Crashing the Crease: Know Your Enemy! Who are the best shootout forwards?

Last night, Patrick Kane scored yet another shootout goal that displayed a huge amount of finesse and once again reminded Flyers fans that the draft lottery is the devil. Even though Schneider got his pad on Kane’s attempt and initially appeared to stop it, the puck bounced off of him and in the net, adding yet another tally to Kane’s career numbers.

It wasn’t as fancy as his numerous SO goals, but it got me thinking aloud: is Kane the most dangerous shootout forward for a goaltender to face? The immediate counter argument that sprang up was “no, Datsyuk is.” And with easily one of the best sets of mitts in the league – not to mention a highlight reel a mile long – Pavel Datsyuk is certainly a valid choice.

To settle things, I took to the career numbers to find out who really was a goalie’s worst nightmare in the sideshow. I chose to rank the shooters with a minimum of 20 attempts by their shooting percentage in order to determine who was the most effective. 20 attempts is a fairly arbitrary number, but I chose it to be inclusive of young players like Tyler Seguin who are unquestionably good at the shootout while also eliminating the occasional 3-for-3 100% outliers.

Here is the list of the top 20 shooters with a minimum of 20 attempts:

Frans Nielsen (61.5% in 39 attempts)
Tyler Seguin (52.2% in 23 attempts)
Michael Handzus (50% in 36 attempts)
T.J. Oshie (50% in 36)
Shawn Horcoff (50% in 20)
Toews (49.0% in 49)
Datsyuk (47.0% in 66)
Parise (47.0% in 66)
Stoll (46.9% in 32)
J. Jokinen (45.5% in 66)
Vrbata (45.5% in 66)
Boyes (45.3% in 64)
Burrows (44.0% in 25)
Wheeler (43.8% in 32)
Wolski (43.1% in 58)
Mueller (42.9% in 28)
Hejduk (42.4% in 59)
Pavelski (41.8% in 55)
M. Koivu (41.8% in 67)
P. Kane (41.7% in 60)

The results are surprising to say the least. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who’d pick any of the top five to be the best shootout forwards in the league. Datsyuk only comes in at 7th, and Kane is all the way down at number 20 despite their superb skill sets and superstar status.

Some of these surprises may not be so surprising. Nielsen is one of the Islanders’ most underrated talents with a good amount of speed and skill. Oshie has established himself in recent years as a legitimate power forward threat. Handzus and Horcoff, however, are somewhat surprising. Most Flyers fans will remember a Handzus that had lost a step towards the end of his Philly tenure who was never an enormous offensive threat. However, he still has a good shot and solid instincts one-on-one, which have helped him in the shootout:

As a goaltender, being good in the shootout is an entirely different animal than in the first 65 minutes. Justin previously broke down the Flyers’ shootout woes and went into what it takes to be a strong shootout goaltender. One thing is for sure, facing any of these 20 guys is no easy task.