Plight of the goalless: the NHL’s 10 most surprisingly unproductive players

In the second period of Wednesday night's affair between the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars, Taylor Hall suddenly found himself alone in front of Kari Lehtonen. In a curious, split-second decision, Hall opted not to take possession of the puck right away, instead stepping over it and trying to fool Lehtonen with a quick between-the-legs shot.

He wound up putting it weakly at the goal. Lehtonen flashed a pad to kick it to the wall.

Many were left scratching their heads. Considering the time and space Hall had, wouldn't a traditional deke have made more sense?

Hall defended his bid for the highlight reel in the intermission interview. When you're struggling to score goals early in the season, he said (and he is, with only 2 in his first 10), sometimes you need to get creative. It's a fair point, although one could argue that squandering a perfect opportunity in the name of desperate creativity might be one of the reasons you only have 2.

But if Hall's correct and creativity is the answer for a player struggling to score goals, there are several players that might want to think about putting a little yeast into their next attempts in hopes of seeing their totals begin to rise. As we near the 10-game mark in the 2013 NHL season, here are the most surprising players yet to get even one.

10. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Doughty's never scored more than 16 goals in an NHL season, so seeing him goalless after 8 isn't exactly a jaw-dropper, but it's still surprising, for several reasons. First, he's pretty much always on the ice. The Kings' blueline stud is averaging 28:20 per game, just 18 seconds below league icetime leader Jack Johnson. Plus, Doughty averages 5:10 of powerplay ice time a night. Between that and the fact that he's put 20 shots on goal, you'd think one would have gone in by now.

9. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings

Like Doughty, Kronwall isn't a goal-scoring machine, but he did post a career-best 15 tallies in 2011-12. More than that, however, is his newfound position as the top dog on the Detroit blueline. You'd think that might have resulted in a score by now, especially since the position comes with a lot of powerplay time. Kronwall is averaging 5:46 of icetime with the man advantage, the most of any defenceman. With that sort of opportunity, it's reasonable to assume he'd have more than 16 shots and 0 goals.

8. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

The Nuge had 18 goals in 64 games in his rookie campaign. Had this been a full season, 20 might have seemed reasonable. But 9 games in, RNH is stuck on zilch. Might it have something to do with the shoulder ailment that kept him out of what would have been his 10th game Wednesday night? He's got 17 shots. Maybe he's struggling with their velocity. Of course, it might just be bad luck. Considering the rest of the Oilers' injuries, that's a reasonable explanation.

7. Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres

Stafford has 27 shots on goal and 0 shots in goal. Granted, it's hard to score when Thomas Vanek is hogging all the offense like a big gloryhog.

6. Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs

If you've been following hockey this season, you can probably guess who's number one on this list. But as you can see, he's not the only one struggling to get off the schneid. Phaneuf plays 27:34 a night. He's played 51:11 total on the powerplay, which is fifth-most in the league, but somehow, despite all that icetime, he's yet to power one past an opposing netminder. In his defence, he's pretty busy trying to make Mike Kostka look like a reasonable partner for him.

5. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

Suter, the Wild's powerplay quarterback, has no goals and only 12 shots. Split from Shea Weber, Suter has struggled mightily through his first 9 games. He's a team-worst minus-7, and at times, such as on this Martin Hanzal goal, he's looked downright disinterested in being the elite defender he's being paid like. On the bright side, he's on the ice for nearly half the game, so he's getting plenty of oportunity to figure it out.

4. Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks

Considering the insanely productive top six in which he plays, and considering he's registered 22 shots, you'd think Clowe would have put one in by now. But no. In his defence, he's also the league-leader in penalty minutes. Maybe he'd have more than 0 goals if he wasn't spending half his time in the box.

3. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

If you were hoping we'd know early in this season which member of the Shea Weber/Ryan Suter pair was the real star, well, nope. Both have struggled mightily. Weber has 10 more shots than Suter and a plus/minus in the pluses, but he has the same amount of goals: zip. Considering Weber is the perennial Norris contender, not to mention that his shot has been known to go through nets, I'd say his struggles have been more surprising.

2. Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues

Steen is 19th in the NHL in shots on goal with 33, so it's certainly not for lack of effort that he's among the goalless. But thus far, nothing has gone in. Fortunately for him, the Blues don't need a lot of goals to win games, but I'm sure he'd like to score one nonetheless. I've heard it's fun and it makes you feel good.

1. Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs (42 shots)

How rough is Kessel's goal-scoring drought? Rather than laugh and take a cell phone picture of him, Alex Ovechkin felt bad for him. "“I just wanna give him advice like don’t listen to nobody. Just play your game," Ovechkin said. Granted, that's what Kessel's been doing. He has 42 shots through 10 games, the most in the entire NHL, and nothing's gone in. You have to think this drought can't go on. Not for a guy with a shot as lethal as Kessel's, a guy that's hit 30 goals in 4 straight seasons and posted a career-high 37 last year.

Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney