Commentary

A look at the top shootout stars

Updated: December 2, 2007, 1:37 PM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

In the inaugural season of the shootout (2005-06), superstars were called upon to try to win the game.

Often, that failed miserably -- Joe Sakic (0-for-7), Jarome Iginla (1-for-9), Ilya Kovalchuk (1-for-10), Mats Sundin (1-for-7) and Dany Heatley (2-for-8). Last season, many of the league's top scorers again failed to deliver in the clutch  Vincent Lecavalier (3-for-12), Alexander Ovechkin (2-for-12), Sidney Crosby (5-for-15) and Evgeni Malkin (3-for-12).

So just who is scoring in shootouts?

They are rarely the guys leading the league in points. Some don't even see time on the power play. Others are basically fourth-line players. Still, with the game on the line, these are the players who are front and center, driving goalies nuts, scoring the deciding goals and making the highlights on "SportsCenter."

In this week's 10 Degrees, we look at the top shootout stars since the format's inception.

10. Ales Hemsky, Edmonton (10 goals, 27 attempts)
No one has scored more shootout goals this season than Hemsky (four). The Oilers forward already has scored shootout winners to beat Anaheim and Minnesota. Hemsky doesn't get rattled regardless who's in net because his moves and quick release beat big, agile and/or aggressive goalies. This season, he has scored twice on Roberto Luongo, once on Jean-Sebastien Giguere and once on Josh Harding.

9. Brian Gionta, New Jersey Devils (11 goals, 24 attempts)
The Devils' little big man is so shifty and quick that he is one of the most feared shootout players in the game. In the 2005-06 season, Gionta scored 48 goals, 10 of which were game winners. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Gionta faces the game's best goalie, Martin Brodeur, in practice.

8. Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning (11 goals, 21 attempts)
In regulation time, he's not even the league's top-scoring player named Richards (see Mike in Philly); but when it comes to shootouts, Brad Richards is in a league of his own. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has a flare for the dramatic, scoring on more than 50 percent of his shootout attempts. Richards has never had a 30-goal season in the NHL, but he is a former 70-goal scorer in junior and knows a little something about finishing when the game is on the line.

7. Sergei Zubov, Dallas Stars (12 goals, 25 attempts)
A three-time NHL All-Star and two-time Stanley Cup winner, Zubov has a wealth of hockey experience. It also doesn't hurt that he has one of the most accurate and hard shots in the league. Zubov is one of only a handful of defensemen you'll find as regulars in the shootout. He is one of the game's best puck handlers, and his booming shot keeps goalies off balance. In a shootout, he is not afraid to wind up and let it blast. If he sees the chance to deke, he is more than capable of skating around even the quickest goalies.

6. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings (11 goals, 21 attempts)
Right now, no one is as lethal in the shootout as Detroit's Datsyuk, who has scored on his past three attempts. He has nearly as many shootout goals this season (three) as regulation goals (five). He is one of the game's most patient scorers; he will wait until the absolute last second before committing to shoot or deke. Datsyuk is equally proficient on the backhand and forehand, which keeps goalies guessing.

5. Slava Kozlov, Atlanta Thrashers (13 goals, 20 attempts)
Kozlov is a student of the game, and his 16 years of NHL experience have come in handy when it matters most. A 10-time 20-goal scorer, Kozlov has made the shootout an art. His quick release and deceptively hard shot have overmatched even the best goalies. He has scored on eight of his past 13 attempts.

4. Jussi Jokinen, Dallas Stars (15 goals, 26 attempts)
Jokinen continues to drive goalies mad. His 10 goals in the first season of the shootout led the NHL, and he scored on his first nine attempts. His favorite move is to shoot low blocker, but he's not afraid to drag the puck with one hand and slide it past a sprawling goalie. Jokinen's 15 career shootout goals is an unprecedented mark. Not bad for a player who was stuck in the Finnish Elite League for four seasons.

3. Erik Christensen, Pittsburgh Penguins (10 goals, 17 attempts)
On a team with Crosby and Malkin, it's Christensen winning games for the Penguins when it comes to a shootout. The former junior star led the NHL with eight shootout goals last season (tied with Mikko Koivu), and he continues to stymie goalies this year with two shootout goals in three attempts. Christensen has a long reach, a great slap shot, and an uncanny ability to stop and change direction on a dime.

2. Paul Kariya, St. Louis Blues (12 goals, 19 attempts)
You have to wonder whether Canada might have won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics had Kariya been available for its shootout against Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic. Kariya is still one of the fastest players in the league, and his mobility and stickhandling are second to none. A seven-time 30-goal scorer, Kariya has enough moxie to wait for goalies to commit before burning them with a quick deke or, his preferred move, a 5-hole shot.

1. Petteri Nummelin, Minnesota Wild (8 goals, 9 attempts)
After toiling around the Swiss league for five years, Nummelin has found a home in the NHL, thanks largely to the shootout. With just seven regular goals in his NHL career but eight shootout goals, this unsung defenseman is, by definition, a specialist. His 89 percent success rate in the shootout is impressive considering goalies collectively stop more than 67 percent of attempts.

As a player who rarely finds himself in scoring position during the game, Nummelin uses the element of surprise during the shootout. His incredible balance, stickhandling and smooth skating have allowed him to beat the likes of Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff and Nikolai Khabibulin. Along with Mikko Koivu (8-for-16), Nummelin gives the Wild a one-two shootout punch. With close to 10 percent of games finishing in a shootout, Nummelin is a valuable asset as teams fight for points to get to the postseason.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.