The sniper is the guy who can step into the slot and wire a puck past the goaltender in the blink of an eye. The precise shooter with whom a team can look to in their time of need, their time of desperation, when the game is on the line and your need that goal.
Players like Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton; two of the best play-makers in the world may be able to set it up but someone has to put the puck in the net. Every team needs or at least wants that substantial goal-scorer. That go-to-guy.
To some, the sniper may be considered a selfish player. The guy who shoots too much and doesn't pass enough. But, that's his job. Everybody has a role to play and no one man is bigger than his team or his responsibility to said team. And when the sniper goes off, keep an eye on that puck because it may just hit the back of the net. The sniper is the guy who tans with red lights. The one whose shot can shatter glass and even shatter bones if blocked the wrong way.
The NHL is full of these guys. And while some may stand out more than others; if you sniff 'em out and pay enough attention, you just may be surprised at what you find. When recognizing a natural goal-scorer, your eyes fixate towards him on every drive.
In this article we will take a gander at the league's top snipers. The ones who can make magic happen in a split-second. The guys who can often make goal-scoring look like a trivial task. The slap-shot-hot-shots of the hockey world. Now, what differentiates a sniper from a good all-around player is that the vast majority of a sniper's points come from goals. Therefore, although Sidney Crosby is capable of scoring fantastic goals, he routinely has far more assists than goals at the end of the season. Thus, for the purposes of this list, he is not a sniper.
Now, let's go ahead and get to the list as we take a look at the top 20 snipers in the NHL today …
20 Ryan Johansen
The Columbus Blue Jackets selected Ryan Johansen 4th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The young center netted thirty-three goals in the 2013-14 season in a breakthrough year. At the tender age of twenty-two, Johansen has his entire career ahead of him and his future looks bright. Coming off a playoff appearance, the Blue Jackets have a lot to look forward to, especially when it comes to Ryan Johansen.
19 Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner is not only a Calder Memorial Trophy recipient but also the youngest player to have played in the NHL All-Star Game. As a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, Skinner is quickly climbing the ladder on route to becoming a franchise player. After accumulating a career high in goals last season, he is about to enter his fifth year in the NHL. While sitting only three goals shy of a hundred career total, a solid start to his career, Jeff Skinner has proven that he can put the puck in the net when it counts.
18 Michael Ryder
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Michael Ryder 216th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. However, he did not make his NHL debut until the 2003-04 season – a year in which he managed to score twenty-five goals leading all rookies in the category. He would then have back-to-back thirty goal seasons for the Habs before falling into a slump the following year. This poor performance would cause the team not to re-sign Ryder. Since his days in Montreal, he has recorded a thirty-five goal year in Dallas but has been struggling for the most part. But hey, hope is never lost in hockey.
17 Chris Kunitz
Chris Kunitz is one of those guys who flies under the radar. You don't notice him until he is right there in front of you and throwing a puck into the net. Playing on the top line in Pittsburgh along side Crosby or Malkin (depending on the circumstances) adds a lot of pressure on a player. But, Kunitz thrives in the face of adverse pressure. Finding a way to remain a productive player and maintain a top roster spot on a team of top-tier stars. While he may not be the face of the Penguins organization, he is definitely located somewhere on the body.
16 James Neal
Once another pivotal part of the Penguins body, James Neal, his quick hands and rapid sharp-shooting abilities have attributed to much of Pittsburgh's success over the past few seasons. Another top-line player, often skating beside the Prince of the franchise, Evgeni Malkin, Neal's best season came in 2011-12 when he scored an even forty goals. Now, on his way to Music City to join the colorful cast of the Nashville Predators, James Neal would be looked upon to help carry the team to the next level.
15 Joe Pavelski
Joe Pavelski manged to score seven goals in his first twelve games with the San Jose Sharks during his rookie season back in the 2006-07 season making it evident from the start that putting pucks in the net was something Sharks' fans could get use to seeing. During the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff, Pavelski became the first player since Mario Lemieux to record three consecutive multi-goal games. That's good company right there. Joe Pavelski has certainly done well over in San Jose – especially being a 205th overall draft choice.
14 Patrick Marleau
Much like his teammate in the previous entry, Patrick Marleau has often been called upon by the Sharks to score the big goal when needed. In fact, he is the all-time leading goal-scorer in franchise history with 437. The wily veteran also leads the club in all-time power-play goals, which is a strong component of any team. Marleau has proven himself as a leader in San Jose, long-serving the team through think and thin since he was drafted back in 1997 and having earned the respect of fans and players alike.
13 Patrick Sharp
Patrick Sharp has enjoyed two Stanley Cup victories as a member of the storied Chicago Blackhawks franchise, contributing in a huge way to the Hawks 2010 Stanley Cup run by racking up eleven goals throughout the playoffs. It took a few years for Sharp to truly find his footing in the league but has since gone on to achieve success. Including an NHL All-Star Game MVP Award and an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada. What comes next for Patrick Sharp? Perhaps his name being called at the NHL Awards?
12 Thomas Vanek
As a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Thomas Vanek's numbers seemed to fluctuate season-to-season. But, when he finds his stride, Vanek looks like a natural-born goal-scorer, having put forth two forty goal campaigns. Last season was a bounce-around year for Vanek, splitting time in Buffalo, New York, and Montreal and accumulated only twenty-seven goals in seventy-eight games combined. Obviously, not his most productive season. However, Vanek will be given a fresh start this fall in Minnesota where he is sure to find his stride once again.
