Over time, Jonathan Toews has learned to embrace the ‘Captain Serious’ moniker. Truth is, though, that it’s no longer all that accurate. Sure, he’s all business on ice, but Toews’ off-ice attitude has been decidedly more lighthearted than it might have been in his earlier days. And given the Chicago Blackhawks star center’s sobriquet is somewhat ill-fitting at this stage in his career, maybe it’s time to retire it and adopt a new one. So, how about ‘Captain Clutch’?
Admittedly, Toews is no longer as productive as he once was. After a career-best 81 points last season, he’s on pace for 14 goals and 42 points this season, both of which would be career lows. But if there’s one thing Toews has remained among the league’s best at, it’s finding twine with the game on the line. Case in point, of the five goals Toews has scored this season, two have come in overtime. And the most recent of those goals was particularly noteworthy.
When Toews slipped home the overtime winner, sneaking one through Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask to snap Boston’s eight-game winning streak and hand them their first loss on home ice this season, it marked the 11th time since the introduction of 3-on-3 overtime the Blackhawks captain has fired home the winner in extra time. Fitting about the goal, too, is that in doing so, he tied the mark for most overtime goals since the introduction of 3-on-3 and drew level with Bruins winger Brad Marchand for the most since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign.
But not all overtime goals are cut from the same cloth – power play tallies have turned some of those OT-winners into 4-on-3 goals, for example – and not all scorers have had the same impact when the game is decided at three-a-side. So, which players have truly been the best 3-on-3 producers over the past four-plus seasons? Here’s a look at the 10 best:
1. Leon Draisaitl – 8 goals, 18 points
It helps, of course, that Draisaitl is one half of the most lethal one-two punch in the NHL, but his ability to produce when the game opens up shouldn’t be overlooked. Only nine-goal scorers Toews, who appears on this list, and Marchand, who does not due to a lack of 3-on-3 helpers, have found twine more than Draisaitl. His 16 primary points are also the most.
2. Johnny Gaudreau – 7 goals, 17 points
The current campaign has been a frustrating one for Gaudreau and the Flames, but the skilled and shift Calgary winger has historically flourished with all the open ice that 3-on-3 provides. Of the 17 points he’s registered at threes, 14 are primary points, including seven goals. His seven points at three-a-side during the 2015-16 campaign are tied for the most in a single season – with Brent Seabrook, of all players.
3. Anze Kopitar – 4 goals, 16 points
The Los Angeles Kings captain is one of the only players on this list whose point total is buoyed primarily by secondary helpers. Six of the 16 points Kopitar has registered at 3-on-3 have been secondary assists, which is tied for the most by any player since the introduction of the format. Based on goal production, Kopitar’s four 3-on-3 tallies are tied for 31st in the NHL since the start of the 2015-16 season.
4. Connor McDavid – 6 goals, 15 points
Here’s a statistic for you: McDavid’s overall point total is tied for fourth with two others, but Draisaitl is the only player since the introduction of 3-on-3 with more primary points. Not a single one of McDavid’s points at three-a-side has been of the secondary variety. Remarkable.
5. Artemi Panarin – 4 goals, 15 points
Tied with Kopitar in goal production but one total point back, Panarin actually has the edge in primary points. His seven primary assists at 3-on-3 gives him 11 primary points, one more than Kopitar’s 10 primary points. The real kicker here with Panarin, though, is that he’s put up as many points in roughly 83 minutes work. No player ahead of him on the list has played fewer than 94 minutes at threes.
6. Jonathan Toews – 9 goals, 15 points
He led the NHL with five overtime winners during the 2015-16 season, but two of those tallies came withe Blackhawks on the man advantage. Lopping two goals off of Toews’ total takes him down to nine goals at 3-on-3. Still an impressive mark and among the best since the introduction of the overtime format.
7. Patrick Kane – 6 goals, 14 points
Kane has been McDavid-esque in his ability to control the scoring at 3-on-3, and the two are only separated by a single primary point. Literally. Kane’s six goals are level with McDavid, and Kane has eight primary assists. Players with as many or more primary points at threes: Draisaitl, McDavid and Gaudreau. Kane and Toews have made the Blackhawks hard to handle in extra time.
8. Evgeny Kuznetsov – 6 goals, 14 points
One might think that Kuznetsov has loaded up on points by way of playing alongside Alex Ovechkin, who has more overtime goals than any player in NHL history, but fact of the matter is that Kuznetsov has been as much the triggerman as he has been the playmaker at threes. His six goals are more than any other Capital at 3-on-3, and that includes Ovechkin.
9. Mark Scheifele – 8 goals, 13 points
He’s not tops in the league, but there are few who have been more lethal with the puck on their stick than Scheifele. His eight 3-on-3 goals over the past four-plus seasons put him in a tie for second in the NHL over that span and four clear of any other Jets skater. He’s been a big all-around contributor, too. His 12 primary points are more than all but four players.
10. Seth Jones – 7 goals, 13 points
The first defenseman on the list. Jones doesn’t make it by way of assists, either. He’s been a master blaster at 3-on-3, and his seven goals are more than all but three skaters who appear on this list. Get this, too: he’s shooting an otherworldly 41.2 percent when skating three-a-side. There’s no other player with at least 50 minutes of ice time who has shot out the lights at quite that rate.
11. T.J. Brodie – 3 goals, 13 points
Technically, Brodie takes the list to 11, but it’s worth including the Flames defenseman given he’s tied with Scheifele and Jones in overall production. Of any player within the top 10 in 3-on-3 scoring, though, Brodie has the fewest goals and is tied for the fewest primary points. He has eight, which puts him level with Jones in that regard.
(All advanced statistics via Evolving-Hockey.)
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