Parity is as relevant as ever in the early goings of the NHL season. While some teams have established themselves as great (Pittsburgh) and terrible (Buffalo), most fall somewhere in the middle. Which makes it really damn hard to make a power rankings.
For example, all but five teams have between 18 and 31 points. One of the teams that doesn’t is Montreal, who has 33 in a league-high 23 games played.
Eight teams have between 20 and 22, 12 teams have between 24 and 29. The teams are all bunched up, which isn’t too surprising this early in the season. It just takes a little more digging to find out where each team belongs.
Let’s talk about goals. While there is a bevy of newly-created stats teams are taking heed of, putting up high goal totals is still the most sure-fire way to earn a fat new contract or an All-Star Game nod.
However, at this point in the year, the top of leaderboard for goals can look pretty strange due to luck, new guys emerging and old familiars either falling off or starting slowly. Let’s take a look at this year’s top five through a quarter of the season and see if they belong.
1. Tyler Seguin – 15 goals
Seguin is former second overall pick who scored 37 goals last year and put in 29 at age 19. After being traded from Boston last summer due to “maturity” issues (LOLOLOL), he’s put up more regular season goals than anyone not named Corey Perry or Alexander Ovechkin. And he’s still only 22 years old. His shooting percentage is an unsustainably-high 18.8 percent, but he’ll generally shoot better than the average player.
Does he belong? Definitely
T2.) Steven Stamkos – 14 goals
Stamkos has already had seasons of 60, 51 and 45 goals so it’s not too surprising to see him up here. The former first overall pick was injured much of last year but still managed to put up 25 goals in 37 games (for context, no Buffalo Sabres player scored 25 last year). Does he belong? Of course.
T2.) Rick Nash 14 goals
Nash famously scored just three goals in 25 playoff games last spring, earning “goat” moniker for the Rangers falling in five games to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. So far, he’s regressed wayyyyy past the mean. His shooting percentage is nearly 20 percent, so he’s sure to regress. But he’s playing well and is likely on his way to his eighth 30-goal season. At age 30 he has 350 goals. Despite struggles in recent years, he’ll likely get to 500 goals before he retires. Does he belong? In the top five? Maybe, maybe not. It sure seems so at the moment.
4. Vladamir Tarasenko 12 goals
The soon-to-be-23-year-old has thrust himself onto the hockey landscape by scoring some of the prettiest goals of the year. Playing with international free agent Jori Lehtera has been kind to Tarasenko, who has been able to shine with the play-making center. Tarasenko has the hands and skating ability to score at will. Does he belong? You tell me.
5. Phil Kessel/Corey Perry 11 goals
Kessel has shot an only mildly-unsustainably 15 percent this year while Perry has shot a wild 22 percent in the 17 games he has played. Both have goal-scoring pedigrees as Kessel has five thirty-goal seasons and Perry has scored both 43 and 50 in different seasons. Do they belong? For sure.
It seems the top five (six, really) belong where they are, which seems unusual at this point in the season. Beyond the top five, there are some regression candidates. Brock Nelson, Nick Foligno, Patric Hornqvist and Nino Niedereiter all have more goals than Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin. Regression is coming, NHL. Be ready.