Ranking the Top Shootout Artists in the NHL
Some may find it silly to decide an NHL game with a skills competition proven to have random results, but that's no reason to neglect that part of the game. Any player who can consistently score a few extra goals in the shootout is giving his team a boost in the standings that is potentially greater than what some players produce in regulation play.
With Ilya Kovalchuk off to the KHL, the title for the NHL's best shootout artist is once again up for grabs. Opening the field further is the retirement of Andy McDonald, who went 9-for-13 in his final three seasons, and Erik Christensen's (10-for-17) departure for the KHL.
The average shootout specialists will score on one of every three attempts. Once again free of personal opinion, the list was compiled by looking at how many extra goals a player has provided over the past three seasons combined. Kovalchuk, for instance, scored 15 goals in 25 attempts—or 6.7 more than one would have expected.
How much flash a player scores these goals with was not considered. No matter how they did it, let's see which players have provided their teams with the most additional shootout goals over the past three seasons.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.
10. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild scored on 60 percent of their shootout attempts in their first season with Zach Parise last year, third highest in the NHL. This was way up from the already-strong 40.3 percent they posted in 2011-12.
Meanwhile, New Jersey went from a league-leading 57.1 percent in 2011-12 to just 20.7 percent, fourth worst in the NHL. That left them with just a 2-7 record in the shootout.
Not only does Parise provide great value in regulation play, his ability to consistently score on 50 percent of his shootout attempts provides several points in the standings each and every season.
9. T. J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues
St. Louis scored on 63.6 percent of shootout attempts last year, second highest in the NHL, leading to a 5-1 record.
A big contributor to this success was T.J. Oshie, one of the league's most underrated players. Not only does he do it all during both regulation and overtime, but Oshie has averaged about 50 percent in shootouts for the past five seasons.
8. Matt Cullen, Nashville Predators
Nashville's Matt Cullen is proof that you can always teach an old dog new tricks.
After scoring just a single goal in 11 shootout attempts between 2008-09 and 2010-11, Cullen caught fire and scored 10 goals in 19 attempts over the next two seasons, including a perfect three-for-three last year in Minnesota.
Cullen's talent is more than welcome in Nashville this year, which went 2-6 in the shootout last season thanks to a low scoring success rate of 28.1 percent.
7. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
When the Winnipeg Jets locked down high-scoring winger Blake Wheeler for six seasons with a cap hit of $5.6 million per season, one has to wonder how big a factor his shootout success was in the negotiations.
Other than a forgettable 2009-10 season with Boston when he scored on just two of 13 attempts, Wheeler's been good on 13 of 23 attempts over the past five seasons.
The Jets certainly need more players like Wheeler, as they scored on just 6 of 22 attempts last year despite his own efforts.
6. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
There are a number of reasons why Dallas is excited at having picked up Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins this offseason, not the least of which is how his incredible skill translates into shootout success.
Seguin has been a success right from the start, going 4-for-8 in his rookie season, then 6-for-12 in 2011-12 and 3-for-7 last season.
Of course, last year Dallas took only three games to the shootout, taking just eight shots. This year they'll have to get more games into the shootout in order to take full advantage of their potent new weapon.
5. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
There's quite a competition in Chicago for the team's best shootout artist.
At first, it was Jonathan Toews, who scored on 19 of 35 attempts from 2008-09 through 2010-11, one of the top success rates in the league. Patrick Kane, in contrast, was 10-for-34 over that three-year stretch.
Since then, however, Kane has taken over as Chicago's top shootout sniper. Kane has been good on 12 of 23 attempts over the past two seasons, more than a step better than Toews (8-for-18).
No matter who is leading the team at any given moment, the Blackhawks get serious points in the shootout thanks to Kane and Toews.
4. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
With regards to the shootout, Evgeni Malkin's claim to fame was in 2011-12 when he scored on 8 of 11 attempts. The rest of the team was 11-for-31. Malkin almost single-handedly helped the Penguins to a 9-3 shootout record.
Malkin, otherwise, hasn't scored more than two shootout goals in a season for years. Even though he's gone 5-for-14 over the past five seasons (ignoring 2011-12), it's still reasonably obvious that the real Malkin is closer to the 2011-12 version.
Curious about Sidney Crosby? He's certainly one of the league's best, but injuries have severely limited his ability to participate in the shootout. Sid the Kid has taken only six shootout attempts over the past three seasons, scoring on three. In the two seasons previous, he was 11-for-20.
3. Jarret Stoll, Los Angeles Kings
Jarret Stoll is another one of those value players. He can kill penalties, win faceoffs and score on the shootout.
Stoll would have ranked higher on the list, but there is some confusion about how good he really is on the shootout. Stoll went an amazing 9-for-10 in 2010-11, helping the team to a 10-2 shootout record despite the rest of the team going just 11-for-39.
Unfortunately, Stoll was just 2-for-8 the following season, and the rest of the team was 11-for-45, finishing with a disappointing 6-9 record. Last year, Stoll was used in only one of their six shootouts, where they finished 2-4. Given their apparent lack of better options, the Kings should try going back to Stoll.
2. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres
Thomas Vanek was a mediocre 3-for-11 in the two seasons prior to catching fire in 2010-11, when the Austrian scored on five of six attempts to help the Sabres to a 5-1 shootout record.
The Sabres were second in the NHL with seven shootout victories last year, to go with four losses. Curiously, Vanek was used in just five of those 11 games, scoring on three. Buffalo was a very average 9-for-27 without him.
Vanek certainly presents the impression that he can score at will on the shootout and would probably be on the top of the list if the Sabres agreed.
1. Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders
Potentially the league's most underrated player, Frans Nielsen was an absolute master of the shootout for three straight seasons. In 2009-10, he was 7-for-12, then 5-for-8 in 2010-11 and, finally, 7-for-11 in 2011-12. That's 19 goals in 31 attempts over a three-year span, which is simply sensational.
Last year, Nielsen was just 2-for-7, but that still makes him 21-for-38 over the past four seasons, ahead of Ilya Kovalchuk and behind only Jonathan Toews, who didn't miss the list by much.
The Islanders need to get their points wherever they can, and thanks to Nielsen, they get more than their fair share in the shootout.