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Our Final Richard Trophy Contestants...

And now, our review of the early-season goal scoring leaders concludes with our final seven contenders for the Rocket Richard Trophy, tied with 13 goals apiece (as of last Sunday night, from whence all these stats are taken). I'll follow up after this with another post summarizing the results, so you can come back months later and see whether this holds any water or not...

Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers: Yeah, like this guy ever led the league in anything! Jagr's shoulder trouble is the only forseeable obstacle to his contending for the goal-scoring lead this year. He's got enough talent around him to get the puck, and he's on pace once again to post somewhere around 350 shots. His shooting percentage has typically been in the 12-15% range over the last five years (sometimes even higher before that), and his average Shot Quality of 12.48% would indicate that he'll probably end up in the same range this season. He gets 6:30 of power play time per game, good for third-best among our contenders, and will constantly be pushed by Brendan Shanahan as they climb further into the career scoring stratosphere. Prognosis: Prime Contender

Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks: The Finnish Flash came back from the lockout last year looking more like his late-90's self, sniping his way to 40 goals. This year, the potent Anaheim power play helps his cause even more. He already has 10 PP goals, as opposed to 18 in all of last year. His Shot Quality of 13.71% ranks 13th among players with 50+ shots, so he's getting those dangerous opportunities which should help his shooting percentage stay somewhere in the 12-17% range. The only thing holding him back from serious contending for the title is that he doesn't get as many shots as some of the other elite scorers. He hasn't topped the 300-shot mark since his ridiculous rookie season in Winnipeg (76 goals on 387 shots), and is on track for around 275 this year. Prognosis: Second-Tier Contender

Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning: A regular member of the 30-goal club at the age of 26, Lecavalier may well be entering his prime years as an NHL scorer. There's not much to his performance this year, however, that would make one think he's ready to jump to the 50-goal plateau that has usually been required of a Richard Trophy winner. He's tracking for just over 300 shots (just like last year), along with a 12-13% shooting percentage that is in line with his results over the last 5 years. Given his Shot Quality so far of 10.73%, that shooting percentage probably won't budge much higher, so for Lecavalier, a 40-goal season would make for a nice step forward. Prognosis: Not In The Running

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames: The only active two-time winner of the Richard Trophy, Iginla bears the burden of playing within an anemic offense. Among our contenders, only Simon Gagne's Flyers boast a more sluggish assault. While his opportunities for success would appear similar to last year (total shots right around 300, one less shift/game on the PK, one more at even strength), his shooting percentage of 14.6% is slightly more positive, so he's currently cashing in more often. His overall Shot Quality so far comes in at 11.22%, so I wouldn't expect that to go any higher, unless something drastic happens in Calgary, like a personnel or strategic change. Prognosis: Not In The Running

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: What to make of a dynamic rookie with no prior North American experience? Well, the early weeks have been exciting, and the Penguins certainly seem committed to giving Malkin every chance to produce. He's on a pace to fire over 250 shots, and gets 6:38 on the power play each game (second only to Ilya Kovalchuk among Richard Trophy contenders). His early shooting percentage of 17.6% seems a tad on the fortunate side, however, given his average Shot Quality of 11.59. He's taking above-average shots, but not as regularly dangerous as Martin St. Louis, Chris Kunitz, or Martin Straka, who all boast SQ above 14%. Unless Malkin proves out to be a truly outstanding sniper, I'd expect that shooting percentage to come back down a bit, and for him to finish somewhere around the 35-goal mark. Not bad for a rookie, but no chance at leading the league. Prognosis: Not In The Running

Brian Rolston, Minnesota Wild: Wild seems a perfect word to describe Rolston's shooting - he's firing often (on track for 375 shots), but his shooting percentage is the lowest among the goal-scoring leaders at 10.9%. And before you say that perhaps that means he could get hot, and a boost up to 12-14% would give him a real chance at pouring in more goals, I'd caution that his Shot Quality so far this year stands at only 8.08, easily the lowest of this group. You have to also wonder what the effect will be once Marian Gaborik comes back from injury. Will Rolston still get those opportunities, or will he benefit from the additional scoring threat? It's hard to say, but overall I don't see much upside to Rolston's chances here. Prognosis: Unlikely To Contend

Glen Murray, Boston Bruins: Murray has been scoring goals in bunches ever since coming over to Boston from L.A., and he has a chance to make this his best season yet. He's getting a little less ice time than last season, but the reduction has largely been on the penalty kill, which should allow him to focus more energy on the offensive end of things. His current pace for 285 shots would mark the 2nd-highest total of his career (vs. 331 when he scored 44 goals in 2002-3), and his shooting percentage currently stands at 14.9%, which is somewhat higher than his SQ of 9.97, but not absurdly so. I don't have his SQ ratings for recent seasons, where his shooting percentage has ranged from 12.3-16.5%, so his current rate doesn't strike me as out of line. Unless he starts firing an extra shot per game, however, I only see him challenging that 44-goal personal high, not having a shot at the Richard Trophy. Prognosis: Unlikely To Contend

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