Can anyone catch David Pastrnak in goal scoring race?

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For the past 12 years the NHL’s goal scoring crown has been dominated by the same small group of players.

  • Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has won it outright eight different times, including six of the past seven years. One day the award might even be named after him.
  • Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos have won it outright one team each, and then shared it one other time (the 2009-10 season when they both scored 51 goals).
  • Corey Perry won it once during the 2010-11 season.

And that has been it for 12 years.

But this season there seems to be a new player getting ready to break that cycle of dominance as Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has raced out to a massive lead on the goal leaderboard. After his hat trick on Tuesday night in a rout of the Montreal Canadiens, Pastrnak has already scored 23 goals in his first 24 games this season. As of Wednesday he has a five-goal lead on the next closest player (Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid), even though he has played in two fewer games. That is already a gigantic edge and leads to this question: Assuming Pastrnak stays reasonably healthy this season, is there anyone in the league that can catch him?

It would take quite an effort.

First, just look at the current goal-pace for each of the top-10 goal-per-game players in the league so far this season (minimum 20 games played):

  • David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins: 78 goals
  • Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins: 58 goals
  • Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: 56 goals
  • Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: 52 goals
  • Leon Draisiatl, Edmonton Oilers: 50 goals
  • Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: 50 goals
  • Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 49 goals
  • Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: 47 goals
  • Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: 45 goals
  • Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers: 45 goals

At their current projections Pastrnak would score 20 more goals than any other player in the NHL this season over 82 games, which would be a completely insane lead. Having said that, you probably should not expect Pastrnak to maintain that pace or score more than 70 goals this season. It is just not realistic, and at some point he is going to slow down. Only eight players in NHL history have scored more than 70 goals in a season and it hasn’t happened since the 1992-93 season, while the majority of those efforts came during the 1980s when nearly every team had somebody scoring 50 goals every year.

You also have to consider that Pastrnak has scored on more than 23 percent of his shots this season, and for as great as he is that number is probably going to regress as the season goes on and he hits the sort of inevitable drought that no player is immune to.

Along with that spike in shooting percentage he is also averaging a career-best four shots on goal per game, and when you put those two numbers factors together you get the current run he is on.

Over the previous three seasons he was a 15 percent shooter and averaged around 3.5 shots per game. So let’s say he regressed a bit from his current numbers and averaged the 3.5/15% for the remaining 58 games of the Bruins’ season. That would give him an additional 30 goals on top of what he has already scored this season, for a total of 53 goals — still higher than all but two projections on the list above (Marchand and McDavid).

If he is able to maintain that four shots per game average and maintains a 15 percent average that would still put him at 57 goals for the season, ahead of every above projection except Marchand (and even Marchand, currently scoring on 27 percent of his shots, is due for a second have regression).

In short, as long as Pastrnak stays reasonably healthy and manages to score goals at a pace similar to what he did over the previous three full seasons it is going to take a herculean effort from someone else in the league to overtake him.

After more than a decade it seems like the NHL’s goal scoring crown is finally on the verge of going to a new face.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced Wednesday.

The Knights termed the procedure Tuesday as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released later Wednesday on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.