Not all goals are created equal. While we can appreciate the "garbage" goals scored on a scramble in front of the net, or a seeing-eye-shot from the point, what we all really want to see are impressive dangles and snipes. The kind of stuff jaw-dropping stuff that only elite NHLers can do.
Even among those elite, some players are still better than others. They are the ones we love to watch, the ones you pay attention to as soon as they get the puck on their stick.
Here are the players we believe score the prettiest goals in hockey.
CONNOR McDAVID, OILERS
It's scary how deadly Connor McDavid is as an NHL goal scorer, and he hasn't even completed his teenage years. He may already be the best player in the league at carrying the puck and making dazzling moves without losing any speed whatsoever. We've seen amazing danglers and amazing speedsters, but rare is the talent who can combine both into one scintillating skill set. He hasn't even played 30 NHL games yet, and his highlight reel is already sexy as hell. Watch this ridiculous goal, scored in his first game back from a broken friggin' collarbone, and tell me McDavid doesn't look like Pavel Bure. (Matt Larkin)
PATRICK KANE, BLACKHAWKS
Quick story time: Years ago we were doing a photo shoot with Colorado's Matt Duchene and the young Avs center was talking about Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup-winning goal against Philadelphia, one which only Kane seemed to know was in for a good five seconds. "I knew it was in," Duchene said. "I had seen him do that once before." Duchene has always been a student of the game, so it's no surprise that he knew Kane's bag of tricks pretty well. Unfortunately for goalies, they haven't really caught on yet, which is why Kane has been able to do stuff like this:
He's like Allen Iverson with a puck instead of a basketball. Moves on top of moves on top of moves. Kane's goals are beautiful because of either their technical difficulty, the misdirection he employs, or the sheer unexpected speed of his release. He's a magician and even if a goalie knows which trick he's about to attempt on them, most can't catch up to his hands anyway. (Ryan Kennedy)
ALEX OVECHKIN, CAPITALS
After 516 career goals, we're all now well aware of Ovechkin's body of work. He is truly an elite goal scorer who can do it all. Speed, hands, dangles, elusiveness, power -- he can beat you in an number of ways. And few players in NHL history enjoy scoring goals as much as Ovechkin. It's a joy to watch Ovechkin score, whether he's setting up for a one-timer on the off-wing on a power play, or dangling through entire teams. Ovechkin had two of the Top 10 goals in our 2015 list of best goals. This one from last season shows Ovechkin at his best. (Ian Denomme)
VLADIMIR TARASENKO, BLUES
In the early days of fantasy hockey, some leagues would dictate that you could pick only one of Wayne Gretzky’s totals. Either you selected his goals or his assists, because having both made it unfair to the other competitors. When it comes to scoring beautiful goals on a consistent basis, it almost feels like Vladimir Tarasenko’s tallies should be split into two: his dekes and his shots.
If you watch film of Tarasenko, you start to realize there’s no way to actually stop him when he’s at his best. Considering he’s 219 pounds, he’s impressively fast, he protects the puck well and if you come close to him, he’s as likely to burn a defenseman or netminder with a quick deke as he is to power right through those who impede him. And if Tarasenko doesn’t think he can skate by a defender, he can post up, find space and rifle a shot with a speed and accuracy normally reserved for the Alex Ovechkins and Steven Stamkoses of the world.
If there’s one goal that encapsulates Tarasenko’s ability to score pretty goals, look no further than his one-handed effort against the New York Rangers in 2014-15. Easy choice? Sure. But there’s little doubting it’s one of the greatest goals scored in the past few seasons. (Jared Clinton)