NELA5530.JPG(Photo Credit: Nancy Lane)

By: Ian Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith

The Boston Bruins are about a 10th of the way through the season, and David Pastrnak looks like he might be in the midst of his best year. Through eight games, he has lit the lamp eight times and ranks tied for second in the league in goals, trailing only Auston Matthews and tied with Nathan MacKinnon.

The strong performance of Pastrnak thus far evokes the question of if he’s a viable candidate to lead the league in goals this season. From a pure talent perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. He has eclipsed 30 goals in each of the previous two seasons, and he blends his quickness with a natural scoring ability to create plenty of opportunities for himself.

He’s on pace for 82 goals as of now, and while that astounding rate isn’t going to keep up, it’s still extremely plausible that he can win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. Over the past five seasons, the eventual winner of the trophy has averaged about 49 goals, so Pastrnak has to get somewhere around 50 to have a decent chance at winning.

That means he has 74 games left to score 42 goals. He’s averaging about 4.1 shots on goal per game, and he’s on pace to send more shots on goal this year than he ever has as well. He has scored eight goals on 33 shots so far, which is a 24.2% shooting percentage. That far exceeds his career 13.8% and his single-season best of 14.2%, and it obviously going to dip a bit as the season goes on.

Over the previous five seasons, the eventual Rocket Richard Trophy winner has finished with a shooting percentage somewhere between 12.6% and 17.3% the season in which they won. Alexander Ovechkin has won the award four times in the past five seasons, with the other winner being Sidney Crosby in 2016-17.

Each season Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy he also led the league in shots on goal. When Crosby won it, though, he ranked only 14th in shots on goal. It took a higher shot percentage for Crosby at 17.3% to win the award, which is actually higher than Ovechkin has ever shot, and Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy seven times in his career.

The last five Rocket Richard Trophy seasons have been won by sending an average of about 358 shots on goal that season. Throughout an 82 game season, that works out to about 4.4 shots on goal per game. If Pastrnak needs around 358 shots on goal to have a decent chance at winning the award, he needs to get 325 more shots on target this season.

It’s entirely conceivable that Pastrnak will play all 82 games this season. He did it last season, but it’s always a safe assumption that some games are missed here and there over the course of a grueling campaign. Maybe Pastrnak is going to play about 70 more games this season. In that scenario, he’d have to average about 4.6 shots per game for the rest of the way to get to that 358 total. If he does play all 82 games, that number will decrease to about 4.4 shots on goal from here on out.

Considering that Pastrnak is averaging 4.1 shots on goal per game so far, he needs to slightly increase that output to have a better chance of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy this season. He’s certainly in the discussion, though, and even if he doesn’t win the award, it’d be shocking based on how he’s playing right now if he didn’t set a career high this season in goals scored.