What Is a Point in Hockey (Points Explained for Beginners)

New to the game of ice hockey?

Wondering what the term “point” or “points” mean?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

The truth is, a “point” can actually mean a few different things in hockey depending on the situation. And, while it may seem confusing at first, it will make sense in just a few minutes.

In this article, you’ll learn all the different meanings of the word “point” in reference to hockey so you know how to use it in context.

Keep reading to find out how points relate to individual players, how teams earn points to increase their position in the standings, who some of the all-time NHL point leaders are, and even the location of “the point” in hockey…

Here’s What a Point Is in Hockey: 

In hockey, a “point” most often refers to when a player scores a goal or gets an assist on a goal. A point is also what a team receives (they get two) each time they win a hockey game to increase their rankings in the standings. “The Point” is where defensemen stand near the blue line when in the offensive zone.

How Points Are Earned in Hockey (As a Player)

While there are three ways the term “point” is used in ice hockey, the most common way is referring to player points.

Players can accumulate points as individual statistics throughout the hockey season which is proof of their offensive impact for their team.

Before we dive into the different ways to gain points as a player, let’s back up a bit. The hockey team who scores more goals than the other team during a game is the one who wins the game.

One way individual player performance is measured is by tracking which players score goals during the game. Every time someone scores a goal, they are rewarded with one point. A goal is considered, well, a “goal” when the puck crosses the goal line (red line).

Interesting Fact: When someone scores three goals in a game, it’s called a “hat trick.” In this case, they’ll get three points on the night.

However, there are also two other ways to earn a point as a player: if you get the primary assist on the goal or the secondary assist on the goal.

An assist is when a player passes to someone right before they score a goal.

So, if you were to pass to your teammate and they went on to score a goal right afterward, you would get a point. But, one more person can get a point on this goal: the person who passed to the person who passed to the goal scorer.

Here’s an example of how a player (in this case, Connor Bedard) can rack up a handful of points in a night by scoring both goals and assists:

Who Gets a Point When Someone Scores a Hockey Goal?

While this may all sound a bit confusing, it’s actually quite simple: the last 3 players to touch the puck before a goal occurs receive a point.

1. The third last player to touch the puck before a goal gets the secondary assist and they receive a point.

2. The second last player to touch the puck before a goal gets the primary assist and they receive a point.

3. The last player to touch the puck before a goal is the goal scorer and they receive a point.

This means a total of three players could potentially score a point on a single goal. But, this isn’t always the case. If a player takes the puck away from the opposing team and scores a goal, they will be rewarded a point (but there are no points awarded to anyone else since no one passed the puck to them to assist on the play).

Likewise, if someone takes the puck away from the opposing team and passes to their teammate who scores a goal, only two players are awarded a point on the play (the one with the primary assist and the goal scorer). In this scenario, there is no one who got a secondary assist on the play, so only two points are awarded.

For example:

If player A passes to a teammate B, who passes to a teammate C, who passes to teammate D who scores a goal, here’s who gets a point:

  • Player A: Zero Points
  • Player B: 1 Point (Secondary Assist)
  • Player C: 1 Point (Primary Assist)
  • Player D: 1 Point (Goal)

This means even if player A is a part of the play and helps to drive the offense, they won’t be awarded a point since they’re the fourth last player to touch the puck.

What’s interesting about all this is the fact that goalies can (and often) get an assist on a play. If they make a good pass to a player and they skate all the way down the ice and score, the goalie will get an assist (and receive a point).

How to Analyze Individual Point Stats Abbreviations (P, A, G)

Are you a new fan trying to figure out who the highest-performing point scorers are?

But, maybe it’s a bit confusing trying to understand all the stat abbreviations?

To be fair, there are a TON of abbreviations for hockey stats and it can be a lot to learn when first getting into the game.

Well if you’re on NHL.com’s site looking at player stats, you’ll see a few different columns: P, A, and G (among many others). Here’s a screenshot taken November 9, 2023 looking at the top point scorers about 15% of the way through the 2023-24 season.

