Goals... they're the lifeblood of the game of hockey. It takes an enormous amount of skill to put a puck past an NHL goaltender, and guys who can do it on a regular basis become superstars.
But who are these scoring titans? Who are these gluttons of goals, aficionados of assists, and purveyors of points? Who is it that boosts their team on the score sheet with their amazing play night after night?
In a league like the NHL that's full of the world's best hockey players, it takes something truly spectacular to stand out among the crowd and be heralded for your scoring ability.
However, there are a few guys who can truly be called the league's elite. Here are my choices for the top 25 most prolific scorers in the national hockey league today.
I hope you like videos because this slideshow is loaded with clips of spectacular plays that you've just got to see.
Center, Tampa Bay Lightning
GP: 57, G: 40, A: 34, P: 74
Ever since the injury to Sidney Crosby earlier this year, Stamkos has opened a massive lead in the NHL's scoring race, already having an incredible 40 goals in only 57 games, on pace for what will likely be one of the best single-year point totals since the NHL lockout.
Stamkos has a wrist shot like no other player in the NHL. Believe me when I say you absolutely do not want him to receive a pass while he's standing in the faceoff circle to the left of your net.
Stamkos has turned that into his office much like Wayne Gretzky did during his illustrious career with the ice immediately behind the net.
If he gets a pass to that spot, Stamkos' blistering one-timer is likely going to cause you a world of hurt when that puck inevitably winds up in your net.
Still don't believe it? Check out the video to see just how deadly his shooting skills are.
Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
GP: 41, G: 32, A: 34, P: 66
The sign of a truly exceptional player is that no matter how hard you try to slow him down, he always manages to find a way to put the puck in the net. Crosby is one of these players whose phenomenal skill and goal-scoring talents just can't seem to be stopped.
Crosby was on fire earlier this season, leading the NHL scoring race for much of the year. A series of hits sidelined him indefinitely with a concussion on Jan. 6, but his point totals were so high at that point that even having missed 17 games, he still sits fourth in scoring.
Meanwhile Pittsburgh has really felt the effects of his absence: with the loss of both his talents and Evgeni Malkin's consistent threat as well, the Penguins have begun to slip, most recently with a 9-3 drubbing at the hands of the lowly Islanders.
It pretty much goes without saying that the Pens would love to have him back as soon as possible.
Left Wing, Vancouver Canucks
GP: 58, G: 29, A: 44, P: 73
If you didn't know their jersey numbers already, pretty much the only way to tell Daniel Sedin apart from his brother Henrik is by the fact that Daniel has an "A" on the front of his jersey while Henrik has a "C."
But that's just if you look at them. If you look on paper, you'll see that Daniel Sedin is easily the more lethal scorer of the two brothers, as he sits one place above Henrik in the NHL scoring race.
Daniel Sedin's 29 goals are second on the Canucks roster this year only to Ryan Kesler, who's having an incredible breakout year, but there is quite the difference in Daniel Sedin's goals: they are PRETTY.
Just check out this incredible goal from the end of last season that not only completed a hat trick, but demonstrated just how much talent and poise the Swedish left winger has in his unparalleled skill set.
Left Wing, Washington Capitals
GP: 57, G: 21, A: 35, P: 56
Oh man...finding a single definitive highlight of the career of this guy to show to you is just about impossible. With his incredible stickhandling talents and an unparalleled nose for the net, Ovechkin truly is one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL.
His numbers have dwindled rather severely this year, as it seems that the rest of the NHL has finally caught up to, or at least figured out how to temporarily slow down the Russian power forward, but Ovechkin is still a difference maker whenever he steps on the ice.
He doesn't need to score to make a brilliant play, and that makes him extremely dangerous with the puck, particularly with the teammates surrounding him.
And yeah, he can score goals like this one, too. (Note: fast forward to the 0:31 second mark of the video if you want to skip the unnecessary play.)
Center, Detroit Red Wings
GP: 37, G: 14, A: 30, P: 44
When it was announced that Pavel Datsyuk would miss upwards of two months with a broken hand, there were 29 groups of defensemen who were suddenly breathing a little bit easier knowing they wouldn't have to face the daunting task of slowing this guy down.
Pavel Datsyuk is more or less a magician with a hockey stick in his hands. The guy could stickhandle through five people in the space of a phone booth if he needed to, making him nearly unstoppable when he's coming at you with the puck.
Then after he inevitably makes you look like a stationary traffic pylon, he almost always adds salt to your wounds when he buries the puck in the back of your net.
