by PuckStopsHere on 12/28/11 at 03:59 PM ET
Evgeni Malkin won the NHL scoring title in 2008/09 with 113 points. Since then injuries have prevented him from playing a full season and hence taking another run at the scoring race. It looks like he will be back at or near the top of the race this season. Currently Malkin sits in third place in the scoring race with 42 points in only 29 games played. An early season injury slowed his start to the season, but he is now healthy and playing very well. He is the leading scoring in December so far with 19 points. He has the best point per game in the league among players with more than ten games played (thus excluding Sidney Crosby). I think he is the best bet to win the scoring title this season.
The scoring race so far this season has been led by unlikely players. Phil Kessel of Toronto led the race at the beginning of the season and Claude Giroux of Philadelphia is now in the lead. Neither of these players has ever come close to winning a scoring title.
Former NHL player Georges Laraque published a book this year called The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy where he claims that steroids are somewhat rampant in the NHL. When a player suddenly makes a big jump in his success particularly in a non-Olympic year (such as this one), Laraque claims that steroids are likely a reason for it. While I think it is irresponsible to suggest steroids as the reason for some unlikely top scorers this season and particularly to suggest that certain players are using them based on no evidence except for increases in scoring, this is the pattern that Laraque was speaking about.
Malkin is the more established player who looks most likely to wind up in the scoring lead. Other players such as Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Steve Stamkos are not too far back and they have been near the top in scoring races of the past. This they could also win it, although Malkin looks more likely.
With Sidney Crosby’s concussion problems and Alexander Ovechkin not playing at his established levels, there is no obvious leader in the NHL scoring race. I think Evgeni Malkin is on the verge of establishing himself as that man.
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