Shots on goal is a something of a unique category within fantasy circles because it’s commonly used but often dismissed as secondary. People will target specific players who are poor offensively, but are good sources of penalty minutes, but how often do you see that for shots on goal?
That’s not an entirely fair comparison because, unlike penalty minutes, shots on goal are not a completely independent category. Players that score a lot of goals typically fire more shots so if you get goal scorers, you’ll probably have plenty of shots on goals too. That’s true, but there’s no clean ratio and there’s certainly deviations – players that are high in the goal scoring charts that take less shots than others and vice versa.
For example, there were three 40-plus goal scorers last season and one, Joe Pavelski, didn’t even finish in the top-30 on the shots chart.
With that in mind, we’re going to highlight some of the best players from a shots on goal perspective to give you an idea of who to target on draft day.
The Cream of the Crop
Alex Ovechkin – While there are players out there that accumulate quite a few shots on goal without actually finding the back of the net very often, Ovechkin is obviously not part of that group. He has led the NHL in shots on goal in eight of his nine campaigns and with the exception of 2010-11, his shooting percentage has always been above 10%.
Phil Kessel – Obviously, no one has measured up to Ovechkin in this category since he entered the NHL, but Kessel is one of the best of the rest. Since he broke into the NHL in the 2006-07 campaign, Kessel has ranked seventh in the league with a total of 1,998 shots. In 2013-14, he breached the 300-shot mark for the second time in his career. One of the nice things about Kessel is his shooting percentage has actually stayed relatively consistent over the last few years as it’s only fluctuated between 12.1% and 12.5%.
Corey Perry – Perry finished second in the goal scoring race to Ovechkin (43 to 51), but the gap was far more substantial when it came to shots. Perry finished sixth in the league with 280 shots on goal, a good 106 behind Ovechkin. That aside, Perry’s been reliable from a shooting perspective as he has recorded between 270 and 290 shots for each of the last five seasons, excluding the shortened campaign.
Zach Parise – Parise peaked in New Jersey when he recorded 364 and then 347 shots on goal in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns respectively. He’s still a big contributor in this category though as he fired 245 shots in 67 games last season and ranked third in the NHL in shots with 182 in the shortened campaign.
Rick Nash – Nash is coming off a rough season as he recorded just 39 points in 65 games, but that included 26 goals. He also largely lived up to expectations from a shots on goal perspective as he finished the season with 258. He has breached the 300-shot mark three times in his career and might do so again in 2014-15 if he can stay healthy.
Patrick Sharp – Sharp finished second behind Ovechkin in shots on goal last season with 313. He didn’t fire an excessive amount of shots in his early campaigns, but since 2009-10, he has recorded at least 266 shots in each 82-game season. It’s worth noting that didn’t actually lead to a big spike in goals as his career-high of 36 markers was set in 2007-08 when he was credited with 209 shots.
Steve Stamkos – The players on this list will be forwards who fire a lot of shots on goal without actually accumulating a ton of goals – with one obvious exception. Stamkos is a deviation for the opposite reason. He’s not lacking in the shots department – he had 303 in 2011-12, which was his last 82-game campaign – but for how often he finds the back of the net, you would expect him to do even more. Keep in mind Stamkos had 60 goals that season, which means he had a 19.8 shooting percentage. When Ovechkin reached the 65-goal mark in 2007-08, he needed to record 446 shots to do it and even then, he had to set his current career-high shooting percentage of 14.6. Aside from his rookie season, Stamkos’ shooting percentage has never dipped below 16.5 and it’s been amazingly trending upward (he was at 20.2 in 2013-14, albeit over the course of just 37 games).
Radim Vrbata – Moving onto the mortals in this list, Vrbata is a good bet to accumulate 230 shots on goal, but how many of them go in is anyone’s guess. His shooting percentage has fluctuated wildly over the last several seasons while his shot totals – excluding the shortened season and the 2008-09 campaign when he was only played in 18 NHL games – has been largely static. For example, he scored 35 goals on 232 shots in 2011-12 and 20 goals on 263 shots last season.
Nathan Gerbe – Gerbe set a career-high in shots on goal with 221 in his first season with Carolina, but he found the back of the net just 16 times. He has a 7.0% career conversion rate and at the age of 27, he’s not expected to make a big leap forward. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him once again breach the 200-shots mark without hitting the 20-goal milestone.
Brad Richards – Richards is known as more of a playmaker than sniper, but that doesn’t mean he shies away from shooting the puck. He had 259 shots on goal in 2013-14, which made it the seventh time he had surpassed the 250-shot mark in his career. Despite that, he has never reached the 30-goal milestone and found the back of the net just 20 times last season.
Patric Hornqvist – Hornqvist has accumulated 1,159 shots on goal over 363 career games, but his shooting percentage stands at just 9.1. He’s been worse than that lately as he has just 26 goals to show for his 334 shots on goal over the last two campaigns. That being said the move to Pittsburgh might be good for him as it’s significantly easier to find the back of the net when playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Chris Kunitz is a good example of that effect as his shooting percentage has jumped from 11.7 to 14.6 since he moved from Anaheim to Pittsburgh.
Justin Williams – Justin Williams is known for scoring clutch goals in big playoff games, but he certainly doesn’t find the back of the net prolifically in the regular season. Williams has recorded between 213 and 241 shots in each of his last three 82-game seasons, but he hasn’t netted more than 22 goals in a single campaign over that span.
Nathan MacKinnon – We’re highlighting some of the young forwards in the game who haven’t established themselves as part of the upper-echelon in shots on goal yet, but are trending in that direction. With that in mind, it makes sense to start with MacKinnon. He won the Calder Trophy after scoring 24 goals and 63 points in 82 games. He also ended up with 241 shots on goal and should top that mark as his role expands.
Tyler Seguin – Seguin’s playing time in Boston had always been somewhat limited due to their depth, but that wasn’t the case in Dallas. The Stars treated him like a first liner and Seguin responded by scoring 37 goals and 84 points in 80 games. He also set a career-high in shots with 294 and is likely to put up a similar total in 2014-15.
Jamie Benn – The other half of the Stars young duo, Benn meshed well with Seguin last season and set new career-highs with 34 goals and 79 points in 81 games. He also took far more shots than he had in the past, finishing with 279 compared to his previous career-high of 203. It wouldn’t be shocking if Benn and Seguin started to routinely finish in the top-10 in shots.
James van Riemsdyk – Ever since the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired James van Riemsdyk from Philadelphia in the summer of 2012, they’ve treated him like a first-line forward and he’s rewarded their trust. He had 30 goals and 61 points in 80 games last season and ranked sixth among forwards by averaging 21:03 minutes per game. He averaged just 14:02 minutes per contest during his tenure with Philadelphia, so it’s no surprise that he’s recording far more shots on goal now that he’s with Toronto. Specifically, he was credited with 279 shots in 2013-14.
Max Pacioretty – Pacioretty is emerging as one of the league’s top goal scorers, although because of his high shooting percentage (14.4 last season), he’s emerging as more of a prolific scorer than he is shooter. Even still, he’s great in both categories as he ranked fourth in goals with 39 and 10th in shots with 270. That was the third straight campaign that he’s finished in the top-10 in shots on goal.
Jeff Skinner – Skinner surpassed the 30-goal mark for the second time in his four-season long career, but he was less economical with his shots this time around. When he scored 31 goals in his rookie campaign, he needed just 215 shots to accomplish that feat, but he was credited with 274 shots on goal in 2013-14. It’s not surprising that he’s shooting more as he gets comfortable in the league, but it will be interesting to see if he’ll ever have another season like he did in 2010-11 when he converted on 14.4% of his shots.
Erik Karlsson – There are some defensemen that are a big help in the shots on goal category, although they typically find the back of the net far less frequently. Karlsson is a good example of that as he recorded 257 shots on goal in 2013-14 after getting 261 in 2011-12, but he finished with just a combined 39 goals over those two seasons. That’s not a knock on Karlsson as it’s rare that a defenseman can provide you with even 20 goals, but it’s also a trend that’s likely to continue.
P.K. Subban – Subban ranked sixth among defensemen with 205 shots in 2011-12 and since then he’s finished in the top-five in back-to-back campaigns. Subban doesn’t find the back of the net particularly often though. He has a career 5.7 shooting percentage and it sat at just 4.9% last season. He consequently finished the campaign with 10 goals.
Dustin Byfuglien – Byfuglien is being listed as a blueliner, but it’s entirely possible that the Winnipeg Jets will end up using him as a forward in 2014-15. That being said, he should have eligibility as a defenseman in fantasy leagues, so that’s why he’s in this section. He scored 20 goals on 256 shots last season, but he should do better next season if he serves as a forward.
Shea Weber – Weber surpassed the 200-shot mark for four straight seasons from 2008-09 to 2011-12 and he only barely missed that milestone in 2013-14. That being said, his shooting percentage spiked to 11.8 last season as opposed to 7.3% in the shortened 2013 campaign and his career average of 8.1%. That allowed him to match his career-high of 23 goals despite the fact that he recorded 56 less shots than when he last accomplished that feat in 2008-09.
Keith Yandle – Yandle shattered his previous career-high of 199 shots by recording 241 in 2013-14. Despite that, he ended up with fewer than 10 goals for the first time since 2008-09. He struggled defensively last season and his efforts to correct that might cause his shot total to decline in 2014-15. Even still, he’s one of the league’s top options when it comes to accumulating shots on goal from a defenseman.
Brent Burns – Burns is shifting back to defense after spending the 2013-14 campaign as a forward. He had 245 shots on goal in 69 games last season, but based on his past performances, he’ll probably regress to 175-200 shots now that he’s a blueliner again. He will probably dip below the 20-goal mark too after finding the back of the net 22 times last season.