Additionally, Datsyuk can really get it done defensively as well, exemplified by his +11 rating in those 37 games. He's usually a finalist for the Selkie Trophy for best two-way player, and he looks like he'll likely be in those conversations again at the end of this season.
Center, Calgary Flames
GP: 59, G: 25, A: 31, P: 56
The quote at the end of this video describes it all: "Jarome Iginla reaches the 30-goal plateau... again." Jarome Iginla might not score the prettiest goals in the NHL, in fact most of them are just him flat out overpowering a goalie with his booming shot, but I dare say it's extremely effective.
Iginla has reached the 30-goal margin in each of his last nine seasons, and he's on pace to make it 10 straight this year now that the Flames have stormed back up the Western Conference standings.
Over that stretch of nine seasons, Iginla has managed to score 40 or more goals on three separate occasions, and 50 or more goals in two of those seasons. With such consistently amazing goal totals year after year, it's no wonder that the Calgary Flames captain is on this list.
Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
GP: 43, G: 15, A: 22, P: 37
When this guy is your second-line center, you know you have depth that's pretty much unrivaled at the center position.
Evgeni Malkin I believe is in many ways an underrated player due to the fact that he's having a stellar career in the shadows of Sidney Crosby.
However, the 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has shown on several occasions that he's just as good as his Canadian teammate.
Malkin has had a tough season this year, however, notching only 37 points before watching his season come to a premature end due to a gruesome leg injury that's got him off the ice for at least 6 months.
That being said, I really hope Malkin comes back strong because he's an entertaining player to watch, and he's got a brilliant set of hands, as shown here by this goal from the Pens' 2009 Stanley Cup run.
Center, Vancouver Canucks
GP: 58, G: 13, A: 55, P: 68
The identical twin of Daniel Sedin, Henrik is currently the reigning MVP of the National Hockey League, something rather prestigious as he's the only guy since the lockout to win that honor who is not named Alexander Ovechkin.
Henrik's goal totals have dropped sharply this year, but Henrik is still on this list for his incredible ability to set up goals and make beautiful passing plays.
In fact his offensive awareness is one of the primary reasons the Canucks boast an NHL-best 3.34 goals per game.
Henrik may be more of a playmaker forward, but he' also no slouch when it comes to scoring goals.
He has some blistering speed that can send a defense into a chaotic frenzy and then the stickhandling skills to capitalize on the chances he, along with his brother, can create.
Don't believe it? Check out the video and you'll see exactly what I mean.
Right Wing, Columbus Blue Jackets
GP: 55, G: 26, A: 23, P: 49
Rick Nash has got it all: size (6'4", 215 lbs.), speed, stickhandling skills, and an insatiable desire to score goals.
What's even better is that Nash has the ability to score on a team which for most of its existence hasn't been much better than mediocre.
Since guiding the Blue Jackets to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2009, the Blue Jackets haven't managed to get back to the big dance.
However, this certainly isn't due to an underperforming superstar. Since 2004, Rick Nash has managed to score less than 30 goals in just one season, which was shortened to only 75 games due to injuries.
Additionally, he has more All-Star Game points than anyone else in the NHL's post-lockout era. And it's easy to see why he's one of the most feared scorers in the game when he can do things like he does in this video to your defense.
Right Wing, Philadelphia Flyers
GP: 53, G: 27, A: 19, P: 46
Danny Briere reminds me a lot of a snake: he's small, quick, can find and squeak through even the tiniest gaps in your defense, and he can strike with deadly speed, precision, and force.
It's these talents that have made Briere into the leading goal-scorer on a dynamite Philadelphia Flyers team who many believe is the Eastern Conference's best shot at a Stanley Cup this season.
The Quebec native was recently named to the NHL All-Star Game, solidifying his status among the league's elite players.
The Chicago Blackhawks may have won the Stanley Cup, but they'll be the first to tell you never to leave him alone, as his offensive prowess will undoubtedly deal some significant damage on the scoreboard.
Briere has also proven to be brilliant in clutch situations, coming up with 30 points in a run to the Stanley Cup Finals that fell just short last season.
Left Wing, Detroit Red Wings
GP: 56, G: 17, A: 44, P: 61
When a guy can score goals like that, it's no wonder the Red Wings made sure to lock him up for the very, VERY long term. In fact, Henrik Zetterberg won't be testing the Free Agency market again until the summer of, get this, 2021.
