If you would have said before the season that the top of the league’s scoring charts would feature the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, no one would have batted an eye. Those three are the usual suspects and players expected to dominate the score sheet.
What some would consider unexpected, however, is that the Jets’ Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine find themselves in the top 10 in scoring, placing sixth and tenth, respectively, through roughly two months of the campaign.
For all the familiar faces and surprising scorers topping the charts, though, there are a handful of notable names who haven’t been able to find their offensive game quite yet.
Here are five key players still looking to find the scoring touch this season:
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Despite the fact he’s getting up there in age, Marleau, 37, has consistently been a big time contributor for the Sharks. He potted 25 goals and 48 points in 82 games while skating top-line minutes in San Jose in 2015-16, but this season is looking like a trying one for the veteran winger.
Through 25 games, Marleau has six goals and eight points, and he’s on pace to have the worst overall scoring season of his entire career. He’s had a decreased role this season, skating less than 17 minutes per game, but that can only be blamed so much for his lack of production to this point.
He’s still staring down another 20-goal campaign, because of course he is, but if he can’t start picking up some helpers along the way, this could be a sub-30-point year for Marleau.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
From 2006-07 to 2014-15, Plekanec, 34, only had one full campaign in which he didn’t notch 20 goals. Then his goal scoring slipped to 14 in 2015-16, and it could be headed for a new, ugly low in 2016-17.
It’s still really early in the year, to be sure, but through 24 games, Plekanec has only found twine once and his seven points put him on pace for just 24 on the year. That’s fewer points than he had goals during the 2014-15 season.
However, even if his scoring touch is falling off a cliff this season, Plekanec’s skill in his own end is more than enough to make him a valuable asset for the Canadiens. In tight games, he’s an incredibly reliable player for coach Michel Therrien to have at his disposal.
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Ryan was a bonafide sniper when he was acquired by the Senators ahead of the 2013-14 season. For three straight years, he had posted 30-plus goals for the Anaheim Ducks and only eight players in the entire league scored more goals from the start of 2009-10 to the culmination of the 2011-12 campaign. His goal scoring has dipped in Ottawa, though.
In the three seasons since becoming a Senator, Ryan has two 20-goal campaigns and one with 18, and it’s looking like it could hit new lows this season.
He has managed just three goals and eight points in 21 games, has been skating middle-six minutes and finding offense hasn’t been easy for the 29-year-old. It’s worth mentioning, of course, that he’s been hampered by a hand injury at times this season. Even still, an 11-goal pace? Not great, Bob!
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
No one would ever deny that Bergeron is one of the single most important players to his team in the league. The Bruins without Bergeron aren’t the same team, and not enough can be said about the impact Bergeron’s ability at both ends of the ice can have on a game.
That said, he’s having a tough time finding the score sheet this year.
The 31-year-old has only scored four goals this year and his seven points put him into a tie with Tim Schaller, a player non-Bruins fans haven’t likely given a seconds’ thought to all season. With the skill Bergeron possesses, his whole year could turn around at the drop of a hat, but right now he’s on pace to have a 14-goal, 25-point year. That would see him finish seven points back of his point total during the lockout shortened season.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals winger was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the 2015-16 campaign. After a 37-point rookie campaign, Kuznetsov’s sophomore season saw him post 20 goals and 77 points, good for 10th in league scoring and the best mark on a Capitals squad that features Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. That’s no small feat.
But it’s starting to seem like the sophomore slump was simply delayed until the third year of Kuznetsov’s career. Through 23 games, the 24-year-old has three goals and nine points. By comparison, he had hit the 10-point mark seven games into the 2015-16 season and he could almost do no wrong with the puck on his stick.
If this keeps up, Kuznetsov would finish the season with fewer points this year than he had during his rookie season. Not exactly the encore the Capitals were expecting.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.