Believe in Corey Perry and His Tremendous Start


Every season, there are early standouts who get off to hot starts. Though the season is young and production usually cools off, these strong performances tend to fascinate. While many of these performances can be shrugged aside and seen as something that cannot be sustained, there are other figures that are believable and worth monitoring.

For the Anaheim Ducks, linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are tied for second in the NHL in points scored with ten apiece (John Tavares is in first after an assist against the Boston Bruins on Thursday). Getzlaf is continuing to produce on the stat sheet after a marvelous 2013-2014 campaign, where he finished second in the NHL in points and was the Hart Trophy runner-up. Getzlaf has one of the league’s best pure goal-scorers in Perry to create scoring chances for. With ten points in seven games, Getzlaf is on pace to score a bit over 117 points in an 82 games. In this day and age, scoring over 100 points is a tremendous feat, especially in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, where scoring is limited and play is mostly physical. While 117 points is stretching it, I believe that Getzlaf should hover around the 90 to 100 point mark, and he has a great chance to best his career high of 91 points, done in 2008-2009.

Getzlaf’s chief linemate, however, has scored goals at a high clip this season. Perry has eight goals in seven games, but he has gone beyond “scoring in bunches.” Perry already has a pair of hat tricks within the first seven games (in the opener against Pittsburgh, and last night against Buffalo), and he has scored a goal in two of the others. Perry is not the only player with eight goals early: New York Rangers forward Rick Nash also has eight goals in seven games. However, there are multiple reasons why Perry can sustain this torrid start as one of the elite scorers in the league.

To start, Perry plays with one of the game’s premier playmakers in Getzlaf. It is much easier for elite goal scorers to get goals when the play with a great playmaker, and there are few players with the passing ability, ice vision, and chemistry that Getzlaf has with Perry.

Alex Ovechkin has Nicklas Backstrom as his chief linemate, and the Russian is still, in my opinion, the best goal scorer in the league. He will always be a major candidate to win the Rocket Richard Trophy. Despite criticisms about his defensive play, Ovechkin’s ability to score has never been in question. Under Washington’s new coach, Barry Trotz, Ovechkin may be asked to sacrifice scoring in order to play the tight defensive schemes that make Trotz known as one of the greatest defensive minds in the league. Thus far, Ovechkin sits at an even rating for the season, and he may not reach the storied 60 goal plateau that many expected him to.

The other major contender for the Rocket Richard this season is Steven Stamkos, who is tied for second in the NHL with five goals. Stamkos’ Lightning have high expectations this season and have improved their team in many areas in order to hopefully make a long playoff run in the spring. Stamkos, who already has 60, 51, and 45 goals in a season during his very young career, is feared as one of the league’s deadliest offensive weapons. There may be concerns about his health after his broken tibia last season, but he seems to be fully recovered and back to being the offensive force on the ice that he was before. Remember, that was the first injury he suffered: Stamkos had not missed a game because of injury in his entire career before the broken leg. However, if Jon Cooper and the Lightning decide to be cautious with Stamkos’ minutes, then he too may see a dip in point scoring. There are also questions about whether Ryan Callahan and rookie Jonathan Drouin can help replace the production of Martin St. Louis, who had formed tremendous chemistry with Stamkos before asking to be traded to the New York Rangers this past season.

Nash, who also currently has eight goals, is another player who could be in the conversation for the Rocket Richard. However, Nash’s linemates in New York are nowhere near the level of Perry’s linemates in Anaheim. The Rangers are currently without top centerman Derek Stepan, so Nash has had to play with rookie centerman Kevin Hayes and a young Chris Kreider, who has a career high point total of 37. Unless the Rangers improve their situation down the middle quickly, Nash may not keep his torrid start going. He is always going to be in the conversation as a top goal-scorer because of his talent, but he will need better teammates to really make a push for the Rocket Richard.

Also, there is another dynamic duo in the league, deemed by many as “The next Getzlaf and Perry”. The combination of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn has been excellent this season, with Seguin already having ten points and Benn with eight. Both had tremendous years last season, with Seguin finishing 4th in the NHL in scoring with 84 points and Benn finishing tied for 8th with 79. The two players are still young: Seguin is only 24, while Benn is still 25. Neither player has hit his athletic prime, and both should continue to improve and be annual forces in the league to come. Either one of these two could be a dark horse candidate to win the Rocket Richard, but they may take goals away from each other.

Just as how I have shown other players’ chances to win the Rocket Richard, I can explain why Perry has as great a chance as anybody to take home his second Rocket Richard trophy this year.

Perry is off to the best start of his career, in terms of goal scoring. When he won the Hart Trophy in the 2010-2011 season, Perry only had five goals in the entire month of October. In fact, the most goals Perry had ever scored in the opening month of the NHL season was eight, in 2009-2010, and he didn’t net his eighth goal in 2010-2011 until the 19th game. Perry already has eight goals in October after seven contests, and could easily have more at the end of the month, with five games left on the schedule this month (Columbus, San Jose, Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas). The Ducks are a better team on the power-play, with a 21.4% conversion percentage with the man advantage this season, good for 12th in the league. Last season, the Ducks only converted 16.0% of their power plays, which was in the bottom third of the league.

Getzlaf and Perry are two of the most dominant 5-on-5 players in the NHL today, and if Perry continues to score at even strength while benefiting from the improved power-play, then Perry’s goal scoring numbers should increase. Remember, Perry only scored eight power-play goals last season, but had 14 when he scored 50 in 2010-2011. If everything clicks, it could very well be Perry who takes home the Rocket Richard after this season.