Shoot first, ask questions later.
In NHL terms, the guys with the guns are those who use their stick to great advantage — and deadly accuracy.
A great example, so far this young NHL season, of crazy precise shooter is Auston Matthews.
The 2016 first overall selection has a ridiculous 10 goals on his first 20 shots this season for a 50 percent efficiency rate.
We know he won’t be able to maintain that torrid pace, but you have to applaud the young superstar’s ability to put the biscuit in the basket.
He is but one of a number of active NHLers who make goalies quake in their boots whenever the puck is on their stick in the hot zones of the ice (the slot, for example).
Therefore, we have compiled a comprehensive list of current goal scorers who combine shot efficiency and volume of goals. We have also given priority to players whose goals are closer to their assist totals, not necessarily best shooting percentages (i.e. shoot first mentality, always).
Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks
Logan Couture has scored over 30 goals in a season three times in his 10-year NHL career, but didn’t do it more efficiently than in 2017-18. The Sharks assistant captain fired a career high 34 goals last season on 204 shots, for a very good 16.7 percent shooting percentage — which is 41st best among active NHLers. He is as close to our definition of a sniper (see above) as anyone on this list. He had five multi-goal games last season, including a rare hat trick, the second of his career. When the season was finished, Couture also counted 27 assists for 61 points, putting him third on the Sharks in scoring. Overall, the Guelph, Ontario native has 214 goals (12.5 percent shooting percentage) and 226 assists in 588 games. Couture has also added 34 playoff goals on 259 shots in 96 games for a 13.1 percent accuracy rate.
Filip Forsberg – Nasvhille Predators
In the last four seasons, there haven’t been many in the NHL who have been as consistent a producer as Nashville’s Forsberg. The talented Swede has counted between 26 and 33 goals in those four campaigns (his first full ones), as well as anywhere from 58 to 64 points (twice). Already in his burgeoning career, Forsberg has 120 goals and 140 assists in 336 games. Last season, his 26 goals — in just 67 games — came on a modest 179 shots for a 14.5 percent efficiency rate and overall in his career it is 12.7, which is 34th best among current skaters. Forsberg has been good in the playoffs too, striking for 22 goals on 189 shots in 55 games. He can be a bit of a streaky scorer, however, and did have seven multi-goal games in both the regular season and playoffs (one hat trick, 33 goals overall in 80 games).
Wayne Simmonds – Philadelphia Flyers
The evolution of Wayne Simmonds, gritty playmaker, to Wayne Simmonds, elite NHL sniper has taken some time. But we’re sure the Philadelphia Flyers don’t mind. Simmonds spent his first three seasons in the league with the L.A. Kings, putting up modest totals of 39 goals and 54 assists in 240 games. Traded alongside Brayden Schenn for Mike Richards in 2011, Simmonds began to blossom in the City of Brotherly Love. In his first season in a Flyers uniform a 23-year-old Simmonds would score a career high 28 goals in 82 games, with a 14.2 percent success rate. Since 2011-12, Simmonds has topped the 30-goal plateau twice and scored 190 goals in 527 games (with 165 assists). Among current active snipers, Simmonds is 22nd with a 13.3 percent shooting percentage.
T.J. Oshie – Washington Capitals
Everyone around D.C. always crows about that other shooter, Alex Ovechkin — for good reason. But, lost in the shuffle of Caps snipers is Oshie, who is actually a 1.3 percent more effective shooter than his celebrated teammate. The 11th-year pro from Everett, Washington has scored 191 regular season NHL goals on 1,396 shots, giving him a robust 13.7 percent success rate. That is good enough to put him 16th on the list of current NHL percentage leaders, while OV (more on him later) is 43rd at 12.4 percent. As a member of the Capitals, Oshie has become more of a shooter, scoring 81 goals and adding 79 assists in 227 games. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie had 110 goals and 200 assists in 443 games. Oshie hasn’t let up in the playoffs for the defending champ Capitals, either, scoring 18 goals in 49 post-season games with them, including a sterling 15.8 percent success rate.
Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins
Infuriating as he is on the ice to opposition players, Brad Marchand is also a heck of a goal scorer. The Bruins are off to a hot start this season and uncharacteristically, Marchand has many more assists (9), than he has goals (1) in five games so far. But, 10 points in five games is nothing to yawn at, we think. Prior to his prolific passing this season, Marchand had sniped 226 goals and 233 assists in 602 games. Overall, the Halifax, N.S. born winger had taken just 1,432 shots, too, resulting in an excellent 15.9 percent shooting percentage, which is second overall among all active players (no spoiler alert here, read down to find out who is numero uno). The annoying little pest hasn’t been quite as prolific a sniper in the post-season, however, he did have 11 goals on 61 shots during the Bruins Stanley Cup run in 2010-11. Overall Marchand has tallied 21 goals in 84 playoff games, on 211 shots.
Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning
He may play on a team with guy known for shooting – Steven Stamkos — but Nikita Kucherov doesn’t play second banana to the team’s captain. Still just 25, Kucherov has accomplished much in his 368 games, including coming second in scoring last season with 39 goals and 61 assists for 100 points. While his 14.0 percent shooting average (14.3 overall among active shooters, 7th overall) was impressive, even more spectacular was the fact that 31 of his snipes came 5-on-5, where it is a lot harder to score than on the powerplay. Of his 148 career markers, 109 have came even strength. The Maykop, Russia native has not disappointed the faithful in the post-season, either, firing 29 goals and adding 30 assists in 62 games. Kucherov is also a more deadly shooter with the chips down in the playoffs, scoring on 16.9 percent of his shots.
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues
It’s not surprising that Tarasenko’s nickname is “Tarasenk-show.” The Russian scoring machine has a knack for scoring highlight reel goals that send TV commentators and analysts into fits of fawning phraseology. A career St. Louis Blue since being drafted 16th in 2010, Tarasenko currently has 180 career goals and 174 assists in 426 games, the stats of a true shooter. He has also been a worthy 5-on-5 sniper like his countryman Nikita Kucherov, tallying 136 of his total even strength and sporting a career shooting percentage of 13.0 (29th among active players). He is known to be streaky, having logged five multi-goal games last year, one of them a two-goal effort in a win over Winnipeg in February that ended a six game goal-less drought. Even though he does go for stretches without goals, Tarasenko has been a constant presence among the top shooters, having scored over 30 goals each of the past four seasons, including 40 in 2015-16.
Jamie Benn – Dallas Stars
There aren’t many quieter 30-goal scorers in the NHL than Jamie Benn. The Dallas Stars veteran has sniped 30 or more four times in the last five seasons, yet he rarely receives the recognition he deserves. In fact, in the season he led the NHL in scoring with 87 points in 2014-15, he only finished 12th in Hart (MVP) voting. Benn, who has 258 career goals and a 13.5 percent efficiency rating (18th among active shooters), has only finished as high as third in Hart voting, after scoring a career high 41 goals and adding 48 assists in 2015-16. The three-time All-Star has been more of a powerplay scorer in his later career, though his split is still 177 even strength and 69 with the man advantage. Benn’s playoff sample is quite small for a guy who is in his 10th season, yet he has potted nine goals on just 48 shots in 19 games for a splendid 18.8 success rate.
John Tavares – Toronto Maple Leafs
Much is expected from a first overall pick and in John Tavares’ case, he has mostly delivered on those expectations. We say that because he wasn’t able to help elevate the Islanders to a championship, but with a new lease on life in Toronto on a dynamic Leafs’ squad, he may yet fulfill his boyhood dream and silence some of the naysayers. The author of six goals (and four assists) already this season in Leafs’ blue and white, Tavares is a career 13.0 percent shooter (26.1 this season), which is good enough for 13th overall among active skaters. Johnny T has always had a knack around the net and has 278 goals, along with 353 assists in 675 NHL games. His best goal scoring season was probably the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign, when he scored 28 times and added 19 assists in the truncated 48 game season. That would translate to roughly 48 goals over a full 82-game season, which would be his highest output yet. His largest output happened in 2013-14, when he scored 38 times in 82 games.
Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
In an Eastern Time Zone-centric league, the scoring exploits of Slovenian superstar Anze Kopitar often go unwatched. As the Kings are three time zones away, some of Kopitar’s 292 career goals may make a highlight reel but sadly, not many up in the east to view them. However, we won’t belabor the point anymore and instead point to Kopitar’s admirable 12.6 percent shooting success rate, which is 36th among all NHLers. That number was pumped up considerably in a breakout 2017-18 season, when he had a career high 35 goals on 200 shots (17.5 percent efficient), along with 57 assists for a career best 92 points. Kopitar, who has won two Stanley Cups and two Selke Trophies, is no wilting daisy in the post-season, striking for 21 goals on 171 shots (12.3 percent) in 79 games.
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
Captain Serious just might be back to his old self this season. Hockey pundits have been all over him the last few seasons, particularly for his declining production as the luster has worn off three championship seasons, the last in 2014-15. So far this year, Jonathan Toews has five goals (on 19 shots) and four assists in five games. He’s never been a huge point producer, but that early success puts him on pace to eclipse the career best 76 points he recorded in 2010-11. An under-rated shooter, Toews has notched 297 goals in 796 games, on 2,095 shots for a 14.2 percent efficiency rating, good for 9th overall among current NHLers. Those 297 markers also place him 16th out of all active players, too. In terms of playoff proficiency, Toews has clicked 40 times on 331 shots (12.1 percent).
Patrick Marleau – Toronto Maple Leafs
There is only one active player with more goals than Patrick Marleau, and he would be Alex Ovechkin. Now, Marleau has played well over 500 more games than OV, however, he has always been a remarkably consistent sniper in his 21-season, and counting, NHL career. Only twice since the 2000-01 season with San Jose has Marleau failed to reach at least 20 goals, and one was during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season when he had 17 in 48 games. Otherwise, the durable winger has struck for 30 or more six times and over 40 once, with 535 total over 1,581 games. He is rated here not for his 13.3 percent proficiency (21st overall), but for the fact his assist numbers are very close at 598. What makes Marleau an even more valuable sniper can be seen in his playoff output, including 72 goals in 184 games with a 15.3 percentage.
Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins
Malkin is one slick playmaker, that much is for sure. With 938 points in 788 regular season game and another 165 in 158 playoff contests, there is no disputing he’s a special player with Hall of Fame credentials. What most don’t take note of, and considering he plays in the shadow of Sidney Crosby, is that Malkin has never been afraid to unleash his imposing shot. He is one of the few players to score 50 or more goals in the last decade, firing exactly 50 in 2011-12 and has 433 total snipes in regular and post-season action. Last season was his most proficient, too, as the three-time Stanley Cup winner tallied 42 times on 239 shots for a 17.6 percent average. During the 2017 title year, Malkin clicked for 10 tallies on 60 shots and added 18 assists to lead all post-season point getters. Malkin is currently 14th among active players with a 13.8 percent shooting average.
Ilya Kovalchuk – Los Angeles Kings
We’re not sure what Ilya Kovalchuk’s shooting percentage was like during his five season sojourn in the KHL, but it must have been pretty good. The veteran Russian sniper, now back in the NHL with the Kings, tallied 120 goals in 262 games with St. Petersburg SKA, so it must have been decent at the very least. In his lengthy NHL career, which started in 2001 with the Atlanta Thrashers, Kovy has struck for 418 goals and 819 points in 821 regular season games. He has twice struck for over 50 and four times for more than 40 goals. Now, he is 35 this year and unless he’s sipped deeply from the fountain of youth, he probably won’t reach 40. But, he is still way talented and has some wheels, so 30 or more isn’t out of the question. And, he’ll do it very proficiently, as he owns a career 14.0 percent shooting average, which is 10th best in hockey right now.
Patrik Laine – Winnipeg Jets
The new wave of NHL scorers have arrived and riding the crest is 2016 second overall pick Patrik Laine. The Finn with the deadly accurate shot has already scored 82 times in 160 games to keep pace with the guy taken directly after him, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Laine has been most effective on the powerplay, where he has scored 31 of his 82 goals, and at present he is a 17.7 percent proficient shooter. He also has a flair for scoring more than one goal in a game. Over just two seasons, and part of a third, he has 14 multi-goal games, including four hat tricks (of which three came in his 2016-17 rookie season). The playoff totals aren’t all that impressive yet, though they are encouraging, as the native of Tampere recorded five goals on 56 shots (8.9 percent) and added 12 assists in his first 17 playoff contests.
Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs
As we noted in the opening stanza of this list, Matthews is on a early-season tear. He has notched 10 goals in just six games, which translates to a ridiculous 136-goal pace, if he was able to keep that up — highly, highly unlikely even though scoring is on the rise in the NHL. However many goals he’ll score this season, a good bet is at least 40, like Matthews did during his rookie season. As it stands he’s been a bit more prolific scorer than his 2016 draft confrere and rival Laine, ripping hom 84 goals (and 62 assists) in 150 games and logging a 17.3 percent shooting average. Matthews has also been a 5-on-5 wiz, using his sneaky fast shot to score 67 even strength goals. Matthews began his NHL career with a bang, too, scoring four times in his debut, and has five total multi-goal games. In 2017-18, he became a much more consistent scorer, not going through prolonged slumps like he did in his freshman year.
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
The dangles that Patrick Kane puts on the highlight reels every week, it seems, only serve to mask what is his second most lethal talent, shooting. Kane has won an Art Ross in his 12-season career and has been an All-Star three times, a Stanley Cup winner three times, an MVP and post-season MVP. He has been able to do all this because not only can he deke people out of their jockstraps, but he can pass the puck and shoot with precision. Kane has 317 goals (and 519 assists) on 2,623 shots in 827 games. At 12.1 percent, that puts Kane in 49th place among all active shooters. However, elite players find a way to be even better in the post-season and Kane is no exception, potting 50 goals on 394 shots for a 12.7 percent average. The 29-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y. has gotten off to a fast start this season, firing five goals in five games.
Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
Sid is no longer a kid anymore. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t play like one still. Now 31, the two-time MVP and three-time Stanley Cup winner is still one of the sticks by which many new and exciting players are measured. Even though his goal-scoring numbers dipped to 29 last year, Crosby recorded a fourth straight season of 80 or more points and now has 1,120 in 868 NHL games, including 411 goals. He’s hit the 50-goal plateau once, with a league leading 51 in 2009-10 and was also tops in the NHL in 2016-17 with 44. Overall, Crosby has tallied his 411 goals on 2,852 shots, for a 14.4 percent average (sixth among active players). The Cole Harbour, N.S. native has been only slightly less accurate in the post-season, firing home 66 goals on 480 shots in 160 games for 13.8 percent efficiency.
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
If this list was based on sheer volume, like goals and shots, OV is best, hands down. He is the active leader in goals scored with 611 and has taken an astounding 4,915 shots. In fact, Ovechkin has led the NHL in goals seven times and shots 11 times in 14 seasons. He tallied a career high 65 goals in his third season in the league and has registered over 50 goals on six other occasions. He just missed the magical 50 mark by one in 2017-18, but we’re sure he wasn’t too put out, considering he won his first Stanley Cup not long after scoring his league leading 49th and last goal late in the regular season. With all those goals and all those shots, then, Ovechkin’s shooting percentage isn’t that stellar but still hovering around 12.4 percent, which is 43rd in the NHL right now. All tolled last year, Alexander the Great had 64 goals with his league leading 15 playoff markers included. Those 15 goals came on 99 shots, giving him a healthy efficiency rating of 15.2 percent.
Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
For those who pay attention to such things, Steven Stamkos is the current leader in shooting percentage at 16.6 percent. That figure may not seem significant to the average baseball aficionado, where a 30 percent average is expected of good hitters. But, in hockey circles, Stamkos is king at connecting on shots and leads second place man Brad Marchand by nearly a full point. Stamkos has 348 goals and 321 assists in 667 career games, with those goals coming on 2,095 shots. Interestingly, he has never led teh NHL in shooting percentage, despite the fact he is the overall leader. Stamkos is one of few who have topped the 60-goal barrier in the last 25 years, with 60 (including 48 even strength) in 2011-12. The playoffs haven’t been as kind to him, yet, he has 22 tallies on 165 shots in 66 games for a still reasonable 13.3 shooting percentage.