Finally, Joe Thornton has a reason to celebrate this season.
It’s been a slow year for ‘Jumbo Joe,’ who entered Tuesday night with two goals and 18 points – putting him on a full-season career-low pace of 32 points. But a two-assist effort with San Jose in a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames meant Thornton is the only active NHLer to record 1,500 points, and just the 12th player in league history to do so. At 40, Thornton’s role with the Sharks this season – perhaps his final as a professional hockey player – has been to mentor the young players, so it’s a solid reward for one of the game’s most beloved players during a terrible campaign for the Sharks.
At one point in time, nobody could top Thornton as the NHL’s most dangerous playmaker. Thornton recorded 10 seasons with at least 50 assists – including seasons of 96 and 92 in 2005-06 and 2006-07, respectively. Thornton sits 15 assists away from 1,100 total, something only Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis, Mark Messier and Jaromir Jagr have done before him. Sidney Crosby is the closest active player after Thornton with 793. In terms of hardware, Thornton won one gold at the World Junior Championship, two at the World Cup and one with Canada’s Olympic team back in 2010, alongside personal awards such as the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Art Ross Trophy in 2005-06 thanks to a 126-point effort. The only major thing missing? A Stanley Cup, something he came close to winning with the Sharks in 2016.
With Thornton’s milestone out of the way, which other NHLers are on pace to hit a major point mark in the near future?
Patrick Marleau, San Jose – 14 points from 1,200
At 40, Marleau’s time to hit 1,200 points is running out, but with 20 points in 50 games, he could surely get another 14 before the season ends – even on a poor Sharks team. Marleau recently played in his 1,700th game and is one of just three active players over the age of 40 – the others being Thornton (40) and Zdeno Chara (42). With injuries to Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, Marleau has found himself needed on a Sharks team with one of the most depleted lineups in the league – but could Marleau and his $700,000 salary move in a deadline deal to add extra veteran depth for a contending team?
Jonathan Toews, Chicago – one point from 800
What a run Toews has had over the past few months. After starting the season slow with just two points in 11 games in October, Toews has been one of the NHL’s best players in 2020 with 16 points in his past 12 games. Toews hit the 700-point mark last season before finishing with a career-high 81 points and while he’s likely going to top off in 65-70-point range this season, he’s another game or two away from hitting 800. Toews’ Blackhawks teammate, Patrick Kane, hit 800 two seasons ago and sits seventh among active point producers with 1,003 points.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia – three points from 800
He’s having a down year offensively, but Giroux, 32, is inching ever so closely to 800 points – something just 15 active players have done previously (Toews would be the 16th). Giroux is struggling, though, with four points in the past 10 games and just one goal in January. Giroux’s .913 points-per-game average is good for 12th among active players, and with the Flyers playing good hockey with a 7-2-1 record over the past 10 games, Giroux is bound to bounce back soon. With just six points separating the Pittsburgh Penguins in second in the Metropolitan Division and the Flyers in fifth, the playoff battle is beginning to heat up – a Giroux resurgence would help.
Duncan Keith, Chicago – two points from 600
At 36, Keith’s been out of his prime for a few years now, but the two-time Norris Trophy winner is on the verge of two milestones: 100 goals (one away) and 600 points (two). Once he hits 600 points, he’ll be the fourth active defenseman to do so, with Ryan Suter (576) and Shea Weber (568) in range of doing so next season (Brent Burns, Zdeno Chara and Erik Karlsson have already hit 600). Keith has assists in three of his past five games, so it might not take long to hit 600 – but with just one goal this season, don’t expect his 600th point to come from his shot.
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles – five points from 500
Doughty isn’t the closest player to 500 points – Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo (499) and Detroit’s Mike Green (498) are within spitting distance, but both are out with long-term injuries. Doughty himself just returned from a lower-body injury on Tuesday night and recorded an assist in a 4-2 loss, so he’s already off to a good start in his pursuit of 500. Doughty doesn’t have to put up big numbers to be effective, but look for him to hit the mark by March.
(Numbers from Hockey Reference)
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