The NHL’s Top 10 Snipers

The puck always seems to be on his tape when the game is on the line. He keeps goaltenders awake at night with his lightning-quick release, and pinpoint accuracy. He is the sniper, hockey’s most potent goal scorer. Today, we take a look at the NHL’s ten best sharpshooters.

10.  Patrick Sharp – After a lowly start to his career in Philadelphia, Patrick Sharp really hit his stride in Chicago. Scoring at least 25 goals in every season since 2007-2008, Sharp has proven himself as one of the NHL’s most dynamic scorers. With help from crafty playmakers Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Sharp’s 11 goals in the 2010 playoffs helped the Blackhawks beat his former team the Flyers to win Chicago’s first Stanley Cup since 1961.

9. Tyler Seguin – At 20, Tyler Seguin is the youngest player on the list. But to say he is an inexperienced scorer is a grave mistake. Making Stanley Cupless veterans like Jeremy Roenick cringe, Seguin won a Stanley Cup two years before he could legally drink any alcohol out of it (In Boston, anyway). So far in his second NHL season, Seguin has found the back of the net 26 times, good for the first place among Bruins scorers. If he keeps on the twine-ripping pace he is on, Seguin could very well find himself in the top 3 of this list in just two or three years.

8. Michael Ryder – Since leaving Boston in the off-season following their Stanley Cup victory, Michael Ryder has fit in quite well in Dallas, becoming one of the NHL’s most underrated scorers. Finding the back of the net for the 31st and 32nd time this season in Tuesday night’s shootout loss to the Stars, Ryder has reached the 30 goal mark for the third time in his career. Ryder’s quick release helped the Bruins overpower the Canucks in last year’s finals, and has thus far proven to be just as potent as it was last spring.

7. James Neal – At 24 years-old, Pittsburgh winger James Neal is having a heck of a season with a career best 35 goals. Of course, some of Neal’s  success can be attributed to his superstar linemate, and likely Hart trophy recipient Evgeni Malkin. However, Neal has repeatedly shown this season his ability to beat goalies with uncanny accuracy. Signed to a 6-year contract extension on February 19th, the Penguins will have Neal’s marksmanship in their arsenal well through his playing prime.

6. Alexander Semin – Despite his lackluster performance thus far in this season, Alexander Semin remains one of the league’s most dangerous snipers. Using a long stick that appears to be made for a 6-foot-3 defenseman, Semin whips the puck with precision few can match. Semin may have just 18 goals this season, but his 40 goals in 2009-2010 show he is capable of hitting the twine at a fervent pace. Fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals sure could use Semin at his full sniping potential.

5. Phil KesselPhil Kessel has one of those shots that is easily recognizable even when you can’t make out the 81 on the back of his jersey. Kessel uses a very low (whip) flex on his stick and really leans into his snap shots, making for one of the quickest releases in the game. Kessel has been one of the hottest goal scorers in the NHL this season, racking up 36 goals. In hindsight, we can tell now that the September 2009 trade that sent Phil Kessel from Boston to Toronto for the draft pick that would later become Tyler Seguin, had a great bit of offensive firepower indeed.

4. Alexander Ovechkin – Since coming into the league at the end of the lockout, Alex Ovechkin has been one of the most dazzling players to watch. He has so many skills in his world-class repertoire: one shift he’ll put it through a defenseman’s legs for a goal, and on the next shift he’ll run that same defenseman over. But, his most lethal weapon is his shot. Like Kessel, Ovechkin’s stick has a lot of flex. That flex, paired with the big toe curve on Ovechkin’s blade, makes for a high-velocity shot, likely headed for one of the top corners. In fact, since the 2005-2006 season, no one has scored more than number 8. Despite having an “off” season, Ovechkin still has 32 goals, good for 8th in the NHL.

3. Ilya Kovalchuk – The most recent addition to the 400-goal club, Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the most feared goal-scorers in the NHL. With an immensely powerful lower-body, Kovalchuk’s one-timer from the point on the power-play is one that seems to find the back of the net with unbelievable frequency. But, this Russian sniper’s wrist shot is just as wicked as his slapper. With the exception of an injury-riddled season in 2009-2010, Kovalchuk has potted at least 30 goals every season since 2002-2003. There are few (well 2) more dangerous snipers in the NHL today than Ilya Kovalchuk.

2. Marian Gaborik – For Marian Gaborik, the secret to his knack for goal-scoring isn’t necessarily in accuracy or power (although don’t think he’s lacking in those categories), but in his quickness. Some of the greatest snipers in NHL history have admitted they don’t always aim when they shoot, they just get it off quickly. This is Gaborik’s forté. Gaborik’s release is hands-down the fastest in the NHL. A huge part of the Ranger’s high-powered offense, Gaborik has tallied 35 times this season. Look for Gaborik to be a terror to opposing goalies as the Rangers are poised to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.

