Ranking the Top Shootout Specialists in the NHL

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

Ranking the Top Shootout Specialists in the NHL

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Which players have the most impact on the shootout?

    It can be a hard question to answer, for a lot of reasons. It is difficult to compare goalies and skaters. A comparatively small number of players get opportunities, and even those who do take such a small number of shots, that confidence in their true level of ability isn't easy to generate.

    So how does one construct a list of the best players in the shootout? The approach taken here stresses the largest sample size, making use of career numbers, and works for both goalies and skaters.

    What we've done is taken the numbers of every active player in the league and compared them to what a typical NHL shooter (32.9 shooting percentage) or goalie (0.671 save percentage) would have done.

    The difference is expressed in goals better than average. In other words, if a goalie has allowed 10 goals over his career where the typical goaltender would have allowed 12, he gets marked down as being two goals above average; ditto for a skater with 12 goals in situations where the average shooter would have tallied 10.

    This favours goalies somewhat (they face more shots and thus have more opportunity to distinguish themselves), but the truth is that goalies matter more in the shootout—a skater can only contribute one shot in a shootout while a goalie faces all of the opposition's.

    The list that follows ranks the top 20 shootout players in the NHL, and also includes the best option from every team, along with their overall NHL rank. Read on to see both every team's most effective weapon and the 20 finest shootout players in the NHL.

    All statistics courtesy of NHL.com and current through January 23. For more by Jonathan Willis, follow him on Twitter.

110. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: Three goals on seven shots, 42.9 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Brad Marchand is the lowest-ranked player on the overall list to lead his team in shootout efficiency. Most Bruins shootersplayers like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci—hover around the NHL average while the team's goalies are just below it. If Marchand can keep up his current level of efficiency, he will climb this list in short order. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 0.7

74. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

    Career Numbers: Nine wins, seven losses, 0.700 save percentage

    The Skinny: Shockingly, stars like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have been well below average in the shootout over their careers. That leaves young goalie Ben Bishop, who suffers in these rankings owing to his short career, as the team's best shootout player. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 1.7 

73. Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: Nine goals on 22 shots, 40.9 percent success rate

    The Skinny: With the departure of Jussi Jokinen last season, Ruutu took up the mantle as the 'Canes' most effective shootout scorer. Others worth noting include rookie Chris Terry, who is a perfect 2-for-2 in his 10-game NHL career, and team captain Eric Staal, who is an ugly 3-for-18. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 1.8

71. Joe Colborne, Calgary Flames

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: For goals on six shots, 66.7 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Colborne's NHL shootout career isn't lengthy, but it's been impressive in the early going. Colborne is converting shots to goals at twice the league-average rate, which means that despite having only four goals total over his career, he's two better than the league average. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 2.0

70. Mark Letestu, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: Eight goals on 18 shots, 44.4 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Letestu may see his lead in Columbus fall away in the near future, as 24-year-old Cam Atkinson (4-for-8) has been extremely impressive, but right now it is Letestu who has the highest numbers of goals above what we would expect from a league-average player. One interesting item with the Blue Jackets is Jack Johnson, who has 36 career shootout attempts despite a lousy 27.8 percent success rate. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 2.1

58. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 15 goals on 38 shots, 39.5 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Alexander Ovechkin may be the Capitals best player during regulation and overtime, but he's only average-ish in the shootout over his NHL career. Backstrom has healthy numbers, though his overall success rate falls behind the surprising Eric Fehr, who has five goals on 11 attempts. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 2.5

55. Mike Santorelli, Vancouver Canucks

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 12 goals on 28 shots, 42.9 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Santorelli narrowly edges out Canucks teammate Alex Burrows (12-for-30) for the team title here, but tops guys with bigger name recognition by a mile. Ryan Kesler and the Sedin twins are a combined 15-for-76, 10 goals below what one would expect from an average NHL shooter.  