The three columns on the right are G, A, P. These stand for Goals, Assists, and Points.

The most sought-after stat is P or points. This is simply a combination of how many goals and assists a player has.

You can look at it like this: P = G + A 


Points = Goals + Assists.


Points = Goals + (Primary Assists + Secondary Assists)

The total you see is for the season. So, in the screenshot above from NHL.com, these are the top 10 point scorers in the NHL, which are some of the best ice hockey players in the world.

What Is “The Point” In Hockey (Position)

In hockey, there is another meaning for the word “point.”

While a “point” is what a hockey player earns when they score a goal or assist on a goal scored, “the point” is a positional reference

“The Point” is when a defenseman is standing in the offensive (attacking) zone near the blue line. 

One of the best examples of a defenseman who knows how to “run the point” is Quinn Hughes, the star defenseman for the Vancouver Canucks:

You’ll notice in the video, the play-by-play broadcaster says, “Here’s Hughes moving down from the right point.” So even on “the point” there are different areas – the “left point” and the “right point.”

Most of the time, “the point” is where the defensemen play when in the offensive zone to help out on the back end. But, the point can be played by anyone, including a forward (which is common to see on a power play).

Keep in mind, a defenseman isn’t “playing the point” when he’s in his own zone (defensive zone) or in the neutral zone, or at his own blue line in the D-zone.

The term is only applicable to whoever is playing just inside the blue line of the offensive zone.

The main goal for the player playing at the point is to generate scoring chances by passing to their forwards, partner defenseman, or taking shots on net.

But, the second goal for the person on the point is to keep the puck in the offensive zone, especially when the opposing team tries to get it out. This can be done by blocking a pass, taking the puck away with their stick, or even making a hit (which is often a riskier play).

Oftentimes, if the opposing team is trying to shoot the puck out of their defensive zone, the defenseman on the point will simply stop the puck and fire it back into the zone (often around the outside of the ice along the boards).

During a power play (when the other team has a player in the penalty box), you can think of the person on the point as the team’s quarterback. They’re often running set plays and setting up offensive chances from the back end. 

Most of the time, the player on the point isn’t aiming to score a goal, but rather set up a play for the forwards to get closer to the net so they have a higher chance of scoring. But, in some cases, certain defensemen are much more aggressive and confident in generating scoring chances and will simply take the puck up all the way to the net (like when a quarterback goes for a run).

Cale Makar is a prime example of a defenseman who gets creative on the point and isn’t afraid of simply taking the puck up to the next himself to generate a high scoring chance:

The Top Point Scorer in the Hockey (Year-By-Year)

Wondering about the leading point scorer in the NHL?

Maybe you’re trying to figure out who they are and what awards they get?

Well, every year during the regular season, the player who leads the National Hockey League in points is awarded the Art Ross Trophy.

Here are the last twenty point leaders in the NHL during the regular season:

The Last 20 Art Ross Award Winners (2003-2023)

YearPlayer PointsTeam
2022-23Connor McDavid153 (5th time)Edmonton Oilers
2021-22Connor McDavid123 (4th time)Edmonton Oilers
2020-21Connor McDavid105 (3rd time)Edmonton Oilers
2019-20Leon Draisaitl110 (1st time)Edmonton Oilers
2018-19Nikita Kucherov128 (1st time)Tampa Bay Lightning
2017-18Connor McDavid108 (2nd time)Edmonton Oilers
2016-17Connor McDavid100 (1st time)Edmonton Oilers
2015-16Patrick Kane106 (1st time)Chicago Blackhawks
2014-15Jame Benn87 (1st time)Dallas Stars
2013-14Sidney Crosby104 (2nd time)Pittsburgh Penguins
2012-13**Martin St. Louis60 (2nd time)Tampa Bay Lightning
2011-12Evgeni Malkin109 (2nd time)Pittsburgh Penguins
2010-11Daniel Sedin104 (1st time)Vancouver Canucks
2009-10Henrik Sedin112 (1st time)Vancouver Canucks
2008-09Evgeni Malkin109 (1st time)Pittsburgh Penguins
2007-08Alexander Ovechkin112 (1st time)Washington Capitals
2006-07Sidney Crosby120 (1st time)Pittsburgh Penguins
2005-06Joe Thornton125 (1st time)Boston Bruins / San Jose Sharks
2003-04Martin St. Louis94 (1st time)Tampa Bay Lightning
2002-03Peter Forsberg106 (1st time)Colorado Avalanche