For a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who are expected to contend for the Stanley Cup more or less every single year to place their faith in you and make you one of the franchise's long-term investments, that says something about how amazing a player you are.
Not too bad for someone who was drafted in the seventh round, 210th overall.
His 44 assists are seventh in the league so far this season, demonstrating what is actually the more important part of Zetterberg's game: his playmaking ability.
In fact, Zetterberg is the reason that so many guys on the Detroit Red Wings usually finish the year with at least 20 goals.
Between his setup skills and Pavel Datsyuk's stickhandling and finishing ability, it's no wonder they've become one of the most feared, respected, and in many cases hated duos in the entire NHL.
Center, Vancouver Canucks
GP: 57, G: 32, A: 22, P: 54
It's laughable to think the commentators on this video call Ryan Kesler "snakebit." This was obviously early in the season because the American-born center has had a whale of a year up to this point.
His 32 goals lead the entire Canucks, the best team in the Western Conference and, at this moment, the entire National Hockey League.
He even leads those two guys named Sedin who we've already seen on this list!
The Canucks now have a battered blueline, and will really need some help if they want to keep the puck out of their net, but that doesn't phase Kesler, who boasts a beautiful +24 rating, making him a likely finalist for this year's Selkie Trophy, awarded to the league's best two-way player.
Right Wing: Anaheim Ducks
GP: 57, G: 28 , A: 33, P: 61
Corey Perry is perhaps one of the greatest players who is very rarely heard from by most of the NHL.
The Pacific division is undoubtedly the most difficult division to play in this season, and Corey Perry's outstanding talents have guided the Anaheim Ducks to a very surprising spot, currently sitting fourth in the West and just a single point out of third place and the division lead.
However a large number of people never get to see his stellar play because over half of Anaheim's games start between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. in the Eastern time zone.
Perry's 28 goals are fifth in the NHL, and his 61 points leads the entire Anaheim roster by a pretty large margin.
Playing on a line that features fellow Canadian and Olympic teammate Ryan Getzlaf and American-born boy-wonder Bobby Ryan, Perry has become an integral part of the Anaheim Ducks franchise that boasts one of the most feared first-lines in the game of hockey.
And when Perry scores goals like this one, it's no wonder Anaheim has caught so many people off guard this season.
Center, Dallas Stars
GP: 56, G: 24, A: 39, P: 63
It's hard to believe that the guy who currently sits sixth in NHL scoring reached the 200-goal plateau earlier in this, his 11th season. However, in seven of those 11 years, he's been a 20-goal scorer, and looks to be well on pace this year for his first 30-goal campaign.
Brad Richards has really shown his value this year, taking a Dallas Stars team that nobody really believed would be much of a threat this year and carrying them to the lead in the Pacific Division up until just recently.
Even then, some are beginning to consider the Stars as a dark horse for the Stanley Cup, led by this veteran power forward.
With how important he is for the franchise, I firmly believe the Dallas Stars will not be trading him come the deadline, contrary to the constantly changing rumors that seem to be swirling around about him what seems like every day now.
Center, Chicago Blackhawks
GP: 54, G: 19, A: 31, P: 50
He may not have been the youngest captain ever to guide his team to a Stanley Cup Championship, but Jonathan Toews is currently the youngest captain in the NHL at the age of only 22.
Toews scored a whopping 29 points in last year's 22-game Cup-winning playoff run, breaking what was at the time the longest drought between championships by any NHL team (an honor that is now shared by the Toronto Maple Leafs [last cup: 1967], and the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings, both of whom have yet to win their first Stanley Cup after 42 seasons).
As is the case with many of the young superstars in the NHL today, Toews comes with a very dangerous skill set, all of which can be seen in this video: he's very smart, both with the puck on and off his stick, he has blazing speed, dizzying stickhandling abilities, and an ability to use all of these talents to score goals by the bucket-load.
It's no wonder the Blackhawks named him their captain when he was only 20 years old: he's going to be a 'Hawk for years to come. However, Blackhawk fans would like to see him pick up his scoring touch this season, as he's on pace for what could be the slowest year of his career in terms of goal production.
Center, Carolina Hurricanes
GP: 57, G: 27, A: 29, P: 56
Eric Staal was named the captain of the Hurricanes franchise in January of last season, and look how he repaid them then.
That was just a small sign of things that were to come of the big 6'4" forward. Eric Staal has been a driving force behind the Hurricanes resurgence this season, sitting seventh in the NHL goal scoring race and looking to be well ahead of the pace for his fifth 30+ goal season.
