Notable Absence of Present Stars Among NHL’s All-Time Scoring Leaders
While doing some recent research on the career of Jaromir Jagr, I noticed the scant number of active players among the NHL’s 50 all-time scoring leaders.
With Jagr’s departure to the Czech Republic, San Jose’s Joe Thornton is the only active player (as of Feb. 10, 2018) among the 50 all-time points leaders, sitting 16th with 1,427. He’s also 12th in assists (1,030) and only the second active player besides Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin (816) among the top-50 in that category.
The only active players among the top-fifty goal scorers are Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (20th with 590) and Toronto’s Patrick Marleau, who sits 34th with 526 tallies.
There’s not many active players set to join Thornton, Sedin, Ovechkin and Marleau among the top fifty this season. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, who sits 58th with 688 assists, needs 24 to crack the top-50 in that category.
Among the goal scorers, the Rangers’ Rick Nash (433) is 68th overall, Los Angeles’ Marian Gaborik (403) is 91st, Crosby (401) is 95th and Thornton (397) 96th.
Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin (635) sits 71st among the assists leaders followed by Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg (609) at 81, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf (606) at 82 and Marleau (585) 93rd.
Among the points leaders, Marleau is 59th with 1,111, Ovechkin 62nd with 1,093, and Crosby 63rd with 1,089. Henrik Sedin (1,055) is 70th, brother Daniel (1,018) is 83rd with Zetterberg (942) sitting 99th.
What’s notable about the NHL’s top-100 scorers is how’s it’s dominated by players whose heydays were between 1967-68 and 1996-97. That thirty-year period saw significant league expansion and a more wide-open offensive style that reached its zenith in the 1980s and early-1990s.
Of the top-50 points leaders, 26 were born during the 1960s. Of the rest, eight were born in the 1970s, six in the 1950s, five in the 1930s, four in the 1940s, and one – the incomparable Gordie Howe – in the 1920s.
From 51 to 100, only six players were born in the 1980s. Of those, four – Crosby, Ovechkin and the Sedins – are active players. From 101 to 150, five were born in the ’80s, of which four – Minnesota’s Eric Staal, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Dalla’s Jason Spezza and Getzlaf – remain active.
The first player born in the 1990s to surface among the top 300 is Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos (1990), who sits 274th overall with 646 points. Next is the New York Islanders’ John Tavares (1990), who ranks 323 with 599 career points.
For goaltenders, meanwhile, it’s a different story. As many as twelve active players sit among the top-fifty in various categories such as games-played, wins and shutouts. Save percentage is dominated by active goaltenders, with 31 of them among the top 50.
The lack of notable active players among the league’s leading scorers doesn’t mean they’re lesser-skilled than their predecessors. Since the late-1990s, coaches placed greater importance on shutting down scoring. There’s also more emphasis on two-way skills and increased parity among the teams. Goaltending equipment is also considerably larger compared to 25 or 30 years ago.
Over the last couple of years, however, there’s been a growing shift toward younger and faster skilled players. Among this season’s top-50 scorers (as of Feb. 10, 2018), nineteen are 24-year-old or younger. They include Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (303 career points), Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (269 points), Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (267 points), Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (212 points), Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (166 points) and Toronto’s Auston Matthews (113 points).
Other notables include Florida’s Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau, Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell, Boston’s David Pastrnak, Calgary’s Sean Monahan, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, Vegas’ William Karlsson, and rookies such as New York Islanders rookie center Mathew Barzal and Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser.
These players are still early in their respective careers and have a long way to go to reach 500 goals, 1,000 assists or 1,000 points. But if the recent trend toward youth, speed and skill continues, perhaps one day there will be a substantial contingent of players born in the 1990s finishing their careers among the league’s top-50 scoring leaders.