October 24, 2010 1 Comment
The most difficult thing to do in sports debates is to rank players throughout the history of a sport and compare those who played in different eras. After all, how can you compare Alexander Ovechkin, one of the most dominant players of the current game, to someone like Aurele Joliat, one of the greatest Canadiens, who played in the 1920s? Well, let me tell you, it is tough. After doing intense research, speaking with those who saw the majority of these players in addition to some media members, I present to you the list of 100 top wingers in NHL history.
-All stats listed are current as of the end of the 2009-10 NHL season
-The teams listed with each player are the prominent teams the player played with and is completely subjective.
-The stats listed are formatted as follows: GP-G-A-P-PIM
-“Winger” is defined as a player who, as reported by NHL.com, played either left wing or right wing.
Though numerous people had advice and opinions on this list, the final decision was ultimately my own, so the list is 100% subjective from my own beliefs and opinions. Enjoy the piece and feel free to leave your own rankings, agreements or criticisms of these 100 great players!
1. Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings
Gordie Howe could have been a Ranger or a Maple Leaf – very easily, in fact. At age fifteen, he was invited to a tryout with New York, but didn’t impress management enough to be placed on the protected list. After being noticed by the Red Wings and being assigned to their United States League team for development, the Maple Leafs noticed he was never actually put on the Wings’ protected list. Instead of sneaking around and snatching Howe, he informed Detroit coach Jack Adams, a good friend, noting there had been a clerical error. Adams immediately placed Howe on the protected list, and Mr. Hockey made his NHL debut in 1946 at age 18. Howe wasn’t a dominant goal scorer in his first few seasons, but scored 68 points in 70 games in 1949-50, when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. He increased his production and led the NHL in points the next four seasons, winning two more Stanley Cups in the process (and another, his fourth, in 1954-55). He led the league in points six times throughout his career, led the league in goals five times and led the league in assists three times.
In addition to his goal-scoring prowess, Howe was also known for his tough play and his ability to plow you into the boards before (or after) scoring a goal. He also was ambidextrous and was able to use the era’s straight sticks as both a lefty and righty, further increasing his ability to get around every opponent on the ice. In addition to his six NHL scoring champion titles, he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP six times and captained the Red Wings from 1958 to 1962. Though he jumped to the WHA in 1973-74, his NHL numbers were the best in NHL history to that point and stood until Wayne Gretzky broke them in the 1990s.
Howe was also famous for his friendliness off the ice and his ability to make each young fan feel special. “I’m watching these guys in awe and Gordie Howe picked up a whole bunch of snow on his stick and dumped it on my head,” said Jeremy Roenick. “I thought that was the coolest thing that ever happened. Then he skated around and he looked at me again and he winked. For those three seconds, it was me and Gordie Howe and nobody else. It was little, it was small, it took nothing out of his time, but it resonated my whole life. So as a player, as I got older, I tried to reach out to fans, to reach out to kids.”
Howe also has an impact on media members, as The Hockey News’ Ryan Dixon recently pointed out in a THN.com article (http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/35801-THNcom-Blog-Shaking-hands-with-the-legend-Gordie-Howe.html). Gordie was telling stories and explained the following event while he was in the WHA: “‘There was a Russian hacking away at Wayne all night and he was getting really frustrated,” Howe said. “I told him, ‘The next time you get the puck, bring it up right wing. When you hear heavy breathing, get out of the way.’ ” Howe leveled the Russian with a devastating check. As the Russian trainer tended to his prone player, the WHA team changed lines. “We were sitting on the bench and I said, ‘Damn,’ ” Howe remembered. “Wayne asked, ‘What’s wrong, Gord?’ “I said, ‘He’s getting up.’”
Mr. Hockey’s accomplishments include a 23-time NHL All-Star, 12 First All-Star Team Selections, nine Second Team All-Star Selections, four Stanley Cups, a Lester Patrick Award, a two-time Avco World Trophy winner as the WHA champion, a 2-time WHA All-Star, being in the top five in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive seasons, and having his number nine retired by the Red Wings, Houston Aeros and Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes. Ranked number three on The Hockey News’ list of all-time greatest players, Howe currently holds thirteen NHL records and three Red Wings records. He is the highest-scoring winger of all time and the greatest of any that ever played the game. The icing was put on the cake that is Gordie Howe’s career when he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, officially ending Mr. Hockey’s legendary career that will never be forgotten.
2. Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens
Maurice Richard almost didn’t play in the NHL. The Canadiens and the league almost missed out on one of the greatest players in NHL history. Having dominated senior and minor leagues throughout Montreal, Richard was being watched very closely by the Habs, before he suffered numerous injuries, including breaking a wrist, breaking his ankle and other minor bumps and bruises. However, Canadiens coach Dick Irvin insisted that GM Tommy Gorman sign Richard, saying that his play in Montreal’s training camp was impressive. Management became nervous when Richard broke his ankle just 16 games into the season, whereupon Gorman tried (and failed) to trade Richard to the New York Rangers. However, when Richard’s first child was born at nine pounds, he asked to change his number from number 15 to number 9 – thus a new Maurice Richard was born.
He broke out that next season, scoring 54 points in 46 games and winning the Stanley Cup with the Habs.
