Projected 2018-19 NHL Scoring Race (Updated)
Back in October and December, I examined this season’s higher rate (3.11) of NHL scoring compared to recent previous seasons. While the rate remained steady during that period, it has since declined slightly to 3.05. That’s still the highest it’s been since 2005-06.
One reason for the decline is the drop in power-play opportunities (3.05, down from 3.15) and power-play percentage (19.91, down from 20.41). Save percentage saw a slight uptick from .907 to .908.
Passing the mid-point of the season could account for these changes. As games take on greater meaning as the schedule rolls along, teams tend to place greater emphasis on defensive play. The long grind could also be taking a bit of a physical toll upon the players.
On Dec. 15, 17 players were projected to reach 100 points by season’s end. As of Feb, 15, that number is down to seven (stick tap to The Sports Forecaster):
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning: 130 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: 120 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: 119 points
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames: 112 points
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche: 110 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: 108 points
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning: 105 points
Eight others – Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Boston’s Brad Marchand, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby – are on pace to reach between 95 and 99 points. They still have a chance of finishing with 100 points.
The number of potential 50-goals scorers has dropped considerably since Dec. 15. Back then, 13 players were projected to reach that vaunted plateau. It’s now just two: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (55 goals) and Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (52). Five others – Draisaitl, Kane, Point, Stamkos and Toronto’s John Tavares – are within range of reaching between 45 and 49 goals.
Should these projections be met, 2018-19 will still be a considerable improvement over last season, when just three players reached 100 points (none reaching over 108) and no one tallied 50 goals. It could still become the best offensive season since 2005-06 when seven players reached 100 points and five tallied 50 goals.
Kucherov has a shot at becoming the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 to reach 130 points. Ovechkin could have his eighth 50-goal campaign, putting him one shy of Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy on the all-time list.