There isn’t much argument over who the greatest player is in the history of the NHL is. All-time points leader Wayne Gretzky earned the nickname, ‘The Great One,’ by dominating his era greater than any skater has done before or since. But, while nearly every educated hockey fan would concur that Gretzky is the greatest hockey player ever, Gordie Howe devotees with a disposition grumpier than the Detroit great aside, there are debates over who would be considered the best player in the history of each NHL organization.
This list will end those debates as our research has determined the best player from each organization. Each NHL team was painstakingly analyzed to determine which player had the greatest all-time influence on the organization. Regular season statistics played a big role in the decision, but like the typical thirst of NHL fans, more weight was given to playoff success and hoisting Stanley Cups than regular season numbers.
The following are the greatest singular players from every NHL organization:
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30 Anaheim Ducks - Teemu Selanne
The mightiest of all the Ducks who have ever player in Anaheim is Teemu Selanne. The Finnish winger is their all-time leader in points (988), goals (457), assists (531) and games played (966.) Throw in power play goals, game winning goals and every adjusted goal statistic and it’s obvious that Selanne was the greatest player in Anaheim history. Hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2007 proved that the he was more than just a sharp-shooter (15.4 shooting percentage), he was also a winner.
29 Arizona Coyotes - Dale Hawerchuk
The NHL has had a lot of franchise movement in its history and the Coyotes’ organization is no exception. And their greatest player comes from the days when the Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets. While Shane Doan (936 points) is the all-time scorer in organization history, Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk, scored 929 points in less than half the games as Doan (713/1448.) Hawerchuk won the 1982 Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) and finished in the top seven in scoring four times with the organization. Hawerchuk’s 1.30 points a game average is tops for anyone in the organization with at least 250 games played.
28 Boston Bruins - Bobby Orr
Of the ‘Original 6’ teams, the Bruins are the organization with the least amount of debate over who the greatest player in organization history is. If Bobby Orr isn’t your choice, you’re either a dork for Ray Bourque or a wacko for Phil Esposito. But, either way, you’d be wrong. Bobby Orr is the all-time +/- leader in Bruins history and posted an unfathomable +124 during the 1970-71 season. The first ballot Hall of Famer won eight Norris Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman and hoisted two of the organization’s six Stanley Cup trophies.
27 Buffalo Sabres - Dominik Hasek
Dominik Hasek is the first goalie to be selected as the top player in an organization’s history. “The Cat’ beat out fellow goalie Ryan Miller and Hall of Fame center Gilbert Perreault as the best player in Buffalo history. Hasek stood on his head in net for the Sabres as they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999, in one of the best seasons in organization history. The two-time NHL MVP is the Sabres’ all-time leader in save percentage (.926) and goals against average (2.22.)
26 Calgary Flames = Al MacInnis
Statistics are a great way to differentiate players from one another, but so are spectacular moments. Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis is a player that shouldn’t have statistics define his play, though his statistics are still incredible for a backline skater. His career 1.02 points a game average with the Flames is the best among any defensemen, but that’s not what stands out in the Canadian’s stellar career. His moment in the sun of being handed the Conn Smythe Trophy after winning the 1989 Stanley Cup is his crowning achievement and separates him from scoring great Jarome Iginla.
25 Carolina Hurricanes - Cam Ward
The player selected as the greatest player in the history of the Hurricanes was chosen primarily for his postseason success. While Hall of Fame center Ron Francis is the all-time points, goals and assists leader for the organization, all while Francis was playing in Hartford with the Whalers, Cam Ward has contributed the most of any player to the organization. The goalie is the Hurricanes’ all-time wins leader by far, is second in save percentage and third in goals against average. But, his greatest achievement was winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Hurricanes claimed the 2006 Stanley Cup.
24 Chicago Blackhawks - Bobby Hull
The recent success of the Blackhawks and their two superstar scorers, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, has been historic, but it doesn’t trump the brilliant career that Bobby Hull had the Windy City. Hull was a shining star that revolutionized the game with a vicious slap shot to go along with supersonic speed on the ice. “The Golden Jet’ scored an organization high 604 goals to give him a 0.58 goals per game career average and was the best player on their 1961 Stanley Cup championship team.
23 Colorado Avalanche - Joe Sakic
Patrick Roy is definitively the best goalie in Avalanche history, but the greatest overall player in organization history is Hall of Fame center Joe Sakic. The Canadian native played his entire career with the organization and retired as the all-time leader in points (1,641), goals (625) and assists (1,016.) But, the greatest accomplishment for the 12 time All-Star that was with the squad when they moved from Quebec in 1995, was that he won the Conn Smythe while leading the brand new Colorado Avalanche to the 1996 Stanley Cup championship.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets - Rick Nash
The Blue Jackets don't have a long and distinguished history and their greatest player can't compare to the others on this list. But, that doesn't mean that the greatest player in Columbus history, Rick Nash, wasn't a great player. The first overall selection of the 2002 NHL Draft is the organization's leader in points (547), goals (289) and assists (258), while being named an all-star five times with the Blue Jackets.