The following season, Richard, nicknamed “The Rocket” by his teammates for his blinding speed, did the unthinkable, becoming the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in 50 games. He also helped form the Punch Line, being paired with Elmer Lach and Toe Blake, two of the best players in Montreal Canadiens history. All three finished in the top three in league scoring. In 1952, Richard became the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer, surpassing Nels Stewart with his 325th goal. Though Richard continued to dominate the league, he won the league’s MVP just once, and cited his French-Canadian background as the reason. He created much controversy when he co-wrote regular columns in a local newspaper discussing the politics behind the league and even going after NHL President Clarence Campbell. However, after being fined by the league and threatened with suspension, Richard reluctantly stopped, but not before writing a final column discussing his freedom of speech that was taken away. Nonetheless, Richard finished his career with 544 goals and was the first player ever to reach the 500-goal mark. The Hockey News ranked him fifth on their all-time list, while his number 9 was retired by the Canadiens. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 after they waived the traditional three-year-waiting period on his behalf.
3. Bobby Hull, Chicago Blackhawks/Winnipeg Jets
One of the best wingers of all time, Hull – “The Golden Jet” – lost some of his best years by playing in the WHA (and dominating, for that matter). His NHL high of 58 goals and 107 points came in 1968-69, but he obliterated that professional high by posting 77 goals and 142 points for the Jets in 1974-75. Known to have one of the best shots in NHL history, Hull’s professional statistics are: 1,474 games, 913 goals, 895 assists, 1808 points and 823 penalty minutes.
His accomplishments include being the NHL scoring champion in 1960, 1962 and 1966, being elected to the league’s First All-Star Team ten times, being elected to the Second Team twice, winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice, winning the Lady Byng in 1965, and becoming just the third hockey player ever to grace the cover of Time magazine. He was elected to five WHA All-Star Teams and won the league’s MVP twice, while he won one Stanley Cup and three Avco Cups (WHA Championship). When he retired, he was the second leading goals scorer in NHL history and currently ranks 12th. The Hockey News ranked him eighth among all players on the list of 100 greatest players. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
4. Mike Bossy, New York Islanders
After scoring more than 115 points in each of four seasons with your Quebec Major Junior League team, it’s pretty fair to expect to be drafted in the top five. However, in the 1977 draft, fourteen teams passed over Mike Bossy, who was known as a goal scorer unable to check opposing players. When it came time for the Islanders to draft him, Islanders coach Al Arbour convinced GM Bill Torrey to select Bossy, with the logic that it’s easier to teach a scorer how to check, rather than to teach a checker how to score. Bossy was immediately placed on a line with Clark Gillies and Bryan Trottier, making up the famous Trio Grande.
Bossy’s goal-scoring ability shined immediately, as he posted 53 goals and 91 points in his rookie season and won the Calder Trophy. He hit his career high in his second season with 69 goals, then scored 64 goals and 147 points (another career high) in the 1981-82 season, the year the Islanders won their third consecutive Stanley Cup. That season, he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, in addition to a First Team All-Star selection. He was selected to that team five times in his career – one of just four right wingers to ever do so. However, toward the mid-1980s, Bossy’s back suffered multiple injuries and he was unable to keep up his scoring pace. At the end of the 1986-87 season, he would retire after playing just 63 games. Bossy won the Lady Byng Trophy three times in his career and is the only player in NHL history to score 50 goals in nine consecutive seasons. Though his numbers don’t technically match up with those of Gretzky, Lemieux and others, Bossy holds the NHL record for goals per game with .762. He also was the fastest player to reach 100 and 300 goals and the third fastest to 500. His seven 100-point seasons ranks fourth in NHL history and first among wingers. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
5. Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins/New York Rangers
Highly touted as a youngster, Jagr took control of the Czech-Junior League, scoring 265 points in just 135 games. In his sophomore year in the senior league, he scored 50 points in 42 games, convincing the Penguins to draft him fifth overall in 1990. In his rookie year, he made the league’s All-Rookie team and scored 57 points in 80 games. His numbers continued to increase through the lockout of 1994-95, when he scored 99 points in 1993-94. Coming out of the lockout, however, he exploded, scoring 70 points in the shortened 48-game season – earning him a nomination for the league MVP. In the next season, however, he hit his career highs of 62 goals, 87 assists and 149 points. He hit the 100-point mark three more times as a member of the Penguins and even hit it in his first year as a member of the New York Rangers in 2005-06.
Awards he won include the Hart Trophy in 1999, the Lester B. Pearson (Players’ MVP) in 1999, 2000 and 2006, and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s scoring champion in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. He was named to the league’s first All-Star Team seven times and made the second team once. He also won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins in the early 1990s. He represented his country 16 times (four with Czechoslovakia and 12 with the Czech Republic), winning two World Championships and a bronze and gold medal at the Olympics. He holds eleven NHL records, including scoring goals in 53 different NHL arenas. He also holds eight New York Rangers records. Is 1,599 points are more than any European in NHL history. His NHL career technically ending in 2008, when he moved to Russia to play in the KHL, Jagr will be eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
6. Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues/Dallas Stars/Detroit Red Wings
One of the most prolific scorers of his era, Hull was first noticed at a Pee Wee tournament, where his slap shot lifted the eye of everyone, including the legendary Jean Beliveau. Playing Junior A hockey in the British Columbia Junior League, he set numerous scoring records, many of which still stand today. Regardless of his talents, however, Hull lasted until the 117th overall pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, when he was selected by the Calgary Flames. He only suited up for 57 games for Calgary (posting 51 points), before being moved to St. Louis.
