Last season saw some remarkable ups and downs among the NHL goal-scoring leaders. Corey Perry, a known 30-goal scorer, nearly doubled his output year-over-year to lead the pack, while the Canucks' Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin also took the opportunity to blow past their established goal-scoring levels and finish in the top five. Still more remarkably, Michael Grabner went from a waiver-wire pickup to tie for eighth overall in the NHL's goal-scoring race.
Meanwhile, familiar names like Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk suffered through substandard seasons, finishing well back of the pack; Ovechkin put just 32 pucks in the net in 2010-11 while Kovalchuk fell outside the top-20 scorers with a 31-goal campaign.
The real question, though, is not "Who surprised last season?" but rather "Who will lead the way in 2011-12?"
Hockey Prospectus' exclusive VUKOTA projection system attempts to answer that latter question, providing the top 10 projected goal-scorers for the coming season.
The Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy winner in 2009-10 is slated to once again lead the league, according to VUKOTA rankings, and why wouldn't he? The 21-year-old has scored 96 goals over the past two seasons, so a projection of 47 goals is actually a whisker below his average over those years. And with Tampa Bay's power play likely slated to again finish as one of the best in the game, he should have every opportunity to match his previous accomplishments.