Predicting the NHL’s Top Goal Scorers for 2014-2015

Goals are the currency of the NHL, and in 1998-99 the league introduced the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy to recognize their importance. Awarded to the player who scores the most goals in the regular season, 12 different players have captured the title in the 15 seasons since it was created (2004 and 2010 saw multiple players tie for most goals). Alexander Ovechkin leads all player with 4 titles including winning each of the past 2 years (scoring 51 goals last year and 32 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign). 

Predicting the next goal scoring leaders is difficult. There are some very talented players that usually end up at the top of the goal scoring list, but like many sports, injuries occur in hockey and I would be surprised if we didn’t see at least 1 player from this list not have a good year due to missing time caused by an injury. Some years see young up-and-comers have breakout seasons as they try to establish themselves among the best in the league, this year players like Gustav Nyquist will have a chance to prove if they’re the real deal.

In trying to determine this season’s leaders, several factors have to be considered. Some of the league’s best goal scorers could be prone to missing significant amounts of time to injury, or they could simply be inconsistent in their annual goal production. Often over a longer period of time, a player’s average goals per game can give a good indication of their scoring ability and future success, and was one of the key statistics looked at in predicting the numbers seen below.

With all that out of the way, here is my prediction for this season’s top 10 goal scorers:

10. Jamie Benn – 33

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  • Games Played: 81
  • Goals: 34 (9th)
  • Goals/game: 0.42

Other than an off year production-wise, scoring just 12 goals in the 2012-13 shortened season, Benn has continued to improve since he entered the league. Heading into the 13-14 season, Benn was named captain of the Stars and was paired up with newly acquired Tyler Seguin. The move resulted in career-highs in both goals and assists for each player.


9. Zach Parise – 35

Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports


  • Games Played: 67
  • Goals: 29 (23rd)
  • Goals/game: 0.43

A few years ago Parise had a run of 5 out of 6 seasons scoring 30+ goals, with his highest output being 45 goals. He has missed substantial time in the past 4 years due to injuries, but if he can remain healthy he definitely still has the ability to be one of the league’s top scorers for years to come.


8. Max Pacioretty – 35

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  • Games Played: 73
  • Goals: 39 (4th)
  • Goals/game: 0.53

Pacioretty had a very impressive 2013-14 season. He posted his career-best in goals scored and was near the top of the league’s goal scorers despite playing as many as 9 games fewer than the players ranked near him. This year should be another good season for Pacioretty, and although I think it will be hard for him to maintain the pace he set last year and I expect his production to drop slightly, part of me believes he will prove me wrong.


7. Phil Kessel – 36

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  • Games Played: 82
  • Goals: 37 (6th)
  • Goals/game: 0.45

Over the past several seasons Kessel has established himself as one of the NHL’s most consistent scorers, netting 30+ goals in 5 of the last 6 seasons (he scored 20 goals in 48 games in the shortened season, a 34 goal pace in a normal year). I expect another solid season from The Phil as the Leafs continue to grow.


6. Joe Pavelski – 38

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  • Games Played: 82
  • Goals: 41 (3rd)
  • Goals/game: 0.50

Pavelski had just one previous 30+ goal year before moving to the wing beside Joe Thornton last season. It resulted in a career year for Pavelski  as he proved he was one of the league’s best scorers. Paired with Thornton again this season, I would expect another great year from Pavelski although he may not have quite the season he did last year.


5. Tyler Seguin – 39

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  • Games Played: 80
  • Goals: 37 (5th)
  • Goals/game: 0.46

As noted in Benn’s section above, Seguin had a fantastic year after being traded from Boston to Dallas in the 2013 offseason. Skating alongside Dallas’ new captain on the Stars’ top line, Seguin and Benn helped Dallas to their first playoffs in 6 years, and both will look to have great seasons again this year.


4. Sidney Crosby – 40

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  • Games Played: 80
  • Goals: 36 (7th)
  • Goals/game: 0.45

Back in 2011, Crosby was having a career year (finished with 32 goals in 41 games) before hits from David Steckel and Victor Hedman in separate games lead to Crosby’s long-term concussion issues. His goal output has been increasing since he’s returned, with his only season below 0.40 goals per game being 2011-12, the season he came back from his concussion to play 8 games mid-season and the final 14 games of the year. I expect Crosby to increase his goal output from last season.


3. Corey Perry – 43

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  • Games Played: 81
  • Goals: 43 (2nd)
  • Goals/game: 0.53

He struggled in the 2012-13 shortened season with just 15 goals in 44 games, but regained his scoring touch last year with only Ovechkin scoring more during the regular season. In the other 3 of the past 4 seasons, Perry has put up a combined 130 goals in 243 games played. Anaheim will rely on Perry to be one of their best again this year as they look for their 3rd consecutive Pacific Division title and 2nd since the division realignment before the 2013 season.


2. Alex Ovechkin – 54

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  • Games Played: 78
  • Goals (rank): 51 (1st)
  • Goals/game: 0.65

If Stamkos doesn’t score the most goals this year, it will probably be Ovechkin. No one comes close to the 424 regular season goals Ovechkin has since beginning his career after the 2004-05 lockout – Jarome Iginla is second with 310. He’s scored at a rate of 0.56 goals per game or better in 7 of his 9 seasons, having a couple consecutive “off” years from 2010-2012 where he scored a combined 70 goals. I expect Ovechkin to break the 50-goal barrier for the sixth time in his career this season.


1. Steven Stamkos – 57

Mike Carlson/AP Photo


  • Games Played: 37
  • Goals (rank): 25 (43rd)
  • Goals/game: 0.68

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Stamkos top this list, he has more goals than any other player in the past 5 years, and only Ovechkin has more goals since Stamkos entered the league in 2008. In 4 of his last 5 seasons Stamkos has scored at a rate of 0.6 goals per game or higher, and last year started the season with 14 goals in 16 games (.88 goals/game, a ridiculous 72 goal pace) before breaking his right tibia in a collision with the goal post. I think 57 goals this year is conservative if he can remain healthy, with 60+ definitely a possibility.

Obviously there is only a very small chance all of these predictions hold up, so be sure to comment and let me know which players you think will finish in the top 10 at the end of this season.

Just missed my top 10 (in no particular order): James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, John Tavares, Patrick Sharp, Gustav Nyquist

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