When he arrived in Missouri, Hull took off, posting 98 points in his first 91 games, then posting seasons of 113, 131, 109 and 101 points, respectively. His career high, an incredible 86 goals, came in the 1990-91 season, where he came very close to breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record for goals in a single season. In fact, with three 70-goal seasons, only The Great One himself has more. Hull represented the United States six times in his career, including a championship at the 1996 World Cup and silver medals in the 1991 Canada Cup and 2002 Winter Olympics. His career achievements include eight All-Star Games, three First Team All-Stars, a league MVP in 1991, a Lady Byng in 1990, the fourth-quickest player ever to 500 goals, the all-time leader in playoff power play goals, and the all-time leader (tied with Gretzky) in playoff game winning goals. He also won two Stanley Cups – with Dallas in 1999 and Detroit in 2002. His number 16 was retired by the St. Louis Blues in 2006, while the Hockey Hall of Fame called his name for induction in 2009.
7. Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens
Think about this for a second: Guy Lafleur was almost a member of the Oakland Seals. That’s right, that now-defunct franchise that seemed to fail in all aspects in the 1960s and 1970s. As the clear favorite for the number one overall pick in the 1971 draft, the Seals held the rights to that pick. However, just a year earlier, they decided to trade it to the Canadiens for players that never made a true impact in the NHL. Therefore, when it came time for the 1971 draft, it was a no-brainer that the Habs selected Lafleur. He succeeded – just barely – in his first few seasons, although he never reached the 65-point mark. However, in 1974-75, Lafleur flew out of the gate and scored 119 points. That number would increase to a career high of 136 in 1976-77 and he would continue to score over 100 points until the 1980-81 season, when injury prevented him from doing so.
Throughout his career, Lafleur won five Stanley Cups, including four straight from 1976 to 1979. He was the NHL’s goal leader in 1978 and the league’s scoring leader from 1976 to 1978. He won two Hart Trophies as the league MVP in 1977 and 1978 and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1977 as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Lafleur is the Canadiens’ all-time leading scorer, with 1,246 points in 14 years with the franchise. He also became the first player ever to score 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons. At the time, he was also the fastest player ever to reach 1,000 points (720 games), but that was later broken by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Lafleur was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
8. Jari Kurri, Edmonton Oilers/Los Angeles Kings
Taken in the Edmonton Oilers’ first ever NHL Entry Draft (69th overall in 1980), Kurri is known as one of the greatest Finns in the history of hockey. Paired with Wayne Gretzky, Kurri scored 75 points in his first season and increased that total every year until he reached 135 in 1984-85. He reached the 100-point plateau six times and reached the 80-point mark another four times in his career. Gretzky and Kurri developed such chemistry that throughout their career, Gretzky assisted on over 60% of Kurri’s goals and Kurri assisted on almost 200 of Gretzky’s goals.
Throughout his career, Kurri played in eight All-Star Games and was named to five All-Star Teams. He won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton and was ranked 50th on The Hockey News’ list of top 100 players. He led the NHL in goals in 1986 and won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play and sportsmanship in 1985. He represented Finland twice in his career, including the 1998 Olympics, where he won a bronze medal. In 2001, he became the first Finn ever to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
9. Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles Kings
Drafted 171st overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, Robitaille slipped down the draft boards due to his so-called poor skating ability. In fact, Robitaille is the second-lowest drafted player in NHL history to score 1,000 points in his career (fellow King Dave Taylor was drafted lower). In juniors, however, Robitaille indeed showed promise, posting 424 points in 197 career games in the Quebec Major Junior League with the Hull Olympiques. The QMJHL even established the Luc Robitaille Trophy, which is awarded annually to the league’s top-scoring team.
When he broke into the league, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie, after scoring 84 points in 79 games. He exploded the next season, scoring 53 goals and 111 points in 80 games. His numbers continued to surpass the 90-point mark for the next five seasons, then dipped to 86 before he was sent to Pittsburgh. In the Steel City, he posted his lowest ever career numbers, then was moved to New York, before jumping back to the Kings in 1997.
His numbers increased slightly, reaching a high of 88 points in his second stint in Los Angeles, but eventually moved to Detroit, where he would win his first and only Stanley Cup in 2002. He played one more time for the Kings in 2003-04 and 2005-06, but would retire at the end of the 2006 season. He retired after playing in eight NHL All-Star Games, having his number 20 retired by the Kings and being the all-time leading scorer among left wingers. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
10. Bernie Geoffrion, Montreal Canadiens
One of the most touted young players for the Canadiens at the time, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion took the league by storm, winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year with 54 points in 67 games in 1951-52. (He gained the nickname “Boom Boom” through his incredible slapshot, which he claimed to have invented as a child.) In his second season, he averaged almost a point per game in the playoffs as he led the Habs to the Stanley Cup. Through the rest of the decade, the Canadiens won five more championships (consecutively from 1956 to 1960) and Geoffrion dominated the NHL in the process, becoming the NHL scoring champion in 1955 and 1961, and winning the league MVP in 1961 as well.
Geoffrion’s number five was retired by Montreal in 2006 – on the day he died, ironically – just eight years after he was named the 42nd best player in NHL history by The Hockey News. His career high of 50 goals and 95 points came in the 1960-61 season. He was also just the second player ever to score fifty (his teammate, Maurice Richard, was the first). He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
11. Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey Devils/St. Louis Blues/Detroit Red Wings
Drafted second overall in 1987 by the New Jersey Devils, Shanahan was one of the best players of his era. Besides his obvious talent, Shanahan was an extremely smart player and was able to understand the game in a wider sense. His 102 points in 1993-94 for the St. Louis Blues was a career high and led to him becoming the captain of the Hartford Whalers when he arrived in 1995. He won a Canada Cup, a World Championship and a Gold Medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He played in eight All-Star Games and represented Canada seven times throughout his career. He retired in 2009, making him eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
12. Aurele Joliat, Montreal Canadiens
Coming into the NHL in 1922, Joliat immediately began averaging close to a point per game for the Canadiens and even won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP in 1934 (he scored 37 points in 48 games that year). He was named to the league’s first ever First All-Star Team in 1931, then received three subsequent Second Team nominations. Despite playing just 48 games each season, Joliat is ninth on the Canadiens’ all time goal-scoring list and second among left wingers to Steve Shutt. Koliat was ranked 65th by The Hockey News among all-time players. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.
