We have witnessed an offensive boom in the NHL this season, with per-game scoring at its highest rate in 26 years while the league’s best players continue their assault on the record books.
In 2021-22 alone, there currently sit five players with 100 points or more. And the best part is, after the final stretch, there could be even more.
Let’s take a look at the four players who are most likely to join the century club by the season’s end.
Matthew Tkachuk – Calgary Flames
Point Total: 99
Games Remaining: 5
Likelihood: 99.9999999 percent
It’s amazing how much can change in a year.
Roughly 12 months ago, Matthew Tkachuk’s teammates left him to twist in the wind after Jake Muzzin cheekily flipped a puck at his chest following a home loss to the Maple Leafs, with whispers hinting at the Flames having tired of his brash approach then prompting trade rumors to see out in the offseason.
Fast forward to today, and Tkachuk has pulled off a complete 180.
The 24-year-old is cemented as a central pillar on one of the best teams in the NHL, sitting one point away from his first 100-point season while establishing himself as arguably the top power forward in hockey.
The Flames, having spent the bulk of Tkachuk’s tenure floating in the ether, are legitimate contenders. Everything is coming together!
Look, Tkachuk was always expected to take another step forward in his development. But few people, myself included, ever saw him emerging as the 40-goal, 100-point battering ram he is today.
Is a 16 percent shooting percentage in 2021-22 a tad higher than the 13 percent average from his career? Sure. But it’s not like Tkachuk is riding a wildly unsustainable heater of puck luck.
This is him. He’s just really good.
Not to mention, with the Stars, Canucks, Predators, Wild, and Jets left on the schedule, it’s practically a certainty that Tkachuk will hit the century mark by the season’s end and put a fancy little bow on one of the most impressive campaigns in modern Flames history.
Mitch Marner – Toronto Maple Leafs
Point Total: 95
Games Remaining: 5
Likelihood: AT THIS RATE, ABSOLUTELY
Give Mitch Marner his due.
Auston Matthews has gobbled up the bulk of the headlines this season — and rightfully so, given how he’s on pace to hit 60 goals for the first time in a decade in the game’s biggest market — but the heater Marner is riding at the moment is downright absurd.
Since returning from a COVID-19 absence on Jan. 15, Marner — and you might want to sit down for this — has racked up a nearly unfathomable 73 points in 41 games as of Wednesday morning, out-pacing all other NHLers during that span by a wide margin, and, most importantly, hitting his stride just as the postseason comes into view.
Marner could chug along as one of the league’s top playmakers with both hands tied behind his back. It’s his bread and butter from him. Easymoney.
What has propelled the 24-year-old into the NHL’s stratosphere this season, though, is a remarkable evolution as a goal-scorer, with Marner’s newfound combination of a heavier shot and improved confidence to simply let it rip from all angles carrying him to a career-best 34 goals and counting.
Forget 100 points. There’s an outside chance Marner could hit 40 goals by the end of the season, a feat that would’ve otherwise been unthinkable a few short months ago.
The playoffs obviously stand as the true litmus test after Marner’s dreadful performance in 2021. And there’s no guarantee he rectifies it, either. But hitting 100 points for the first time in his career would likely do wonders for Marner’s confidence as he and his team embark upon arguably the most crucial postseason in franchise history.
JT Miller – Vancouver Canucks
Point Total: 93
Games Remaining: 5
Likelihood: IT’LL BE TIGHT
I didn’t think JT Miller had it in him. At least not as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Given all the turmoil surrounding the team the Canucks season — disastrous start to the year, full-scale organizational gutting of the coaching and management staffs, reported friction between Miller and Horvat on team leadership — it’s remarkable that Miller stands just five games away from capping off the most productive campaign of his career by leaps and bounds.
Prior to 2021-22, Miller’s offensive pinnacle was the 72 points he scored as a 26-year-old in the 2019-20 season that was ultimately paused due to COVID. You don’t see many players, particularly power forwards with over 600 games of hard miles on their body, suddenly peak only a few months before their 30th birthday.
That’s what Miller has done this year, though, having somehow tuned out the external, and, frankly, internal noise that otherwise should have derailed him, and instead given a previously written-off Canucks team a fighting chance at a playoff spot.
It’ll take a miracle for them to make it, of course, with the Canucks’ loss to the Ottawa Senators in the shootout on Tuesday evening nearly nailing the door shut. But the sheer importance that is now on every second of every remaining game gives Miller more than enough motivation to end the season on a roll.
Meetings with the Wild, Flames, Kraken, Kings, and Oilers to round out the schedule won’t be easy. But Miller has shown a penchant for stepping up in the Canucks’ direst moments.
And with the season on the line, seven points in five games is not unthinkable.
Artemiy Panarin – New York Rangers
Point Total: 93
Games Remaining: 5
Likelihood: NOT IMPOSSIBLE
Since moving to the Big Apple in 2019, Artemiy Panarin has thrust himself into consideration as one of the best free-agent signings of all time.
How could he not be?
Panarin has done nothing but dominate since inking that seven-year, $81.5 million mega-deal with the Rangers, scoring at over a 90-point pace in each of the three seasons he’s spent on Broadway despite two of them being interrupted by COVID (his 58 points in 42 games during the pandemic-shortened 2021 campaign averaged out to 113 over an 82-game sample).
2021-22 has been no different, with Panarin’s 93 points in 72 games landing him just outside the top-five in NHL scoring while giving him a decent shot at eclipsing 100 for the first time ever.
Now, it’s important to note that the Rangers are sitting comfortably atop their division with home-ice advantage for the playoffs already locked down. There’s not much left to play for aside from fending off a potential last-minute challenge by the Penguins for the divisional crown. But Panarin also has the likes of the Islanders, the sans-Frederik Andersen Hurricanes, and the basement-dwelling Canadiens as potentially soft matchups with which to pad his stats from him.
The lack of importance in New York’s remaining slate of games gives Panarin worse odds to join the century club than, say, Miller has despite their identical point totals. But all it takes is a disastrous performance or two from a slate of opponents whose goaltenders have given them many this season to push Panarin over the top.
Either way, Blackhawks fans are punching the air right now.