1. Steven Stamkos – Steven Stamkos’ statistics speak for themselves. With 10 games remaining in his fourth NHL season, Stamkos’ 50 goals has him at a sizable 7-goal lead over second place Evgeni Malkin. Parked in his spot at the left half-boards, Stamkos has redefined the knee-drop one timer, originally made famous by Brett Hull in the early 90s. So much so, NHL 12, the video game that features Stamkos’ face on its cover, implemented the knee-drop one timer into this year’s game. Stamkos has the uncanny ability, as many of the NHL’s greatest goal scorers have, to be just as wise with the puck as without it. He finds the open spot, and when he gets the puck, he makes no mistake. Whether with his deadly one timer, or equally potent wrist shot, Steven Stamkos is going to score…a lot.

  • Joe L

    Matt Moulson should be on there over Seguin, Sharp, and even Ryder and Neal. The guy has three straight 30 goal seasons and is the NHL’s leading goal scorer on the road this year. 

  • Jensen_1708

    Typo: Kovalchuk did have 30+ in 2009/2010, and it wasn’t injury riddles, you must have made a mistake with his season being listed in two parts since the trade to new jersey, he had 31 goals in Atlanata that year, and another 10 after being traded to NJ. Only year he hasn’t hit 30 goals in his career was his rookie year, and he had 29 in 65 games that year. So realistically, I’d consider him a for sure, never miss 30 goal guy. Plus he’s going to hit 600 goals in his career almost certainly.

    I honestly don’t see how Gaborik ranks ahead of him or Ovechkin, unless you’re going simply based on this season and not overall goal scoring ability, Gaborik has shown inconsistency more than any of the top 5, while Ovechkin has lagged the last two seasons, he’s 2 goals behind Gaborik but has the same G/G, not to mention he has not once missed 30 goals in his young career and has 16 more career goals in nearly 200 less games of work. 

    1. Stamkos
    2. Ovechkin
    3. Kovalchuk
    4. Gaborik
    5. Kessel
    6. Iginla (don’t know how he didn’t get put on here, with nearly no offensive help the guy still hits 500 goals before 35, and scores 30+ for 11 years without fail, think about that, over a friggin’ decade without being below 30 goals)
    7. Eberle (the kids a complete stud, he’s got better hands, especially in tight, than almost every other player on this list, and while his shot might not be as wicked hard or his release not quite as quick, he’s amazingly accurate and creates more goals with simply creativity than anyone in the league right now)
    8. Neal
    9. Segiun (while I think he’ll be a constant 30+ goal threat, I don’t see him being top 3, he’ll never surpass Stamkos or Ovechkin in goal scoring prowess, and there’s other young guys coming up who are going to give him a good run too)
    10. Semin (I guess, two years ago, sure… but now, just doesn’t seem like he can do it anymore)

    • Guest

      i think this list is more of “who has the better shot” than “who’s scored the most goals”

    • Matt Nestor

      Thanks for clarifying the Kovalchuk bit. That was indeed my mistake. And “Guest” is on the right track: Snipers obviously score goals but, I was trying to show the guys with the most goals, because of their great shots. Obviously Iginla deserves attention (with 500 goals, your shot must be pretty good). But, I think Iginla and Eberle would be at the top of my honorable mention, among others. 

      Thanks for reading, and sharing your opinion too. 

  • Undrcovr Brothr

    Need to make honorable mention for  Jordan Eberle on this list. 30 goals in his 2nd year, and still has 10 games left.

  • PCHall72

    what about the person second in the league in goals Malkin, i know he more of a playmaker/sniper combo but he does have a good one timer

    • Matt Nestor

      Malkin seemed to be angry about not making the list and scored on that beautiful top-shelf slapper from the top of the circle 2 or 3 days after I posted this.
      Anyway, I left Malkin out because I feel like he’s the kind of player that is just going to power around the defense and beat the goalie from in close. Yes, that one-timer is lethal, and he certainly has some finesse too, but I see Geno as more of a power forward and power finisher.

  • Matt Nestor

    Thanks for reading guys…Yea, Seguin was a late addition that I took on and off a couple times. Datsyuk is as accurate as anyone, but I felt he’d be better served at #1 on the list of most silky/crafty players. Ryder was sort of a wild card, but he’s having a heck of a season. 

  • Andrew Johnson

    I don’t know about Tyler Seguin (yet) or Michael Ryder being on this list, but I came to make sure Neal & Gaborik were there and was not disappointed. All I have to say in addition is: Pavel Datsyuk. I may be biased, but he can sure snipe.

    • Stu Grimace

      Michael Ryder may not have much – but he’s certainly one of the better shooters in the league (I don’t know about top-ten). As for Seguin, bit of a Boston homer, but the kid is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen. At nineteen he’s very close to where Kessel was as a shooter when he left Boston. He might not be top-ten in many minds now, but as this article alludes, he’ll be one of the very best in short-order.