Staal also showed some spectacular grace and poise in January by, along with the Carolina Hurricanes, hosting the NHL All-Star Weekend festivities, of which Staal was a huge part.
It was great to see him put the puck in the net during that game and hear the roar of the crowd, showing just how much he means to this franchise and its fans both on and off the ice.
Center, Washington Capitals
GP: 57, G: 14, A: 36, P: 50
Nicklas Backstrom is just one of a very large number of highly potent offensive weapons currently practicing their trade in Washington D.C.
The Capitals no doubt have the face of their franchise in that Alexander Ovechkin guy, but Nicklas Backstrom is a talent that may be slightly overshadowed by the behemoth that is Ovechkin, and that's just fine when you consider what kinds of numbers it's allowed Backstrom to put up.
Like the rest of the Capitals, the rest of the NHL seems to have figured out how to slow him down significantly this season, but Backstrom's 36 assists are eighth in the league at this point, and he's shown before that he's perfectly capable of burying the puck in your net if you give him even the slightest amount of space.
Backstrom scored 33 goals last year, contributing to a 101-point campaign. Backstom truly can do it all, score goals, set up his teammates, and dazzle fans with his electrifying speed and dangerous wrist shot.
Center, Los Angeles Kings
GP: 56, G: 17, A: 36, P: 53
Okay I know this video clip is from an All-Star Game (meaning any sort of defense or back-checking is strictly forbidden), but Anze Kopitar makes this list because he does this sort of stuff on a regular basis to legitimate full-force defenses.
Kopitar has become the goal-scoring face of the Los Angeles Kings, a team that has finally managed to emerge from the depths of a decade-long rebuild and start to make a name for itself as a strong contender for a playoff spot.
The first ever, and thus far only Slovenian-born player ever to play in the NHL, Anze Kopitar has proven to be tough, durable, skilled, and overall one of the best players to come out of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
The Kings also showed they did the right thing by not immediately bringing him to L.A. upon his drafting, but instead they let him play one final season in Europe to mature and hone his skills.
The result has seen Kopitar become a major threat every time he jumps over the boards and leads the Kings up the ice.
Left Wing, New Jersey Devils
GP: 55, G: 19, A: 19, P: 38
He's been degraded, put down, and criticized left and right this season for not only his greed in contract negotiations, but his incredibly lackluster production this season with the New Jersey Devils.
That being said, Ilya Kovalchuk is still an incredible offensive force. You can't honestly expect to make your case for an $11 million-per-year contract without having some significant talent (heck, anyone who did would be laughed out the door), but Kovalchuk definitely proved his worth by notching six seasons of 40+ goals (two of which he managed to break the 50-goal barrier) with the Atlanta Thrashers.
There's no denying this guy's got some extreme talent when it comes to scoring goals.
That being said the Devils would love to see more production out of their biggest free-agent acquisition of the summer, whose hefty contract has put the Devils in a serious salary-cap bind.
In fact, his contract, in combination with injuries to players like Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur can be the chief excuses for the Devils' extremely frustrating season.
The Devils will very likely miss the playoffs, some games could not even field a full roster due to cap constraints, and for much of the year were the worst team in the NHL, not even getting their first home win until November on this Kovalchuk overtime blast.
Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks
GP: 57, G: 27, A: 18, P: 45
Call me biased but I firmly believe the 22-year-old, Cherry Hill, N.J., native is one of the most underrated players in the National Hockey League today.
It's crazy to think that Bobby Ryan started his rookie season in the minor leagues with the Iowa Chops, eventually playing only 64 games, but notching an incredible 31 goals.
This video clip shows one of the incredible highlights of that rookie season: a natural hat trick punctuated by a goal which not only completely embarrassed Kings defenseman Peter Harrold, but caught the attention of the entire NHL so strongly that it wound up being a finalist for the goal of the year. Not bad for a California-trained rookie.
Since then, Ducks fans have grown to love the 22-year-old kid who is the very important third piece to the extremely dangerous Anaheim Ducks top line that has ravaged the Pacific Division. Ryan has already scored two hat tricks this season, and could likely set a career best in both goals and points.
Also a small sidenote of personal pride: let it be known that Bobby Ryan was also partially trained by Inline Hockey, as the North American Roller Hockey Championships (NARCh) continually boast that Bobby Ryan is one of the best and most notable talents to emerge from their NARCh Pro division.
