The NHL’s early goal leaderboard has some surprising names near the top.
Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane has already found the back of the net 15 times to put him in a tie for second place with Alex Ovechkin and is already closing in on his career high.
New York’s Chris Kreider has played a starring role in the Rangers’ fast start with 13 goals in 17 games.
In Nashville, Matt Duchene is finally giving the Predators what they were hoping for when they signed him to a big money contract and is having his best season in the music city.
And then in Anaheim, Troy Terry has already obliterated his career high in goals having already scored 12 of them for the Ducks after never scoring more than seven over a full season.
All four players have one thing in common so far this season: Extremely high shooting percentages that are probably a bubble waiting to burst. All four players are currently scoring on more than 23 percent of their shots, including Mangiapane who is currently riding a 31.8 percent wave.
Something to consider: Over the past five full seasons only two players have finished a full season (minimum 100 shots on goal) higher than 22 percent, while only 12 topped more than 20 percent. All players go through scoring surges during the course of a season where a spike like this happens, and it is usually followed by an equally cold stretch to help balance things out.
So let’s try to set some realistic expectations for what to expect the rest of the way for each four.
Mangiapane has made steady improvement in Calgary for a couple of years now, and over the past two years was scoring at a 25-goal pace over 82 games with strong underlying numbers. So it’s not really a huge surprise that he is have a strong season. It’s just surprising to see it this strong. And it’s not just the shooting percentage spike that’s driving it. He is also generating nearly one extra shot per game from the previous couple of years. Those two things add up.
Let’s assume he can maintain that shots per game average over the Flames’ remaining 61 games. That would be an additional 152 shots on goal. If he shoots at a 16 percent rate as he has the past two years, that would give him an additional 24 goals the rest of the way. On top of his current 15 goal mark, that would put him on the verge of a 40-goal season.
Can he get there?
The Rangers made a bold investment in Kreider to give him a seven-year, $45.5 million contract a couple of years ago. So far, it is paying off. After scoring at a 30-goal pace over 82 games a year ago, he has been even more productive so far this season.
Of the four players Kreider might be the one that is having the most sustainable early season success. While his shooting percentage (23.3 percent) is high, and above his career average (15.3 percent), it is not a huge spike from last year, while he is also generating more than three shots on goal per game. The most important part of being a consistent goal scorer is being able to generate shots on goal. And Kreider is doing that exceptionally well.
If he can maintain that over the Rangers’ remaining 64 games, that is 192 shots. At a career average of 15 percent, that is an additional 28 goals from today, which would not only give him his first career 30 goal season, it would push him to 40 goals.
Duchene’s first two years in Nashville did not go as anybody planned. The Predators signed him to a seven-year, $56 million contract in free agency in the hopes he could help boost their offense and power play. But after scoring just 19 goals in his first 104 games with the team he found himself exposed in the Seattle expansion draft and almost certainly available for a trade if Nashville would have been able to get out from under that deal.
But through the Predators’ first 17 games this season he has already scored 12 goals, which has to make Nashville brass happy.
Duchene was probably due for a bounce back after his first two years in Nashville where he never had a shooting percentage higher than 9 percent.
If he can maintain his three shots on goal per game average, that could be another 195 shots on goal. At his normal career rate of 12 percent Duchene could reasonably expected to score another 24 goals, which give him 36 for the season. And quite honestly, that seems like a reasonable expectation given what Duchene has done at his peak. He is just a couple of years removed from a 31-goal season in only 73 games, while he was consistently a 25-30 goal scorer throughout his peak. The past two years were the extreme outlier.
Then we have the most surprising player of them all. Terry enters the week with 12 goals in 17 games, already a career high, and riding an ongoing 16-game point streak. He has been the most surprising offensive player in the league this season.
Terry was always a solid player for the Ducks that did a lot of good things that didn’t get noticed in the box score, but now everything is starting to come together for him.
He is also scoring on 27 percent of his shots after averaging about a 10 percent rate before this season.
Given his current shot rate (2.5 per game) and normal career shooting percentage (around 10 percent) another 15 goals for the rest of the season could be a reasonable expectation. That would put him around the 27-goal mark, which is something that both he and the Ducks would have absolutely taken at the start of the season.
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.