10 players who could finish the NIHL’s top scorer.

As the season is unravelling, a picture of how the season will play out is becoming clearer. Stats play a key role in predicting how the season will end. While team stats are important, goals are the most important thing, and individual performances can make or break a team’s season. Here are the top 10 players who could finish as top scorers in the NIHL. 

DISCLAIMER: To my knowledge correct as of the 14th of January, if I have made a mistake, PLEASE comment and I will change it as I want it to be correct!   

1 - Grant Cooper

Leeds Knights announced the signing of Canadian, Grant Cooper on the 5th of August 2022 to a massive amount of excitement from the Leeds fans. Grant has been a consistent scorer throughout his career so far, bagging 7 goals and 15 assists with the Reading Royals in the East Coast Hockey League in the USA.   

 

Despite the obvious expectation from the Knights fans and management, it’s fair to say that the link-up between Leeds Knights and Grant has been a dream come true. Grant has scored a goal a game on average and has helped the team along with 33 assists too.   

The Knights seem to be the form team this season 5 out of the top 10 scorers in this NIHL season so far are Leeds players, which is a testament to the great work being done at the team. It goes without saying that the expectation is for a Leeds Knight to be the top scorer come the end of the season, with Grant hotly expected to be leading the pack.

2 - Cole Shudra

When Leeds announced that Cole Shudra would be returning for another season, it raised many eyebrows, with fans expecting the quickly maturing player would be a mainstay in the Sheffield Steelers squad for the 2022/23 season. 

 

Despite the surprise, Cole was seen as a welcome signing due to his 34 goals and 39 assists during his first season with the Knights.  Rotherham-born, Cole is often seen as a utility player, able to play as a centre, a wing or a defensemen. Seemingly able to score goals from anywhere on the ice as his 24 goals in 24 games suggests. 

Like his teammate Cooper, Cole Shudra benefits from the fantastic work done by head coach Ryan Aldridge in crafting an amazing team ethic and cohesion amongst the playing staff. So it is expected that Cole will be there or thereabouts amongst the top scorers by the end of the season. 

3 - Tomasz Malasinski

Import, Tomasz Malasinski returned to the Swindon Wildcats for the 2019/20 season. Featuring every season since, he has been a consistent high achiever, scoring over 20 goals every season and chipping in a significant number of assists too. 

 

A good start to the season, including 2 goals in the 12-0 win over Hull Seahawks, has helped Malasinski to 24 goals this season so far. Despite a shaky period for the Wildcats over the last few weeks, Malasinski has continued to contribute a significant number of goals ensuring the Wildcats remain competitive in all of their games this season.

Despite the downturn in form recently, players like Tomasz Malasinski and Aaron Nell are widely expected to help Swindon Wildcats to overcome their current troubles. And as Malasinski is already comfortably over 20 goals this season, it should be expected that this season should be his best. 

4 - Kieran Brown

Yet another Leeds Knights player on the list (and not the last!) Kieran Brown is another player who has achieved great things so far this season. Brown has the highest goal-to-game ratio in the NIHL, with 26 goals in 24 games. 

 

A former EIHL regular with the Sheffield Steelers, Brown left the team in 2019 with a lack of time on the ice, cited as a reason for the move. Bradford born and only 21 years old, it is largely expected that he will eventually move to an Elite team within the next few seasons, either on a full-time basis or on a two-way deal which has seen many young players given the opportunity to ice for some of the bigger teams. 

For a few seasons Kieran Brown has consistently managed to score more goals than games played and Leeds Knights being the hot team in the league, he will surely continue his goal-scoring form.

5 - Aaron Nell

Mention Aaron Nell to any Swindon Wildcats fan and their faces will light up. A Wildcat legend, Nell has been involved with the Swindon-based team for nearly 20 years. Albeit with a few years with the Coventry Blaze and the Sheffield Steelers, it seems that Nell was happiest in Swindon, as his goals and assist numbers suggest.

 

Aaron’s 17 goals so far this season suggest that this year is going to be yet another successful season for him. Couple that with a whopping 29 assists so far, and you get a player who is contributing to the team greatly. 

His work with the team extends way beyond simply scoring and assisting goals, Nell holds a coaching role within the Swindon Wildcats. Suggesting that the Wildcats are currently heading through a period of transition and a few dropped points against smaller teams seems to suggest this.

