Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning is off to a historic start to his 2017-18 NHL season. With a goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, the 24-year-old Kucherov has now scored a goal in each of his first seven games this year.
Kucherov’s incredible goal-scoring streak places him among some impressive company.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 18, 2017
If you haven’t been following Kucherov this season (shame on you if you haven’t), you’ve missed some incredible goals.
For example, check out this wicked snipe against the Detroit Red Wings.
That’s just filthy. Poor Jimmy Howard had no chance on a shot with that kind of release and accuracy.
Just in case you thought Kucherov was a one-dimensional player, consider this goal against the Washington Capitals that shows off his speed and his backhand.
Again, no chance.
Clearly, Kucherov is in dominant form this season. That raises the question: Is it time to officially consider Kucherov among the NHL’s elite?
Some may scoff at that question as they’ve already considered Kucherov to be among the game’s best. That’s fair, but some may have wanted to see a bit more from the Russian before heaping on that kind of praise. Based on the title of this article, you already know which direction we’re leaning.
Kucherov’s growth in the NHL has been remarkable. He started relatively slow, scoring nine goals in 52 games during his rookie season back in 2013-14. He’s then improved in each following season, tallying 29 goals in 2014-15, 30 goals in 2015-16 and an impressive 40 goals in 2016-17. Crossing the 40-goal plateau instantly places a player in a special category, but the subject of time – and proving a player can repeat that kind of success – is always the ultimate test. Based on his start to the 2017-18 campaign, Kucherov has 40+ goals in his sights once again.
Let’s take a quick look at the advanced stats. Ultimately, it’s all about lighting the lamp, but let’s see if Kucherov’s overall stats hold up too.
Kucherov’s Corsi For % in all situations has been rising right along with his goal production. His first year featured a 56.2 Corsi For % (meaning his team controlled the puck more often than not when he was on the ice) before growing to 59.6 in 2014-15. From there, it went to 60.1 and then a crazy 62.0 last year.
Like his Corsi For %, Kucherov’s other advanced stats mostly follow the same trend of rising/improving each year he skates in the NHL.
So far, Kucherov is proving he belongs in the conversation about the NHL’s best scorers. That’s high praise for a player who may still have another gear or two to hit before reaching his ceiling.
Can he maintain his absurd level of production? That remains to be seen, but most indicators suggest that though he may be receiving some puck luck, he’s not an anomaly and he’s not overly lucky. Consider his shooting percentage of 15.2, 14.4 and 16.3 spanning from 2014-15 to 2016-17. With overall team shooting percentages in the NHL averaging just between nine and 10 percent over the past several seasons, Kucherov is above average. However, by maintaining a similar shooting percentage for three consecutive seasons, there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again. In 2017-18, he’s shooting an absurd 29.6 percent. Inevitably, that will drop and revert to a mark closer to his career average, but you can count on Kucherov lighting the lamp repeatedly along the way even with a stiff drop-off.
Believe it. Kucherov is one of the best scorers in the league and deserves the kind of attention reserved for the very best.