13. Dider Pitre, Montreal Canadiens
255-220-59-279-338 (NHL and NHA combined)
One of the most sought after senior hockey players in the early 1900s, the Canadiens managed to land him. He subsequently led the team to their first Stanley Cup in 1916, then helped them continue their dominance through the years. The year the Stanley Cup Final was cancelled due to the influenza epidemic (1919), Pitre led the playoffs in points. In 1921, the Canadiens began playing him on defense, which led to the decrease in his statistics. However, he still remains one of the greatest players in NHL history. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
14. Busher Jackson, Toronto Maple Leafs
The NHL scoring champion in 1932 with 53 points, Jackson was one of the league’s top players throughout the 1930s. Though he only won one Stanley Cup (1932), he was a major part of the Kid Line, consisting of him, Charlie Conacher and Joe Primeau. In 1971, when Conn Smythe, his former General Manager, was the head of the Hall of Fame committee, he consistently pushed for the Hall to prevent him from being inducted (the two had a falling out years earlier). However, his stock was so high that the committee elected him anyway, making 1971 the year Jackson posthumously received his Hall of Fame jacket.
15. Mark Recchi, Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers
Winning one Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s and another with the Hurricanes in 2006, Recchi was consistently one of the Penguins’ top players – then continued that trend when he played for Philadelphia at the turn of the century. He was awarded the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the Flyers’ MVP three times in his career and played in seven All-Star Games. Currently playing for the Boston Bruins, Recchi is sure to be a Hall of Famer three years after he retires.
16. John Bucyk, Boston Bruins
Unknown to many, Bucyk actually started his career with the Detroit Red Wings. However, he broke out with the Bruins, posting 52 points in his first season in Beantown, then continued to play efficiently, culminating in two Stanley Cups and a 116-point season in 1970-71. Bucyk won two Lady Byng Trophies for gentlemanly play, in addition to wearing the “C” for the Bruins in the 1966-67 season and from 1973 to 1977. He is ranked 45th on The Hockey News’ list of all time players. Bucyk, the oldest player in NHL history to score 50 goals (age 35), was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
17. Dave Andreychuk, Buffalo Sabres/Toronto Maple Leafs/ Tampa Bay Lightning
Andreychuk was a power play specialist and leads all players in history with 274 power play goals. He played in two All-Star Games in his career and has played the fifth most games in league history. He is also tied for 27th all time in points (tied with Denis Savard). His career high in points came in 1993-94 with the Maple Leafs, when he posted 99. He finally won a Stanley Cup in 2004, when he captained the Tampa Bay Lightning through a Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames. He retired at the end of the 2005-06 NHL season. He is eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame and will most likely be inducted in the upcoming years.
18. Mike Gartner, Washington Capitals
Drafted fourth overall in 1979 by the Capitals, Gartner immediately made an impact, scoring 68 points in his rookie year. His points totals continued to increase, reaching a career high in 1985 with 102 points (and 50 goals – his only 50-goal season). He holds five NHL records, including the All-Star Skills Competition record for fastest skater (around the rink in 13.386 seconds). He also holds four Washington Capitals records, leading to his number 11 being retired by the team. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
19. Teemu Selanne, Winnipeg Jets/Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks
Selanne took the NHL by storm, as the Finnish Flash set an NHL rookie record that still stands with 76 goals (and 132 points). He reached the 50-goal mark another two times in his career, and surpassed the 100-point plateau twice as well. He holds six NHL records, nine Ducks records, two Jets/Coyotes records and holds the Olympic record for career points in Winter Olympics, with 38 points. He won his first and only Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. His Hall of Fame induction will come in four years or so.
20. Dickie Moore, Montreal Canadiens
Playing the majority of his career for the Montreal Canadiens, Moore ranked 31st on The Hockey News’ list of top 100 NHL players of all time. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s scoring champion twice, played in six All-Star Games and was named to one of the league’s two All-Star Teams three times. He also set the league record for points in one season with 96 in 1958-59, before it was broken by Bobby Hull in 1966. Moore was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1974.
21. Frank Mahovlich, Toronto Maple Leafs/Montreal Canadiens
Winning six Stanley Cups is quite an accomplishment (even Gretzky only won four). But Mahovlich won the Calder Trophy as well after his rookie season, after posting 36 points in 1957-58. Though he never surpassed the 100-point mark, he consistently posted upwards of 70 and 80 points. His career best came with Montreal in 1972, when he scored 96 points. The Hockey News ranked him 27 on the all time list of NHL players, and in 1981, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
22. Dit Clapper, Boston Bruins
The Bruins retired Clapper’s number 5, while the Hockey Hall of Fame waived the three-year waiting period so he could be inducted immediately in 1947. He made three NHL First All-Star Teams and two Second All-Star Teams (including one as a defenseman). His career high was 22 goals in 1930-31 and 37 points in 1934-35. He captained the bruins from 1932 to 1938 and from 1939 to 1946.