    Goals Better Than Average: 2.8

49. Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 20 goals on 51 shots, 39.2 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Ottawa's goalies have been bad in the shootout, and its shooters have generally been average or worse. Against that backdrop, Spezza, and to a lesser degree Kyle Turris, have been rare bright spots. Mika Zibanejad (3-for-4) has been impressive, too, in a short sample.  

    Goals Better Than Average: 3.2

38. Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 12 goals on 25 shots, 48.0 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Winnipeg has five excellent shooting options, with Ladd leading a group of players who are all average or better at scoring in the skills competition. The team's primary weakness has been in net, where Ondrej Pavelec (career 0.624 save percentage) is one of the NHL's least impressive goalies. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 3.8

35. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 16 goals on 37 shots, 43.2 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Giroux and Matt Read (6-for-14) are the clear leaders on a Philadelphia team that lacks other top-flight options up front and has some significant shootout problems in net. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 3.8

31. Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 10 goals on 18 shots, 55.6 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Toronto is an interesting team to track because there is such a gap between the team's shooters and its goalies. While the goalies are average (James Reimer) or worse (Jonathan Bernier) over their careers, Bozak is one of a few guys (Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk are the others) to have a nice run of goal scoring. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 4.1

30. Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers

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    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 13 goals on 27 shots, 48.1 percent success rate

    The Skinny: With the departure of Shawn Horcoff to Dallas, Eberle became the uncontested shootout star on the Oilers' roster. He's still the guy sitting highest against an NHL average shooter, but newcomer Matt Hendricks (9-for-17) joins him as a player who has flirted with the 50.0 percent success rate as a shooter. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 4.1

29. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

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    Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 21 wins, 24 losses, 0.699 save percentage

    The Skinny: That Price has a sub-0.500 win/loss record despite a well above average save percentage says something about the quality of shooters in front of him over his NHL career. The situation is better now, with the Canadiens boasting four or five average-or-better shootout scorers. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 4.3

26. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks

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    Brian Kersey/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 20 wins, 20 losses, 0.700 save percentage

    The Skinny: Anaheim has a bunch of pretty decent shooters, but it is Hiller who holds the lead in goals better than average on the team. His 0.700 save percentage is an excellent number for an NHL goaltender. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 4.9

20. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 18 wins, 16 losses, 0.726 save percentage

    The Skinny: Halak is our first entry in the top 20, and he edges out an awfully good player: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who sits 21st in the NHL on his career. One interesting point: Halak's been very good, but he isn't the top Blues player on this list.  

    Goals Better Than Average: 6.2

19. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 34 wins, 20 losses, 0.705 save percentage

    The Skinny: Quick has had some good shooters in front of him, but he's been excellent in the Kings' net in his own right. He has been particularly good in 2013-14, going 4-2 with a 0.833 save percentage. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 6.5

18. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

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    Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 33 goals on 79 shots, 41.8 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Koivu is an excellent shooter, but despite leading with Wild with 14 career game-deciding goals, he's only the second-best career shooter on the team. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 7.0

17. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Career Numbers:  16 wins, 10 losses, 0.756 save percentage

    The Skinny: Varlamov has been roughly average both in this season and last year, but he was incredible for Colorado in 2011-12, going 8-0 and stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced in the skills competition. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 7.3

16. Jussi Jokinen, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 13 goals on 27 shots, 48.1 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Jokinen is famous for his work as a shootout specialist, and deservedly so, as he's been one of the best players in the game over the last few seasons. He's on a cold streak right now, though, having gone 0-for-4 this season.  

    Goals Better Than Average: 7.6

15. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Career Numbers: 42 wins, 28 losses, 0.703 save percentage

    The Skinny: Brodeur is a great example of the unpredictability of the shootout. After going 42-21 with a 0.728 save percentage over the start of his career, he's 0-7 with a 0.545 save percentage over the last two seasons.   

