Nikita Kucherov has 104 points through 65 games. That’s a lot. He’s scoring so much that he’s put himself in position to have one of the highest point totals in recent memory. A couple weeks ago, we started checking on his pace compared to the best seasons in the NHL’s salary cap era, which started in 2005-2006 after the lost year due to the lockout.
As a refresher, Kucherov is chasing three players. Sidney Crosby was the last player to put up 120 points. He did that in 2006-2007. In 2005-2006, Jaromir Jagr put up 123 points and Thornton put up 125 points. Aside from those, the best seasons were Thornton’s 114 in 06-07 and Evegni Malkin’s 113 in 08-09. Without being too presumptuous, it seems like Kucherov should be able to catch both of those so we’re going to focus on the 120+ point seasons. Even just writing the sentence is absurd but nonetheless, we’ll carry on.
One thing to note about Thornton’s 125 point season that I didn’t mention last time we did this exercise is that he was traded during that season. The reason that’s relevant here is because he got three extra games compared to the other players on this list. Between the two teams, he had an opportunity to play in 85 games. He only played in 81 due to injury but had he missed four games in an 82 game season, he likely would not be the cap era single season scoring record holder.
As of last night’s game, here is how Kucherov is tracking against those three great seasons.
Last time we checked, he was barely in the lead at almost an identical pace to Crosby. Now, he’s put a small margin between himself and the others. In Crosby’s 120 point season, this is the point when he fell back to the pack after being on pace to surpass both Thornton and Jagr for much of the year.
To get a more focused view on the season to this point, here’s the same chart but only showing up to game 65.
Despite not scoring last night against the Bruins, Kucherov is still on an historic scoring pace. As recently as a few years ago, wondering whether we would see another player score 120 points was reasonable. Now, Kucherov is tracking toward achieving that. A point per game pace over his final 17 games would put him at 121. And he’s been scoring at well above a point per game all season.
Kuch’s next chance to add this staggering point total comes on Saturday against the lowly Ottawa Senators. After being held scoreless in Boston, he’ll be looking to get make up some lost ground. Nothing is guaranteed in the NHL and even a team like the Sens can pull off an upset. But if the Lightning and Kucherov play to their potential, he has a good chance to improve his pace and take a few more steps toward history.