It is hockey's most valuable skill and the one that is most difficult to consistently do well — goal scoring. Some players are great at it because they have a great shot, a lightning quick release or just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every team needs a great goal scorer to win, and here we take a look at the best pure goal scorer on every team in the NHL. Some you know well, but others may not get the recognition they fully deserve.
With Corey Perry now playing in Dallas, and Ryan Getzlaf getting older, the Ducks' best goal scorer is the 26-year-old Rakell. His production slumped a bit this past season, but before that he scored 97 goals in the three previous seasons, including a pair of seasons with at least 33 goals. He does not get a lot of attention around the league, mainly because the team around him has not been great, but he is an outstanding player.
The Coyotes have not had a player like Kessel in more than a decade. He may be getting older and have his share of flaws away from the puck, but he can also still be one of the NHL's best offensive player. Arizona needed an impact player who could be the focal point of the offense, and he provides exactly that.
The Bruins have the NHL's best line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Bergeron and Marchand are the superstars, and Pastrnak is set to join them. He has topped the 30-goal mark in three straight seasons and had he not missed nearly 20 games due to injury a year ago, he would have been a near lock for 40 goals. If you wanted a sleeper pick for the NHL's goal scoring crown this year, he would be a good choice given his talent and the quality of the players around him.
After being a top goal scorer without the luxury of playing next to a legitimate No. 1 center in Carolina, Skinner arrived in Buffalo at the start of the 2018-19 season and found an instant chemistry alongside Jack Eichel. Playing next to one of the league's best young players helped him produce his first-ever 40-goal season and landed him a huge long-term contract to stay in Buffalo. He may not score 40 every year, but with combination of his quick shot and Eichel's playmaking, he should always have a chance to do it.
Just three years into his career, and Tkachuk is already an impact player in every possible way. He scores goals, he makes plays, he agitates opponents and he plays on the edge of the line. He is basically the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. He is going to be a 35-40 goal winger for a long time.
In just a couple of years the answer to this question will be Andrei Svechnikov, but for now Aho still gets the edge because he has done it consistently over three years in the league. He may not be a challenger for the league lead, but he is going to score 25-30 goals every year throughout his prime. Add in his playmaking and two-way game, and you have a great franchise player.
Is it a bold call to choose DeBrincat over, say, Patrick Kane? Probably, and maybe Blackhawks fans disagree, but DeBrincat is just now entering his third year in the league and already has 70 goals in 168 games, including a 41-goal performance in his second year. He is going to be the foundation of the next chapter in the Blackhawks franchisee. He is also one of the latest examples that teams should not be afraid to take smaller, undersized players. Talent wins.
After bursting onto the scene as an impact rookie at the age of 18, MacKinnon's career kind of leveled off for a few years. Then he blossomed into a mega star and one of the league's best players. He is the cornerstone piece of a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future and has scored 80 goals over the past two full seasons.
It is a good bet that Cam Atkinson is a lot better than you realize. One of the most overlooked players in the league, Atkinson has scored 35, 24 (in only 65 games), and 41 goals the past three seasons, respectively. With Artemi Panarin now in New York playing for the Rangers, Atkinson is going to have to be one of the go-to players in the Blue Jackets lineup.
Pavelski was the Stars' big offseason acquisition this summer, as they hoped he could be one of the missing pieces in their lineup. They needed secondary scoring, and Pavelski has been one of the league's best goal scorers for the past six years. A late bloomer when it comes to being an impact player, Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal season for the Sharks, the fifth 30-goal season of his career.
One of the league's fastest players, Larkin finally had a big breakout goal-scoring year during the 2018-19 season and recorded his first 30-goal season. Even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Red Wings team. He figures to be a huge part of their future.
He already has a pair of 40-goal seasons on his resume, and it is only a matter of time until he hits 50. Combined with his game-breaking speed and precision passing, he is the most complete offensive player in the sport and seems like a lock to finish near the top in every major offensive category every year as long as he stays healthy. He has already won two scoring titles, and there is almost certainly a goal scoring crown in his future.
He is one of the league's best all-around players and is an absolute steal under the salary cap. Along with his great defensive play and superb playmaking, he also has scored at a 30-goal pace the couple of years. He is only 24 years old and might still have his best days ahead of him.
Maybe this is a testament to how far the Kings have fallen the past few years, but Kovalchuk probably really is the answer. At his peak he was one of the most dominant forwards in the league and was the league's best goal scorer before Alex Ovechkin arrived. He spent a large chunk of his career playing in the KHL only to return this past season. The Kings coaching staff a year ago never seemed to trust him (or want him), but he should be poised for a bounce back year under Todd McLellan.
This was a toss-up between Staal and Zach Parise. But with Parise slowing down and Staal being the best goal scorer on the team in recent years, we are going with him. A few years ago Staal looked like his career was about ready to come to an end, but joining the Wild seemed to spark something for him and he has been a completely different player, even hitting the 40-goal mark once.