    Goals Better Than Average: 7.7

14. T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 22 goals on 42 shots, 52.4 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Oshie has been excellent in shootouts for many years now, and fully half of his shootout goals have been game-deciding tallies. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 8.2

13. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 23 wins, 21 losses, 0.720 save percentage

    The Skinny: In some ways, Rinne is still living off great results at the start of his career. Prior to 2011-12, Rinne had gone 17-9 with a 0.777 save percentage; since that time he has a 6-12 record with a 0.631 save percentage. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 8.3

12. Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 34 goals on 77 shots, 44.2 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Vrbata was a controversial omission from the Czech Olympic team for a lot of reasons, and the team may end up missing him most if they play an elimination shootout at some point in the tournament. The number of skaters with a better career record than Vrbata can be counted on one hand. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 8.7

11. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 35 goals on 79 shots, 44.3 percent success rate

    The Skinny: With the possible exception of the relatively unproven Tomas Tatar, the Red Wings lack any really above-average shootout scorers other than Datsyuk, who is one of the five best skaters in the NHL in the shootout.

    Goals Better Than Average: 9.0

10. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 22 goals on 42 shots, 52.4 percent success rate

    The Skinny: One of the things Minnesota added when they signed Parise as an unrestricted free agent was a second elite NHL shootout specialist to complement team captain Mikko Koivu. Parise just cracks the top 10 in terms of career impact and is one of the very best skaters in the game in the shootout. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 9.7

9. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 49 wins, 30 losses, 0.708 save percentage

    The Skinny: Almost half of Buffalo's wins have required the shootout, and Miller has been in net for every single one of those, continuing a trend of strong play over his career. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 10.2

8. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 35 wins, 23 losses, 0.724 save percentage

    The Skinny: Kari Lehtonen has been a vital part of the Dallas Stars in all situations, including the shootout. He's a top-five major league goalie over his career in the skills competition. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 10.8

7. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 33 goals on 67 shots, 49.3 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Toews served notice that he would be a formidable opponent in the shootout well before he reached the NHL, tallying three goals in a single game at the World Juniors. It is extremely difficult to hang around the 50 percent mark for any length of time and Toews has done it; if the NHL were to create an all-shootout team, he would be one of the three skaters on it. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 11.0

6. Brad Boyes, Florida Panthers

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 22 goals on 42 shots, 52.4 percent success rate

    The Skinny: Boyes is humming along at double the NHL average scoring rate this year, and only one skater in the league has a better career record when compared to the standard major league shooter. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 11.0

5. Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Career Numbers: 30 goals on 54 shots, 55.6 percent success rate

    The Skinny: No active NHL skater has outperformed the league average to a greater degree than the Islanders' Frans Nielsen has. His track record of exceptional work has continued this season, where he has gone 5-for-9 in shootouts. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 12.2

4. Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers

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    Career Numbers: 35 wins, 29 losses, 0.727 save percentage

    The Skinny: Tim Thomas has been one of the best goalies in the majors in all situations since the 2004-05 NHL lockout, and that pattern extends to the shootout, where he ranks fourth among goalies in career success. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 12.7

3. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 31 wins, 20 losses, 0.747 save percentage

    The Skinny: The home/road splits over Niemi's career are noteworthy because they are so identical. His record at home is 17-11 (0.607 win percentage) and on the road it's 14-9 (0.609 win percentage) with a 0.747 save percentage in both cases. Regardless of situation, he's reliable in the shootout. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 13.3

2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 42 wins, 17 losses, 0.777 save percentage

    The Skinny: No active goaltender with more than 10 career starts has a better save percentage than Penguins' starter Marc-Andre Fleury. He's been a big part of Pittsburgh's incredible record in the skills competition. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 19.9

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    Career Numbers: 47 wins, 32 losses, 0.757 save percentage

    The Skinny: No player in the NHL has done a better job of outperforming the average NHL goaltender over a longer period of time than Lundqvist. Over nearly 100 games, Lundqvist has consistently provided the Rangers with strong goaltending in the shootout and in so doing has helped his team to an excellent record in those situations. 

    Goals Better Than Average: 26.0