NHL’s Under-The-Radar 30-Goal Scorers From 2021-22

Every season, there are good players on bad, even awful, teams that go unnoticed. They might have a career year, but on a struggling team, fans don’t always pay attention. Such is the way in the NHL which, more than other leagues, requires great teams to make the playoffs and elite teams to win the Stanley Cup, thus diminishing the power of an individual star.

Related: Top 10 Most Underrated Players of the 2021-22 Season

Last season, a handful of skaters stepped up and had remarkable campaigns, scoring 30 goals or more. Eclipsing the 30-goal mark in an 82-game schedule is a major accomplishment, but some players still flew under the radar. Here’s a look at some of the 30-goal scorers, some of whom might come as a surprise.

Tage Thompson – 38 Goals

The Buffalo Sabres 2021-22 season was a mixed bag. Yes, with a 32-39-11 record, they missed the playoffs for the 11th season in a row – the longest drought in the NHL – but the team turned a corner and, for the first time in a while, looked promising. With a 16-9-3 record from March until the end of the season, fans started to notice a handful of young talented players, specifically 24-year-old Tage Thompson, who led the team’s offense.

Tage Thompson Buffalo Sabres
Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Thompson scored 38 goals to lead the team and was a constant threat in the offensive zone. His great shot and strong finishing ability near the crease made him a top-six forward, but as a bigger-bodied skater, he used his size to his advantage, setting him apart from the rest of the forwards on the team. As the Sabres turned their season around to finish with the fifth-best record in the Atlantic Division, Thompson was front and center of it all, scoring 16 goals in the final two months.

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The Sabres have a lot of young and promising players, including Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens, and Alex Tuch, along with prospects Owen Power and Jack Quinn. The youth movement should provide hope for the future, but the player that will likely allow the team to make a big leap and end their playoff drought is Thompson, who will likely improve on his break-out campaign.

Brock Nelson – 37 Goals

The New York Islanders had a disappointing season. They were expected to compete for the Stanley Cup but missed the playoffs. However, one of the bright spots was Brock Nelson, who had a career year at 31 years old, emerging as the team’s best offensive player. Along with 37 goals, he added 22 assists to share the lead in points on the team with Mathew Barzal, who had 59 (15 goals and 44 assists).

Brock Nelson New York Islanders
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Yes, Nelson is a scorer and has been throughout his career, using his offensive zone instincts and quick release to find the back of the net. However, the recent season saw him emerge as an elite player for the Islanders, something they haven’t had since John Tavares. Nelson’s 37 goals were a career-high and notably the first time in his nine-year career that he eclipsed the 30-goal mark. In a tough season for the team, one of the bright spots and reasons fans can be optimistic about a bounce back was their leading goal scorer.

Troy Terry – 37 Goals

Fans mostly refer to Trevor Zegras when it comes to the Anaheim Ducks, and understandably so, as he had a highlight-reel season and finished in second place in Calder Trophy voting, with Moritz Seider taking home the award. However, Troy Terry was arguably the best skater on the Ducks last season and helped lift an otherwise struggling offense that averaged only 2.78 goals per game.

Troy Terry Anaheim Ducks
Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Terry was the Ducks’ leading goal scorer but also their best forward across the board, often leading the top line with great skating and playmaking ability. While Zegras was the highlight-reel player, Terry was the consistent top-line skater who sparked the offense on a nightly basis. The Ducks are still rebuilding, but the 24-year-old forward is going to remain a centerpiece of the resurgence as the team hopes to make a big leap in 2022-23.

Josh Norris – 35 Goals

Among all the young, talented forwards on the Ottawa Senators, it wasn’t Brady Tkachuk or Tim Stützle that led the team in goals; it was Josh Norris. This might come as a surprise to many, but Senators fans watched the 23-year-old emerge as an elite goal scorer in only his second full season in the NHL. He is a natural center but made most of his impact in the offensive zone on the wing, allowing him to snipe shots in space to the back of the net, an attribute that allowed him to score 16 of his goals on the power play.

Josh Norris Ottawa Senators
Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Norris becoming a top-six scorer is one of the many reasons the Senators should take a big step forward this season. The rebuilding team added Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux in the offseason, joining Tkachuk, Stützle, and Thomas Chabot to form a strong roster ahead of 2022-23. However, Norris will remain integral to their success as he continues to finish scoring chances and build off his 35-goal season from 2021-22.

Ryan Hartman – 34 Goals

Ryan Hartman might be one of the more underrated players in the NHL and one of the most under-appreciated goal scorers from last season. Kirill Kaprizov comes first to mind when it comes to the Minnesota Wild, which is understandable after he scored 47 goals and 61 assists to establish himself as one of the best forwards in the league. Kaprizov led the Wild offense, but Hartman, often playing on the same line, was also a force and a constant scoring presence.

Ryan Hartman Minnesota Wild
Ryan Hartman, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Playing on the right wing, Hartman found open ice in the offensive zone and waited for the puck to find him. His 34 goals were second best on the team as his scoring instincts helped turn the Wild’s offense into one of the best in the NHL, averaging 3.72 goals per game. After struggling to find a role on the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, and Philadelphia Flyers, scoring only 42 goals in seven seasons with the three teams, Hartman has found a home in Minnesota.

The Wild will look different next season, especially after trading Kevin Fiala, one of their best forwards, to the Los Angeles Kings. However, as long as Kaprizov is creating scoring opportunities and Hartman is on the opposite wing finding the back of the net, they will remain one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Jeff Skinner – 33 Goals

Jeff Skinner has been in the NHL for 12 seasons but has yet to make the playoffs, playing for both the Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes. While he hopes to reach his first postseason in 2022-23, last season was a reminder of what he brings to the offense.

Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During the 2020-21 season, Skinner only played 53 games, which was the fewest since his 2012-13 season when he only scored seven goals and seven assists in an awful season with the Sabres. Last season, along with Thompson’s breakout year, he saw a goal-scoring resurgence with 33 goals and 30 assists to help carry the offense. The 30-year-old forward is still a reliable contributor up front, but at this point in his career, he is one of the veterans on an otherwise young team. His presence makes him a pivotal part of next season’s team that hopes to end their playoff drought.

Other Under-The-Radar 30 Goal Scorers

The Detroit Red Wings had a difficult season, missing the playoffs and firing head coach Jeff Blashill. The offense also only averaged 2.77 goals per game, with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi carrying the offense, scoring 31 and 30 goals respectively.

Tyler Bertuzzi Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Los Angeles Kings, meanwhile, were one of the surprises in the Western Conference, reaching the playoffs with the third-best record in the Pacific Division. They weren’t carried by their offense or possess a high-powered forward group, but Adrian Kempe stepped up and scored 35 goals to elevate the top line. Likewise, the Dallas Stars entered the playoffs as a wild-card team fueled by their defense, but Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz were their leading scorers with 41 goals and 37 goals, respectively.

Some of the elite goal scorers in the game are well-known stars like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Auston Matthews. Even some of the players like Kyle Connor, David Pastrnak, and Jake Guentzel might not be regarded as the top players at their position, but they consistently add 30 goals or more to their offenses. While 2021-22 might have been the exception for some of these surprise 30-goal scorers, with expectations that they will regress this season, some of the under-the-radar players might be hitting their stride as elite offensive playmakers. Moreover, some of them might join McDavid and Matthews as regulars atop the leaderboard.

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