Six-hundred-ninety talented athletes are lucky enough to call themselves players in the NHL, but among them are a select few who can truly be considered the most dangerous scorers in the league.
These are the players who can rip a one-timer from the top of the circle to the back of the net, dipsy-doodle around defensemen as if they're pylons on the ice and deke goalies to make them look downright silly. In short, these players are stars on their respective teams, the ones who can be depended on to put up points on the scoreboard.
I put together a list of the top 30 most dangerous scorers in the league, which mostly includes goal scorers, but I give a few nods to the playmakers of the NHL who must be credited for the work done prior to the goal.
In making my decisions, I stuck with the forwards who have shown the most success since the 2005 lockout. I also took into consideration how the player is doing thus far in the 2010-11 NHL season, but by no means was that the deciding factor.
The most important question I wanted to solve was finding the players who invoke the most fear in defensemen and goalies when the puck is on his stick and he is taking it down the ice.
In no particular order, here are the 30 most dangerous scorers in the NHL.
Laura Falcon is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins and a college writing intern for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments.
Oshie is a young player coming into form with the help of his buttery hands and powerful, workhorse style. He has already impressed many outside of St. Louis with his slick hands and solid puck movement, especially in the shootout, where his creativity shines as brightly as his apparent talent.
In a few seasons, Oshie will be a consistent scoring force.
Selanne will become one of the all-time greats and a favorite of many fans, and his ability to score is just one of the attributes that make him one of the best despite his age.
He may be 10 years or so removed from his goal-scoring prime, but he certainly still has it and remains a threat on the ice for every shift he takes.
Ryan is another young star forward with his entire career ahead of him. Typically remembered as the forgotten second-overall pick after Sidney Crosby, Ryan has demonstrated his scoring prowess by registering two 30-goal campaigns in his first two seasons in the NHL.
This handsy player will be up there with the best Americans, even at his young age.
A change of scenery might just be what Horton has been looking for.
Stuck on the mediocre Florida Panthers since being drafted in 2003, Horton has been able to forge a new identity after his trade to the Boston Bruins and is currently tied for the team lead in points and goals. With the pressure off of him to be the lead goal-scorer, Horton will have his best season yet with the Bs.
St. Louis is a favorite to win the Lady Byng trophy almost every season for a reason: He can score goals and do so without taking a penalty.
Like Selanne, St. Louis has been consistently good in the scoring department despite adding notches to his age belt, but this is due in part to the work of one of his linemates, Steven Stamkos. Don't let his age fool you; he's still as slick as the rest of the young stars.
The newest captain of the Anaheim Ducks, Getzlaf is quickly becoming an all-around great who plays a high-intensity style with an incredible skill set. He may never be one to score 50 goals in a season, but this hockey player plays a solid game that always presents him as an offensive threat.
Always one of the best Ducks on the ice, expect Getzlaf to become his team's leader, despite their current problems this season.
Arguably one of the best playmakers in the game, Thornton can just as well receive and net any pass that comes his way. Thornton is consistently at the top of the scoring list because his experience has taught him what it takes to put one behind even the best goalies.
Sure, his passing is what makes him so great, but any goalie would be foolish to think that a solid passer is any less dangerous than the one who gets the final stick on the puck before it goes in.
The reigning captain of the Stanley Cup champions and Conn Smythe Trophy winner can start plays just as well as he finishes them, and even adds a defensive element to boot.
Goal-scoring may not be Toews' strongest suit but the young captain is still developing his game with a talented core of players around him. Regardless of his numbers, Toews displays certain skills that always show up on the scoreboard, which makes him a legitimate threat to any opposition.
It goes without saying that Staal claims bragging rights as the best goal-scorer among the four Staal brothers in the NHL, but he also joins the ranks as one of the best in the league as well.
Staal is a clutch goal-scorer, something we saw in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but is also prolific in any situation. A major asset to the Carolina Hurricanes' offense every season, Staal always rises up to the challenge.
Cammalleri's skills can no longer be overlooked after his performance in last season's playoffs.
He finds a way to get the puck on net and when he does, he very often burns the opposition with an insanely accurate wrist shot. Another clutch performer when Montreal needs it, Cammalleri can get it done single-handedly if necessary.
Kane has been a star in every aspect of his game and he continues to grow as each season passes, scoring the big goals in big-game situations.
The most recent man to claim a Stanley Cup-clinching goal, he can also boast a solid performance in the Vancouver Olympics. The question remains: Can Kane elevate his game to that higher status?
It's difficult to separate Daniel from his brother Henrik, but as the goal-scorer of the two, Daniel is the one to make it on this list.
With their twin intuition, Daniel and Henrik often pair up as a scoring nightmare for the opposition and between the two, Daniel tends to be the final provider of the offensive punch. Henrik managed to surpass Daniel last season, but it looks as if Daniel may have a star season of his own to answer his brother's.
The real Captain Leadership, if you ask me.
Iginla truly does it all: start plays, finish them, play a full season, fight, lead on and off the ice, and much more. He is also regularly at the top of the Calgary Flames scoring list. In short, yes, this captain is to be feared by every opposition.
Malkin established himself as one of the greatest players in the game because of his all-around play, but it is supplemented by his ability to score at any spot on the ice.
