Assist in Hockey: Explained Primary, Secondary with Examples!

What is an Assist in Hockey

What is the most crucial thing in all the games? It’s teamwork! Whether in groups and organizations or sports, if you want to be successful, you must have a  good team and strong teamwork. This phenomenon is displayed in ice hockey, especially in the hockey assist.

What is an assist in hockey? A hockey assist is an action that helps in scoring a goal by deflecting or passing the puck to a goal-scoring player. A hockey assist can be attributed to up to two players who pass the puck to the other teammate who scores a goal. Assist credits an assisting player with one point. If two players assist, then one point will be awarded to each player. Hockey is the only primary sport that gives players credit in the most basic statistics. That’s why it is called ‘Hockey Assist’.

Let’s learn more about assists in hockey. Further, what is primary and secondary assistance? Further, which player is the NHL’s all-time assists leader and which is the NHL’s assists leader from 2022-23?

What is an Assist in Hockey?

Hockey assist is one of the many statistics in ice hockey. One assist equals one point, and one goal can have two assists. It is awarded to the last two players who pass on the puck to the player who goals. 

That means the credit for scoring the goal goes to two players who helped set up such a play that finally resulted in scoring. 

The assist is rewarded only when the player takes possession of the puck after the opponent team has scored the goal, the player’s team has gained possession of the puck from them, and they have now scored.

It is essential to know that every goal doesn’t need to have an assist. Sometimes a player himself gains possession of the puck and scores it. There is no passing of the puck. In such a case, there is no assistance to that goal. 

A goal can have a maximum of two assists, but the secondary assist is not always there. There may be only one pass for a goal. In that case, that goal will have only one assist to it. 

What are primary assists?

One goal can have two assists. The final player who passes the puck to the player scoring the goal gets awarded the primary assist. 

If you want to check the primary assists to a goal in the box score, check out the first name beside the goal scorer. That is the primary assist. 

What are secondary assists?

The second assist to the goal is the secondary assist. The second-last player who assists in the goal-scoring gets the secondary assist. Simply put, the player who passes the puck to the primary assist will be the secondary assist. 

To check out the secondary assist in the box score, check out the name beside the primary assist after the goal scorer. That will be the secondary assist. But not every goal has a secondary assist. 

Examples of assist-scoring plays

To understand the concept of hockey assist, let us discuss an example of the assist. Consider the example of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak from the Boston Bruins. 

Consider the scenario.

Bergeron and Pastrnak pass the puck and have a good play, resulting in Pastrnak trying to score the goal, but the goalie makes the save. The goal attempt is unsuccessful. 

In the second attempt, Brad Marchand gets the puck back from the defensemen and successfully scores.  

What will be the reading on the box score? It will be: 

Goal: Brad Marchand (unassisted) 

Now, let’s interpret this goal. 

Bergeron and Pastrnak had shown good passing play but could not score the goal. The opponent team successfully made the save and got possession of the puck.

After the other team had gained the puck, Brad Marchand snatched it away from them and scored the goal. This time, no one from his team assisted in scoring or touched the puck.  Therefore, this goal has no assists to it.  

In case the goalie had not been able to make savings of Pastrnak’s shot, and the puck had  bounced back to Marchand, who had scored the goal, the box score would have read: 

Goal: Brad Marchand Assists: (Pastrnak, Bergeron) 

Here Pastrnak is the primary assist, while Bergeron has the secondary assist. 

Only the possession of the puck by the other team invalidates the passes. If the goalie stops a  goal, but the puck returns to the same team, and they score in the next attempt, the passes will count. 

Similarly, deflecting the puck by any means also does not count if the team scores. 

How many points is an assist in hockey? Do they count as points?

One assist is always equal to a single point in hockey. The fact that the assist is primary or secondary does not matter. Even the goals are equal to one point. So, goals and assists contribute one point to a player’s total points.

NHL all-time assists leaders

On average, a good player has one assist in a single game. Having one assist in two games is proof of a player’s good performance.

The following list shows the top-ranked assisting players of the NHL all-time assists leaders.

1Wayne Gretzky1979-991963
2Ron Francis1981-041249
3Mark Messier1979-041193
4Ray Bourque1979-011169
5Jaromír Jágr1990-181155
6Paul Coffey1980-011135
7Joe Thornton1997-221109
8Adam Oates1985-041079
9Steve Yzerman1983-061063
10Gordie Howe1946-801049
NHL all-time assists leaders

Wayne Gretzky has eleven of the top twelve all-time assists. In the 1985-86 season, he set up a  record of gaining 163 assists. 

NHL assists leaders 2022-23

The following list shows the top-ranked assisting players of the current 2022-2023 season.

1Connor McDavidEdmonton Oilers43
2Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning43
3Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks42
4Leon DraisaitlEdmonton Oilers40
5Josh MorrisseyWinnipeg Jets39
6Mitch MarnerToronto Maple Leafs34
7Artemi PanarinNew York Rangers34
8Adam FoxNew York Rangers34
9Rasmus DahlinBuffalo Sabres33
10Elias PetterssonVancouver Canucks31
NHL assists leaders 2022-23

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a player called scoring three assists?

There is no specific term referring to a player who scores three assists. However, a player who makes three assists in a single game is called a ‘Playmaker’. And three assists are named a ‘Hat Trick’.

Can a player himself assist in hockey?

As per the NHL rules, only one point will be awarded to players assisting in scoring a goal. Thus, if only one player scores a goal without the other player’s help, he will receive only one point. It doesn’t matter how he manages himself and makes an effort to achieve a goal, only one goal point will be given to him, not an assist point.

How vital are the assists in hockey?

Assists have so much importance in hockey. A player who makes way and sets him up to score a goal deserves recognition, and therefore NHL credits a player with one point in a statistical game aspect. Assists are the playmakers who play a significant role in scoring a goal and winning a game. These players record more assists than goals by their solid passing skills.


So, in a nutshell, assisting in scoring a goal is a hockey assist, and one assist will add one point to your overall score.

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Austin Taylor

Who is Austin Taylor?

Meet Austin Taylor, your go-to source for everything ice hockey! With a passion for the sport that’s as deep as the ice itself, Austin Taylor brings you concise, expert insights and nitty-gritty details on all things hockey. From gear reviews to strategy breakdowns, Austin Taylor is your trusted guide to navigating the exhilarating world of ice hockey. Get ready to lace up your skates and dive into the game with Austin Taylor as your ultimate companion.

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