NHL Video: Alex Ovechkin and the 15 Best Snipers of the Last Decade

April WeinerCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2011

NHL Video: Alex Ovechkin and the 15 Best Snipers of the Last Decade

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    Most NHL players, with the exception of goaltenders, score at least one goal per season, with top line players  obviously scoring more.

    More than 100 players scored 20 or more goals last season, only 29 scored 30 or more, only five scored more than 40 and only one player scored 50 goals.

    The snipers are the minority, the ones who score many more goals than the average hockey player. However, it takes more than just goal-scoring to be a sniper, since there are plenty of players who get those so-called "dirty goals" and chip ins right in front of the net.

    The most common modern definition of a sniper would be "a player with a powerful, accurate shot who is a talented goal-scorer typically capable of scoring from anywhere on the ice and often score more goals than assists."

    That definition narrows the list down considerably. Although there are plenty of snipers throughout NHL history, we've narrowed it down to the best 15 of the past decade (2000-2010-11).

15. Joe Sakic

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    In the prime of his NHL career, Joe Sakic had a feared shot and was one of the best snipers; frequently scoring more than 40 goals and twice scoring more than 50.

    When this millennium began, Sakic had a career year in goals, scoring 54 in the 2000-01 season, when he was already over 30 years old.

    It would be the last time Sakic scored more than 40 goals in a season though, scoring 26, 26, 33, 32 and 36 goals the next five seasons.

    Despite his goal-scoring diminishing, Sakic was still one of the most feared snipers and deserves his place on this list.

14. Brett Hull

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    Like his father before him, Brett Hull was an intimidating goal-scorer on the ice. While today's players barely hit 50 goals, Hull scored more than 50 goals five times in his NHL career, three times more than 70 and one more than 80.

    One this past decade began, Hull's best years were behind him; however, he was still a fearsome player to opposing goaltenders.

    In the five seasons he played in this decade (only four of them almost full seasons), Hull scored 39, 30, 37 and 25 goals; not too shabby for a 36-40 year old.

13. Jaromir Jagr

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    Jaromir Jagr was one of the highest scoring players in the 1990s, as a five-time leading point-scorer. However, it wasn't until his sixth season with the Pittsburgh Penguins that he really emerged as a threatening goal-scorer.

    In 1995-96, Jagr scored 62 goals, which was about 30 more than his previous career high. The following season, Jagr scored 47.

    While he's had many seasons where he scored around 30 or 40, still very respectable amounts, twice in this decade Jagr has scored more than 50.

    First in 2000-01, his final year in Pittsburgh, he scored 52 goals. Then, following the lockout in 2005-06, Jagr scored 54 goals for the New York Rangers, as a 33 year old.

    Even after having some slower seasons, Jagr can still be a threat, as he's proven in the past.

12. Teemu Selanne

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    As a rookie in 1992-93, Teemu Selanne had his personal best season with the Winnipeg Jets and set numerous records for a rookie.

    Selanne scored 76 goals that season and emerged as a leading threat in the goal scoring department.

    In the couple of years that followed, Selanne's numbers didn't get anywhere near his rookie ones. However, in 1995-96, Selanne scored 40 goals between the Jets and Anaheim Ducks, a feat he would surpass for the following three seasons as well.

    In this decade, Selanne has scored more than 40 goals twice and this past season scored 31 goals (his highest in the past few years), at 40 years old.

    He can still be a threat even in his 40s.

11. Zach Parise

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    Since Zach Parise missed the majority of last season due to injury, he's not at the forefront of people's minds when thinking about today's leading scorers.

    However, Parise has in fact been one of the leading scorers in his NHL career; he's just overshadowed by Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

    Parise has scored more than 30 goals every year in his career, except his rookie season and this past season.

    In fact, in 2008-09, Parise scored 45 goals, one less than Jeff Carter and behind Rocket Richard winner Alex Ovechkin.

    I think that qualifies Parise as a leading sniper in the league.

10. Vincent Lecavalier

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    Once upon a time, Vincent Lecavalier was expected to be a superstar in the league and that's why he was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

    After a few slow seasons, Lecavalier scored more than 30 goals for a couple seasons, then scoring 52 in 2006-07, which earned him the Rocket Richard that year.

    The following season, Lecavalier scored 40, but hasn't scored more than 30 since.

    When he wasn't sidelined with injuries this past season, Lecavalier was beginning to look like his old, 52-goal scoring self. He scored 25 in 65 games last season and perhaps he'll score even more over the next couple of years.

    After all, Lecavalier is only 31 and as we've seen on this list, he might have his best years still ahead of him.

9. Dany Heatley

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    Dany Heatley is widely regarded as a lot of things and prolific goal-scorer should be among them.

    The sniper has scored more than 30 goals six times in his NHL career, more than 40 goals four times and 50 goals twice.

