It’s important to note that we are still in the early stages of the season, but we’re deep enough into the proceedings that goal totals are hitting the double digit mark. Chances are that most of the biggest dark horse candidates will fall out of the top ranks of the Maurice Richard race, but that’s almost half the fun in glancing at the leaders now.
So let’s look at the top guys and then analyze their individual situations.
Tied for first:
Brandon Dubinsky, center, New York Rangers: 10 goals
Steve Stamkos, center, Tampa Bay Lightning: 10 goals
Patrick Sharp, center/winger, Chicago Blackhawks: 10 goals
Tied for second:
Chris Stewart, winger, Colorado Avalanche: nine goals
Loui Eriksson, winger, Dallas Stars: nine goals
Daniel Sedin, winger, Vancouver Canucks: eight goals
Alex Ovechkin, winger, Washington Capitals: eight goals
Alex Semin, winger, Washington Capitals: eight goals
Sidney Crosby, center, Pittsburgh Penguins: eight goals
Brenden Morrow, winger, Dallas Stars: eight goals
Tied for fourth with seven goals: Rene Bourque, Claude Giroux, Marian Hossa, Clarke MacArthur, Raffi Torres, Phil Kessel.
Here is a quick list of the guys who should stay in the hunt (barring injury): Stamkos, Ovechkin, Semin, D. Sedin, Crosby, Hossa and Kessel.
Here are a few players who could be productive enough to really make a charge: Sharp, Eriksson, Morrow and Bourque.
Now, let’s quickly touch on the biggest surprises.
Dubinsky: Brandon “Dubie” Dubinsky is known for being an all-around player more than a scorer, with a career-high of 20 goals. He’s likely to regress a bit at some point, but perhaps he’s simply responding to the Rangers’ dire need for offense?
Stewart: He might be worthy of inclusion in the “players who could be productive enough to really make a charge,” but I still wanted to single out his ascension as a possible star power forward in the NHL. His current 25.7 shooting percentage is more than double the 12.7 mark he put up last year when he put up 28 goals, so don’t be surprised if the quick start helps him flirt with 35 or 40 goals this season. You really never know.
Giroux: He is almost halfway to his 16 goal total from 2009-10, but he scored 10 goals in 23 playoff games so maybe he’s just hitting his stride as a young, super-talented NHL player. He probably won’t maintain his .54 goal per game pace, but 30-plus goals is certainly reasonable. (Oh, did I mention that he’s in a potentially lucrative contract year?)
MacArthur: The former Atlanta Thrashers arbitration rejection victim probably would be happy with a 25 goal season, to be honest. He scored five of his seven goals in the first four games of the season and only scored one in his last five games. Still, he might have been worth the bargain pickup anyway.
Torres: Laffy Raffi is basically the reverse version of MacArthur; after a cold start he’s absolutely on fire with five goals in his last three games, including a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers. He probably won’t be in the top ranks of goal scorers this season, but he could threaten his career high of 27 goals from the 2005-06 season.
So there’s a quick rundown of some of the surprises in the top ranks in goal scoring. Which players do you think will keep up their hot paces and which ones are just the beneficiaries of good luck? Let us know in the comments.