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What is the average shooting percentage in the NHL?

Shooting percentage is a statistic that measures the percent of shots on goal that are goals - this doesn’t include all shots such as those that are blocked or miss the net. Looking at league wide statistics, what is the average shooting percentage in the NHL? And how has this changed over the seasons.

The quick answer is the average shooting percentage in the NHL is 9.11% (as of the 2012-13 NHL season). That means for every 100 shots that end up on net approximately 9 will end up in the back of the net as goals. 

But how has this averaged and changed over the seasons?

Here is a complete list of league average shooting percentages for the NHL from the 1990-91 to 2012-13 season.

Visually, as the chart illustrates below, we see that shooting percentage saw a sharp decline during the 1990s where it went from 11.7% (1992-93) to 9.45% (1998-99). A few of the reasons for this decline include improved goaltending and an increased adoption of defensive systems such as the trap. Since this sharp decline, shooting percentage on a league wide basis has levelled out in the 9-10% range.

One season of note was the 2005-06 season, the season after 2004-05 lockout, which was the last season of 10+% shooting percentage in the league - it was also the highest scoring season since the 1995-96 season. A major reason for this was the crackdown on the clutch-and-grab game that had become standard before the lockout as illustrated by the sharp increase in power play opportunities.

The lowest shooting percentage season so far 8.87% during the 1969-70 season with the highest shooting percentage season coming in 1981-82 at 12.92%. Over the last 22 seasons, league shooting percentage has averaged 9.88%.

But how does this vary for the different positions?

Looking at shooting percentage from a position standpoint we see, as expected, a much higher shooting percentage among forwards than defencemen. Between 2005-2013, NHL forwards averaged 10.82% shooting percentage compared to 5.23% among defencemen. With defencemen having to shoot further away resulting in more time for the goalie to see the puck, opponents to block the shot and for teammates to tip the shot, it isn’t surprising to see their shooting percentage cut in half.


Position Goals Shots on Goal Shooting %
Forwards 44,523 411,576 10.82%
Defense 7,587 145,202 5.23%
Forwards 42,683 377,075 11.32%
Defense 7,360 145,486 5.06%

For those interested in completely random statistics, between 1996 and 2013, there were 8 goals by goaltenders on a total of 51 shots on net which equates to a goaltender shooting percentage of 15.69%. Clearly, goalies need to be shooting more.

Looking to the future of the game, it appears that league-wide shooting percentages well below 10% are here to stay as the game maintains a strong defensive focus and improving goaltending. This is a much different game today than the years of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey.


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