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Ranking the NHL's 100 Greatest Players: Nos. 20-1


Throughout the month of September, James Bisson and a cast of editors from theScore will share their rankings of the greatest players, teams, and moments in the 100-year history of the National Hockey League. Our final list focuses on the greatest players (Note: "All-Star" refers to end-of-season All-Star team voting and not to appearances in the All-Star Game):

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

Voter List

  • James Bisson, National Sports Editor
  • Joe Ross, Vice-President, Content
  • Josh Wegman, NHL News Editor
  • Sean O'Leary, NHL News Editor
  • Esten McLaren, NHL News Editor
  • Craig Hagerman, NHL News Editor
  • Lanny Foster, Senior Social Media Editor
  • Michael Amato, Senior News Editor
  • Lucas Casaletto, News Editor
  • Arun Srinivasan, News Editor
  • Adam Sarson, Operations Lead

20. Paul Coffey

GP G A P +/- PIM
1409 396 1135 1531 294 1802

The Oilers constructed one of the greatest offensive juggernauts in NHL history - and everyone got in on the fun, including Coffey. A "defenseman" in name only, Coffey posted five 100-point campaigns and owns the single-season record for goals by a blue-liner (48). Add in eight All-Star berths, three Norris Trophies, and four Stanley Cups, and you have one heck of a career.

19. Doug Harvey

GP G A P +/- PIM
1113 88 452 540 -- 1216

Harvey is the personification of the age-old sports rule, "Don't scout the stat line." Despite posting modest offensive numbers, Harvey was the greatest defender of his generation, winning seven Norris Trophies in a nine-year span and making the All-Star team in 11 straight seasons. He was also a six-time Stanley Cup champion, and finished in the top five of Hart voting five times.

18. Joe Sakic

GP G A P +/- PIM
1378 625 1016 1641 30 614

Sakic and Ron Francis enjoyed similar careers, but Sakic gets the edge thanks to his incredible 2000-01 campaign, in which he won the Hart, Pearson, and Lady Byng Trophies while racking up a career-best 118 points. He finished on the All-Star team three times and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1996 after leading Colorado to its first-ever Stanley Cup title.

17. Ray Bourque

GP G A P +/- PIM
1612 410 1169 1579 528 1141

Bourque might not be the greatest defenseman in history - or even the best one who played most of his career in Boston - but few players can match his credentials. Start with five Norris Trophies, four of which came in a dominant five-year span in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Add 19 All-Star nods - the last when he was 40 years old - and he's the most consistently great blue-liner ever.

16. Marcel Dionne

GP G A P +/- PIM
1348 731 1040 1771 28 600

Dionne will forever be the answer to the trivia question: "Who won the last scoring title before Wayne Gretzky took over?" It was the only Art Ross for Dionne, who had eight 100-point seasons, won two Lady Byngs, made four All-Star teams, and finished top five in Hart Trophy voting four times. The only blight on his record? Just 49 playoff games - and zero Cups.

15. Patrick Roy

1029 551 315 131 2.54 66

The Canadiens knew Roy had something special when he backstopped the team to a Stanley Cup title at age 21. Roy would go on to become one of the greatest netminders in history, winning three Vezina Trophies, five Jennings Trophies, and earning the Conn Smythe three times. He finished his career with four Cups, and was named to the All-Star team six times.

14. Martin Brodeur

1266 691 397 154 2.24 125

No NHL goaltender has experienced the thrill of victory more often than Brodeur, whose 691 regular-season wins might never be surpassed. Brodeur led the league in wins nine times altogether and was never more dominant than from 2002-08, during which he won four Vezina Trophies and was a top-five Hart finalist on four occasions.

13. Steve Yzerman

GP G A P +/- PIM
1514 692 1063 1755 185 924

It was said earlier in these rankings that joining an exclusive club with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky is a truly legendary achievement - and Yzerman did just that in 1988-89, becoming the third player to record 155 points in a season. That was the highlight of a sensational career in which Yzerman won a Selke, a Conn Smythe, a Masterton, and three Stanley Cups.

12. Nicklas Lidstrom

GP G A P +/- PIM
1564 264 878 1142 450 514

It's one thing for a defenseman to play at an elite level for 17 years - and Lidstrom did just that, winning seven Norris Trophies while being named to 12 All-Star teams. It's another thing altogether to do so without taking bad penalties; Lidstrom was an all-timer in that category, finishing top five in Lady Byng voting 11 times while averaging 26 penalty minutes per season.

