The lasting image of Steve Downie
might be from his rookie season, when he delivered a vicious check to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond
. Downie, then with the Philadelphia Flyers
, received a 20-game suspension for the hit, and gained a reputation as a dirty player.
Last season, however, Downie went a long way in changing his reputation from troubled to talented.
In his first full NHL season, with the Tampa Bay Lightning
, Downie showed the skills that made him a first-round draft pick, as he scored 22 goals on just 116 shots. Of the 110 players who scored 20 goals last season, none accomplished it on fewer shots than Downie, and only one played less than the 14:42 per game he averaged last season.
Downie maintained his edge -- he was third in the League with 208 penalty minutes -- but was smarter about it thanks to help from former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet
, himself a gritty power forward who developed into a top-flight NHL scorer.
New Lightning GM Steve Yzerman
already has stated one of his next goals is getting Downie signed to a new contract.
Downie was one of the most efficient offensive players in the League last season. Here's a look at some other players who made the most of their scoring opportunities:
Nik Antropov, Thrashers --
While Ilya Kovalchuk
stole the headlines, it was Antropov who quietly turned in a career-best season. His 126 shots was the lowest amount he's had since 2006-07, but his 24 goals were second on the team, and his 19.0 shooting percentage was the best of his career by a large margin.
Troy Brouwer, Blackhawks --
Brouwer matched Downie goal for goal and shot for shot, scoring 22 times on 116 shots. Brouwer got a bit more time to score his goals, but minimally -- he averaged just 16:22 per game. With stars Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
stealing the headlines -- and top defense-pairing attention -- Brouwer was quietly effective. And his steady play carried over into the playoffs, as he scored 4 goals on 21 shots -- that 19.0 shooting percentage matching his regular-season number.
Eric Fehr, Capitals --
Fehr was one of seven 20-goal scorers for Washington last season, but he scored his 21 goals despite playing just 12:07 per game, with just 1:26 per game on the power play. He wasn't counted on for offense, but having a 20-goal scorer on the third line makes for an awfully nice division of assets.
Michal Handzus, Kings --
Handzus had some of his best seasons in Philadelphia, when Kings coach Terry Murray
was an assistant. Handzus looks to be back to that level now that the pair has been reunited in Los Angeles. Handzus had 20 goals on just 117 shots last season, with his 17.1 shooting percentage the second-best of his career. He's also durable, missing just one game in the last three seasons, while averaging 18:18 per game -- including 2:43 shorthanded, tops among the club's forwards.
Tomas Holmstrom, Red Wings --
At age 37, Holmstrom knows just what he needs to do to be at his most efficient. He only had 131 shots last season -- most of them likely from very close to the net -- but he managed to score 25 goals, the fourth time in the last five seasons he's scored at least 20. He was second on the team in goals despite playing just 15:48 per game, 12th on the squad.
Guillaume Latendresse, Wild --
It was a tale of two seasons for the Minnesota left wing. He started the season with the Canadiens, scoring twice in just 23 games. But following a November trade, Latendresse's season turned around. He scored 25 times on just 133 shots in 55 games with the Wild, for an 18.8 shooting percentage. He averaged just 16:27 per game in Minnesota, sixth among Wild forwards, and was seventh among the team's forwards in power-play ice time per game, but he tied for the team lead in goals. He'll certainly get more time this season, but he definitely made the most of the limited time he had in 2009-10.
Steven Stamkos, Lightning --
Putting the League's co-leader in goals on a list of the most efficient offensive players seems like a no-brainer, but there are a few real reasons he's here. First, only one of the League's 24 players who scored at least 30 goals had a better shooting percentage than Stamkos' 17.2 percent. His 297 shots were sixth in the League, but among the top 150 players in shots on net, only one was more accurate. And while he averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season, he was only 19th in the League in ice time; of the 18 skaters who played more per game, only two had more points.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com