Assists In Ice Hockey: Types, Stats and Examples
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Assists In Ice Hockey Explained: Types & Examples

Assists in ice hockey is an integral part of the game. The ability of players to make a scoring chance for another teammate is part of the peak of the game. But how much do you know about assists in the NHL? Let’s take a quick look at all you need to know about assists in the NHL. 

What Are Assists In Ice Hockey?

An assist is an ice hockey stat given to a player who offered assistance in the form of a pass to a player who scored a goal. Just like football, assists in ice hockey are viewed the same way.

So during assists in ice hockey, a player who is in possession of the puck creates an opening and passes the puck to his fellow teammate who is clear so a shot on goal can be made. However, a goal must be scored for such assistance to be counted as an assist. 

When looking at the personal stats of players, aside from the points players get for scoring a goal, they are also given points for the number of successful assists. This is a number that management of teams looks into when considering a player to sign an NHL contract with. 

In professional ice hockey leagues like the NHL, it is widespread to see top players having fewer goals than assists. This is because just the way goals are used to judge the striking strength of a player, assists measure his playmaking ability.

How Many Points Are Assists In Hockey?

A point is given for every assist a player has in ice hockey. Also, a point is equally given for every goal of a player. The two ice hockey stats have the same value of measurement. 

Therefore, when a goal is scored through an assist from another player, the player who scores the goal is given a point for the goal, and the player responsible for the assist receives a point for the assist. 

In ice hockey, it is very common for a player to have more assists than goals. In fact, almost all players (forwards and centermen) in the NHL have more assists when their stats are viewed compared to goals. 

A player’s number of assists and goals are combined to measure the total career points of NHL players. 

However, unlike most sports, ice hockey allows assists up to a second player. So what does this mean?

Types Of Assists In Ice Hockey

Types of assists in ice hockey

As I said earlier, assists are allowed in the NHL up to the second player. 

So what does this mean?

It means that a player who made a pass to the player who made the final pass to the player that scored a goal can receive an assist point. 

For this reason, there are two types of assists in ice hockey: Primary and Secondary assists. Let’s take a closer look. 

Primary Assists 

Primary assists in ice hockey are given to players who make the final pass to a teammate resulting in a goal. These are the primary form of assists, generally used as the only form of assists in other sports.

Secondary Assists 

Secondary assists are pretty different from primary assists, and they have stirred some disagreement over the idea of them being considered as a form of assists in ice hockey. A secondary assist is given to a player who made the pass to a player who gave the primary assist. This means the second passer before a goal was scored.

Ice Hockey Assist Rules 

Not every pass or assistance is counted as a primary or secondary assist in ice hockey. In this section, we will be looking at the rules that guide assists in ice hockey.

  • If a goal is not scored by the player who receives a pass, then an assist is not recorded
  • There can only be a maximum of two assists per goal
  • However, not every goal will have a secondary or primary assist. If the puck possession of a team changes and the player that collects the puck from the opposing team scores singlehandedly, then no assist will be recorded.
  • If there is a change in possession (from team A to B) from when a pass is made to when the receiving player gets the puck and scores, then no point is given to the team. 
  • A player can not receive a point for a goal and assist for a particular goal. If he scores the goal, he is given a goal point; if he makes an assist, he is given an assist point. However, a player can’t receive an assist and goal point for a single goal (even if he passes to himself by making a rebound with the sideboard)

NHL Assist Leaderboard

NHL assist leaderboard

Most Assist In An NHL Season

The player with the most assists in an NHL season is “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky recorded a total of 163 assists in the 1985-86 season. 

However, no one has come close to Gretzky in assists in the history of the NHL. When we look at players with the most NHL assists in a single season, Gretzky occupies the first twelve positions, leaving the 13th-20th positions for other NHL Hall of Famers. 

Most NHL Assist In The 2022-23 Season 

Currently, the player with the most goal this season is Conner McDavid, with 78 assists so far. The NHL regular season ends on the 17th of April, so there might be an increase or change in the player with the most assists this season. 

Most Assist In NHL History

Again, the player with the most career assists in the NHL is none other than Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky has an all-time career-high 1,963 assists. No player over the years has got nearly as close to that milestone since the days of Gretzky. 

The next player that comes second in most NHL assists is Ron Francis, with 1,249 assists. However, this leaves a difference of over 700 points between the two players.

