The best NHL players in history transformed the sport. They were iconic characters in the sport, whether it was Bobby Orr demonstrating that a defenseman can score, Wayne Gretzky dominating the league, or Gordie Howe playing in five different decades.
Who is the best, though?
The majority of the players featured are from the past because more than half of the top 10 were primarily photographed in black and white during their professional careers. Even though older generations continue to dominate, one current celebrity managed to make the list.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Terry Sawchuk, Dominik Hasek, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and Doug Harvey are the most noticeable omissions. And that set of individuals deserves an honorable mention.
10. Sidney Crosby
Hockey historians certainly found it tough to pass up Sid the Kid for a spot in the top 10 after witnessing him lift the Stanley Cup for the third time in his career.
Before turning 30 in 2005, Crosby, the first overall pick in the NHL draft, became a legend. Along with the three Cup victories, he has also won twice in each of the Conn Smythe, Art Ross, and Maurice Richard Trophies, four Prince of Wales Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, and three Ted Awards.
His totals for the regular season of 2017–18 are 411 goals and 705 assists. Before his career is over, Crosby, who has recorded five 100-point seasons, should keep moving into the top 10.
9. Bobby Hull
Bobby Hull carved out a place in history thanks to his speed as a skater and shooter, even if his son Brett subsequently put up more astounding numbers in the NHL. The Golden Jet was his moniker as a result of such combination.
The left winger finished a 15-year career as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks with 604 goals after compiling five 50-goal seasons in the NHL. After spending seven seasons with the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA, he eventually climbed to 610, which was second at the time and is currently 17th.
Hull earned 12 All-Star selections while playing in the NHL and won the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) in 1964–1965 and 1965–1966.
8. Guy Lafleur
Gut Lafleur had a remarkable rate of output and consistency.
The right winger for the Montreal Canadiens amassed at least 100 points every season from 1974–75 through 1979–80. Lafleur not only became the first player to score 100 points in six straight seasons, but he also did so with 119 points in each of those years.
Although his career in Montreal came to an abrupt end, he is recognized for his five Stanley Cup victories and two MVP awards with the club. With 1,353 points, Lafleur is still 27th all-time in the NHL.
7. Mark Messier
During his 26-year NHL career, Mark Messier played for the Edmonton Oilers for 12 seasons, the New York Rangers for two seasons, and the Vancouver Canucks for three.
The five Stanley Cups and one MVP award were most of the 15-time All-achievements Star’s with the Edmonton Oilers. In 1994, he helped the Rangers win another championship by contributing crucial plays in both the conference and Cup finals.
With 1,887 career points, Messier ranks third in NHL history. He passed the 100-point plateau six times, including 107 in a second MVP season, this time in New York.
6. Jean Beliveau
The Canadiens icon won a Stanley Cup in precisely half of the seasons he played, even if you including the 1950–51 and 1952–53 seasons, when he made a combined five appearances.
That’s just ridiculous.
Beliveau, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, won 10 championships and twice topped the league in goals. With 1,219 points total during his career, he is one of just 47 players in history to reach the 1,200-point plateau.
Beliveau made 13 All-Star teams and earned the Hart Trophy twice as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP in 1965.
5. Maurice Richard
Maurice “Rocket” Richard, the first player in history to score 50 goals in a season, is the name-bearer of the honor now presented to the league’s leading goal scorer at the completion of the regular season.
In a 50-game 1944–1945 season, Richard, who had 14 All-Star nods, completed the milestone. Over the course of his 18-year career with the Canadiens, he won eight titles and set a record by scoring 500 goals.
Richard held the all-time record with 544 markers when he retired. He accrued 965 points overall in 978 outings, which helped him earn a 1961 Hall of Fame admission.
4. Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux, one of the all-time great goal scorers, has four of the league’s top 17 single-season totals. The only other player to score 69 goals on four different occasions is Wayne Gretzky.
Prior to an injury-shortened 1990–91 season, Lemieux started his illustrious career with the Pittsburgh Penguins with six straight seasons with 100 points, culminating at 199—the fifth-most points ever. Despite a cancer diagnosis delaying the peak of his career, he would eventually register four additional 100-point seasons.
After initially resigning in 1997, he quickly rose to the position of controlling owner of the bankrupt franchise. Later, in 2000, Lemieux made a comeback and skated for five more seasons.
The legendary player from Pittsburgh scored 1,723 points, won three Hart Trophies, two Stanley Cups, and was selected to nine All-Star teams.
3. Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr was the first historically significant offensive defenseman and is well known for his leaping celebration in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final.
He was the first defenseman to ever lead the league in points in 1969–70. (120). The next year, Orr finished second with a career-high 139 points before reclaiming the top place with 135 points in 1974–75.
Orr was an exceptional player who won eight straight Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman, in addition to his scoring contributions.
Orr’s career was cut short by injuries, but in just 657 games, he amassed 270 goals, 645 assists, and 915 points, all of which were records for his position at the time.
2. Wayne Gretzky
The Great One is without a doubt the greatest scorer in history.
Consider this to provide a clear justification for Wayne Gretzky’s dominance: In his 21 years, he provided 1,963 assists in total. You may add 894 more goals to his total of assists, making him the player with the most goals and assists combined in history.
The only other player to reach 160 points in a season was Mario Lemieux, who did so four times. Nine times, Gretzky reached a maximum of 215 and four times broke the 200-point barrier.
Gretzky won 18 All-Star selections, 10 Art Ross Trophies, and nine Hart Trophies in addition to four Stanley Cup victories. Numerous career records, including points, goals, and assists in both the regular season and the playoffs, are in his possession.
1. Gordie Howe
With the Detroit Red Wings, Gordie Howe made his NHL debut in 1946. The right winger played his final game in 1980 after 32 professional seasons, during which he even shared the ice with his kids Marty and Mark.
Mr. Hockey spent 25 years in Detroit, where he amassed four Stanley Cup victories, six MVP trophies, and six scoring titles. He created the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick,” which involves scoring a goal, providing an assist, and getting into a brawl all in the same game.
Howe, who spent six seasons playing in the WHA as well, finished his career with 41 points while playing for the Hartford Whalers. Otherwise, Detroit was where he scored 1,809 of his 1,850 NHL points.
No one has played in more NHL games (1,767), and his 22 straight seasons with 20 goals are still unsurpassed. Those impressions are probably going to endure.