23. Cy Denneny, Ottawa Senators
Denneny led the NHL in scoring in 1924, won four Stanley Cups as a player and coached the Bruins to the Cup in 1929. His career with the Senators was illustrious, as he both scored and muscled his way to glory, scoring 246 career goals in 326 NHL seasons. He also added 38 points in three seasons in the National Hockey Association. The captain of the Senators from 1923 to 1926, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959.
24. Babe Dye, Toronto St. Patricks
Dye was the leading NHL scorer in the 1920s, and also played CFL football with the Argos. His career lasted just nine full NHL seasons, but he was consistently a top player in the league. His 201 goals were unprecedented by the majority of players in his era. The Hockey News ranked him 83rd overall among all-time players. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970.
25. Sweeney Schriner, New York Americans/Toronto Maple Leafs
Schriner’s resume includes two Stanley Cups, the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1935, and the NHL scoring champion in both 1936 and 1937. His career lasted just 484 games (in a time when seasons were just 48 games), but he consistently was one of the league’s best players. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
26. Doug Bentley, Chicago Blackhawks
Bentley won the Art Ross in 1943 and was selected to three first All-Star teams. He was also named Chicago’s best hockey player from 1900-1950. He served as the Blackhawks’ captain from 1942 to 1944 and again in the 1949-50 season. The Hockey News named him the 73rd best player of all time, while his brother, Max, ranked 25 spots higher. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1964.
27. Michel Goulet, Quebec Nordiques/Chicago Blackhawks
After being the first ever NHL draft choice for the Quebec Nordiques, Goulet began sniping his way through every NHL season, setting his career high of 57 goals in 1982-83 and 121 points in 1983-84. He never won a Stanley Cup as a player (he won two with the Colorado Avalanche as an executive), but his career still ranks among the best wingers of all time. Though his career was ended with a severe concussion in 1994, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998.
28. Dino Ciccarelli, Detroit Red Wings/Minnesota North Stars/Washington Capitals
After ripping through his Major Junior schedule with the London Knights, Ciccarelli became one of the best players in the NHL, hitting the 100-point mark twice while on the North Stars. Though he never won a Stanley Cup, he helped lead two franchise to the brink (and the Red Wings subsequently won the year after he left). His off-ice issues prevented his Hockey Hall of Fame election for years, but in 2010, the phone finally rang for him to be inducted once and for all.
29. Bob Gainey, Montreal Canadiens
Gainey is arguably the greatest defensive player in the history of the NHL. Although, with 238 goals, he was clearly capable of putting the puck in the net, it was the play in his own end that made him famous and won him the first four Selke Trophies as the league’s best defensive forward. Gainey also served as the Canadiens’ captain from 1981 to 1989 and won five Stanley Cups with the organization. Anatoli Tarasov, the legendary Soviet Union coach, called him the world’s best all-around player. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
30. Andy Bathgate, New York Rangers
Ranked the eighth best New York Ranger of all time by the book 100 Ranger Greats, Bathgate’s number 9 was retired by the Rangers in 2009. He also holds the honor of having been named the league MVP of both the WHL and NHL. He also won the Memorial Cup in 1952. Known for his shot, it was a puck coming from his stick that smacked Jacques Plante in the face, forcing him to wear his famous mask. Bathgate was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.
31. Bill Cook, New York Rangers
Ranked number five on the list of New York Rangers greats, according to the book 100 Rangers Greats, Cook captained the Blueshirts for a decade. He also led the NHL in scoring in 1927 with 37 points and in 1933 with 50 points. In 1928, Cook scored every Ranger goal in the Stanley Cup final and led the team to a championship. He also captained them to a second cup in 1933. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952.
32. Glenn Anderson, Edmonton Oilers/Toronto Maple Leafs
A member of the famous Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, Anderson won five Stanley Cups with the franchise – and was consistently one of their top points producers. He reached the 100-point plateau three times and hit 99 points another time. However, after leaving Edmonton, his statistics dropped, as did his ability as a player. He played for Team Canada in numerous tournaments, including the Canada Cup, Olympics and World Championships. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.
33. Theo Fleury, Calgary Flames
One of the most intriguing characters in NHL history, Fleury consistently battled drug and alcohol abuse to become one of the best NHL players of his time. He participated in a World Junior Championship, World Championship, Canada Cup, World Cup and the 2002 Winter Olympics. He played in seven All-Star Games and served as the Flames’ captain from 1995 to 1997. His famous goal in the 1989 Stanley Cup playoffs helped lead Calgary to their first and only championship.
34. David Taylor, Los Angeles Kings
One of few greats to play for just one team his entire career, Taylor was one of the Kings’ dominant players in the early 1980s when the Edmonton Oilers were coming to power. He posted 47 goals and 112 points in 1980-81, both career highs. He served as the team’s captain from 1985 to 1989, and won both the Bill Masterton Trophy and the King Clancy Trophy in 1991. He retired in 1994, but has yet to receive a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame.
35. Joe Mullen, Pittsburgh Penguins/St. Louis Blues/Calgary Flames
Often referred to as one of the best American players in NHL history, Mullen won two Lady Byng Trophies early in his career after going undrafted. His career highs of 51 goals and 110 points came in 1988-89 with the Calgary Flames, the year in which he won the Stanley Cup with the franchise. After winning two more Stanley Cups with the Penguins in the 1990s, Mullen was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.
36. Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo Sabres/Vancouver Canucks/Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the most interesting stories in the history of the NHL, Mogilny was able to sneak out of the Soviet Union at a time when doing so was unheard of. Upon coming to the United States, he made an impact almost immediately, posting 76 goals and 127 points in the 1992-93 season, tying Teemu Selanne for the league lead. He won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary and represented his country in three World Junior Championships and two World Championships (winning three medals). He also won the Lady Byng in 2003. He won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2000.