**Shortened seasoned due to lockout.
***No Art Ross Trophy was awarded in 2004-05 due to lockout (no NHL season that year).

Interesting Facts from the Past 10 Years of Regular Season Point Leaders

  • Connor McDavid has won it the most (5 times).
  • Connor McDavid has won it five of the last seven years.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have won it five times in a row (between Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl).
  • Sidney Crosby has only won it twice.
  • Alexander Ovechkin has only won it once.
  • Twin brothers have won it back-to-back years (Daniel and Henrik Sedin in 2010 and 2011).
  • Joe Thornton is the only player to have won it while playing for two teams during the season (Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks in 2006).

While the NHL awards the point leader in the regular season with the Art Ross Trophy, there is no award given to the top point leader in the playoffs. The only individual award (apart from the Stanley Cup) given out during the playoffs is the Conn Smythe trophy, which is simply given to the MVP of the playoffs.

Most of the time, the top point scorer receives the Conn Smythe, but that isn’t always the case. Here are the last 10 point leaders in the playoffs:

The Last 10 NHL Playoff Point Leaders (2013-2023)

YearPlayer PointsTeamConn Smythe (Playoff MVP)Art Ross (Regular Season Point Leader)Won Stanley Cup
2023Jack Eichel26 (1st time)Vegas Golden KnightsNo (Jonathan Marchessault)No (Connor McDavid)Yes
2022Connor McDavid33 (1st time)Edmonton OilersNo (Cale Makar)YesNo
2021Nikita Kucherov32 (2nd time)Tampa Bay LightningNo (Andrei Vasilevskiy)No (Connor McDavid)Yes
2020Nikita Kucherov34 (1st time)Tampa Bay LightningNo (Victor Hedman)No (Leon Draisaitl)Yes
2019**Ryan O’Reilly23 (1st time)St. Louis BluesYesNo (Nikita Kucherov)Yes
2019**Brad Marchand23 (1st time)Boston BruinsNo (Ryan O’Reilly)No (Nikita Kucherov)No
2018Evgeny Kuznetsov32 (1st time)Washington CapitalsNo (Alexander Ovechkin)No (Connor McDavid)Yes
2017Evgeni Malkin28 (2nd time)Pittsburgh PenguinsNo (Sidney Crosby)No (Connor McDavid)Yes
2016Logan Couture30 (1st time)San Jose SharksNo (Sidney Crosby)No (Patrick Kane)No
2015***Patrick Kane23 (1st time)Chicago BlackhawksNo (Duncan Keith)No (Jamie Benn)
2015***Tyler Johnson23 (1st time)Tampa Bay LightningNo (Duncan Keith)No (Jamie Benn)
2014Anže Kopitar26 (2nd time)LA KingsNo (Justin Williams)No (Sidney Crosby)Yes

