The Top 5 Snipers In The NHL

Some players beat each other senseless with their fists, other players throw on pads and use their bodies as targets for 100 MPH frozen rubber bullets, and then there are those players who are born to score goals.

The superheros of the hockey world.

The crème of the crop.

When you’re a kid playing street hockey outside with your friends, these are the guys you're pretending to be when you score.

Here are the top five snipers in the NHL today:

5. CBJ – Rick Nash

The Blue Jackets’ lack of success over the years has seemingly overshadowed Nash’s ability to score some tremendous goals. If he played for a better (and more offensively minded) squad, there’s no question that the 1st overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft would attract similar publicity to the likes of a Crosby or Ovechkin. Nash often uses his huge 6’4” frame in perfect harmony with his incredibly soft hands to drive hard to the goal mouth and stickhandle his way into defensemen and goalies’ nightmares. Although he’s only surpassed the 40-goal mark twice in seven NHL seasons, goals like this assure us that Nash is the real deal:

4. PIT – Sidney Crosby

There’s a lot words you could use to describe Crosby—unfortunately, none of them would truly do him justice. Aside from being arguably the league’s best playmaker, as well as a superb faceoff man, Crosby is hands down the hardest worker in the NHL. It’s nearly impossible to get the puck off of him because he’s so incredibly strong on his skates, he digs for pucks in the corners, and he never gives up on a play. Crosby’s smooth skating and work ethic make him a threat in every situation—even strength, powerplay, and shorthanded. The prototypical Crosby goal? Turn on the jets to split two defenders, deke in tight on the goalie, and roof the shot into the net. If you’ve ever played hockey, you’ll know why I picked this goal as Crosby’s #1 highlight. Find me another guy who can elevate the puck with this accuracy and power on the backhand (excuse the poor video quality):

3. TBL – Steven Stamkos

After the highly-touted 1st overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft tallied only 46 points in his rookie season, the critics were out for Stamkos and the Lightning organization. Everyone and their mother spurred Tampa Bay to send Stamkos down to the AHL to gain some experience and confidence before entering the NHL. Despite his less-than-impressive 2008-2009 campaign, Stamkos proved the experts wrong with 51 goals and 95 points in his sophomore season for the Lightning. At just 20 years of age, Stamkos is having another great year with 35 goals in just 47 thus far. Signature Stamkos? Ripping a one-timer from the circle with no remorse for anything the puck might touch on its way past the goaltender and into the mesh. Although he’s mostly known for insanely powerful slapshots, here’s Stamkos showing off his tremendous hand-eye coordination:

2. NJD – Ilya Kovalchuk

While Kovalchuk’s 13 goals in 44 games this season isn’t exactly sniper material, there’s no denying that his shot is still one of the best in the league. The Russian sniper scored 40+ goals in five consecutive seasons as an Atlanta Thrasher before being traded to the New Jersey Devils. Not known for his stickhandling, Kovalchuk relies on his speed and exceptional accuracy to haunt goaltenders around the NHL. Most impressive is how his wrist shot and slapshot are equally dangerous—Kovalchuk can beat you anywhere on the ice. Stationary on the powerplay, flying up on the wing on the rush, it just doesn’t matter. If you can beat a goaltender from forty-some feet away with no traffic in front, you earned your sniper license:

1. WAS – Alexander Ovechkin

Similar to Kovalchuk, Ovechkin is another top goal scorer who has had some trouble finding the back of the net this year. Then again, it’s not unreasonable for the Moscow native to cool off after notching back-to-back-to-back 50+ goal seasons. There’s no debate that Ovechkin is the most offensively-gifted player in the entire NHL. He makes defensemen look like traffic cones. He makes goalies look like porous mannequins. Speed, strength, and accuracy—Ovechkin has them all. His greatest attribute is being able to mask his shot so that goalies have no time to anticipate when and where Ovechkin is going to shoot. Simply put, no one has a quicker release than #8 for the Caps. Since there’s no way to pick a single highlight for the greatest sniper in the world, I present to you the Ovechkin video montage:

Honorable mentions: Daniel Sedin (VAN), Michael Cammalleri (MTL), Danny Briere (PHI), Dany Heatley (SJS), Evgeni Malkin (PIT)


Disagree with any of my choices? Missing one of your favorites? Let me know what you think in the comments section!

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Patrick Storto's picture

Dany Heatley I think over Rick Nash. Most goals Nash has ever had is 41 and one other season with 40. Heatley had back to back 50 goal seasons.

George Prax's picture

Nash never had Thornton and Spezza to play with though.

Adam Pardes's picture

That was part of my point Prax. Nash has so little to work with compared to a player like Heatley. Or take Daniel Sedin who scores tons of easy tap ins thanks to Henrik's magic passes. Makes Nash's goals even more impressive since he does it all on his own, even if his numbers aren't necessary exceptional.

Patrick Storto's picture

so what, Heatley had 41 goals in his sophomore season in ATLANTA. That's Nash's career high.

George Prax's picture
Patrick Storto wrote:

so what, Heatley had 41 goals in his sophomore season in ATLANTA. That's Nash's career high.

Exactly, 41 goals matches Nash's high, both accomplished when neither had many good players to play with. From there Heatley had Spezza (and a stacked Sens teams overall) and Thornton (on another stacked team until now), whereas Nash hasn't had much at all since then in Columbus. I would imagine their international numbers are comparable, those are probably a better comparable.

feuerfrei514's picture

heatley has hossa and kovalchuk Tongue
I agree 100% Nash is more deserving only superstar that team has ever seen. Hopefully ryan johanson can help him out next year

Patrick Storto's picture

when did Heatley have Hossa? They were traded for each other.

And so what if Kovalchuk was on the team, and so what if players play with other good players. Ovechkin had an abundance of support on his team, same with Stamkos, and they're both on the list. Ovechkin is the only player on this list to have back to back 50 goal seasons. Crosby and Stamkos will likely join that this year.

And that video of Nash doesn't show a sniper at all. Sure it's a nice goal, great moves, but that wasn't a snipe.

Patrick Storto's picture

so if Nash hasn't beaten the 41 goals that both he and Heatley scored on marginal teams, and then Heatley went on to have back to back 50 goal seasons (which you guys wont count), what makes Nash the better 'sniper' over Heatley?

George Prax's picture
Patrick Storto wrote:

so if Nash hasn't beaten the 41 goals that both he and Heatley scored on marginal teams, and then Heatley went on to have back to back 50 goal seasons (which you guys wont count), what makes Nash the better 'sniper' over Heatley?

You're twisting my words, I didn't say Healtey's 50 goal seasons didn't count, just that they may be overstated when it comes to analyzing his talent level - which is exactly what we're talking about here, natural talent as a sniper. Cheechoo had a 56 goal season, and you don't see him anywhere near this list... that's because his goal totals were overstated by the amazing center he had. And I'm not trying to compare Cheechoo to Heatley. But when you have a good center, it does tend to overstate your totals a little, and after he left Atlanta Heatley's almost always had a stacked offensive team to help him out. Nash has NEVER had that.

We seem to be stuck in those early years... why not look at what each has done since Heatley had those 50 goal seasons? In 282 games in the last 4 years, Heatley has 137 goals (with Spezza/Alfredsson/etc still and Thornton/Marleau/Boyle/etc in San Jose). As for Nash, he has 132 goals in 280 games. Pretty similar numbers, with or without great centers, and much more relevant numbers as well.

No one is saying Heatley sucks.

Phil T's picture

I'd take Nash over Heatley on my team any time.

Heatley tends to score off rebounds and one-timers while Nash creates plays out of nothing.