Patrick Sharp and the NHL's Top 10 Most Surprising Scorers
Every season in the NHL, there are a new group of stars who emerge and shock everyone with their sudden scoring ability. It is just one of the reasons hockey is such a great sport to behold.
It's always great to see a new superstar come out of the woodwork and start to show the NHL and the fans his talent. This season, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp highlights another one of those emerging groups with his impressive scoring.
These are the top 10 most surprising scorers for the 2010-11 season. There will probably be a few players omitted, as plenty have had breakout seasons this year, and I am refraining from including rookies.
10. Mikhail Grabovski
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Traded to Toronto in 2008, Mikhail Grabovski actually had a strong rookie season with the team to the tune of 20 goals and 48 points. However, after dipping to only 10 goals and 35 points through 59 games last season, Grabovski began to fall out of favor.
He was frequently chided for his lazy, uninspired play and his name was constantly brought up in trade rumors. However, this season Grabovski has been a revelation for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have a realistic chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
This is partly due to Grabovski's 27 goals and 53 points, tied for the team lead in scoring and second in goals by one. If the Leafs can make the playoffs this season, Grabovski will have a very large part in it.
9. Teddy Purcell
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Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Kings in 2007, Purcell was largely a fringe player through parts of three seasons there. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season at the trade deadline for a veteran forward, Jeff Halpern, when the Lightning were selling off their free agents.
However, when he recorded nine points in 19 games with Tampa, people started to take notice. His numbers don't blow anybody away, but he has been a valuable member of a rejuvenated Lightning squad with 16 goals and 46 points, 30 more than his previous career high.
At the age of 25, Purcell is finally starting to come into his own, and the Lightning are only benefiting from it.
8. Brian Boyle
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With a couple of new acquisitions, and a good crop of young players, Brian Boyle was certainly not guaranteed a spot on the New York Rangers' roster this season. Instead, he earned it.
The 6'7", 244-pound forward was frequently critiqued for his soft style of play, rarely using his body or working the boards. This season, he is an entirely new player, taking the body, blocking shots and killing penalties, in addition to his newfound offensive game.
His totals of 20 goals and 32 points are hardly eye popping, but keep in mind that last season, he had tied his career high with four goals and established a new high with six points. His goals can hardly be considered pretty, but he gets the job done.
7. P.A. Parenteau
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The definition of a "late bloomer" if there ever was one, the 27-year-old Parenteau was drafted in 2001 and is just now approaching 100 career games. After a five-game NHL stint with the Blackhawks in 2006-07, Parenteau was traded to the New York Rangers and was among the AHL leaders in scoring for two straight seasons.
Finally, after recording 20 goals and 45 points in 35 AHL games during the 2009-10 season, Parenteau got his shot with the Rangers. He played in 22 games and scored only eight points, but played well enough to earn a contract with the rival New York Islanders for one year and $600,000.
He has impressed big time for the Isles, with 17 goals and 47 points, not bad from his previous career high of eight. His play earned him a one-year extension that doubled this season's salary. At the age of 27, he is still young enough to be an important part of the Islanders' youthful core.
6. Dustin Byfuglien
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Even though he has not been able to continue the torrid pace he had earlier in the season, Byfuglien's season is already a great one. One of the breakout players of the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run last season, he was sent to Atlanta to clear cap space.
In a decision that was heavily criticized, he was moved back to defense from forward, where he had spent most of the last three seasons. Well, Byfuglien has flourished back at his natural position, sitting fifth in defensive scoring with 50 points and leading all blueliners with 19 goals.
His play and leadership ability even earned him an alternate captaincy in just his first season with the Thrashers. He signed a five-year extension with the Thrashers last month, and will be an integral part of the team in the years to come.
5. Nikolai Kulemin
Kulemin broke into the NHL in 2008 and scored his first goal on opening night to help the Leafs defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. Even though it was just one goal, it got Leafs fans talking.
After failing to break the 20-goal or 40-point plateau for his first two seasons, it was initially thought that Kulemin had hit his ceiling. This season though, he set out to prove those people wrong.
He currently sits second on the Leafs in goals with 26 and third in points with 50. His excellent play earned him a two-year contract extension for $2.35 million per season. Suffice to say the Leafs would not be where they are right now without Kulemin's strong play.
4. Clarke MacArthur
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This is the last Leaf, I promise! Clarke MacArthur has come out of nowhere this season and is leading the surprising Toronto Maple Leafs in scoring with 53 points, tied with the previously mentioned Mikhail Grabovski.
MacArthur split last season between the Buffalo Sabres and Atlanta Thrashers, establishing a new career high with 35 points. After the season ended, the restricted free agent filed for arbitration and was awarded a $2.4 million salary, a full $1 million raise from that season.
Atlanta's decision to walk away was actually considered a wise move. But Brian Burke swooped in and signed the then unrestricted free agent to a $1.1 million deal for one year.
Despite slowing down after starting his Leafs career with five goals in his first four games, MacArthur is due for a big raise in the offseason.
3. Milan Lucic
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Known as one of the toughest players in the NHL, Lucic was not known as a scorer until this season. Though his 52 points this season is not a monstrous total, it has already surpassed his career high by 10 and has more than doubled last season's total.
His impressive 29 goals, though, is what puts him on this list. Lucic has come out of nowhere to lead the Bruins in goals, and is on pace to double his previous career high of 17. On a team that relies heavily on scoring by committee, Lucic is definitely the example to follow on the powerhouse Bruins.
Lucic has become the scorer that Nathan Horton was supposed to be for the Bruins when he was acquired in the offseason.
2. Patrick Sharp
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The namesake of this list, Patrick Sharp actually has a 30-goal season under his belt, scoring 36 during the 2007-08 season. However, he has never before broken the 70-point plateau, which is why he finds himself on this list.
Sharp sits tied for 10th in the NHL in scoring with 68 points, including an impressive 34 goals. The 68 has already established a new career high for him, surpassing the 66 he scored last season, which was initially thought to be his ceiling.
Sharp has become one of the largest reasons the Blackhawks have found themselves back in contention. If Sharp can keep up his excellent play, the Blackhawks will certainly not be taken lightly come playoff time.
1. Ryan Kesler
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Ryan Kesler is actually on pace to score fewer points than he did last season, when he broke out with 25 goals and 75 points. What he's on this list for, however, is his sudden goal-scoring prowess.
Kesler currently sits tied for third in the NHL with 36 goals. In addition to his new goal-scoring talents, Kesler is the consummate all-around player. He is one of the better penalty killers in the league and is not afraid to get his hands dirty around the net.
He is also a strong team leader, being named an alternate captain of the Canucks. Along with Daniel Sedin, Kesler is vying to become the first Canuck to score 40 goals in a season since Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi in the 2002-03 season.