    Since the lockout, Heatley has finished in the top 10 in goal-scoring every year except this past season, and finished twice in the top five.

    In 2006-07, Heatley was second only to Vincent Lecavalier and only a couple goals behind him.

    Heatley has consistently been an intimidating sniper in the past decade.

8. Pavel Bure

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    Immediately upon entering the NHL, Pavel Bure made an impact. He scored 34 goals in his rookie season for the Vancouver Canucks and then 60 the next two seasons.

    Injuries would affect Bure the rest of his career, including knee injuries that sidelined him and eventually forced early retirement.

    Yet, Bure still had three more 50+ goal seasons, including a 59-goal season in 2000-01.

    Even though his best years were before this past decade, the "Russian Rocket" still deserves recognition on this list.

7. Ilya Kovalchuk

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    For most of his NHL career, particularly since the lockout, Ilya Kovalchuk has been one of the most fearsome snipers in the league.

    That's why Kovalchuk was so in demand last summer and why he garnered such a massive contract.

    Since the season before the lockout, Kovalchuk has scored more than 40 goals every year except this past one, when he scored 31.

    He won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004 (three-way tie with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash) and has been among the top scorers other seasons as well.

6. Sidney Crosby

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    For most of his NHL career, Sidney Crosby was known more as a playmaker than as a goal-scorer or even a sniper.

    However, in the past two seasons, Crosby's been working to change that.

    In 2009-10, Crosby scored 51 goals, over 10 more than his previous career high. This past season, Crosby scored 32 goals in 41 games and was on pace for another career year, before missing the final half of the season.

    If Crosby can return from his concussion to the play before he left, he'll be a dominant force and well on his way to being a feared sniper.

5. Steven Stamkos

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    Steven Stamkos has played just three seasons so far in the NHL, but he's already making his presence known and fighting for acknowledgement alongside hockey's other biggest stars.

    After a respectable rookie season, there was no sophomore slump for Stamkos, as he scored 51 goals, good to share the Rocket Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby.

    Last season, Stamkos scored 45 goals, good for second place in league goal-scoring and five behind Corey Perry.

    If Stamkos continues this pattern, he'll be a leading sniper in the NHL for years to come.

4. Alexander Semin

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    Alexander Semin earns his fair share of criticism, most recently from one of his ex-teammates with the Washington Capitals, but one can't deny the skill this Russian owns.

    Semin is injury-prone, which contributes to him only scoring 40 goals once (2009-10) and never anything higher.

    However, Semin is one of the most naturally-talented players in the league, often scoring beautiful goals that no other player could.

    Semin has an incredible wrist shot and often a dangerous slap shot too.

    If he wasn't so injury-prone and was more consistent, he'd easily be discussed as one of the top players in the game today.

3. Jarome Iginla

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    Jarome Iginla is one of the classiest athletes ever, one of the greatest captains and leaders, as well as one of the top players still in the game.

    Yet, people don't typically list him when arguing about the top three players in the game.

    In the NHL, he's only scored less than 20 goals once and frequently scores more than 30 and 40 goals. In fact, since the lockout, the lowest number of goals Iggy's scored in a season was 32.

    He's had 43 and 50 goal seasons since then too.

    This past season, he finished third in goal-scoring, behind Corey Perry and Steven Stamkos. If he plays for a higher-scoring team, surely he could easily top that.

2. Pavel Datsyuk

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    Pavel Datsyuk rarely scores more than 30 goals, typically hovering between 25 and 30, which might be one reason why people don't often equate him to Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

    It might not theoretically be enough to qualify him as a sniper, but for those who have seen how Datsyuk generally scores his goals, he definitely deserves to be called a sniper.

    Datsyuk is famous for his Datsyukian dekes that typically fool opposing goaltenders.

    After the past couple of seasons, Datsyuk is finally getting some recognition and more and more people argue that he's one of the top two players in the game.

    In fact, he also stole the Kharlamov Trophy, league's best Russian, away this year from Alex Ovechkin, who had won it for years.

1. Alex Ovechkin

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    When Alex Ovechkin entered the league after the lockout, the Russian superstar had jaws dropping with some of his goals, scoring 52 that first season.

    The following season he scored 46, and remember, this was before the Capitals had their supporting cast that dominated their division and conference.

    In his third season in the NHL, Ovechkin scored 65 goals, the closest a player has gotten to Wayne Gretzky's record of 92 goals in a long time.

    He had another 56 and then 50 goal season, before he started putting emphasis on other aspects of his game, in an attempt to finally secure the Stanley Cup that has eluded him and the Caps. His 32 goals last season was still nothing to sneeze at though.

    Ovechkin already has two Rocket Richard Trophy's as the league's leading goal-scorer and will likely spend the rest of his career contending as well.