This series will shine a light on the most unusual NHL players — the guys who stand out from their peers in one way or another. Part 4 looks at players who differentiate themselves in the way they choose to shoot the puck.
If you've ever heard an intermission interview with an NHL player, you know the strong emphasis being put on "getting pucks on net," but there are plenty of ways of accomplishing that goal.
The players below are the ones who specialize in a particular type of shot at a level that none of their peers can match. That doesn't make them the best, necessarily, but rather the most determined to score in a specific way.
In some cases that means using a common shot type even more than other players. In others, it means utilizing an obscure tactic at a higher rate than compatriots who almost never attempt it.
The wrist shot aficionado: Nazem Kadri, C, Calgary Flames
It's tough to highlight a single player with a proclivity for wrist shots, as it is the most common shot type in the NHL.
That said, Kadri is a player who clearly favours the wrister. The veteran center ranks eighth among NHLers in wrist shots over the past three seasons (448) despite ranking 19th in shots overall (514).
When Kadri came into the NHL he was known as a player who succeeded offensively despite a shot that was far from intimidating, but he's become a better shooter over time.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) March 26, 2022
While his wrist shot is still not among the NHL's best, he's turned it into a viable weapon that can be effective in the right situations.
The fact he goes to it so often is likely a combination of confidence in its effectiveness and lack of confidence in alternative shot types — though Kadri does deserve credit for being handy tipping pucks around the net. The veteran doesn't posses the best wrister in the game, but he's indisputably prolific with it.
The slap shot specialist: Tyson Barrie, D, Nashville Predators
Barrie is a fine offensive defenseman who's scored 108 goals in his NHL career, and his inclination to let slap shots rip has been part of that success.
The 32-year-old ranks 121st among all NHL players in shots over the last three seasons with 458, but only two players have taken more slap shots than his 204.
His clapper doesn't result in as many goals as guys like Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos, but that would be an unfair expectation as most of Barrie's come from far out — and he doesn't play on power-play units designed to feed him one-timers.
When he does get teed up by a teammate he can be dangerous, though.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 1, 2021
This list is about intention rather than results, so Barrie gets the nod here even if his slap shot's reputation doesn't match some of his peers'. Nobody is looking to deliver shots of this type more consistently than Barrie.
The backhand enthusiast: Zach Hyman, LW, Edmonton Oilers
Hyman's skill level has been debated over the years because he's always played with elite players, but his backhand is beyond reproach.
Since 2020-21 he has seven more backhand goals (21) than any other player and only Connor McDavid has more backhanders on net. While the Hart Trophy winner has more raw attempts, a much larger percentage of Hyman's shots in those seasons (18.0%) were backhands than McDavid's (13.3%).
Hyman often works in tight areas around the front of the net. He's extremely good at quickly getting to his backhand and putting a surprising amount of power behind it.
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 17, 2022
Hyman undoubtedly benefits from playing alongside McDavid, but he's scored 63 goals over the past two seasons and part of the reason why is that he has mastered a shot that most players struggle to score with.
The tip master: Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers
Joe Pavelski has held this title at times during his career, but Kreider has been the undisputed leader in this category in recent seasons.
His 124 tips on net over the past three years best Pavelski's total by 26, and his goal total on tips and deflections (37) has his fellow American beat by six.
Kreider is one of the NHL's most prolific goal scorers and he does a lot of his best work around the net, tipping in pucks that other players would have a hard time getting a stick on.
— Rangers on MSG (@RangersMSGN) March 2, 2023
Just six players have scored more goals than Kreider over the last two seasons. Although he's 32, his ability to make a difference around the blue ice should age well in the years to come.
The king of the wraparound: Ryan Donato, C/LW, Seattle Kraken
There's no doubt the wraparound is a dying art in the NHL. According to NHL.com's shot data over the last three years, Auston Matthews leads the league with 27 attempts in that time, but it's tough to give him the nod here considering that's just 3% of his shot total.
Donato, on the other hand, ranks second in wraparound attempts with 24, and those attempts make up a far larger share of his shot total (6.2%).
Perhaps the greatest example of the forward pulling off the old-school move came during the 2022-23 preseason against the Edmonton Oilers.
Being the NHL's top practitioner at one obscure shot type might not make Donato a household name, but it's an interesting wrinkle to the 26-year-old's game.