A point given to individual players for helping contribute to a goal being scored. Assists are credited to a maximum of two players who passed, shot, or deflected the puck before the goal scorer put the puck in the net.
If a team loses possession of the puck to a player that proceeds to score a goal, it is deemed an 'unassisted goal.'
Because two assists can be awarded on a scoring play they are more common then goals. But that said, some of greatest NHL players were better knows as playmakers as opposed to pure goal scorers.
Ron Francis and Adam Oates were historically known as setup guys, both finishing with over 1,000 assists in their careers and proportionately far fewer goals.