21 Dallas Stars - Mike Modano
The Stars have had some high level goaltending in their history with Marty Turco and Ed Belfour minding the net, but Mike Modano is the unquestioned best player in the organization's history that spans back to the Minnesota North Stars. The U.S. born Modano played the first 20 of his 21 NHL seasons with the Stars, including when the team was still in Minnesota. He's the all-time leader in points (1,359), goals (557) and assists (802.) Modano was also an integral part of the organization's only Stanley Cup championship in 1999.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe is the first name that pops into anyone's mind when thinking of great players in the history of the Detroit Red Wings. However, the choice isn't as clear cut as it may seem. Nicklas Lidstrom is one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history and Steve Yzerman actually had a higher ppg average than Howe (1.16/1.07.) But, these selections shouldn't be over analyzed. Howe is the organization's all-time leader in points (1,809), goals (786) and is second in assists (1,023.) His selection as the greatest player in Detroit history can be etched in stone.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Wayne Gretzky
The easiest of all these selections comes from the Oilers' organization. "The Great One" nickname was given to Wayne Gretzky because of his penchant for scoring on this ice, not for marrying fitness models. Gretzky is the all-time NHL leader in points, goals and assists and he amassed most of his totals as a member of the Oilers before his shocking trade to the Kings in 1988. Gretzky scored an unthinkable 2.40 points per game in his nine seasons with the Oilers that included eight NHL MVP awards and four Stanley Cup Championships.
18 Florida Panthers - Roberto Luongo
The Panthers are one of the hardest organizations to decide which player was greatest in team history. Olli Jokinen is the all-time points leader, but the grizzled NHL veteran only tallied 419 points there. Roberto Luongo set the standard for GAA for the organization at 2.57, but he has a losing record for the Panthers. The other option is John Vanbiesbrouck who led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup in 1996, though he also has a losing record. In the end, we decided on Roberto Luongo, as even though he's had little support, he's been the face of a struggling franchise and is helping to lead them back to prominence.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Jonathan Quick
The Kings have had some quality scorers in their history, with Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille, Bernie Nichols and even, 'The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, under consideration. But, the greatest player in Kings history is their current goalie, Jonathan Quick. The goalie from New England is the Kings' all-time leader in wins (243), goals against average (2.26), shutouts (40) and save percentage (.916.) However, being in net for two Stanley Cup champions and winning the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy makes him the definitive choice as the best of the organization.
16 Minnesota Wild - Mikko Koivu
The Wild haven't been around long enough to create a lot of options for their greatest player in organization history. In a few years, Devan Dubnyk or Zach Parise may be the choice, if they can lead them to any kind of playoff success. But, as for now, Mikko Koivu and his Wild leading 543 career points make him the best player in their history.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Maurice Richard
There is no NHL organization with more possible options as their best player than the Montreal Canadiens. The team with the most Stanley Cup Championships, 24, also has a long list of all-time greats that most organizations would call their greatest. But, when forced to make a choice, one name comes to mind immediately, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard. Maurice Richard was the first skater in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season and to tally 500 for a career. His 544 career goals are still the best in the organization's history.
14 Nashville Predators - Pekka Rinne
While Shea Weber is an elite defenseman and the best skater in the history of the franchise, no player has contributed to the success of the Preds as their current goalie, Pekka Rinne. The Finnish net minder is the all-time leader in wins (229), save percentage (.918), shutouts (40), and GAA (2.36.) Rinne was also in net for the two deepest advancements in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for Nashville, the Conference Semis in 2011 and 2012.
13 New Jersey Devils - Martin Brodeur
The Devils are another team where there wasn't a lot of deliberation needed to determine who the greatest player is in the history of the organization. Goalie Martin Brodeur stands alone as the greatest player who ever put on a Devils sweater. The 1990 first round pick spent his first 21 seasons in New Jersey before playing a handful of games with the Blues in his last season. He won the Vezina Trophy four times and was in net for three Stanley Cup victories with the Devils. Brodeur's 688 wins and 124 career shutouts will be almost impossible for another Devils' net minder to surpass.
12 New York Islanders - Mike Bossy
Naming Bryan Trottier the greatest player in Islanders history wouldn't be an atrocious error, but it would still be wrong to give that honor to the organization's all-time leader in points (1,353). That's because Mike Bossy had just as sparkling of a career in dramatically less games for the Isles than Trottier. Bossy tallied 573 goals in only 752 regular season games for an eye popping 0.76 goals per game average. Bossy won the 1982 Conn Smythe Trophy as the Islanders won the third of four consecutive Stanley Cups.
