NHL Second Effort: The Top Five Goal Scorers You've Never Heard Of
It's highly unlikely that you would be surprised after taking a glance at the NHL goal scoring list.
That's where you'll see both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin leading the charge at 45 and 44 goals apiece. Executives around the League are smiling from ear to ear from the fact that the top two stars are doing their part in spreading the the game's popularity across the world.
But any coach or general manager will be the first to tell you that in order to have a team that will go deep in the playoffs, contributions will need to be made by everybody on the roster.
There is no such thing as having too many players capable of providing offense. Most of the time these players fly under the radar, but their impact never goes unnoticed by their team.
Here's a look at the top five goal scorers in the NHL that are often overlooked.
#5 - Maxim Afinogenov
Before the 2009-10 season began, Maxim Afinogenov was without a contract. As the final days of the exhibition schedule arrived, the Atlanta Thrashers extended an offer worth $800,000 to Afinogenov after he showed noteworthy chemistry with all-star forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Could anybody have expected the type of offensive output that Afinogenov has already posted thus far?
On a team that expected production from the likes of Nik Antropov, Slava Kozlov and Bryan Little, it's Afinogenov leading the way with 22 goals through Wednesday's action. Not too shabby for somebody coming off one of the worst seasons of his NHL career.
Though injuries have plagued him in the past, his skill set has never been questioned. When healthy, Afinogenov has the ability to put up 20-plus goals annually. His efforts this season have helped the Thrashers stay in the playoff picture even after Kovalchuk was dealt to the New Jersey Devils.
#4 - Guillaume Latendresse
In a trade that saw two players benefit from a change of scenery, Guillaume Latendresse's game has flourished in Minnesota.
The big forward from Ste-Catherine, Quebec struggled mightily this season with the Montreal Canadiens, notching only three points in 23 contests.
Since being acquired by the Wild for Benoit Pouliot, he has become an integral part of the team's offense.
Latendresse has lit the lamp 23 times in 44 games as a member of the Wild while averaging under 15 minutes per game. He also has four game-winning goals, tying him with Antti Miettinen for the team lead.
At the end of the season, Latendresse will be up for restricted free-agency and will likely earn a hefty raise. Whether or not he will be able to keep his game at this level has yet to be seen.
Only time will tell if Latendresse (who is only 22 years old) will be an impact player in Minnesota in the coming years.
#3 - Jussi Jokinen
There could be some debate as to whether or not a picture of Jussi Jokinen should be located underneath the word "bargain" in the dictionary.
Jokinen has already posted career-highs in goals (27), power-play goals (10) and game-winning goals (5) while playing for a sub-par Carolina Hurricanes squad. At the moment, he is even tied with captain Eric Staal for the team lead with 54 points a piece.
The best thing about Jokinen, though, could be his price tag. His hit on the salary cap through the 2010-11 campaign is $1.7 million, which is identical to that of Chad LaRose. Not to sound off on LaRose, but he is sitting with 5 goals and 14 points on the season to go along with a dismal minus-13 rating.
It may be too late for the Hurricanes to make a serious push for the playoffs this season, but with a bit of fine tuning this summer they still have players who can lead the team to the post-season for 2011.
Jokinen may be one of the NHL's best-kept secrets. However, the way he has been playing, it is unlikely that he will remain a secret much longer.
#2 - Brooks Laich
The Washington Capitals have several weapons when it comes to offensive fire-power.
Led by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, the Caps always have a chance to leave their mark on every shift. Over the past three seasons, they have been receiving contributions from everybody, including center Brooks Laich.
Most people who know about Laich will tell you that his defensive work is what defines his game. What many often forget is that he has scored no fewer than 21 goals in each of the last three seasons. The 24 he currently has in 2009-10 is also a career-high.
On a team with six 20-goal scorers, Laich finds himself in a tie with Ovechkin and Backstrom for most power-play goals with 11. The fact that Laich spends this amount of time on the man-advantage as he does on the penalty-kill speaks volumes about how important his is to the Capitals.
#1 - Mikael Samuelsson
"They can go f*** themselves, that's what I really think."
Mikael Samuelsson had a few choice words after being snubbed by the Swedish Olympic Team earlier this year. For Vancouver Canucks fans, this could be a blessing in disguise.
Since being left off Sweden's roster for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Samuelsson has posted 20 goals in 32 games en route to hitting the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Ironically enough, it's been two members of Team Sweden who have helped the 33-year-old's offense in the form of Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Some would argue that Alexandre Burrows would be more deserving for the top spot, and for good reason. On the other hand, Burrows had his breakout season last year playing with the Sedins on a regular basis. Whenever that combination was in a rut this year, coach Alain Vigneault placed Samuelsson in his place.
Needless to say his performance has caught many by surprise.
It appears the fire has been lit under Samuelsson since the snub, but the focus has been on proving his critics wrong. So far, the results have been positive for both Samuelsson and the Canucks.