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Top 40 Countdown: No. 2

The No. 2 goal-scorer on the Chicago Wolves Top 40 Countdown, presented by Jewel-Osco, has scored more goals in the American Hockey League than anyone else who started their career in 2005 or later.

Despite being listed at 5-foot-7 in an era when shorter players weren’t given as much consideration as they are today, Brett Sterling was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers. That’s how gifted of a scorer the Los Angeles native happened to be.

After piling up 108 goals in four seasons at Colorado College, Sterling joined the Wolves for the start of the 2006-07 season and it didn’t take long for the fireworks to begin.

He posted four goals in his first 10 games — a decent rate for anyone — but then Sterling went berserk. During an 18-game stretch from Nov. 4 to Dec. 21, Sterling produced two hat tricks and eight two-goal efforts as he notched 25 goals and 13 assists in that spectacular run. He also set the franchise record for consecutive games with a goal as he lit the lamp in nine straight from Dec. 12 to Dec. 29.

Sterling wrapped up his rookie season with an AHL-leading 55 goals — a total that has been exceeded only once in the 14 seasons since. For his efforts, he earned the Dudley “Red” Garrett Award as the Rookie of the Year along with a spot on the AHL’s First All-Star Team.

In 2007-08, Sterling earned his longest stint in the NHL — a 13-game run with the Thrashers that featured his first NHL goal on Oct. 20, 2007, versus the Tampa Bay Lightning — but he still found time to roll up 38 goals in 70 AHL regular-season games and add four postseason goals to aid the Wolves’ climb to the 2008 Calder Cup championship.

Over the course of the subsequent 10 seasons, Sterling twice left the Wolves for other organizations in North America and Europe. But he always found his way back to Chicago and always found ways to keep putting pucks in the net.

On April 14, 2018, at Allstate Arena, Sterling took a Tomas Hyka pass and worked his way to the front of the net, where he flicked a backhand past Rockford’s Collin Delia to become the 43rd player in AHL history to reach the 250-goal mark.

Of those 250 goals, 193 came in a Wolves uniform to rank No. 2 on the team’s regular-season all-time list. Sterling also ranks No. 3 in games (408), No. 4 in points (362) and No. 6 in assists (169). He’s also one of nine players in Wolves history to produce at least 16 postseason goals.

Want to enjoy more of the countdown?

No. 40: Gage Quinney
No. 39: Tim Breslin
No. 38: Nathan Oystrick
No. 37: Ben Simon
No. 36: Curtis McKenzie
No. 35: Kamil Piros
No. 34: Mark Mancari
No. 33: Simon Gamache
No. 32: Guy Larose
No. 31: Wade Megan
No. 30: Shane Harper
No. 29: Michael Davies
No. 28: Karl Stewart
No. 27: Cory Larose
No. 26: Pat Cannone
No. 25: Brian Wiseman
No. 24: Colin Stuart
No. 23: Brian Noonan
No. 22: Tim Bergland
No. 21: Joey Crabb
No. 20: Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman
No. 19: Dan Currie
No. 18: Dan Plante
No. 17: Bob Nardella
No. 16: Brandon Pirri
No. 15: Steve Martins
No. 14: Spencer Machacek
No. 13: Kevin Doell
No. 12: Niklas Andersson
No. 11: Ty Rattie
No. 10: Scott Pearson
No. 9: Derek MacKenzie
No. 8: JP Vigier
No. 7: Steve Larouche
No. 6: Jason Krog
No. 5: Chris Marinucci
No. 4: Darren Haydar
No. 3: Rob Brown