For a good number of fans, the first time Jonathan Toews stepped into the spotlight was at the 2007 World Junior Championship. In a shootout against the rival Team USA, the Canadian center stepped up and scored not once, not twice, but three times to help Canada advance. It was Toews’ first assertion of his shootout ability on a big stage, and he's remained as lethal in the event since his arrival in the NHL. So lethal, in fact, that Toews’ shootout supremacy has earned him a first-of-its-kind mark in the NHL.
Tied after regulation and overtime against the Florida Panthers Saturday, Toews and his Blackhawks headed to a shootout to decide the winner, and the Chicago captain did what he does best to open the skills competition. Steaming in on goal, Toews backed down Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, made a quick forehand fake and shifted the puck backhand in order to open up the Florida goaltender’s five hole. With room to tuck the puck in, Toews slid home a cheeky backhand, kicking off a shootout victory that was over two shots later as the result of a Mike Hoffman miss and a Patrick Kane tally.
With his goal, Toews became the first player in NHL history with 50 shootout goals, narrowly beating out the Detroit Red Wings’ Frans Nielsen, who sits one behind with 49 goals in the event. But what separates Toews from Nielsen, and possibly the rest of the pack, is not just the volume of goals, but the success rate he’s had in the shootout. Toews has taken 101 career shootout attempts and scored on 50, good for a 49.5 percent conversion rate. That’s fourth-highest among all players to have taken at least 50 attempts and puts Toews nearly three percent clear of any player with at least 100 attempts.
But if Toews is the shootout king, which players fall on the other side of the spectrum? Here’s a look at the 10 players with the worst shootout success rates among all who’ve taken at least 50 attempts.
10. Mike Richards
Even during his best years, Richards’ game was never predicated on high-skill plays. He was a feisty and fiery two-way pivot who got to the hard areas. And that might explain why he winds up on this list. Though he did score a handful of shootout tallies – 17 in all – his overall conversion rate was a mere 28.8 percent. No season was quite as bad as the 2013-14 campaign for Richards. He scored once on eight attempts.
9. Dustin Brown
Among players with at least 50 shootout attempts, no player has been on the bench for more games that have gone to the skills competition than Brown. In part, that’s due to skating with a Kings team that built its success on playing low-scoring hockey. Still, one can’t help but wonder if Los Angeles would have had a bit more shootout success if Brown was better at converting. In his 68 attempts, he’s only managed to find the back of the net 19 times. That’s a 27.9 percent conversion rate.
8. Phil Kessel
What’s puzzling about Kessel’s presence here is that he was a legitimate shootout weapon in the early part of his career before his success rate went down the tubes. Through his first four campaigns in the NHL, Kessel scored on 37.1 percent of his shootout attempts, including four of seven as a rookie and three of seven in his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Across the next six seasons, however, Kessel scored three times on 24 attempts. In fact, he’s scored fewer shootout goals over the past decade than he did in his first two NHL seasons. He’s scored on 27.8 percent in his career.
7. Patrice Bergeron
Through the 2005-06 and 2006-07 campaigns, Bergeron was the Bruins’ shootout wizard. He scored on 40 percent of his attempts, going eight for 20 across those two campaigns. But the book is out on Bergeron and goaltenders have rendered Boston’s star center obsolete in the shootout as he’s aged. In the past five seasons, Bergeron hasn’t scored a single shootout goal despite 12 attempts. He is the only player with at least 10 attempts in the past five seasons who hasn’t scored at least once in the shootout.
6. Jeff Carter
In fairness to Carter, his coaches have come to realize this isn’t the nearly 400-goal scorer’s strong suit. Need evidence? In the lineup for seven games that have gone to a shootout over the past two seasons, Carter has been stapled to the bench during the skills competition in each of those outings. One would have thought his coaches might have caught on sooner given Carter has only had a single-season shootout conversion rate above 31 percent in three of his 15 seasons in the NHL. Woof.
5. David Krejci
Is it any wonder the Bruins have had as much difficulty in the shootout as they have? While his donut doesn’t date back quite as far as the zero that’s plaguing Bergeron, Krejci hasn’t scored on a single one of his six attempts over the past four seasons. There was a time where it appeared Krejci had figured out the shootout, however. From 2009-10 on through 2011-12, Krejci scored nine of 22 attempts, which is a 40.9 percent success rate. He’s only scored on three of his 22 attempts since.
4. John Tavares
Possibly the most confounding of all the players to appear in this space. Few are better with the puck on their stick than Tavares, who is a legitimately elite goal scorer and has plenty of tricks in his bag. Turns out, though, that when he’s one-on-one with the goaltender in the shootout, Tavares often comes up empty-handed. He’s only scored once on nine attempts across the past three seasons and has a career conversion rate of 25.4 percent. He’s actually been even worse in shootout-esque situations when you consider he hasn’t scored on any of the three penalty shots he’s had in his career. Including those attempts drops Tavares to 24.2 percent.
3. Ryan Kesler
It took a few years, but much like Carter’s coaches began to understand he wasn’t the right pick off the bench, Kesler’s bench bosses started to understand it was better to leave the shutdown pivot watching the shootout instead of participating in the event. Thus, he didn’t take a single shootout attempt in the eight shootouts he was on the bench for across the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Up until that point, though, Kesler struggled mightily, scoring 15 of 60 attempts for a career 25 percent success rate.
2. Henrik Zetterberg
In the late stages of his career, the season-long goose eggs came often for Zetterberg. Other than a 3-for-4 campaign in his penultimate NHL campaign, Zetterberg scored only two other shootout goals across his final eight seasons in the league. Included were two campaigns in which the Red Wings great went 0-for-3 and two 0-for-4 seasons. By the time he called it a career, Zetterberg had converted less than one of every four shootout attempts he had, ended with a career 24.6 percentage.
1. Vincent Lecavalier
Of the 10 players with the lowest shootout conversion rates, Lecavalier has the played in the fewest games that have gone to a shootout. However, four players appearing at the bottom of the heap have fewer attempts but greater success in the skills competition. In fact, Lecavalier’s 14 goals are tied with Krejci for the fewest of any player with at least 50 attempts. The odd thing about Lecavalier’s lack of shootout success – his 22.6 percent success rate is lowest of players with at least 50 shots – is that his conversion rate on penalty shots he had throughout his career is so much greater. He scored on five of 13 attempts, good for 38.5 percent.
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