Even “Sid the Kid” has just occupied the position of number 16 on the list with 946 assists so far in his career. 

Top 20 Players With The Most Assists In The NHL

All time highest assist points in the NHL

The table below shows the top 20 players in NHL history with the most assists.

1Wayne Gretzky1963
2Ron Francis1249
3Mark Messier1193
4Ray Bourque1169
5Jaromir Jagr1155
6Paul Coffey1135
7Joe Thornton1109
8Adam Oates1079
9Steve Yzerman1063
10Gordie Howe1049
11Marcel Dionne1040
12Mario Lemieux1033
13Joe Sakic1016
14Doug Gilmour964
15Mark Recchi954
16Sidney Crosby946
17Al Macinnis934
18Larry Murphy929
19Stan Mikita926
20Bryan Trottier901
Data from

Some Memorable Assists In Ice Hockey

Some memorable assists in the NHL

Here are five of the most memorable assist from  NHL players such as Conner McDavid, MacKinnon and others. 

Conner McDavid Assist To Ryan McLeod 

In a game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Ottawa Senators, Conner McDavid had a clean assist to Ryan Mcleod. 

The assist occurred at 4:43 minutes to the end of the second period when the Senators were on a power play. Initially, the Senators were pressing hard in the defence zone of the Oiler before Ryan dumped the puck, which began a race between McDavid and Thomas Chabot. 

Even though Chabot got possession of the puck first, McDavid eventually ended up retrieving it. Once he got possession, he soon realised that he was marked by two defensemen of the Senators. Also, he made some excellent stick-handling moves to keep control of the puck before he eventually made a back pass to McLeod.

The back pass, which went through the defence covering McDavid, made its way to McLeod, who gave a clean one-timer that the Senator’s goalie could not cover. 

It was indeed a clean assist from McDavid and a clean one-timer from McLeod. 

Thomas Chatbot Assist To Anthony Duclair

In 2019, when the Ottawa Senators were facing the Detroit Red Wings, Chatbot passed the puck from the defensive zone of his team (Senators) to the defensive zone of his opponent (Red Wings). 

The pass was caught by Duclair, who capitalised on the one-on-one chance with the goalie to score a goal. The assist was a fantastic pass to Duclair, as the pass did not end up as an offside, nor was it too long that Duclair would have to chase for it.

It was well-positioned and shot with the right amount of power. 

Nathan MacKinnon Assist To Mikko Rantanen (2020)

Andre Burakovsky had a shot on goal when the Colorado Avalanche faced the Dallas Stars. He missed the shot, and the puck rebounded back into the rink, where it was in possession of Dennis Gurianov for a short period before Andre intercepted it and passed it on to Nathan MacKinnon.

Mackinnon made his way close to the goalie before making a lob pass to Mikko, who shot the puck to enter the top corner of the net. The pass from MacKinnon was just high enough to go over a Dallas Stars player who had fallen on the ice to stop the puck.

Austin Matthews Assist To Mitch Marner (2019)

The Toronto Maple Leafs were going against the Carolina Hurricanes when Austin Matthews began to advance with the puck from the neutral zone. 

He was skating towards the right side of the rink. However, when he got close to the right side of the goalie’s net, he made a 360-degree turn and immediately passed the puck to Mitch Marner at the end of his turn. 

The puck moved from the right side of the rick where Matthews was to the opposite side where Marner was waiting to shoot it in. 

On getting to Marner, he gave the puck a one-timer that sent it flying straight into the goalie’s net.

However, this was only possible because of the opportunity created by Matthews. While Matthews was in possession of the puck, all the defence was towards his side of the ice, creating an open space for Marner. 

Zach Bogosian Assist To Blake Coleman (2020)

In a game against the Boston Bruins on August 25, 2020, the Tampa Bay Lightning saw a superb assist from Zach Bogosian. It started from the Lightning’s defensive zone, with Zach leading a breakaway. 

Zach moved with the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. With creative stick-handling and speed to move the puck through two defensemen who stood by him on both sides before making a pass to Coleman. 

The pass was above the ice, and Zach Bogosian ended up diving in order to shoot the puck into the net in midair. And that led to a great goal and assist from the Tampa Bay Lightnings. 


Finally, we come to the end of assists in ice hockey. This should have opened your ice (eyes) to all you need to know about assists in ice hockey and the NHL.

Thanks for reading.

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