6 - Zachary Brooks

I am desperately running out of things to say about the Leeds Knights players! When Zachary Brooks was first announced at the beginning of the 2022/23 season. Many fans rolled their eyes at the potentially cliche comments from Ryan Aldrige, saying that he has found a player who is the perfect fit for the Knights. Little did we know, that the Leeds Head Coach was bang on. 

 

Canadian-born Brooks is only 21 years old. Despite his young years, he has adapted well to the British game. The game time he received in the Alberta Junior Hockey League really seems to have served him well. 

Brooks has hit the ground running with Leeds Knights, having scored 15 goals and linked up with other players spectacularly having assisted 30 times too. The left wing clearly has an eye for goal creation and is often the bite in the Leeds attack.

7 - Tim Wallace

The first MK Lightning player on the list, Alaskan native, Tim Wallace has proved that men can indeed multitask. Acting this season as a player, Head Coach and Director of Player Development, Wallace seems to be thriving in the role. Managing to balance his difficult off-ice responsibilities with his on-ice requirements, he has bagged 13 goals and 31 assists in the league so far. 

 

At the beginning of the season, MK Lightning Director, Jon Payne declared a change of philosophy focusing on player development and on-ice performance. There is little doubt that former AHL and NHL mainstay Wallace is the perfect man for the job. 

Able to play both as a centremen and right wing Tim is able to adapt to the requirements of the team, serving the team well with the Lightning fighting it out at the top of the table.  

8 - Matthew Haywood

Thankfully for me, the last Knight on the list! Doncaster-born, Matt Haywood is an EIHL veteran with over 600 games in the EIHL. Branded the “fifth piece of the puzzle,” Haywood has fitted into Ryan Aldridge’s team seamlessly. Scoring 15 but assisting 28 times, Haywood has certainly been a creative spark for the Knights over the course of this season.

 

At 32 years of age, Matt Haywood is certainly seen as a senior figure in what is a young Leeds Knights squad. A number of young foreign imports have thrived under Aldrige’s direction and leadership, but it must be said that Aldridge’s success has come from signings such as Haywood helping the team to fit together well. 

As I might have mentioned a few times above, Leeds Knights are having a really good season and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping them. Therefore it is sensible to suggest that Haywood’s season will continue as it has gone so far. 

9 - Glenn Billing

Romford-born Billing has been a real mainstay in the Peterborough Phantom’s team for a few seasons now. Consistently chipping in more than 20 goals a season. Glenn’s real power comes with his creative flair, which leaves him with more than 40 assists a season. And with 32 assists so far this season, he is second only to Leeds Knights player, Grant Cooper with his assist tally.   

 

With Peterborough battling it out at the top end of the league, it’s fair to assume that Glenn has been the driving force in this. Phantom’s Head Coach, Slava Koulikov has suggested that Billing has matured a lot over his 5 years with the team, also stating he believes that Billing is one of the best centremen in the league. Based on his stats, it is very difficult to disagree with that statement.     

As the season develops, Peterborough Phantoms seem to be developing and improving. A few shaky performances have meant that they had dropped points that they would have expected to win. Despite this, you would expect the Phantoms to remain competitive this season, with Billing helping to push the team on.

10 - Sean Norris

Ascot-born Norris was part of the Bracknell Bees youth set-up, before heading out to Czechia for a couple of seasons. This time abroad really helped him to work on his game as he hit the ground running upon his return. A string of successful seasons with both the Basingstoke Bison and the MK Lightning has resulted in a two-way deal with the Belfast Giants in the EIHL. 

 

Splitting playing time between the MK Lightning and the Giants has meant Sean has dropped a few games when compared to a few of the players in this list. Despite this, he has stacked up an impressive 13 goals and 29 assists so far this season. 

In a recent interview, the MK Lightning player/head coach, Tim Wallace, stated Sean’s great attitude and work ethic are what sets him apart from others. He also added that he believes that Norris “shoots a puck as well as many players in the NHL.” With comments like that, it is fair to suggest that the sky is the limit for Sean Norris and that he is one to watch over the next few seasons, not just this one!  

So, who do you think will top the scoring charts come to the end of the season? Do you think it will be someone not on this list? Do you think it won’t be a Leeds Knights player? 😂 Let me know in the comments! 

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