11 New York Rangers - Brian Leetch
There are few defenseman in NHL history that were as good of a two-way player as Brian Leetch was for the Rangers. The team's all-time leader in assists (741) was a nine-time All Star in his 17 seasons with the Rangers. And without question, his greatest season came in 1994 when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy and skated away by hoisting the Stanley Cup for the Rangers. Many equate that Stanley Cup win Marc Messier and his guarantee, but that would be a total disservice to Brian Leetch and his play.
10 Ottawa Senators - Daniel Alfredsson
The Senators are an expansion franchise that went through some hard times when they joined the NHL in 1992. While it took the organization six seasons before they had a winning record, they did have a consistent All Star the entire time. Daniel Alfredsson is the all-time leader in points (1,108), goals (426) and assists (682), making him an incredibly easy selection as the organization's best player.
9 Philadelphia Flyers - Bobby Clarke
The Flyers have had some of the most intriguing teams in NHL history and their greatest player, Bobby Clarke, is as intriguing of a player as any on this list. Arguably, he's the one most likely to be able to beat up the rest of the best. But, Clarke was more than just a Broad Street Bully, he was an adept scorer with a flare for the dramatic. The center's 1,210 career points are still best in organization history.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - Mario Lemieux
The Penguins have had two teams in different eras that were loaded with All Stars that went on to be Stanley Cup champions. But whether considering the Pens of the early 90s or the 2009 champions, none of those high end players compare to their greatest, Mario Lemieux. The center won the Conn Smythe Trophy in consecutive years as the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 92. But, it wasn't just his championship pedigree that makes him the franchise's best player, it's his gaudy statistics that do that for him. His 690 goals, 1,033 assists and 1,723 career points are all Penguins standards, ridiculous numbers that came in only 915 games. His 1.88 points per game average blows away the runner-up, Jaromir Jagr, at 1.34.
7 San Jose Sharks - Patrick Marleau
Picking out the Sharks best player was more difficult than most NHL teams. Joe Thornton at his best was the greatest player in organization history, but Patrick Marleau was better for a longer period of time. So, even though Marleau was never considered an elite player, his 474 career goals and 1,026 points are enough to consider him the franchise's best player.
6 St Louis Blues - Brett Hull
Bernie Federko may have the most points in Blues history, but Brett Hull is the unquestioned greatest player in their organization's history. Hull scored 527 career goals, the most in Blues' history, while only appearing in 744 games. His slap shot was almost as wicked as his father's, Bobby. He tallied the most goals in the NHL three times with the Blues and won the Hart trophy in 1991. Brett's selection make the Hulls the only father-son combination on this list.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier
Vincent Lecavalier barely beat out his teammate, Martin St Louis, from the 2004 Stanley Cup champions. The center is the all-time goals leader for the Lightning (383) and he's second to St. Louis with 874 points. The Lightning may not have a long history, but they've won the Stanley Cup with Vinny Lecavalier as their captain and went back to the Finals in 2015. Steven Stamkos could potentially take this spot if he remains in Tampa and wins a Stanley Cup by the end of his career.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs - Dave Keon
The most popular franchise in the NHL, except for possibly Montreal, has probably the least known player on this list. However, even if you haven't heard of Dave Keon, he's still the best player in Maple Leafs' history. Keon is only third on Toronto's all-time scoring list, but the two-way star contributed much more than scoring for four Stanley Cup winning teams. The Hall of Fame center won the Conn Smythe after the 1967 Finals.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure didn't have a long career with the Canucks, but he dominated during his seven seasons there. His 254 goals for the Canucks are still fifth on their all-time list and his 1.12 points per game average and 0.59 goals a game average are still best in franchise history. The Russian Rocket was the driving force of the 1994 team that lost in the Finals to the Rangers, one of their best seasons ever. The Sedin Twins and Markus Naslund were given heavy consideration, but none of them can compare to Bure's explosive time in Vancouver.
2 Washington Capitals - Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin hasn't been around long, but he's done enough in his 10 seasons to warrant being considered the greatest player in Capitals history. The Russian is the all-time goals scored leader for the Caps and the points leader. He has scored the most goals in the NHL five times and is vying for his sixth goals title this season. On top of that, he's won third Hart Trophies, a Calder Trophy and an Art Ross Trophy. The only thing missing is a Stanley Cup ring for The Great Eight.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Ilya Kovalchuk
The greatest player in the history of the Jets never played for them while they were in Winnipeg. Before the team moved North, the face of Atlanta hockey was Ilya Kovalchuk. Ilya Kovalchuk is the Jets' all-time leader in points (615), goals (328) and assists (287). Considering that the franchise has never won a playoff game, we can only really look at their regular season success, meaning Kovalchuk is an obvious choice.
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