Nikita Kucherov scored the 500th point of his NHL career last night in the Lightning’s victory over Panthers. At 26 years old, Kucherov is in just his seventh season in the NHL. He was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft and became an impact player almost immediately upon his debut in the 2013-2014 season.
Last night was the 481st game of his career. According to the Hockey Reference Play Index, the only players to reach 500 points faster this century are Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Dany Heatley. If we go all the way back to 1990, Kucherov is still the 15th fastest. That list contains names like Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov, and Peter Forsberg.
Comparing him to players from before that is nonsensical as the scoring environment in the 70s and 80s was so much different. We saw last year during Kuch’s 128 point season that he’s one of the elite scorers of the last few generations. While he probably won’t ever replicate last season’s production, he’ll likely threaten to post another season around a point per game, which will keep him among the very best scorers of his generation.
The thing that makes Kucherov an exceptional player is that his scoring isn’t empty. Yes, he racks up points. But he doesn’t do so in a way that costs his team defensively. Over the last three seasons, he’s tenth in the NHL in Wins Above Replacement according to Evolving Hockey. He’s one of the best players in the world and milestones like his 500th point give us a chance to stop and appreciate how fun he is to watch.
Other Lightning Org News
Yesterday, the Bolts recalled Mathieu Joseph from Syracuse to fill in for Tyler Johnson, who aggravated his previous lower body injury. Joseph played just two games in Syrcacuse and scored a goal. The coaches seem happy with Mitchell Stephens in the lineup so Joseph could be headed back to the AHL when Johnson is healthy, which will presumably be some time after the holiday break.
Other Hockey News
Yesterday was a day of explosive offense in the Atlantic Division. In addition to the Lightning’s 6-1 thumping of the Panthers, the Leafs beat the Canes 8-6, the Habs beat the Jets 6-2, and the Bruins beat the Caps 7-3. If you’re counting, that’s 27 goals among the winning teams in those four games. Buffalo and Ottawa played a tame game by comparison with the Senators winning 3-1. After all that, the standings remain basically the same. The Lightning are still in 6th place but just two points out of third with two games in hand.
While Brent Seabrook missed a fourth straight game Monday, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said the team is close to announcing what is wrong with the 34-year-old defenseman.
”We should have an announcement on that soon,” Bowman said before the Hawks took on New Jersey at the United Center. “He’s had some medical challenges he’s been dealing with for a while and we wanted to finally go get some diagnostics. When we have something to announce, we will.”
Seabrook still has five seasons at $6.875 million left on his contract. He hasn’t been an effective player for several seasons now. This contract was always going to end badly for Chicago and it appears that bad ending could be arriving even earlier than expected. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Seabrook head to Long Term Injured Reserve given the language Bowman used, Seabrook’s age, and the Hawks’ salary cap situation.