Gallagher has really evolved over the years, going from a depth player whose biggest intention seemed to be rattling the cages of his opponents to a legit top-line player who can score 30 goals. He has hit the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons and has become one of the Canadiens' best and most important players.
Predators general manager David Poile has assembled his team over the years through a series of major trades. The best of them all was getting Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat. Erat was a flop with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into one of the league's best players and an outstanding goal scorer. Since joining the Predators, he has averaged more than 30 goals per 82 games.
When healthy, Hall has been everything the Devils wanted him to be when they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. The big question for the Devils is whether they can convince him to re-sign with the team, especially as they are off to a brutal start of the 2019-20 season.
A sixth-round draft pick and at one time an afterthought in the Islanders organization, Lee has transformed into one of the best net-front players in the league and the best goal scorer on the team. With 28 goals a year ago, he showed that his production was not just the result of playing alongside John Tavares and that, yes, he can score on his own and help drive the offense.
From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Panarin has been one of the league's most impactful offensive players. He is an outstanding playmaker who makes his linemates better, but he is also an outstanding goal scorer who is going to push the 30-goal mark every year. The Rangers signed him to a massive contract in free agency to be a significant part of their rebuild.
It is slim pickings on this Senators team for goal scoring talent. About 10 years ago the answer would have easily been Bobby Ryan, but he has not been that player for some time now. Brady Tkachuk is in only his second year in the league but has already shown a goal scoring touch and is one of the few bright spots that this team has to build around long term.
Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier are the best players on the Flyers, but none of them has ever been a truly great goal scorer. Their brilliance is in their passing (Giroux, Voracek) and defensive play (Couturier). It is van Riemsdyk who has been one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the league and a truly good one. In his first year back with the Flyers in 2018-19, he scored 27 goals in only 66 games.
Crosby is known more for his passing and "200-foot game," but one of the most overlooked parts of his career is that he has two Rocket Richard Trophies on his resume. He makes the wingers around him better goal scorers, yet he is still the best goal scorer on his team — one of the best players ever.
With Joe Pavelski now in Dallas and Patrick Marleau at the age of 40, the Sharks do not really have a great pure goal scorer on their roster. They have a lot of great all-around players and impact offensive performers but nobody who has really established himself as a great goal scorer every year. The closest is probably Couture, the team's best forward. In a good year he will challenge the 35 mark but is usually a good bet to score close to 30 for the Sharks.
He is probably the one player on the Blues' 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning team who has a shot at the Hall of Fame. He is lock to score at least 30 goals every season and can carry the team's offense on his back when he is at his best. He also proved to be a big-time performer in the playoffs with 33 goals in 70 career postseason games, including 11 during the team's championship run.
The second best goal scorer of his era, trailing only the great Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Stamkos has five 40-goal seasons on his resume, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns (and one 60-goal season!). The disappointing thing is that his career could look even better had it not been for a run of serious injuries (plus a half-season lockout) between the ages of 23 and 26 that robbed him of a significant portion of his peak years. Even with that, he is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in hockey.
There is a convincing case to be made for Auston Matthews to get this call for the Maple Leafs (he has scored at a 40-goal pace over the first three seasons of his career), but Tavares is coming off a 47-goal season and has been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for more than a decade now. That is worth something. A lot, actually. He came to Toronto, his hometown, with huge expectations and a massive free agent contract and not only never seemed phased by the pressure, but he actually had the best season of his career.
It would be tempting to put Elias Pettersson here after the rookie season he had, and he is certainly the Canucks' most impactful player. But a lot of his rookie goal scoring total came off a hot stretch in the first month of the season that he may not be able to duplicate. Boeser, on the other hand, has shown over two full seasons that he can regularly put the puck in the net. The only thing that has slowed him down is injury. If he can ever play 82 games, he might have a 40-goal season in his future.
Mark Stone is the best all-around player on this team, but Pacioretty still gets the slight edge when it comes to pure goal scoring. He may not be the 40-goal threat he was a couple of years ago when he was at his peak in Montreal, but as long as he stays healthy enough to play a full season he should be good for 30-35 goals.
I mean, come on. Who else was this going to be? There is a convincing argument to be made that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer who has ever played in the NHL, and he has a legitimate shot to break Wayne Gretzky's all-time goals record. Even if he does not, the fact he is going to seriously challenge it in this era of defensive, structured hockey with goaltending at the best level it has ever been is an incredible accomplishment.
Laine has already proved to be such a great goal scorer that when he scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season (only his third season in the league) it was viewed as a down year for him. He has scored at least 30 goals every year he has been in the league and seems destined to have a couple of 50-goal seasons in his future. The Jets being positioned to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was one of the biggest turning points for the franchise.