**In 2019, two players tied for the leading point scorer of the playoffs.

***In 2015, two players tied for the leading point scorer of the playoffs.

Interesting Facts from the Past 10 Years of Playoff Point Leaders

  • Only one player claimed the title of the highest point scorer in the regular season and the playoffs in the same year (2022, Connor McDavid).
  • Nikita Kucherov is the only player to claim the point leader title back-to-back years (2020, 2021).
  • Only one player claimed the title of the highest point scorer during the playoffs and also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (Ryan O’Reilly, 2019).
  • In 8 of 10 years, the leading point scorer also won the Stanley Cup with his team.
  • In 2 of 10 years, there was a tiebreaker for the leader (2015: Patrick Kane & Tyler Johnson and 2019: Ryan O’Reilly & Brad Marchand).
  • In 2 of 10 years, the leading point scorer who didn’t win the Stanley Cup was tied for first in points with someone from the winning team.
  • In the past 10 years, there have been 3 players who have previously won the scoring title in the playoffs: Nikita Kucherov (2020, 2021), Evgeni Malkin (2017, 2009), Anže Kopitar (2012, 2014).
  • The highest point scorer in the past ten years was Nikita Kucherov (34, 2020)
  • The lowest-scoring point leader of the past ten years was Patrick Kane and Tyler Johnson (23, 2015).

All-Time Points Leaders in Hockey

Curious who the highest-scoring point leaders are in hockey history?

Well, most people know Wayne Gretzky as having the most career points of any other hockey player (by a long shot). 

But there are some other incredible, lesser-known players on the list. Plus, two players in the top 20 are active in the NHL right now!

Here are the top 20 all-time career point leaders in history:

PlayerGames PlayedPointsGoalsAssists
1. Wayne Gretzky1,4872,8578941,963
2. Jaromir Jagr1,7331,9217661,155
3. Mark Messier1,7561,8876941,193
4. Gordie Howe1,7671,8508011,049
5. Ron Francis1,7311,7985491,249
6. Marcel Dionne1,3481,7717311,040
7. Steve Yzerman1,5141,7556921,063
8. Mario Lemieux9151,7236901,033
9. Joe Sakic1,3781,6416251,016
10. Phil Esposito1,2821,590717873
11. Ray Bourque1,6121,5794101,169
12. Joe Thornton1,7141,5394301,109
13. Mark Recchi1,6521,533577956
14. Paul Coffey1,4091,5313961,135
15. Sidney Crosby**1,2011,514556958
16. Alex Ovechkin**1,3581,493824669
17. Stan Mikita1,3961,467541926
18. Teemu Selanne1,4511,457684773
19. Bryan Trottier1,2795249011,425
20. Adam Oates1,3373411,0791,420

**Two of the top players, #15 **Sidney Crosby (1,514) and #16 Alex Ovechkin (1,493) are still active in the NHL. Both veterans are likely going to pass a few players this year (2023-24) on the all-time list. 

There’s a good chance the 37 and 38-year-old active legends will pass #14 Paul Coffey (1,531), #13 Mark Recchi (1,533), and #12 Joe Thornton (1,539 points). 

And, there’s a possibility one or both of them pass #11 Ray Bourque (1,579) or #10 Phil Esposito (1,590) this season to claim spots 10, 11, 12, or 13 (barring injuries).

How Do Team Points Work in Hockey (Team Standings)

We’ve already covered two definitions of the word “point” in hockey. The first (and most common) is when a player scores a goal or gets an assist, which counts as a point for them on the stat sheet.

The second is “the point” — the place where a hockey player (typically a defenseman) will play near the blue line while in the offensive zone.

But, the word “point” can mean one more thing in hockey: a statistic that determines a team’s position in the standings.

In the NHL (and most hockey leagues), a team will get two points for winning a hockey game.

These points are added up to determine a team’s position in the standings.

The teams with the most points at the end of the regular season will qualify for the playoffs for a chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

The Point System In Hockey Standings

An NHL team can earn points in a few different ways to improve their position in the standings.

The first way is by winning the game. In this case, the team will get two points. However, to qualify for the two points, they have to win in regulation time (can’t be overtime).

If a team loses, they don’t get any points.

Are you wondering, “Can hockey games can end in a tie?” Well, if a game is tied at the end of 3 periods, the game will go to overtime and then a shootout if necessary. This ensures that at least one team walks away with more points than the other.

If a team loses in overtime, however, they get one point.

At the end of the season, the sixteen best teams from the regular season will make it into the playoffs. However, it isn’t necessarily the top sixteen highest-point teams that will make it to the playoffs. Instead, it’s determined by the NHL’s wild card system, which is primarily based on point totals but with a caveat.







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