11 Alexander Semin
During his time as a Washington Capital, Alexander Semin could have been perceived as a second-fiddle-goal-scorer to Alexander Ovechkin. While that wouldn't necessarily be an inaccurate perception, Semin was able to hold his own with good numbers and a forty-goal season in 2009-10. Since joining the Carolina Hurricanes his ability to put the puck in the net has seemed to lessen. But, Semin is the type of player who can easily turn things around and when he does, look out NHL, because he can be one dangerous shooter.
10 Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty notched thirty-nine goals last season for the Montreal Canadiens which was a career best. In the hockey city, it is not always easy to win over the fans but Pacioretty has done just fine with that. The road ahead seems paved with prosperity for the Habs and a large part of that comes from our Pacioretty, who will hopefully remain healthy and happy here in Montreal while the battle-cry of the city rings out, longing for cup number twenty-five.
9 Jeff Carter
Standing six-foot-four, Jeff Carter is a big body to move or skate around on the ice. Drafted to the Philadelphia Flyers in '03, he quickly become a consistent goal-scorer for the team. Now a member of the Los Angeles Kings and a two-time Stanley Cup champion, Carter continues that consistency out on the West Coast. And, as the Kings prepare to take the ice again for another season, Jeff Carter will be there, standing tall as he always does and looking to provide his contribution to the team as a well-oiled-goal-scoring-machine.
8 Tyler Seguin
Winning a Stanley Cup in your rookie season is something backyard-ice-pond hockey players dream about all over the world. For Tyler Seguin, that dream became a reality in 2011 when he was a member of the Boston Bruins. Seguin still has a lot to work on but his overall performance thus far in the NHL has been quite impressive. He is a naturally-gifted hockey player whose horizon is bright. Now a member of the Dallas Stars and coming off a career-high thirty-seven goals, Seguin is set to take the reigns and lead his team to glory.
7 Marian Gaborik
The Minnesota Wild's all-time leading goal-scorer, Marian Gaborik sure put up his share of great goals before leaving town in 2009 and heading to New York where he would produce two forty-plus goal seasons. From New York it was off to Columbus for a rather unsuccessful stint before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings, just in time for their playoff run and eventual Stanley Cup victory. Recently signing a seven year contract with the club which will see Gaborik enter the twilight of his NHL career as a King.
6 Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel is undoubtedly a red-hot hockey player right now. The unsung leader of the Toronto Maple Leafs, much is expected from Kessel this upcoming year. With five thirty-plus goal seasons already tallied, its no wonder that Kessel is the star of Toronto. Phil Kessel is a man of strength and perseverance who has overcome a great personal trauma, coming out of it better than before and turning himself into one of the game's elite players.
5 Rick Nash
Possibly one of the most underrated players in the NHL today has to be Rick Nash. Perhaps it was his years in Columbus on a developing team where he was a 1st overall draft choice that kept him unnoticed. But, his tenure as a Blue Jacket is definitely worth noting, having scored 289 goals during his time with the team. Nash is currently a member of the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the New York Rangers, where he continues to mold his style while at the top of his game.
4 Corey Perry
Corey Perry captured the Hart Memorial Trophy back in 2010-11 following an excellent season on the ice where he lead the league in goal-scoring with a number of fifty. Subsequently, because of that number, he was also awarded the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. The first Duck to do so since Teemu Selanne. Perry is a strong hockey player with many good years ahead and his production value is definitely high. Currently in the midst of a long-term contract with Anaheim, fans can expect a lot of fireworks to be ignited by Corey Perry.
3 Jarome Iginla
Another all-team leading goal-scorer to discuss, the long-serving captain of the Calgary Flames, Jarome Iginla has found new life in Boston where he has recently put together a thirty goal season. Iginla has already surpassed the five-hundred career goal mark and is well on his way to six-hundred. An outstanding power forward who will not only score against your team but fight you as well. Iginla has never been afraid to drop the gloves. Although he is getting older and approaching the end of his career, Jarome Iginla is still one of the best goal-scorers in the game today. He will likely further his rejuvenation by joining the promising Colorado Avalanche.
2 Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos is the most promising young player in the NHL. His sixty goal performance during the 2011-12 season was absolutely spectacular. At the age of twenty-four, he is already established as one of the best goal-scorers in the league. As an opposing goaltender, you do not want to see the puck on Steven Stamkos' tape when you look up ice. The guy will strike fear into your heart. But, fear not, awith the kind of shot that Stamkos has chances are you won't even see the puck go past you ... but you just might feel the wind.
1 Alexander Ovechkin
The great and powerful Russian superstar. The captain of the capitol of the United States of America. The multiple-time Hart Memorial, Ted Lindsey, Art Ross, and Maurice Richard trophy winner. The NHL's rookie of the year … and the list goes on for the great #8. With a shot that looks less like a hockey puck in motion and more like a cannon ball on a path of destruction, Alexander Ovechkin will go down not only as one of the greatest goal-scorers to play the game but one of the greatest to play the game, period … The top sniper in the NHL today.