Webster’s Dictionary defines obscurity as “one that is obscure” and “the quality or state of being obscure.” Which, well, doesn’t really help if you don’t know what obscure means, but that’s another matter. I just always wanted to start a blog with the tried and true (and trite) “Webster’s Dictionary defines [word] as [word ’s definition]” line, and now that we’ve crossed that one off the bucket list, we can get down to business.
Most hockey fans know that Alex Ovechkin is leading the NHL in goals, and that Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane are battling for the league lead in points, but what about the players toiling in obscurity (see definition above), the guys who are leading the way in stats that you haven’t even thought about, and maybe didn’t even know existed?
For example, do you know which NHL player has skated the most shifts this season? Or scored the most goals per minute played? Or delivered the most power-play hits?
If you do, please stay out of my fantasy hockey league. If you don’t, please keep reading and all will be revealed:
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay: 60 assists.
OK, assists aren’t exactly obscure, but they don’t receive the love and attention that’s showered upon your more flashy stats such as goals and points. Kucherov has five more helpers than Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler, who’s the runner-up with 55. Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen (51) and San Jose defenseman Brent Burns (50) are the only other players to reach 50 so far this season. (McDavid, in case you’re wondering, is on the precipice with 49.) Included in Kucherov’s league-leading assist total is 39 primary assists, which also leads the league.
Patrick Kane, Chicago: 56 even-strength points.
He's battling Kucherov for the overall NHL scoring lead, so, yeah, it makes sense that one of the league’s most sublimely talented players would be piling up points at 5-on-5 (and 4-on-4 and 3-on-3).
Tyler Seguin, Dallas: 13 goal posts and crossbars.
An inch here, an inch there, and Seguin is in the mid-30s in goals right now rather than “just” 22. The Stars shooter has hit seven goal posts and a league-leading six crossbars this season. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (two crossbars, nine goal posts) has struck iron a combined 11 times, followed by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri with 10 close calls (four crossbars, six goal posts).
Bo Horvat, Vancouver: 736 faceoff wins.
The 23-year-old Canucks center has taken 1,376 faceoffs, the most in the league this season, winning 736 of them for a 53.5-percent efficiency in the dot. Why is he taking so many? Because when he’s not on the draw, Vancouver’s faceoff efficiency drops to 45.7 percent, which would rank last in the league.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington: 73 power-play shots.
He’s merely tied for ninth in the league with 10 PP goals, but that hasn’t slowed his shooting frequency with the man advantage. Ovechkin also leads the NHL in missed shots on the power play, and by a wide margin – with 49, he’s 18 ahead of runner-up David Pastrnak (31).
Brian Boyle, Nashville: 12 power-play hits.
I mean, who even knew they were tracking this one? I guess now we know why the Predators acquired Boyle from New Jersey…
John Gibson, Anaheim: 27 losses.
The Ducks goalie is tied with Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk for the most losses in regulation time (19) and he’s also tied for the most overtime/shootout losses (eight), giving him a combined total of 27 defeats. It’s a category in which no netminder wants to be No. 1 – and yet, Gibson isn’t completely out of the Vezina Trophy conversation. Anaheim has been losing a lot – like, a lot – but don’t blame the man in the mask.
Mark Jankowski, Calgary: Seven shorthanded points.
Not to mention, he’s tied with Arizona’s Michael Grabner and Tampa Bay rookie Anthony Cirelli for the league lead with four shorthanded goals. Grabner, it should be noted, scored four shorties in 25 games before being lost to injury.
Ian Cole, Colorado: 42 shorthanded blocked shots.
Too bad he couldn’t have blocked a few more of those Tom Wilson bombs. Yikes.
Andy Greene, New Jersey: 155 blocked shots.
You want to make sure you have good shinpads when you're the veteran captain defenseman on the NHL’s 29th-place team. Greene also leads the NHL in shorthanded ice time per game – which probably helps to explain why he's blocking so many shots – averaging 4:02 a night when the Devils are down a man.
Antti Niemi, Montreal: 1.000 save percentage in shootouts
Nine goalies have been perfect in the shootout this season, but none have faced more shots than the seven turned aside by the Canadiens backup. The Islanders’ Thomas Greiss has made the most saves in the shootout this season (15), giving up two goals in the process.
Roman Josi, Nashville: 1,679 shifts.
Nobody jumps over the boards more frequently than the Predators defender.
William Carrier, Vegas: 227 hits.
Linemate Ryan Reaves is second in the NHL with 202 hits, so either the Golden Knights’ fourth line plays a fierce forecheck or the Vegas statisticians are padding the totals for the home side.
Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville: 2.20 goals per 60 minutes
You want obscure stats? Here’s one: goals per 60 minutes. You don’t hear about it too often. And you don’t hear about Arvidsson a whole lot, either, but maybe you should. He’s missed more than 20 games, but nobody is more lethal per minute played than the Preds gunner. Arvidsson, averaging 19:13 in ice time, has 24 goals in 34 games.
Dylan Larkin, Detroit, and Artemi Panarin, Columbus: Four overtime goals.
The best players on their respective teams, Larkin and Panarin have come through in the clutch. The question, of course, is whether the Blue Jackets will still have Panarin in their lineup when the playoffs roll around.
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago: Nine “first goals.”
In other words, the Blackhawks sophomore has scored the opening goal in a game nine times this season. Start fast and never look back.
Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit, and Evgenii Dadonov, Florida: Two penalty-shot attempts.
The only NHLers this season with multiple penalty-shot attempts, both players are 1-for-2.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: .927 shorthanded save percentage
That would be a stellar save percentage at even strength, never mind when your team is down a man. Only two other netminders who have played at least 20 games this season have a shorthanded save percentage of .900 or better – Dubnyk (.913) and and San Jose’s Martin Jones (.901). Remarkably, Jones has a better save percentage when the Sharks are shorthanded than when they're at even strength, where his .895 mark ranks dead last among the 47 goalies with 20-plus games played.