By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist

About 25 years ago, I was looking at the then-incomplete statistical record of Gary Roberts. He had scored 53 goals in 1991-92, something that was a bit of a surprise since he only had 22 the season before. I noticed that had 22 goals in both 1989-90 and 1991-92, with a 39-goal season in between. Was a good goal total without a power-play tally a way to predict that a particular player was ready to score offensively?

Probably not.  But when making up the list for 2017-18 of the top goal-scorers of those without a power-play goal, the name on top jumped out. Michael Grabner of the Devils had 27 goals without getting one with an extra teammate on the ice.

Grabner has had a really odd-looking career. In 2010-11, his first full season as an NHL player, Grabner scored 34 goals for the Islanders. Only two of them came on the power play. But he had 27 more goals without a power-play score in 2016-17, and had the same exact number this past season.

Here is the list of the top 10 in the NHL in this category, and Grabner is the dominant player again for whatever reason.

 Player – Team – Goals
Michael Grabner – New Jersey – 27
Radek Faksa – Dallas – 17
Mat Nieto – Colorado – 15
Zach Hyman – Toronto – 15
Sonny Milano – Columbus – 14
Tyler Pitlick – Dallas – 14
Austin Watson – Nashville – 14
Tom Wilson – Washington – 14
Blake Comeau – Colorado – 13
Stefan Noesen – New Jersey – 13
Darren Helm – Detroit – 13
Blake Coleman – New Jersey – 13
Jesper Fast – N.Y. Rangers – 13
Chris Kunitz – Tampa Bay – 13

For the sake of comparison, I went through the Sabres’ all-time list of goals in a season without a power-play score. Grabner would have set a Buffalo team record had he done this for the Sabres. The names on the list describe similar types of players who are classic “two-way” performers – good on offense and defense. You’d think Don Luce, Craig Ramsay, Scott Arniel and Wayne Presley would fit that description, and you’d be right.

The Buffalo top 10:

Player – Year – Goals
Yuri Khmylev – 1992-93 – 20
Sean McKenna – 1983-84 – 20
Steve Atkinson – 1970-71 – 20
Daniel Paille – 2007-08 – 19
Scott Arniel – 1988-89 – 18
Don Luce – 1972-73 – 18
Scott Arniel – 1987-88 – 17
Craig Ramsay – 1981-82 – 16
Matthew Barnaby – 1995-96 – 15
Wayne Presley – 1992-93 – 15
Don Luce – 1980-81 – 15

Khmylev was a rookie in 1992-93. He had the best season of his career in 1993-94, scoring 27 goals – with 11 on the power play. McKenna had a couple of 20-goal seasons at the start of his career with Buffalo, but that was as good as he got. Atkinson is an answer to a trivia question – the only player with a positive plus-minus rating in the Sabres’ initial season of 1970-71 (he was a +3.)

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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