What Is a Point in Hockey? Player Points Explained In-Depth

Posted on February 28, 2024 by Dan Kent

When it comes to hockey, two distinct point systems are used. The first is a point system that the NHL utilizes to keep track of team standings. The second is the point system the NHL uses to keep track of individual player scoring.

In this article, we will review the point system from a player's perspective. If you want to see how the NHL standings operate, read my comprehensive article on how the NHL standings work.

What is a point in hockey?

A point in hockey is when a player, whether a defenseman, forward or even a goaltender, gets a goal or assist during a game. A "point" from a team perspective is a reward for a team winning a game in regulation or losing a game in overtime or a shootout.

In both situations, points are accumulated throughout the year to keep track of both team standings to qualify for the playoffs and, from a player's perspective, to see where they finish in the overall scoring race.

Don't confuse a point with the point 

A point in hockey is when a player scores a goal or gets an assist, and a point in the standings for a team is either a win or a loss in extra time or a shootout. However, you will hear many references to the point in the hockey game, which are very different.

The point in hockey is often used to reference a defenseman, a defenceman's position, or even just the blue line. This is often why you will hear announcers say that they passed the puck to the point, that a player is a particularly good point man, or that a shot was taken from the point. Make sure not to confuse the terms!

Remember that a forward can also play "the point" on a power play. Typically, the point position is reserved for whoever is on the blue line of the offensive zone.

What is the difference between a goal and a point in hockey?

In the simplest explanation, not all points are goals, but all goals are points. Although it seems like a goal should be worth more than just one point, primarily because goal scorers are often considered the higher value player over a playmaker, this isn't the case.

Even though goals are harder to come by in the National Hockey League than assists, they still are counted the same in terms of overall points. 

What is considered a point in NHL?

When a player scores a goal or is awarded a primary or secondary assist, they will be given a point. The leader of total points throughout an NHL season will be awarded the Art Ross trophy.

However, the NHL does separate the top players in terms of the top goal scorer and points accumulator. The player who scores the most goals will be awarded the Rocket Richard trophy. A player can win both awards.

How to read a stats sheet for points

When you're looking at the box score for a particular game, you may see something like this:

McDavid (45) ASST: Draisaitl (70), Nurse (20)

This simply means that McDavid scored his 45th goal of the season, while his teammate Draisaitl was awarded the primary assist, his 70th of the year, and his other teammate Nurse was awarded the secondary assist, his 20th of the year.

Hockey stats seem confusing initially, but a box score is relatively easy to read once you get the hang of it.

How does an NHL team get a point?

From a standings perspective, points are given when a team either wins in regulation, overtime, or a shootout, or a single point is given when a team loses in overtime or the shootout. Zero points are given out to a team with a regulation loss.

In a tie, a regulation win will be more important than one won in overtime or a shootout.

What does 2 points mean in hockey?

When a player or team references two points in hockey, they typically speak about their team winning the game. Teams get two points for a win in the NHL regular season, so you'll often hear players speak on how it was a "hard-fought two points" or "we just couldn't go out and get the two points."

From a player standpoint, it would simply mean they accumulated two points during the game. This could be a combination of two goals, one goal and an assist, or two assists.

Is a point per game good in hockey?

Generally, players who can score at a point-a-game pace in the National Hockey League have been considered premiere players. However, with scoring elevated in a big way, scoring a point per game may not even get you into the top 50 in scoring.

Overall, the top-tier NHL players consistently score at a point-per-game pace in the NHL. So yes, I would define it as good.

How many points is good for a hockey player?

This answer depends on the player's play style, linemates, and ice time. For example, a player playing 25 minutes a night in a top-line role and scoring 30 points would be disappointing. In contrast, a 4th-line shutdown forward or 2nd-pairing defenseman scoring 30 points would be considered very solid.

Hockey is not all about offensive production. However, I would view a point per game as a good measure for a top-line offensive player and anywhere from 20-40 points for a shutdown defensive forward.

In terms of defensemen, points are not as important because their primary objective is to keep pucks out of the net. However, a puck-moving offensive defenseman that plays the power play would likely be expected to put up 50 or more points in a season. In contrast, a shutdown defenseman may only put up 10-20.

How many people have 1,000 points in hockey?

As of the end of the 2022-2023 season, 95 players have scored 1,000 or more points in their career. It is considered one of the more impressive milestones in the National Hockey League. 

Kennie Fiji was the first player ever to do this during the 1960-1961 NHL season. The last player to do so was Joe Pavelski during the 2023 NHL season.

Who are the greatest all-time point scorers in NHL history?

Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, and Ron Francis are the top 5-point scorers in the NHL of all time, with 2857, 1921, 1887, 1850, and 1978 points, respectively.

However, Mario Lemieux is one player left out of this list primarily due to injuries. If he had played an entire career like the other players in the top 5, his point totals would have competed with Gretzky's, as he accumulated 1723 points over just 915 games.

How many goals does the average hockey player score?

As of the end of the 2022-2023 season, the average number of goals scored in the NHL was 3.18 per game, over 1312 games played, for 4172 goals scored per season. If we make a few assumptions, we can figure out, on average, how many goals every player in the league scores.

If we factor in a maximum roster of 21 skaters (I didn't include the two goalies) and 32 teams, there are 672 players in the NHL. This means that, on average, a player in the NHL will score 6.2 goals per season. 

This is a nice to know stat, but also a bit misleading. Some forwards will score 50 goals, and some defensemen will score none.

If we simply define what would be an average forward in terms of goal scoring, it would likely be in the 15-20 goal range. For a defenseman, anything over seven would be considered average, in my opinion, with the premiere levels of forwards and defensemen scoring 40 and 20 goals or more, respectively.

In the age of the salary cap, "good" is often defined as your production relative to your overall salary.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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