37. Brian Bellows, Minnesota North Stars
Drafted second overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, the St. Catharines, Ontario native was once named by Sports Illustrated the hottest prospect since Wayne Gretzky. Often compared to Gretzky in terms of talent, Bellows never did reach the level that The Great One was at, but he did manage 65 points in his rookie campaign, and subsequent 83, 88 and 99-point seasons. Serving as the North Stars’ captain in 1984, Bellows went on to reach the 1,000-point plateau and come close to 500 goals.
38. Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers
After joining the NHL full-time in 1962, Gilbert’s career took off almost immediately. Four Rangers records and eight All-Star Games later, the talented winger’s number 7 was retired by the Rangers, the first one to be hung in the rafters of Madison Square Garden. He also won the Bill Masterton Trophy and Lester Patrick Trophy in his career, before ending his career in 1978. He is ranked number 2 on the list of all-time New York Rangers, according to 100 Ranger Greats. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.
39. Steve Larmer, Chicago Blackhawks
Larmer was one of Chicago’s most productive players in the 1980s and 1990s, posting at least 80 points seven times in his career and even surpassing the 100-point margin in 1990-91. He led the 1991 Canada Cup tournament in goals and was second in points behind Wayne Gretzky, while he won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 at the end of his career. Larmer never missed the playoffs in his career and played in an incredible 889 consecutive games. Though never inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Larmer is still one of the most talented and most productive wingers in NHL history.
40. Lanny McDonald, Toronto Maple Leafs/Calgary Flames
For those that don’t know, McDonald holds an NHL record for most goals scored in a single season without breaking the 100-point barrier (66 goals and 98 points in 1983). His iconic red moustache distinguished him from any other hockey player in the league throughout his career. He was one of the most consistent players in his era, regularly scoring upwards of 30 goals – and ending with exactly 500 at the end of his career. He won a Stanley Cup with the Flames and had his number retired by the franchise. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
41. Clark Gillies, New York Islanders
Gillies was the Islanders’ captain from 1977 to 1979. Ironically, the first year he didn’t have the “C” on his jersey, the franchise won their first Stanley Cup. Nonetheless, Gillies played an integral role in all four championships the team won. His tough guy reputation intimidated opponents – especially when, as a rookie in the 1975 playoffs, he beat the crap out of Philadelphia’s Dave Schultz. Gillies hit the 30-goal mark four times while playing on a line with Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. His number was retired by the Islanders and he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
42. Cam Neely, Boston Bruins
One of the greatest power forwards in NHL history, his career was tragically cut short by injuries. Nonetheless, he is one of eight players to score 50 goals in under 50 games (though it is unofficially recognized, since it was his 44th game, yet his team’s 66th game of the season). Though he never won a Stanley Cup, his Hall of Fame induction speech summed up his career: “I just tried to do my best and work hard. Whether I played well or not was another story.” He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.
43. Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues/Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes
Selected 19th overall in 1990 by the Jets, Tkachuk made his NHL debut just after the end of the 1992 Olympics. Through his illustrious career, he played on three more Olympic teams and two World Cup teams, winning a gold and silver medal in the latter two tournaments. He was the captain of the Jets/Coyotes from 1993 to 2001 and led the NHL in goals in 1997 with 52. He recently retired, and will surely be in the Hall of Fame in three years.
44. Pat Verbeek, New Jersey Devils/Hartford Whalers
Selected 43rd overall by the Devils in 1982, Verbeek quickly became a quality player that could consistently post upwards of 50 points. However, he broke out with the Whalers, posting his career high 44 goals and 89 points in the 1989-90 season. After serving as the Whalers’ captain from 1992 to 1995, he won his first and only Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars. He retired in 2002.
45. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
The Calder Trophy winner as the league’s rookie of the year in 1996, the Swedish superstar has played in five NHL All Star Games and won a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. He holds 11 Ottawa Senators records and has been nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy twice in his career. Although he has yet to win a Stanley Cup, the 37-year-old led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, en route to a five game loss against the Ducks.
46. Esa Tikkanen, Edmonton Oilers
Winner of five Stanley Cups (four in Edmonton and one in New York), Tikkanen was a threat on both sides of the ice, finishing second in voting for the Selke Trophy three times during his career. A clutch player, he scored 72 goals in 186 career playoff games. He was also quite famous for his “Tikkanese,” a mixture of Finnish and English he would speak that few could understand.
47. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
For anyone that thinks it is too soon to place Ovechkin on this list, hear me out: if Ovechkin plays 1,400 NHL games in his career, he is on pace to score over 950 goals – shattering Wayne Gretzky’s record. And don’t think it can’t happen, as Ovechkin seems to improve a bit every year. His awards include a first All-Star Team selection each year since his rookie campaign, Sporting News’ Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009, the Lester B. Pearson and Ted Lindsay Award from 2008-2010, the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2008 and 2009, the Rocket Richard Trophy in those same years, and more. Can anyone say Hall of Fame?
48. Valeri Kharlamov, CSKA Moscow
The only player on the list to never play an NHL game, Kharlamov was one of the best wingers of all time – albeit for the Soviet League. He was a two-time Soviet MVP and won the Soviet scoring championship in 1972. He was elected to the USSR All-Star Team seven times. What’s that? You don’t think he belongs on a list of NHLers? Well he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005 – just the second non-NHLer ever to be inducted. Oh yeah, he won three Olympic medals, too.
