Even though the overall numbers have started to decline a little bit from where they were earlier in the season, the NHL has still seen an increase in goal-scoring this season. Whether it’s because of the crackdown on slashing, better power plays, or any other combination of factors it has been a pleasant change from what we have seen over the past decade.
That rise in scoring also means individual scoring numbers are improving as well, and it could lead to the return of something that has been rapidly disappearing in recent years: The 100-point scorer.
Since the start of the 2010-11 season the 100-point mark has been eclipsed just five times in a season.
Daniel Sedin did it in 2010-11, Evgeni Malkin did it in 2011-12, Sidney Crosby in 2013-14, Patrick Kane in 2015-16 and Connor McDavid this past season. The highest point total during that stretch was Malkin’s 109 points in 2011-12. It is not just the century mark that seemed unreachable because even hitting 90 points seemed impossible. Only 11 players were able to hit that mark over the aforementioned stretch.
Once during those years (not counting the lockout shortened 2012-13 season) the Art Ross Trophy was won by a player that came in under the 90-point mark, something that had not happened (in a non-lockout season) since 1967-68.
That brings us to this season where things have changed dramatically for the top scorers in the league.
Heading into the holiday weekend there are currently five players in the NHL this season on pace for at least 100 points.
Nikita Kucherov is leading the way with a 120-point pace, a number that would be the highest point total in the league since Crosby hit it during the 2006-07 season. His teammate, Steven Stamkos, is on pace for 108, New York Islanders teammates John Tavares and Josh Bailey are both on pace for 105, while Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek is on pace for 101.
There are also 12 players in the NHL on pace to hit the 90-point mark this season. That would be more than the previous six seasons … combined.
Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid are both on pace for more than 95, and it would not be a stretch to think that McDavid could get white hot again at some point and get back on to a 100-point pace.
At this point all of these are just projections at nearly the NHL’s halfway point, and it is possible that a few of these players will cool off and not maintain their current pace.
But at this same point in time last season there were currently zero players on a 100-point pace and only four that were on a 90-point pace. Only McDavid topped 90 points for the season (he finished with 100 exactly) while Crosby and Kane finished with 89. Nicklas Backstrom, Brad Marchand, and Kucherov all finished with 85.
In the end they’re just arbitrary numbers, but the decline in overall offense over the past two decades has really limited what the best players in the league can do. There is a ton of high-level skill in the NHL right now and some truly generational talents (both the old guard of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, as well as the next wave represented by Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews) and it was not a great look for the league when those players were no longer able to hit even the 90-point mark every year. We want to see the best players dominate and put up numbers that clearly separate them from the pack. This season, for the first time in a while, that seems to be happening.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.