Scoring in the NHL is at an all-time high this year. In 2021-22 alone, we have seen breakout performances from a number of offensive superstars, with a whopping three different 50-goal scorers leading the pack in the season's final stretch.
But what if there were more?
Let's take a look at the four likeliest candidates to join the 50-goal club before the year is over, and break down their odds of making it happen in however many games they have left.
Alexander Ovechkin - Washington Capitals
2021-22 Goal Total: 48
Games Remaining: 5
At 36 years old, Alexander Ovechkin is staring down the barrel of a ninth 50-goal season in a 17-year career that features three shortened seasons -- 48 games in 2021-13 thanks to the lockout; 69 games in 2019-20 and 56 games in 2021 due to COVID -- along with the time Dale Hunter tried to turn him into Selke candidate, and another when Adam Oates was more concerned with the lie of Ovechkin's stick than outscoring opponents.
That's just downright goofy, and can only make one wonder just how much farther Ovechkin would be on his path to the NHL's all-time goals record were it not for a few unprecedented global events.
With six games left on the schedule, 50 is about as "in the bag" as it can be.
The Capitals have a relatively soft schedule to close out the season, with two meetings with the Islanders, one with the Coyotes, and another with the slumping Vegas Golden Knights giving them four potential juicy matchups down the final stretch.
Their showdown with the Maple Leafs might seem relatively daunting on paper. But Toronto is trending towards sheltering its stars as it heads into a crucial playoffs, with Ovechkin also notoriously being a Leaf killer throughout his career.
At this point, it would be a shock if he didn't hit it.
Kyle Connor - Winnipeg Jets
2021-22 Goal Total: 43
Games Remaining: 6
Likelihood: MIGHT BE TOUGH
Look, I'm going to be honest with you. I didn't know Kyle Connor had it in him.
Sure, the guy had flirted with 40 goals a few times in the past, which is still extremely impressive in this day and age. But 50? That's a shocker and doesn't really seem unsustainable given how Connor is actually shooting nearly an entire percentage point BELOW his career average.
The Jets are in the midst of a tight final push for a playoff spot with very little runway left to go, so the motivation for the team's best forward to pump as many pucks past opposing goaltenders is at an all-time high.
The only problem, though, is that the teams left on the docket are not exactly going to make it easy on them, with the Jets still scheduled to face the Rangers, Hurricanes, Avalanche, and Flames before all is said and done.
Each of those four contenders sit with over 100 points on the season thanks, in part, to their respective Vezina candidate in net. Scoring over a goal-per-game against the likes of Shesterkin, Kuemper, and Markstrom (Andersen is hurt for the Canes so maybe there's an opportunity there) is a daunting task.
50 might not come this year. But Jets fans can take solace in the fact that it almost certainly will in the near future.
Kirill Kaprizov - Minnesota Wild
2021-22 Goal Total: 43
Games Remaining: 7
I'll give Karpizov credit. I always knew he was good. But when the guy inked a deal for $9 million per year after less than 60 NHL games, it left me a tad skeptical.
Turns out, I'm very dumb.
Kaprizov is one of the most tantalizing young talents the league has to offer. Playing on a Wild team that seems destined for a lengthy playoff run, he's certainly surrounded by enough support to help him become the first 50-goal scorer in franchise history with seven games left to play. And with meetings with the Canadiens, Canucks, Kraken, Predators, Coyotes, Flames, and Avalanche remaining, there's a fighting chance he can pull it off.
The Habs, Kraken, and Coyotes are all easy targets, presenting opportunities for Kaprizov to rattle off multi-goal efforts in order to compensate for possible stingy performances by Demko, Markstrom, and Kuemper.
The Predators are interesting, too. The tandem of Juuse Saros and David Rittich has been as solid as any this season. But the Preds did just allow the St. Louis Blues to pump them for seven goals in one period, and Nashville might opt to rest Saros, a potential Vezina candidate, down the stretch in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
It won't come easy. But Kaprizov does have the potential to join the NHL's elite echelon of goal-scorers before time runs out.
Connor McDavid - Edmonton Oilers
2021-22 Goal Total: 42
Games Remaining: 6
Likelihood: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
Would any of you be shocked if Connor McDavid, preparing to go on the first lengthy playoff run of his career, ended the season on an eight-goals-in-six-games heater that secured him his first-ever 50-goal season?
It shouldn't. Because it's exactly what this guy is capable of.
It doesn't really even matter who the Oilers have left on their schedule. McDavid can score against anyone, even the likes of Scott Wedgewood, Darcy Kuemper, Elvis Merzlinkins, Casey DeSmith, Adin Hill, and Thatcher Demko, who make up his remaining group of opposing goaltenders. Of those names, only Demko strikes fear into the heart of a shooter. But given how bad the Canucks are defensively, McDavid might get a few extra grade-A chances than usual. And we all know he only needs one.
McDavid has already accomplished so much in the regular season by the age of 25. Ripping off a torrid final stretch to get him 50 would be on another level.
If you have any doubts, just remember: he's Connor Flippin' McDavid.