49. Alex Kovalev, New York Rangers/Pittsburgh Penguins/Montreal Canadiens
The cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 95, Kovalev was the first Russian player to be drafted in the first round, be the captain of an All-Star Team and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. He won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 and played in three NHL All-Star Games. He was named to the NHL’s second All-Start Team in 2008 and won The Hockey News’ comeback player of the year award in the same year.
50. Rick Middleton, Boston Bruins
A first round pick of the Rangers in 1973, Middleton served as the Bruins’ captain (along with Ray Bourque) from 1985-1988. He also won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1982. He twice surpassed the 100-point plateau in his career and posted at least 85 points four other times. In 1981-82 he scored his career high in goals (51) and was named to the league’s second All-Star Team.
51. Kirk Muller, New Jersey Devils/Montreal Canadiens/Dallas Stars
Muller had his best years toward the start of his NHL career, posting 94 points for the Devils in 1988 and Canadiens in 1993. He holds three Devils records, including most points and assists in a single game and most points by a center in a single season. Muller won the Stanley Cup win the Habs in 1993 and became the captain a year later. He also captained the Devils for four seasons.
52. Rick Tocchet, Philadelphia Flyers
One of the toughest, yet most talented players on his team, Tocchet regularly put up points for the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins during the prime of his career, culminating in his career high of 109 points in 1992-93. After playing for numerous other teams, including the Bruins, Capitals and Coyotes, Tocchet began coaching, including both Phoenix and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
53. Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
A combination power forward, enforcer, goal scorer and playmaker, Iginla has never won less than gold in any international tournament he’s played. Having been a member of five All-Star Games, Iginla was one vote shy of winning the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2002, but lost when a Montreal reporter failed to put him on the ballot in front of Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore. However, he won the Lester B. Pearson, Art Ross, Rocket Richard and the ESPY for best NHL player in the same year. He’s also served as the Flames’ captain since the 2003-04 season.
54. Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Was consistently one of the Habs’ best players in the 1960s and 1970s. Won Stanley Cup 10 times as a player (second most in NHL history). Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.
55. Tony Amonte, Chicago Blackhawks/New York Rangers
Amonte led the Blackhawks as their captain from 2000-2002, after dominating his college schedule and posting 126 points for Boston University in just 79 career games. He compiled 69 points in his rookie year in 1991-92, then continued to match that total another five times in his career. He played in five NHL All-Star Games.
56. Peter Bondra, Washington Capitals
Bondra led the NHL in goals in both 1995 and 1998, with 34 and 52, respectively (1995 was the shortened lockout year). Six times in his career, he surpassed the 70-point mark. The Slovak has also represented his country seven times in his career, including three Olympic Games, a World Cup and a World Championship.
57. Owen Nolan, San Jose Sharks/Quebec Nordiques
Was the captain of the Sharks for five seasons and was the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 2001. Won an Olympic Gold Medal and World Championship. Played in five All-Star Games.
58. Bill Barber, Philadelphia Flyers
Captained the Flyers and leads the Flyers in all-time goals. Scored 50 goals in 1976 and had his number 7 retired by the team. Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.
59. Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks
Played in five All-Star Games and named two three first All-Star Teams. Won the Lester B. Pearson Award in 2003 and nominated for league MVP in the same year. Captained the Canucks for eight years.
60. Ray Whitney, San Jose Sharks/Florida Panthers/Carolina Hurricanes
Played in two All-Star Games and won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Hurricanes. Played on numerous World Championship teams throughout his career.
61. Dean Prentice, New York Rangers/Boston Bruins/Detroit Red Wings
Consistently posted over 45 points each season and was ranked as the 37th best Ranger in the team’s history. Career spanned from 1952-1974.
62. Bill Guerin, New Jersey Devils/Edmonton Oilers/Dallas Stars
Played for the United States in five tournaments (including three Olympic Games) and won Stanley Cups with the Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins. Never surpassed 70 points in a single season.
63. Tomas Sandstrom, New York Rangers/Los Angeles Kings
The famous Swedish power forward helped lead the kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. He surpassed 80 points twice in his career and hit the 70-point mark two more times.
64. Slava Kozlov, Detroit Red Wings/Atlanta Thrashers
Played for Russia/Soviet Union six times in his career in various tournaments and won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings.
65. Ted Lindsay, Detroit Red Wings
Was a pioneer for the NHL Players’ Association, in addition to winning the Art Ross Trophy in 1950 and four Stanley Cups. Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
66. George Armstrong, Toronto Maple Leafs
Four Stanley Cups, seven All-Star selections, most games in Leafs history, fifth-most points, and sixth-most goals. Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
67. John MacLean, New Jersey Devils
Holds four Devils records, in addition to leading the Sharks in playoff points and goals in 1998. Posted 87 points in 1989.
68. Scott Mellanby, Philadelphia Flyers/Florida Panthers/St. Louis Blues
Holds Panthers record for most assists in a game and captained the team for four seasons. He also was the captain of the Atlanta Thrashers for two seasons.
69. John Tonelli, New York Islanders
Won four Stanley Cups on Long Island and was named the Canada Cup MVP in 1984 (while winning it as well). Was an NHL All-Star twice.
70. Stephane Richer, Montreal Canadiens/New Jersey Devils
Scored 50 goals twice in his career, and is second in league history for playoff overtime goals with four. Won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and Devils.
71. John Leclair, Philadelphia Flyers/Montreal Canadiens
Won a Stanley Cup in Montreal, then exploded on the “Legion of Doom” in Philadelphia, consistently scoring at least 40 goals. Won Olympic Silver Medal in 2002.
