Looks like he may have an actual sniper rifle slung around his back

I think most people would agree that, prior to last season, nobody outside of Anaheim would’ve picked Corey Perry to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored, correct?

There were the default choices that we all assumed would continue to hold the crown: the upper echelon of guys pretty much stopped with Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin. In the next tier – the hopefuls but not likelys – we had guys like Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Ilya Kovalchuk and a few others. Perry might have made that list, but not likely.

Well, looking at things this year – Sidney Crosby hasn’t played a game, it’s already being questioned if Alex Ovechkin has seen and passed his prime, and Steven Stamkos is still behind teammate Bruno Gervais in goals, who has one – that second tier is looking more and more like it might produce our winner.

That leaves the door open for a Perry repeat, of course, but he’s got some serious competition. That second tier of guys hosts a new swath of threats. After hot starts, I wouldn’t bet against the following list of guys to end up with names alongside the likes of the legendary Jonathan Cheechoo Jarome Iginla:

1) Anze Kopitar

The almost-rated-properly-because-everyone-calls-him-underrated Anze Kopitar is a sneaky, lurker-ish sniper with a bomb, good size and great mitts. He’s come roaring out of the gatets this year with 3 goals in his first 2 games, and there’s no reason for him to turn back. With a loaded Kings powerplay and great linemates this year, I’m expecting big numbers from the guy.

2) Claude Giroux

Giroux has come into his own over the past couple seasons, and now leads the deadly Flyers offense. He’s one of those guys who seems to constantly thirst for the scoresheet, and with a nasty set of moves in his arsenal, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him threaten the goal leaders.

3) Tomas Vanek

Vanek has topped 40 goals twice in his career, and 30 a couple of other times. On a much improved Buffalo Sabres team, he’ll be seeing more opportunities than he ever has before. He’s off to a hot start too, and once Vanek gets on a roll, he’s one of those guys that becomes near-impossible to stop.

4) Daniel Sedin

Daniel is the shooting half of the deadly Sedins (I think they’re good if I haven’t mentioned this before), who are always going to put up good numbers. After last year’s terrific season in which he led the NHL in points, I could see him taking over in this category too. He looks as confident and poised as ever this year.

And the dark horse….

5) Phil Kessel

Yeah, I said it. I may be a little blinded by Kessel early-season hattrick, but that’s just the type of start a guy like him needs to get his head in the right place for a good season. The Thrill loves himself some himself, and while he’s a capable passer, the dude wants to score goals. He’s on an improved team as well, and will be used in every conceivable “we need a goal here” situation. ….It could happen.