11. Mike Bossy

GP G A P +/- PIM
752 573 553 1126 381 210

Bossy is the most prolific goal-scorer in NHL history, averaging a league-best 0.762 goals per game over the course of his career. Plagued by persistent back problems that forced him into retirement at age 30, Bossy scored 50 goals in every season in which he played more than 65 games - and reached the 60-goal plateau five times, leading the league in goals twice.

10. Phil Esposito

GP G A P +/- PIM
1282 717 873 1590 197 910

After looking like a good-but-not-elite forward over his first five seasons, "Espo" reached another plane in the early 1970s, winning five scoring titles in a six-year span while leading the league in goals on six occasions. His 152-point eruption in 1970-71 established a scoring benchmark people thought might never be broken. Just over a decade later, it was.

9. Sidney Crosby

GP G A P +/- PIM
782 382 645 1027 165 576

Measuring Crosby's career to date, this ranking might seem too high; sure, he has two Hart Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, and a pair of Conn Smythe nods, but guys behind him have stronger resumes. Of course, Crosby just turned 30 - so expect his resume, which already includes three Stanley Cup titles and seven All-Star berths, to grow even longer.

8. Dominik Hasek

735 389 223 95 2.20 81

There was no better goalie in NHL history than Hasek in his prime. The acrobatic netminder led the NHL in save percentage in six straight seasons, a stretch that saw him take home two Hart Trophies, five Vezina Trophies, and five All-Star nods. He added a sixth Vezina in 2001, and retired with the best save percentage of any former netminder in history.

7. Maurice Richard

GP G A P +/- PIM
978 544 421 965 -- 1285

Richard was so much more than a hockey player to Montreal fans, which may have played a role in his final ranking. But even from a strict talent standpoint, you would be hard-pressed to find a half-dozen better players in history. Richard made 14 straight All-Star teams, led the league in goals five times, and won a Hart Trophy two years after scoring 50 goals in 50 games.

6. Jaromir Jagr

GP G A P +/- PIM
1711 765 1149 1914 316 1157

Trailing only Gretzky in all-time points, Jagr would be even closer had he not decided to spend three seasons overseas. Regardless, he's on track to finish north of 2,000 points - if, that is, he can latch on to a team this season. If this is the end of the line, though, Jagr will depart with a Hart Trophy, five scoring titles, two Stanley Cups, and eight All-Star berths.

5. Mark Messier

GP G A P +/- PIM
1756 694 1193 1887 210 1910

After rolling alongside Gretzky, Kurri, and the rest of the Oilers' superstars in the 1980s, Messier proved he could lead his own Stanley Cup champion, guiding both Edmonton and the New York Rangers to titles in the 1990s. He evolved from a hit-first forward into a gifted two-way player, reaching the 100-point plateau six times while winning a pair of Hart Trophies.

4. Gordie Howe

GP G A P +/- PIM
1767 801 1049 1850 -- 1685

Howe was a force of nature for the better part of 35 years in hockey, 26 of those spent in the NHL. Howe won six Hart Trophies and six scoring titles, and was named to the All-Star team an incredible 21 times. And don't overlook the fact that he recorded 46 points in 80 games in his final NHL season, a campaign he wrapped up just shy of his 52nd birthday.

3. Bobby Orr

GP G A P +/- PIM
657 270 645 915 597 953

For nine magical seasons, Orr revolutionized not only his position, but the way the game was played as a whole. His two scoring titles were the first - and only - ever won by a defenseman, and are part of a resume that includes eight Norris Trophies, three Hart Trophies, a Calder, two Conn Smythes, and the single-season record for points by a defenseman (139).

2. Mario Lemieux

GP G A P +/- PIM
915 690 1033 1723 115 834

Of all the "if onlys" hockey fans lament, Mario might be the most popular choice next to Orr. In his prime, Lemieux posed a legitimate threat to Gretzky's dominance, coming within one agonizing point of reaching 200 in a magical 1988-89 campaign. He ended up with six scoring titles, three Hart Trophies, nine All-Star nods, and two Cups - and deserved so much more.

1. Wayne Gretzky

GP G A P +/- PIM
1487 894 1963 2857 518 577

No player in North American professional sports has dominated the way Gretzky did in the 1980s, routinely winning scoring titles by 70-plus points while setting records that will never be touched. The final damage: Nine Hart Trophies, 10 scoring titles, 15 All-Star nods, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and four Stanley Cups. He is, quite simply, the greatest player who ever lived.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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