As a life-long inline hockey player, I'm inclined to agree.
Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks
GP: 48, G: 17, A: 36, P: 53
I can't help it. I have to give a shout-out to the Finnish Flash in this list because at the age of 40 (yes, you read that right) he's sitting 14th in the NHL's scoring race and has been instrumental on a Ducks team that has stunned many people by sitting one single point out of the lead of the Pacific Division, considered by many to be the best division in the NHL this season.
Selanne has developed a phenomenal chemistry with long-time friend Saku Koivu and a recently-red-hot Jason Blake to form one of the most deadly second-lines in the NHL.
All three are old enough to be Taylor Hall's father, yet they can all skate just as fast and strike with a deadlier, more experienced scoring touch.
In addition to being an ageless wonder and a wizard on the power play, Selanne's most recent goal (the first one you see in this video) happened to be his 100th game winning goal, checking off yet another milestone that Selanne has accomplished in his illustrious career.
Right Wing, San Jose Sharks
GP: 58, G: 19, A: 28, P: 47
Dany Heatley was brought into San Jose to be the difference maker. The Sharks believed when they brought him in that he would finally push them over the top and bring that ever-elusive Stanley Cup to the Shark Tank after years of waiting and playoff failure.
The Stanley Cup still hasn't happened in Northern California, but Heatley has been an excellent investment for the San Jose Sharks. As if scoring a hat trick in one of your first games isn't a sign of a good decision...
Heatley currently sits tied for the team lead in points with Joe Thornton, but after five straight seasons in which he either broken or come darn close to breaking the 40-goal barrier (he's scored 39 times in each of his last two campaigns), his numbers this year are not quite what Sharks fans are hoping they would be.
This lack of production, combined with some very inconsistent and streaky play from the San Jose Sharks this season have many people in Silicon Valley worried that they'll have to endure yet another playoff disappointment and wait another agonizing year before they finally see their beloved Sharks skate with Lord Stanley.
Right Wing, Ottawa Senators
GP: 54, G: 14, A: 17, P: 31
Back on Oct. 22 of this season, Daniel Alfredsson did something extremely impressive by not only scoring a hat trick, but the third goal of that hat trick also happened to be his 1,000th NHL point, adding yet another milestone to the illustrious career of the long-time Senator.
This season has been an extremely regrettable one for the Senators, and Alfredsson has suffered with the rest of the team and seen a sharp drop in his production.
The combination of these factors and Alfredsson's high cap hit ($4.875 million) have begun to turn the gears of the rumor mill.
Many are speculating that the Senators will try to offload the contract of the currently longest-tenured captain in the NHL by trading him away so they can start to rebuild.
At the age of 38, Alfredsson is starting to possibly show some signs of slowing down, begging the question of how much longer he will even remain in the NHL.
Whatever he does decide, he will always be remembered as one of the most dangerous and prolific scorers in NHL history.
Defenseman, Phoenix Coyotes
GP: 58, G: 9, A: 38, P: 47
It's one thing if you're able to make this list and be considered one of the top 25 scorers in the NHL, but it's truly something special if you're able to do it as a defenseman. Keith Yandle has done just that.
Yandle currently leads all NHL defensemen in scoring with a spectacular 47 points. And backing that up with a -1 rating has got to be making a very strong statement for this guy's name to be thrown into the talks for the Norris Trophy this year.
Yandle has an unparalleled ability to set up his teammates from the point, being the chief contributor on a Coyotes team that gets a pretty large amount of production from its blueliners.
In an incredible surprise, Phoenix currently leads the competitive Pacific Division, and this guy is a very good reason why.
His thundering slap shot (seen here flat out overpowering veteran goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff) has also defined him as a truly exceptional point-man.
Center, Colorado Avalanche
GP: 57, G: 21, A: 26, P: 47
How's this for something special: it's your rookie year playing for the team you grew up idolizing and, at the age of only 19, you clinch a playoff berth with the winning shootout goal?
Yeah that was the reality for Matt Duchene on April 6, 2010, in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. This was just one of many highlights of a brilliant rookie season that saw Duchene score 24 goals: a number he'll likely top this season.
Matt Duchene hasn't missed a step in his maturation into one of the NHL's elite. In this, just his second season in the NHL, he was selected to be in the NHL All-Star Game, the first time in what will likely be many more.
With his incredible speed, spectacular stickhandling ability, and finely tuned hockey sense, it's no wonder the Avalanche thought this kid was special. It turns out they were right, he truly is.