Projected 2018-19 NHL Scoring Race
In mid-October, I took note of the high rate of scoring during the opening weeks of this NHL season. While acknowledging scoring has slowly risen since 2015-16, I assumed October’s higher-than-usual rate of goals (3.11) would decline over the remainder of the schedule as players and teams adjusted to the slog of a long season.
As of Dec. 15, however, goal production has remained at the same rate.
The number of power-play opportunities (3.15) and power-play percentage (20.41) is slightly higher than the previous two seasons. It’s worth noting, however, that those numbers were significantly higher a few seasons ago without generating a big boost in goals percentage.
Save percentage has continued its steady decline since the .914 peak of 2015-16, sliding to .907. Gradual reductions in goalie equipment, especially pads and chest protectors, could be contributing factors.
Another reason is a number of players are scoring at rates unseen since 2005-06, the last time the average goal rate rose over 3.00.
The league’s ongoing trend toward youth and speed is a significant factor. Among this season’s current top-10 point leaders as of Dec. 15, all but Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Winnipeg Jets winger Blake Wheeler were 25 or younger.
At the current rate of production, 17 players among the current scoring leaders (as of Dec. 15, 2018) could reach 100 points over the remainder of this season (stick tap to The Sports Forecaster).
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche: 139 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: 129 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: 121 points
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning: 116 points
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 110 points
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: 110 points
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs: 107 points
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets: 110 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers: 105 points
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames: 104 points
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning: 102 points
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: 102 points
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: 99 points
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals: 103 points
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins: 100 points
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers: 101 points
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: 103 points
The last time more than 10 players reached 100 points was 1995-96 (12). That group included Hall-of-Famers Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Ron Francis, Peter Forsberg, Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov, and Wayne Gretzky, as well as future Hall-of-Fame inductees Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Mogilny.
Thirteen players could score 50 goals, something no player has done since 2015-16. Three of them could even become the first to reach 60 goals since the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos in 2010-11.
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 74 goals
Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets: 57 goals
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: 57 goals
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres: 55 goals
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins: 54 goals
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: 52 goals
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: 52 goals
Brayden Point: Tampa Bay Lightning: 52 goals
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: 51 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs: 50 goals
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks: 50 goals
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets: 50 goals
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames: 50 goals
The last NHL season that saw 10-or-more players reach 50 goals mark was in 1992-93. Fourteen of them – Mogilny, Selanne, and Lemieux, along with fellow Hall-of-Famers Luc Robitaille, Pavel Bure, Steve Yzerman, Dave Andreychuk, Brett Hull, Pat LaFontaine, Mark Recchi, and Brendan Shanahan, as well as Pierre Turgeon, Kevin Stevens, and Jeremy Roenick – achieved that milestone.
There’s still a long way to go until the end of the regular season in April. Most of the current scoring leaders should see their production decline as the long physical grind takes its toll during the second half of the schedule.
Still, even if half of these players drop out of their projected 50-goal and 100-point pace, the remainder will still represent a significant increase over those who reached those respective marks in recent years. It could become the league’s best offensive season since 2005-06 when five players tallied at least 50 goals and seven reached 100 points.