his SOG rate has jumped without his shooting percentage taking a hit; so unlike many, he probably won’t need 300+ SOG in a season to get 50+ goals.
Brayden Point – Like Petterson, Point sports a very high shooting percentage. Plus, he also plays with some of the best talent in the NHL. Or to put it another way, it’s difficult to envision a world where Point, like Kucherov, doesn’t find a way to get 50+ given his team and linemates.
Mikko Rantanen – It’s not just been Rantanen’s scoring pace which has increased in each of his full seasons, but also his goals and SOG per game, with the latter on target to increase yet again this season. Still only 23, and likely to play alongside MacKinnon for the foreseeable future, Rantanen comes across like a good bet to reach the 50 goal mark at least once, if not several times.
Mark Scheifele – Although Scheifele should be nearing his objective peak in terms of offensive output, an interesting thing started happening since last season in that he’s turning his focus more toward goal scoring and taking shots, as he’s on pace to surpass his career-best totals from last season in both areas, and still has room for even more SOG (and, in turn, goals). It’s unlikely that Connor, Laine and Scheifele all will get to the 50 mark, but at least one probably will, and it could be Scheifele.
Tyler Seguin – Yes, it’s Seguin’s tenth season and his goal scoring rate is the lowest it’s been since he was a rookie; however, Seguin hit 40 goals two seasons ago and still shoots a ton. Moreover, Dallas will need to rely upon him as much if not more so as Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov age, incenting Seguin to try to do more by himself.
Andrei Svechnikov – What a sophomore season it’s been for Svechnikov, with him staying right at the point per game mark until a recent cold stretch, and at just age 19! What makes me think he has 50 goals in him, what with him not yet averaging close to a goal per every other game? For one he still has a ton of time before he peaks; but there’s also the fact that if we look at other 18-year-olds who had 20+ goals and averaged two or more SOG since 2000-01 and are now at least age 25 or older, three of the four went on to have at least one 50+ goal campaign.
Vladimir Tarasenko – After potting 40 goals in 2015-16, Tarasenko’s goal scoring rate dropped each of the next two seasons. But hidden behind that data is the fact that he ignited after Craig Berube was brought in as coach, to the tune of 45 points in his last 38 games (22 goals) last season. Still only 28, chances are high that Tarasenko, under Berube, will make a serious run at 50 goals in a season.
John Tavares – Before last season eyebrows would’ve been raised seeing Tavares on the list, as his high for goals had been just 38. But in 2019-20 he potted 47, and let’s not forget the 2012-13 season when he scored 28 in 48 contests, for a 48 goal full season pace. With the Leafs offense as high octane as they come, and new coach Sheldon Keefe less stingy in terms of giving top players great deployment, Tavares could make a run at 50 before all is said and done.
Jakub Vrana – Quietly Vrana is turning in a superb goal-scoring season, with a G/60 rate higher than any full-time NHLer. Surely more ice time, and eventually a permanent spot on Washington’s PP1 will come to Vrana, giving him a very realistic shot at joining the 50 goal club.
Mika Zibanejad – Covering Zibs recently in a Goldipucks column, I was surprised to see it wasn’t just his points that were way up, but his goal-scoring as well. With a SOG rate that’s been ticking up with each season and still has room to grow, and a newfound emphasis on putting pucks in the net, not to mention talent that is on full display every night, Zibs could someday hit the 50 goal mark.
There you have it – the vitals on the 19 players I see as the most likely to hit 50 goals at some point in their career. Now it’s up to you to vote, which can do by clicking here. As a reminder, you should vote for any and all players you foresee as being able to get 50+ goals in a season. Or if you think somehow none of the 19 will accomplish the feat, there’s a “none of the above” voting choice for you to select. When you vote, be sure to post in the thread about who you voted for and why, as that will give added insight for your fellow Dobberites.
Questions for Mailbag column
Next week it’s mailbag time; and although I’m already all set in terms of questions this time around, it’s never too early for you to send me yours, which you can do by private messaging “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.