As we crossed the halfway point of the 2010-2011 NHL season this past weekend, I found myself intrigued by a few of the league’s leading scorers.
Upon first glance, the usual suspects were all there – Brad Richards, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and, of course, Sidney Crosby leading the pack with 66 points in 41 games. Even though Ovechkin sitting at 11th in scoring is a bit of a different look this season, it’s still not terribly interesting.
On second glance, there are several interesting things about this year’s top point-getters! Let’s take a closer look at some of the league’s more interesting scorers of the 2010-2011 season:
Loui Eriksson – 16 goals, 30 assists – 46 points
Loui Eriksson represents everything NHL teams want in a player when trying to develop a true top six forward. Each year Eriksson has improved, so it should come as no surprise that he currently sits eighth in league scoring. Eriksson’s play this season is a big reason why the Stars are one of the top teams in the Western Conference. And while his great stats might be somewhat expected (considering his consistent development), it’s how he’s doing it that’s really interesting. Eriksson is a shooter and a goal scorer, yet he’s just one assist shy of the team lead held by playmaker Brad Richards. And fittingly it’s Richards who leads the Stars in goals this year. Over the last two seasons Eriksson has fired 178 and 214 shots on goal, but only has 97 shots this year through 43 games. Eriksson is on pace to smash his previous career high in assists this season too. Loui Eriksson, sniper playmaker?
Corey Perry – 21 goals, 24 assists – 45 points
Perry has been a solid fixture in the league’s top 10 scorers all season long. As of today, he’s 9th . Perry’s stats are particularly impressive when you consider how much difficulty the Anaheim Ducks had scoring goals in the first month of the 2010-2011 season. It’s also impressive because of the fact that Perry’s 80 penalty minutes are by far the highest among the league’s top scorers. In fact his penalty minutes are nearly twice that of the next highest top scorer (Dustin Byfuglien, 45 minutes). It will be interesting to see if Perry can continue his scoring pace with Ryan Getzlaf expected to be out of the lineup until February following facial fractures and sinus problems after a puck hit him in the face.
Dustin Byfuglien – 16 goals, 25 assists – 41 points
So Dustin Byfuglien being among the top scorers in the league isn’t exactly a shock to anyone at this point in the 2010-2011 NHL season. After all, we all witnessed his dominance during the playoffs last year and it’s not like his strong season has gone completely undetected. What’s interesting about the league’s 14th highest scorer is that he’s scoring at nearly a point-per-game from the point. He currently sits two points ahead of future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who seems to consistently lead the lead in points from a defenseman. Possibly the most interesting statistic of Byfuglien’s is the number of game winning goals he’s scored this season. He’s tied for tops in the league at six with three of them coming in overtime. Remember he’s doing this as a defenseman. While Byfuglien may not be a Norris trophy candidate, one can’t deny his impact to the surging Atlanta Thrashers.
Ryan Kesler – 23 goals, 17 assists – 40 points
Some may have expected several Vancouver Canucks players to see dips in their performance and statistics following a number of breakout seasons last year. “Some” may or may not be me. OK, it was me — it’s not that I don’t like the Canucks, I do — I just figured a number of their players might have peaked last year. Fortunately for Canucks fans that’s not the case with Ryan Kesler. Kesler, who enjoyed a breakout season last year, is on pace to outdo 2010 with his current point-per-game play. Whether or not you believe Kesler has more luck than the average player, it’s clear the biggest difference in Kesler this season is his focus and new found ability to harness his emotions. While Kesler’s growth may not come as the biggest surprise in the NHL’s leading scorers (although the fact that he’s the NHL’s fifth highest goal scorer is slightly surprising), it’s forced many to reconsider what his true potential really is. The fact is this guy keeps getting better and better.
A handful of others including Matt Duchene, Tobias Enstrom and Brandon Dubinsky are all on pace to enjoy career years too. In Dubinsky’s case, he is only a few points shy of his career best just 43 games into this season. Seeing names like Eriksson, Perry, Byfuglien, Kesler, Duchene, Enstrom and Dubinsky within the league’s top scorers is a testament to the new NHL.
Off the chart skill can be found in virtually any player and tremendous results could be right around the corner with today’s prospects. All of these players took some time to develop but have gradually improved year after year. It’s a nice lesson in patience and is a solid reinforcement that drafting and developing players properly is the only way to operate in today’s NHL.