Who is the best bet to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals?
Pierre LeBrun: Can you imagine if Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine add the Rocket Richard Trophy to a Calder Trophy? My money's still on leader Sidney Crosby (30 goals) to win the goal derby, although Vladimir Tarasenko (26 goals) and Alex Ovechkin (26 goals) are good bets to finish strong. Jeff Carter (29 goals), Max Pacioretty (28 goals) and Cam Atkinson (27 goals) join Matthews (27 goals) and Laine (26) in a wide-open goal-scoring race. So much fun Tuesday night as Matthews (two goals) and Laine (hat trick) both once again shined on the same night. What impresses me so much about Matthews, 19, is how he has a knack for finding open ice around the net and using his quick hands to jump on loose pucks. He needs so little time or space to make something happen in tight. The best part of his second goal Tuesday night was how he stripped the puck from forward Casey Cizikas at the New York Islanders blue line, which began the whole sequence leading to scoring No. 27 on the season. He creates so much of his own offense.
Scott Burnside: I'm with Pierre on this one. How exciting is it to see so many young guns in the hunt for the goal-scoring crown? And while it's sure hard to bet against Crosby, the fact there are eight other players within four goals makes this race markedly different than in past years, when it was a two- or three-man show usually dominated by Ovechkin, who, not surprisingly, is in the hunt again. Logic suggests that the youngsters Matthews and Laine will fall off the pace, but, well, this crop of young talent seems to be pretty good at ignoring convention, so with that in mind I'm going to go out on a limb and call Laine as a kind of second coming of Teemu Selanne for the Winnipeg Jets to win the goal-scoring race. The weird part is, it might not be enough to earn him rookie of the year honors, not if Matthews can keep his Toronto Maple Leafs in a playoff spot. Regardless, it should be a grand finish.
Craig Custance: No reason to outthink ourselves here. It's Crosby. He leads the league in goals, and he's only played 49 games. He has 10 of those on the power play, which sets up an interesting question for me: Who will lead the league in even-strength goals? That's going to be a heck of a race with Michael Grabner of the New York Rangers your leader at 25. Matthews is second at 23, with three more than Crosby. It would be really impressive if Matthews arrived in the NHL and then went out and led the league in even-strength goals. He's my pick to do it too.
Joe McDonald: The way Crosby has played since December 2015, it's tough to bet against the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain. No. 87 became an even more dangerous player after Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in June. He's won two championships, and the pressure is off, which has made him relax a bit and just play. The results are evident, and he's showing zero signs of slowing down. If anything, he's only getting stronger and more productive. The goal-scoring race will remain within reach for those behind Crosby, but in the end he'll finish atop the list.
Corey Pronman: Alex Ovechkin. Because he's Alex Ovechkin, one of the, if not the, greatest goal scorers of all time. While he's not as elite as we've been used to seeing in prior seasons, Ovie is still generating four shots per game, usually at least one or two of the high-quality variety, and he is still right in the pack in terms of the goal lead. And nobody who is in that discussion is as good as he is at getting high quantities of shots and scoring chances.