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Top 15 Greatest Individual Seasons in NHL History

With the NHL being born back in 1917-18 this makes the 2014-15 season the 98th in the league’s history. Franchises and players have come and gone over the years, but some of the performers will be remembered forever due to their incredible exploits on the ice. Players who perform at an elite level on a consistent basis are typically honoured by the sport by being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. However, some of the league’s lesser lights will have an occasional career year which makes the fans stand up and take notice.

Instead of simply listing Wayne Gretzky’s top 15 seasons here or combining him with Mario Lemieux to come up with the top 15, we’ve included all eras of NHL hockey and have put a cap on individual players at three appearances on the list. Incidentally, the top-13 scoring seasons in NHL history belong to the Gretzky/Lemieux combination. There are simply hundreds of options to choose from, making a top-15 list quite hard to do. We’ve looked at goaltenders, defencemen and forwards of all nationalities and ages and have tried to narrow it down to the best individual performances in league history.

The playoffs were also taken into consideration since they are an extension of the same season. Most of these players also excelled when the Stanley Cup was on the line with many of them leading their clubs to the ultimate prize in hockey. All of these players enjoyed fantastic NHL careers and while some of their records may eventually be broken, these are the top 15 greatest individual seasons in NHL history from 1917-18 to 2013-14.

15 Ken Dryden, 1976-77

via hockeyinsideout.com

14 Bobby Orr, 1969-70

via espn.com

Bobby Orr basically revolutionized the way defencemen play hockey. He was an above-average defender, but his true talents lied in his offensive abilities. Back in 1969-70, Orr was just 22 years old and in his fourth NHL campaign. He finished it with 33 goals and 87 assists for 120 points in 76 games to become the first and only defenceman to ever lead the league in scoring. He also posted a +59 rating and added nine goals and 11 assists to help the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup that year. In addition, Orr was awarded the Art Ross, Norris, Hart, and Conn Smythe trophies for his efforts. Incredibly, he would break the 120-point mark three times after this season with his high mark of 139 coming the next year. However, this was definitely Orr’s breakout year as he changed the way hockey was played during it.

13 Maurice 'Rocket' Richard, 1944-45

via montrealgazette.com

12 Wayne Gretzky, 1983-84

via ctvnews.ca

11 Mario Lemieux, 1988-89

via post-gazette.com

10 Phil Esposito, 1970-71

via bostonbruinsalumni.com

9 Tony Esposito, 1969-70

via gamewornauctions.net

8 Mario Lemieux, 1992-93

via pittsburghsportingnews.com

7 George Hainsworth, 1928-29

via canadiens.nhl.com

6 Teemu Selanne, 1992-93

via manitobahockeynews.com

5 Steve Yzerman, 1988-89

via detnews.com

4 Wayne Gretzky, 1984-85

via thescore.com

3 Bernie Parent, 1973-74

via nhl.com

2 Bobby Orr, 1970-71

via espn.com

1 Wayne Gretzky, 1981-82

via amazon.com

Although Gretzky would score three more points four years down the road, his greatest achievement came with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1981-82 campaign when he was just 22 years old. Gretzky more or less rewrote the record book this season by scoring an NHL-record 92 goals and adding 120 assists for 212 points in 80 games with 12 game-winning goals and six shorthanded markers. What made this season even more incredible was the fact he reached the 50-goal mark in his 39th game of the season. The 92 goals are a league record and were 16 more than the old record of 76 which was held by Phil Esposito at this time. The 120 assists were also a new record, beating Gretzky’s old mark of 109. He took home the Lady Byng, Pearson, Hart and Art Ross Trophies home this campaign and added five goals and seven assists in five postseason contests.

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Top 15 Greatest Individual Seasons in NHL History