72. Steve Shutt, Montreal Canadiens
Set a left-winger record for goals with 60 in 1977, before broken by Luc Robitaille. Played with Lemaire and Lafleur and won five Stanley Cups.
73. Wilf Paiement, Toronto Maple Leafs/Colorado Rockets/Quebec Nordiques
The first player ever drafted by the Kansas City Scouts, he was also the last player, other than Gretzky to wear “99.” Scored 97 points for Toronto in 1981.
74. Ken Hodge, Boston Bruins
Played in three All-Star Games and won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins. Surpassed 100 points twice in his career.
75. Geoff Courtnall, Boston Bruins/Vancouver Canucks/St. Louis Blues
Undrafted winger was consistent throughout his career and won a Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1988.
76. Steve Thomas, Chicago Blackhawks/New York Islanders/Toronto Maple Leafs/New Jersey Devils
Nicknamed “Stumpy” by his teammates, Thomas went undrafted, but was signed by the Maple Leafs in 1984. He won the American League’s rookie of the year award in 1985.
77. Claude Lemieux, New Jersey Devils/Colorado Avalanche
Four Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe Trophy and an induction in the QMJHL Hall of Fame caps an incredible career. Is ninth in all time Stanley Cup playoff goals.
78. Pavel Bure, Vancouver Canucks/Florida Panthers
The Russian Rocket was one of the best players of his era, flying around the ice each game. Won Calder once and Rocket Richard Trophy twice. Holds one NHL record, two Panthers records and five Canucks records.
79. Bert Olmstead, Montreal Canadiens
Won five Stanley Cups, played in the Final 11 of 14 seasons. Set league record for assists in 1955. Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
80. Joseph Pronovost, Pittsburgh Penguins
Posted 52 goals and 104 points in 1976, and was brother of famed Marcel Pronovost. Played in four All-Star Games.
81. Dave Christian, Washington Capitals/Winnipeg Jets
Won Gold Medal during “Miracle on Ice,” then consistently posted upwards of 60 points per season. Elected to United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
82. Marian Hossa, Ottawa Senators/Chicago Blackhawks
Led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup (and led his previous two teams to Stanley Cup finals as well). Four All-Star Games.
83. Pavol Demitra, St. Louis Blues
Three All-Star Games and a Lady Byng Trophy, in addition to a final stint with the Vancouver Canucks, caps a great NHL career.
84. Kevin Dineen, Hartford Whalers/Philadelphia Flyers
Captained the Whalers, Hurricanes and Flyers, while he scored and fought his way through his NHL career.
85. Bryan Hextall, New York Rangers
NHL scoring champion in 1942, Hextall scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Rangers in 1940. Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.
86. Murray Craven, Philadelphia Flyers
Made the Red Wings’ roster as an 18-year-old, then surpassed the 60-point plateau five times in his career.
87. Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
The Devils’ captain for a season, he’s won two Stanley Cups, in addition to holding three NHL records and seven New Jersey Devils records.
88. Miroslav Satan, Buffalo Sabres
Was consistently among Sabres’ top scorers, then helped lead Pittsburgh to Stanley Cup in 2009. Played in two All-Star Games.
89. Michael Foligno, Buffalo Sabres
Third overall pick in 1979 consistently scored over 45 points throughout the prime of his career. Captained the Sabres for a season.
90. Kevin Stevens, Pittsburgh Penguins
Won two Stanley Cups with Penguins in the 1990s and played under Hall of Fame coach Herb Brooks on the U.S. National Team.
91. Ryan Smyth, Edmonton Oilers
Two World Championships, one World Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, World Junior Championship and one NHL All-Star Game.
92. Ziggy Palffy, Los Angeles Kings
World Championship, seventh-highest scoring Slovak in NHL history while playing less than 700 games.
93. Vic Hadfield, New York Rangers
Succeeded in the post-expansion era, surpassing 50 goals and 100 points in 1972. Captained the Rangers for three seasons.
94. Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
Rocket Richard Trophy, Stanley Cup and three NHL All-Star Games. Also won two Olympic medals (gold in 1998 and bronze in 2006).
95. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Six Sharks records and captained San Jose for five years. World Cup, World Championship and Olympic Gold Medal.
96. Daniel Gare, Buffalo Sabres/Detroit Red Wings
Opted for NHL after drafted into WHA. His number 18 was retired by Buffalo, and he holds the record for fastest first NHL goal (18 seconds into career).
97. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Dominated at Vermont (but never drafted), then won league MVP in 2004 and helped lead Lightning to Stanley Cup.
98. Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
Two World Championships, Phoenix Coyotes’ captain for almost a decade, won the Memorial Cup and tournament MVP in 1995.
99. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers/New Jersey Devils
Two World Championships, Olympic Bronze Medal, first overall pick in 2001, won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004.
100. Brian Sutter, St. Louis Blues
Captain of the Blues for a decade, had number 11 retired by St. Louis. Twentieth overall pick in 1976, coached for 15 years after retirement.
Honorable Mention: Mats Naslund, Montreal Canadiens
Olympic Gold Medal, World Championship, Stanley Cup, Lady Byng Trophy and four All-Star games.
Honorable Mention: Dany Heatley, Atlanta Thrashers/Ottawa Senators/San Jose Sharks
Holds three NHL records, two Team Canada Records, six Ottawa Senators records and an Atlanta Thrashers record.
Honorable Mention: Wendel Clark, Toronto Maple Leafs
Rough, but talented player could skate around you and through you to score. Captained the Maple Leafs for three years.
Honorable Mention: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Olympic Gold Medal, World Championship, Stanley Cup, one of the best defensive players in the league.