PITTSBURGH - MAY 12:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on May 12, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over the last three years, 27 players have accomplished an impressive feat.  They are the only forwards in the NHL to meet two criteria: play 40+ games each season, and average more than 2.00 points for every sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time.

I chose those criteria because I was interested in finding out which players consistently put up big points at even-strength.  Even-strength scoring is sometimes a different skill than power play scoring; while both involve putting the puck in the net, the NHL has its share of players who can put up points but aren’t that good at handling a regular shift or who consistently perform well at five-on-five play but never get much credit because they don’t have the power play numbers to inflate their point totals.

Here are the 27 players who met the criteria, ranked by their average season performance.  Data courtesy of behindthenet.ca:

Rank Player 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 Average
1 Sidney Crosby 3.38 3 3.41 3.26
2 Alexander Ovechkin 3 2.86 3.7 3.19
3 Daniel Sedin 2.09 2.97 4.04 3.03
4 Henrik Sedin 2.16 2.79 3.96 2.97
5 Evgeni Malkin 3.2 3.07 2.62 2.96
6 Ilya Kovalchuk 2.72 2.61 2.91 2.75
7 Joe Thornton 2.84 2.33 2.76 2.64
8 Pavel Datsyuk 2.76 2.91 2.13 2.60
9 Daniel Alfredsson 3.12 2.21 2.12 2.48
10 Nicklas Backstrom 2.18 2.22 3.03 2.48
11 Jarome Iginla 2.85 2.46 2.06 2.46
12 Dany Heatley 2.95 2.2 2.2 2.45
13 Jason Spezza 2.93 2.07 2.33 2.44
14 Tim Connolly 2.4 2.64 2.24 2.43
15 Marian Hossa 2.07 2.75 2.43 2.42
16 Henrik Zetterberg 2.83 2.12 2.29 2.41
17 Ryan Getzlaf 2.26 2.43 2.55 2.41
18 Jason Pominville 2.75 2.19 2.24 2.39
19 Corey Perry 2.25 2.5 2.31 2.35
20 Eric Staal 2.24 2.32 2.48 2.35
21 Nik Antropov 2.33 2.1 2.59 2.34
22 Martin St. Louis 2.03 2.44 2.5 2.32
23 Thomas Vanek 2.23 2.37 2.31 2.30
24 Andrew Ladd 2.18 2.61 2.11 2.30
25 Vincent Lecavalier 2.42 2.11 2.27 2.27
26 Jonathan Toews 2.17 2.4 2.15 2.24
27 Kristian Huselius 2.11 2.09 2.23 2.14

Things I notice off that list:

  • The Sidney Crosby/Alexander Ovechkin dominance probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched NHL hockey the last few years; both players are sublime talents and both do well at what may be the forward’s most important skill: putting up points on a level playing field.
  • The Sedin twins rank quite highly by this metric; neither is an elite power play talent (though both are good) but at five-on-five they are among the league’s most effective forwards, not just at scoring but also at out-scoring.  While even Canucks fans have often been frustrated with their style of play, it’s brutally effective.
  • There are some interesting names around the middle of the list.  There was a lot of trade speculation circulating around Jason Spezza, with conventional wisdom indicating that his contract and injury concerns make him untradeable.  He is a gamble, but when healthy he gets results.  I was also interested to see oft-injured Sabres’ forward Tim Connolly rank where he did given that in the opinion of some in Buffalo he’s a liability to his team.  When healthy, he’s a legitimate first-line forward; and although his injury concerns mean it would be foolhardy to slot him there, he’s a guy with value.
  • Nik Antropov!  Ever since Toronto went off the board to select the big Kazakh back in 1998, Antropov has been subjected to considerable scrutiny and has often failed to live up to the lofty goals set out for him.  After two decent seasons, he quietly led the Thrashers in scoring this last year.  His 46 even-strength points this year tied him with Evgeni Malkin and put him just ahead of much more heralded players like Pavel Datsyuk and Vincent Lecavalier.
  • Over the last three seasons, Andrew Ladd has scored one power play goal.  Just one.  While virtually every other player on this list gets sent out for regular shifts on the power play, Ladd does not.  All he does is make the best use of the even-strength ice-time he gets; relative to the league as a whole he’s easily a top-six forward at five-on-five, and arguably a first-line guy in that situation.