Scoring 50 goals in a single season is a daunting, unpredictable task – unless your name is Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos. Over the years, though, some unexpected players have come from out of the blue to reach the 50-goal plateau. Will there be a new goal-scorer to join this elite company in 2011-12?
As I mentioned, scoring 50 is extremely difficult. Not only do you have to possess the talent to do so, but you have to catch some breaks along the way. Staying healthy is one thing; avoiding any long-lasting scoring droughts is another. Last year’s 50-goal scorer, Corey Perry, fit this criteria.
Perry rarely went more than three games without a goal (only did it once). He played in all 82 games. And, to begin with, he had the talent to eventually be a 40-goal scorer. Obviously, his incredible dominance in March and April (19 goals in 14 games) propelled Perry to the magic number of 50.
Perry’s 50-goal season was a surprise to many, though. In the three years prior, he averaged 29 goals a year. When Vinny Lecavalier scored 52 in 2006-07, he had averaged 33 goals a year in the three years prior. Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56-goal campaign in 2005-06, helped mightily by Joe Thornton’s arrival, was also a shocker. You can also throw Milan Hejduk into that mix with his 50 in 2002-03. None of them have approached 50 ever since.
The point is, you have to be talented to score 50, but a lot of times one of those seasons can come out of nowhere.
Who are some candidates to reach that single-season milestone in 2011-12 (or beyond)?
- Bobby Ryan
Let’s start with Perry’s teammate, Bobby Ryan. I don’t think he’s the most likely candidate, but he certainly has the talent to eventually score half a hundred. In three full NHL seasons, Ryan has averaged 33 goals a year and is only getting better. If Perry takes a step back this season and Teemu Selanne decides to retire, it may open the door for Ryan to have a big enough year to score 50. He has the talent.
- Alexander Semin
There is no denying that Semin has the ability to deposit 50 goals at some point in his career. I’ve been on record saying he currently owns the best wrist shot in hockey. However, he must stay healthy. The most games he’s played in over the last four years was in 2009-10 (73). He may have to get out of the shadow of Alex Ovechkin – a four-time 50-goal scorer – to achieve the feat himself.
- Jeff Carter / Rick Nash
If there is anyone that can come close to matching Semin’s sick wrister, it’s Carter. Columbus’ prized off-season addition scored a career-high 46 goals in 2008-09, which was followed up by seasons of 33 and 36. Due to his natural goal-scoring ability, Carter will get 50 at some point. If not, he may help Nash get to that milestone. Nash has hit the 40-goal mark twice in his career without having a true No. 1 center by his side.
- Thomas Vanek
The Sabres sniper has reached the 40-goal plateau twice in his six-year career. His issue, though, is consistency. Last season, Vanek had goalless streaks of eight, seven, six (twice) and five (twice). Even in 2008-09, when he scored 40, he had similar streaks. With the 2006-07 season as an exception, he has never shown the ability to dominate for stretches at a time like Perry did last year. If Vanek finally ever does that, he may knock on the 50-goal door.
- Phil Kessel
Here’s another player that has the sheer talent to reach 50. But like Vanek, Kessel has had long droughts in recent years that cost him a shot at 40, let alone 50. Kessel’s career-high is 36, which was done in 2008-09 as a Boston Bruin (Marc Savard was a big reason for that scoring outburst). Tim Connolly is a solid playmaker, but he’s not elite like Savard was. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kessel get to 50 before his playing days are over.
- Taylor Hall
Hall had an inconsistent rookie campaign, but he had his flashes of brilliance where we saw what all the fuss was about when he was taken No. 1 overall by Edmonton. Hall lit up the scoreboard at the junior level and is expected to do so in the NHL as well. He’s surrounded by a lot of great, young talent that has unlimited potential. Hall probably won’t score 50 this year, but he’ll be an annual threat more times than not.
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