The Top 10 Best NHL Players of All Time
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs in high gear, there’s much to discuss regarding the star players of this fantastic NHL season.
However today we thought we’d take a look back throughout hockey history and discuss a few of the league’s greatest.
Here’s our list of the 10 best NHL players of all time.
10. Martin Brodeur (Goaltender)
That’s right, we’re starting with a goalie. For 21 years, Marty Brodeur was a brilliant netminder for the New Jersey Devils – he played seven games for the St. Louis Blues in 2014-15 but we don’t need to worry about those. As a Devil, Brodeur played 1259 games and had a record of 688-394-154. His career save percentage was .912 and his goals against average was a brilliant 2.24. He won the Vezina Trophy (top goaltender in the NHL) four times and was named to seven all-star teams. He’s regarded as one of the greatest goaltenders ever, as he protected the net and helped the Devils to three Stanley Cups along the way.
9. Sidney Crosby (Center)
It was difficult to put an active player on this list, considering the caliber of players we had to leave off (Guy Lafleur, Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Roy, etc.) but there’s no denying that Sid the Kid is already one of the greatest to ever play the game, and, at just 30 years old, he still has plenty of good years left in him. Already with 864 games under his belt, including playing all 82 in the current (2017-18 season), Crosby had 411 goals and 705 assists. He’s won the Cup three times, the Hart twice, the Richard twice, the Conn Smythe Twice, and has been named to seven All-Star teams. If he retired today, he’d still be in the top-10 conversation, but he’s done all that in just his first 13 seasons.
8. Mark Messier (Wing/Center)
Over his brilliant 25-year NHL career, Mark Messier recorded nearly 1900 points. In 1756 games, he scored 694 goals and tallied 1193 assists. As one half of the unstoppable Gretzky-Messier duo that dominated hockey for nine seasons in Edmonton, Messier posted some amazing numbers, including his only 50-goal season in 1981-82. During his career, he won six Stanley Cups, two Hart Trophies, and was named to five All-Star teams. Plus, he was a physical marvel, playing in 76 games in his final season as a 43-year-old.
7. Jean Beliveau (Center)
If you’re a newer hockey fan, there’s a chance you’ve never heard the name Jean Beliveau. After all, he played his professional hockey from 1951-1971. During those 20 years–all spent with the Montreal Canadiens–Beliveau was a dominant force. In 1,125 games, he scored 507 goals and assisted on 712 others. He won 10–count ‘em–10 Stanley Cups, was voted to 10 All-Star teams, and won the Hart twice. He was also the first-ever Conn Smythe Trophy winner, awarded to the playoff MVP.
6. Mario Lemieux (Center)
Lemieux is actually one of the guys on our list with the fewest games played, mostly because of multiple seasons hampered by injury (1992-1993 actually included a difficult cancer diagnosis) and also his three-year retirement in the late 90s. However, over his 915 NHL games, Lemieux was a huge part of the Pittsburgh Penguins success. His 690 goals and 1,033 assists solidified him as a legend. Despite all the injuries, he was a six-time scoring champ, the most impressive of which came in 1988-89 when he recorded 199 points, including 85 goals. He also has two Stanley Cup titles to his name (90-91 and 91-92).
5. Maurice Richard (Right Wing)
Nicknamed “Rocket,” Maurice Richard’s time in Montreal overlapped with multiple years of Beliveau’s career, so there’s little surprise how dominant the 50s Canadiens teams were. Over 18 seasons and 978 games, Richard had 544 goals and 421 assists. He was the first ever to score 50 goals in a single season, doing so in just a 50-game season, and he hoisted the Stanley Cup eight times. Being the first to score 500 career goals, it’s no wonder why the NHL’s regular season scoring trophy is named after him.
4. Bobby Hull (Left Wing)
A Hall-of-Famer, 12-time All-Star, winner of two Hart Trophies and three Art Ross Trophies, Bobby Hull is essentially on every top-10 players list you’ll find. Spending 15 years with the Chicago Blackhawks (plus short stints at the end of his career with Winnipeg and Hartford) Hull was a scoring machine. Throughout his 1,063 NHL games he tallied 610 goals and 560 assists, and his slap shot is still regarded as one of the all-time best in the game.
3. Bobby Orr (Defenseman)
Often regarded as the fastest skater to ever hit the NHL ice, Bobby Orr was a sight to behold during his unfortunately short pro career. Hampered by knee injuries, Orr played just 12 seasons, 10 of which were in Boston. In his final three years he played a total of 36 games. Despite all his injury issues, Orr was brilliant for the Boston Bruins. In 657 career NHL games, Orr socred 270 goals and had 645 assists. He won two Cups, eight Norris Trophies, the Art Ross and Conn Smythe twice, and was the Calder winner in 1966-67.
2. Gordie Howe (Right Wing)
The top two spots on this, and any list, can be debated until the cows come home. Whether you put Howe first and Gretzky second, or vice versa, you can make an airtight case as to why you feel that way. After much debate, we put Howe in the No. 2 spot. Mr. Hockey, as he is fondly known, was so dominant during his career that every time he touched the puck you expected him to score. During his 1,767 games (all but 80 of which were for Detroit), Howe scored 786 goals and had 1,023 assists. He had a remarkably long career, playing 80 games in his final season (1979-80) when he was 51 YEARS OLD.
His achievements included four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies, six Art Ross Trophies, and 21 All-Star appearances. And, of course, he has a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
1. Wayne Gretzky (Center)
Being from Indianapolis, it’s always fun to say that The Great One’s career truly got started in my city. Obviously that’s not really true considering he was traded to the WHA version of the Edmonton Oilers after just eight games with the Indianapolis Racers. However he did score his first six professional points in an Indianapolis sweater, so the few hockey fans in Indy will always have that to hold onto. But I digress…
Gretzky’s career was unbelievable and included one of the most infamous trades of all-time. After spending his first nine NHL seasons with the Oilers, the 1988 offseason saw him traded to the Los Angeles Kings, where he spent the next eight seasons. During his 21-year NHL career, Number 99 scored 894 goals and had 1,963 assists in 1,487 games. The 1981-82 season saw him tally 212 points, including 92 goals. He had 11 straight seasons with more than 100 assists and four straight with more than 70 goals.
He hoisted four Stanley Cups, received 10 Art Ross Trophies, nine Hart Trophies, five Pearson Trophies, and two Conn Smythe Trophies, not to mention his 15 All-Star trips. His number is retired league-wide, an honor that no other player holds.