Top 10 potential 50-goal scorers (who haven't done it yet)
One of the toughest things to do in the NHL nowadays is to score 50 goals in a season.
Only one player has hit that mark since the 2012-13 lockout. And only nine current NHL players (and two current KHLers) have ever scored 50 goals in an NHL season (for those that like trivia, you can try to figure it out and I'll post the answer at the end of the list). For comparison, 14 players scored 50 goals in the 1992-93 season.
Defensive schemes now are just too good, and goalies are just too big. The odds of a player scoring 50 goals in a season now must be astronomical.
But that doesn't mean it's impossible. And while it's great to look at guys who have already scored 50, let's look at players who haven't hit the 50-goal milestone before. I'm not saying there will be 10 new players to hit 50 goals this season, but these guys have the best chance.
For fantasy hockey, goals are the most important stat. There's power play goals, shorthanded goals, empty net goals, overtime goals, hat tricks and others. You won't find too many leagues with overtime assists as a category, for example, or a bonus for three blocked shots in a game.
So knowing who has the best chance of scoring 50 goals could go a long in helping you in your pool.
So here are the top 10 players with a chance to hit 50 goals for their first time this season.
10. Patrick Kane
Kane has an outside chance, but he's a bit too injury-prone to be any higher on this list. He's missed 35 games combined the last two seasons, and he's only ever broken 30 goals once, and that was in 2009-10. Even with last year's excellent start, Kane was only on pace for 36 goals before breaking his collarbone. He is still the Hawks best offensive player, and should be playing with Artem Anisimov and Marco Dano this season, which is an upgrade over Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg.
9. Joe Pavelski
The biggest long-shot on this list. Only nine players in NHL history have scored 50 goals in a season at the age of 31 or older, and only three of them hit 50 for the first time in their careers at that age (Joe Mullen, Vic Hadfield and John Bucyk). So the odds are against Pavelski. But he did post 41 goals two years ago and 37 last year. The Sharks have a new coach, and he still has Joe Thornton on his team to feed him the puck.
8. Rick Nash
Here's why Nash is ranked so low. Last year, almost everything went right for Nash. He had a hot start (23 goals in his first 35 games). His shooting percentage was the highest since the 2008-09 season. He managed to stay healthy for most of the year. And yet, he scored 42 goals. Part of that was the dreadful Rangers power play (Nash had just six power play goals), and the fact his ice time took a nose dive as the season went on (from 18:20 a game in November to 16:54 in March). There's a chance he can score 50, but he needs a lot more to go right than what happened last year.
7. Taylor Hall
This is a bit of a long-shot, because Hall has never even hit 30 goals in an NHL season yet (heck, he never hit 50 in juniors either). But there are some positive developments. He'll get a chance to play with Connor McDavid, which is going to open up the ice more for him, and he will no longer be counted on to do everything himself. He needs a healthy season, a much better power play presence (just three goals with the man advantage last year), and lots of help from his teammates.
6. Jamie Benn
The reigning Art Ross winner has a lot of things going for him. And it is pretty much summed up in two words: Tyler Seguin. The two have great chemistry together, and you can see Benn's value in both the NHL and fantasy hockey worlds skyrocket since Seguin went to Dallas. Benn, who has only missed one game the last two years, has hit 35 goals a year with Seguin as a linemate. His shooting percentage is high, he takes lots of shots, and the addition of Patrick Sharp will only help Benn, especially on the power play.
The only thing keeping Pacioretty from hitting 50 goals is an elite centre as a teammate. Or even a great centre. Or even an above-average centre. Instead, Pacioretty is stuck with David Desharnais or Tomas Plekanec, neither of which are great options for raising a teammate's game. But Patches takes plenty of shots, and is a very streaky player. If he can get hot for enough consecutive games, and score more on the power play, 50 is within his reach (as long as Plekanec isn't centring him).
4. John Tavares
Tavares may have already hit the 50-goal mark if he had some help in New York. But while there's always been some nice complimentary pieces (P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek, Kyle Okposo, etc.), there hasn't been another superstar to help him reach that 50-goal plateau, which is almost a necessity in this day and age. Tavares always has a double-digit shooting percentage, and did score 38 last year. But until he gets that superstar teammate, it's going to be tough.
All Tarasenko needs to do is improve on the measly eight power play goals he scored last year. Despite his horrific power play goal totals (especially horrific when you consider he averaged 2:38 per game on the team, most among forwards not including Alex Steen, who plays defence with the man advantage), Tarasenko still managed 37 goals in 77 games. Another six more power play goals, plus a full healthy season, puts him at 45 goals. It's not a stretch to think someone with his talent can get an extra five goals on top of that.
2. Tyler Seguin
There are only two teams in the league that have at least two players who can score 50 goals: Pittsburgh and Dallas. Reasons Seguin can score 50 goals: he's scored 37 in each of the last two years (and was on pace for 43 last season). He's playing with Benn and possibly Patrick Sharp, both threats to get 70 points, and someone on that line should get 50 goals. He's only 23 years old and may still have his best seasons to come. He's looked way more comfortable in Dallas than he did in Boston. He takes a ton of shots. He's an elite player. His shooting percentage gets better each year. And the second line is strong enough that teams can't just focus on Seguin.
1. Phil Kessel
For the first time since leaving Boston, Kessel will finally have the opportunity to play with an elite centre, which makes his goal-scoring numbers even more incredible when you think about it. He still managed to average 34 goals a season from 2008-09 to 2013-14 season (prorating the lockout the shortened season). He'll now get a chance to play with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and when you throw in the fact he an ironman (he hasn't missed a game in six seasons), he's got a great shot of breaking 50 goals.
Answer to the 50-goal question: The nine current NHL players are: Alexander Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr, Steven Stamkos, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Sidney Crosby, Dany Heatley, Evgeni Malkin, and Cory Perry. The two KHLers are Jonathan Cheechoo and Ilya Kovalchuk.
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