He can take over any game when he can tap into his invincible mode, and when he does, he simply cannot be stopped. Once his confidence starts rolling, so come the goals.
The Boston Bruins may have gotten the better end of the deal that sent Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which allowed the B's to claim Tyler Seguin, but it's impossible to doubt what this player can do when he has the puck.
Kessel can tap into a very strong skill set and he has started this season with a bang, tying for the team lead in goals. Be assured that Kessel has the big-game play in him to make Boston regret sending him away.
On a team that boasts defense above all things, Parise has been able to regularly find the net.
It doesn't matter whether the puck is along the boards, at center ice or in the crease, expect Parise to be right there, doing whatever it takes to put the puck in the net. Imagine what he could do on an offensive-minded team.
Datsyuk is hands down one of the best stick handlers in the NHL today and it's apparent in every aspect of his game, especially with his offensive power and in the shootout.
Like Thornton, Datsyuk is predominantly a playmaker, but his ability to handle the puck makes him just as deadly when taking a shot or deking the goalie as he is sending a cross-ice pass during the power play. He is one of the best all-around players in the NHL because of this.
Marleau consistently puts up the big numbers for San Jose, despite his hiccup season a few years back.
He claims the Sharks' all-time records in goals, assists and points, and he's completely immersed in the prime of his hockey career. He may have been stripped of his captaincy, but Marleau found a way to bounce back despite the humiliation and is playing some of the best hockey of his career.
As the 210th overall pick in 1999, Zetterberg has put on quite a show in Detroit and surpassed all expectations placed on him as a low draft pick.
Opposing players must be aware when Zetterberg is on the ice because the skilled player, who is just hitting his prime, doesn't make many mistakes. He's programmed to the find the perfect spot on the ice and with players like Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom on his team, he'll find the puck and be able to place it where he wants with ease.
Playing for another team that doesn't boast a lot of offensive talent, Gaborik has become the hero of the Rangers by leading the offensive charge. With some help up top in playmaker Alex Frolov, Gaborik can become a force in the East if the Rangers can get rolling.
Of course, Gaborik's health issues remain, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Gaborik can be a 50-goal scorer if those are overcome.
Carter has a natural scoring touch, making him the strongest scorer on the Philadelphia Flyers.
His wrist shot is just as lethal as his slap shot on both the power play and the penalty kill. Anyone who is that dangerous on both ends of the ice is worth the hype.
Kopitar tapped into a goal-scoring frenzy last season that placed him at the top of the scoring race for a portion of the beginning of the 2009-10 NHL season before he cooled off.
His start to this NHL season may not be as good as the previous, but look for a steady Kopitar to lead the Kings in scoring this season. He's a player who can average a point per game and can turn on the scoring whenever he gets hot.
On a team with Alexander Ovechkin, looking to stand out as a scoring threat may seem a little difficult, but it comes with ease for Semin.
He can be a bit streaky at times, but Semin has one of the deadliest shots in the league today and will make teams pay for any mistakes they make when he's on the ice. Semin has put up solid goal totals on a regular basis, notching his first 40-goal season last season.
Nash is a player whose skills are as big as his body. Easily one of the best power-forwards today, Nash has the ability to protect the puck yet maintain some good hands in dealing and shooting the puck.
The young captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets also puts up some regular goal numbers that will continue to improve with age.
The dreaded Hossa curse was lifted last season when he finally won his first Stanley Cup after making three consecutive runs to the Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams.
Hossa is money on the wing with a solid center who can get the puck to the net or on the tape of his stick. He may have had a lackluster playoffs, but he has proven to be a regular goal scorer no matter what jersey he wears.
Heatley created plenty of drama when he requested a trade from the Ottawa Senators but stoutly refused to accept offers fielded from the Edmonton Oilers.
Regardless of the drama, Heatley, now with the San Jose Sharks, has proved time and again that he can score goals, recording the Senators' first-ever back-to-back 50-goal campaigns. On a team that sports both Marleau and Thornton, Heatley can become any goalie's worst nightmare.
Speaking of drama, nothing can match the Kovalchuk salary problems of this summer that almost saw him in the KHL before he signed an extension with the New Jersey Devils.
Similar to Heatley, adding a player like Kovalchuk to your team simply enhances the number of goals scored. Kovalchuk has a wicked wrister among many other offensive talents that would make him a big part of a team that is having trouble finding the net.
Stamkos has become the newest NHL star and it all comes down to his one-timer that has him atop the scoring and points race today.
In his second season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stamkos tied for the league-lead in goals to win his first "Rocket" Richard Trophy. He continues his domination in scoring that could very well see him go for a second consecutive Richard and even an Art Ross Trophy for the highest point numbers.
Whatever Crosby wants to improve, he improves.
Primarily known as a playmaker, Crosby wanted to improve his shot going into the 2009-10 season, and he ended the season tying Stamkos for a league-high 51 goals to win the Richard. With a backhand that is just as dangerous as his forehand, Crosby has a limitless arsenal of scoring power that he continues to work on and improve each season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ovechkin is undeniably the most lethal sniper in the NHL at the moment.
Having amassed two consecutive Richard trophies in his career with the Washington Capitals—and coming one goal shy of making it three last season—Ovechkin has become a goal-scoring machine who has been wired to find the twine. In only one season has Ovechkin not hit the 50-goal mark, which is a stunning accomplishment for such a young player.