Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born on January 26th, 1961 in Brantford, Ontario. The humble Canuck would grow up to become the greatest hockey played who has ever lived. There are many debatable aspects of professional sports but the greatness of Wayne Gretzky is not one of them. You often hear how guys are “in a league of their own,” which is usually taken as a flattering compliment towards one player's outstanding abilities at their respective sport. However, with Wayne Gretzky, it is not just a compliment, it is cold hard fact. Just as nobody will ever again wear the number 99 on their jersey, there will never be another “Great One.”
Anybody who is a true hockey fan will already know all of the facts, numbers, and statistics on Gretzky and we're not here to go over all of them – we are here to speak specifically about assists. Throughout his career in Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and New York, Wayne Gretzky managed to accumulate 1,963 assists. During the 1985-86 NHL season alone, Gretzky racked up a league record of 163 assists in a single season. Gretzky complied 7 assists in a single game on three separate occasions – these things just don't happen anymore in today's game.
The new generation of professional hockey is led by Sidney Crosby – the best player in the world by the standards of today. Crosby often draws comparisons to Gretzky but at the end of the day they're just comparisons. Crosby has done, and will continue to do, great things in the NHL. The Hockey Hall of Fame should have a spot reserved for him already but ultimately Gretzky can never be duplicated. Gretzky holds a number of NHL records that may never be broken. Simply put, “The Great One,” is exactly that, THE great one.
In the following list, we will take a look at the best players who have netted a goal(s) assisted by Gretzky. This list will consider all players that Gretzky played with on the professional and international level. We will not take All-Star games into consideration.
20 20. Kevin Lowe
Kevin Lowe was a five-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Edmonton Oilers, having enjoyed four of those victories alongside Wayne Gretzky. Lowe would win a sixth Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers in 1994 – two years before Gretzky was to come play in “The Big Apple.” Lowe, unlike many of the other defencemen who have played with Gretzky, was not the most offensively-sound. Lowe only accumulated 84 goals throughout his career, but is still one of the best players to ever score a goal assisted by Wayne.
19 19. Steve Smith
The most infamous moment in the career of Steve Smith came on April 30, 1986th during the Smythe Division Final against the Calgary Flames. In the third period and the score tied at two, Smith picked up the puck behind his own net and attempted to clear it out of the zone. Instead, Smith's attempted clear would hit goaltender Grant Fuhr and end up in the Edmonton net. The Oilers would not bounce back from this and they would drop the series to the Flames. The following season, in an act of redemption, the Edmonton Oilers would capture Lord Stanley and captain Wayne Gretzky chose to hand the cup to Steve Smith before anyone else on the team.
18 18. Marty McSorley
McSorley was a valued teammate of Gretzky's for years. In Edmonton, McSorley would be dubbed, “Wayne Gretzky's Bodyguard.” When negations began with Los Angeles in 1988, Gretzky requested that McSorley come along to Hollywood. Hell, there's a Canadian country song which makes reference to Gretzky and McSorley. “I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory,” by Kathleen Edwards. To quote some lyrics: “I'm a Ford Tempo, you're a Maserati. You're the Great One, I'm Marty McSorley.”
17 17. Tomas Sandstrom
When the Los Angeles Kings traded Bernie Nicholls to the New York Rangers they received Tomas Sandstrom in return. He was a Swedish-born, power-forward who developed an instant connection with Wayne Gretzky. The pair were a dangerous combination on the ice and could have gone on to achieve much more if Sandstrom had remained healthy. Unfortunately, the skilled European would be marred with injuries during his time with the Kings. However, his short stint as Gretzky's right-hand man on the right-wing is noteworthy.
16 16. Rob Blake
Rob Blake was a blueliner in Los Angeles for most of Wayne Gretzky's tenure with the franchise. Blake would also join Gretzky as a teammate during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. While Blake was never the most flashy player on the ice, he certainly was a presence who played a large role in Los Angeles for a long time. Following Gretzky's departure from the Kings in 1996, it was Rob Blake who would assume the role as team captain. Incredibly large skates to fill no doubt, but Blake had always been a hard-nose hockey player who was up to the task.
15 15. Bernie Nicholls
Bernie Nicholls did not spend a significant amount of time as a teammate to Wayne Gretzky. By the time Gretzky made his way to Los Angeles, Nicholls was already an established member of the Kings roster and was one of their main offensive threats. With the addition of Gretzky in '88, it was thought that Nicholls would see a decrease in numbers but what happened was quite the contrary, as Nicholls netted 70 goals that season. The following year Nicholls would be traded to the New York Rangers halfway through the season.
14 14. Tony Granato
The most efficient years in the career of Tony Granato came when the left-winger was playing for the Los Angeles Kings – from 1990 to 1993 especially. During that time Granato showed the franchise his true value as a productive goal-scorer. Unfortunately, the following years would be rough for Granato as he suffered a severe head injury and speculation began to circulate that he may not play again. When he did return, he would dawn a different California uniform in San Jose, where he produced some good numbers during his first season but those numbers would not remain steady. Interesting Gretzky connection: when Wayne Gretzky recorded his 1,500th career assist, it was Tony Granato who scored the goal.
13 13. Esa Tikkanen
Esa Tikkanen comes in on this list at #13 due in large part to his role on the Edmonton Oilers top line where he played along side Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. While Gretzky and Kurri were meant to be the offensive threat of the line, Tikkanen assumed the role of protector as a strong power-forward. The term “Tikkanese” was coined due to the confusing way in which Tikkanen would speak. Often distracting to opponents it was always confusing to his own teammates. While Tikkanen didn't quite match the numbers of Gretzky and Kurri he did manage to produce a few 30+ goal seasons.
12 12. Adam Graves
Adam Graves makes this list as a part of Wayne's New York years. Graves left his mark on the Rangers franchise as one of its most popular players in the '90s. In fact, Graves is currently employed by the New York Rangers as an instructor of prospect development. Graves was one of those players who flew under radar most of the time ,especially when playing with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. Nevertheless, Adam Graves proved to be a solid hockey sniper during his time in the NHL.
11 11. Glenn Anderson
Glenn Anderson is an esteemed member of the Hockey Hall of Fame who played alongside Wayne Gretzky throughout his entire run with the Edmonton Oilers. Anderson has been a part of every single Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup winning team – only six other players can make claim to that statistic. Anderson was always an emotional player and was another key piece in the puzzle that was the Edmonton Oilers dynasty. Glenn Anderson would finish his NHL career with 498 goals, a mere two shots away from that prestigious 500 mark.
10 10. Brain Leetch
Brian Leetch played eighteen seasons in the NHL where he gained notoriety as one the league's most prominent defencemen. Leetch was impressive from the start, picking up the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1989. Leetch continued to shine as the years passed by as he would twice win the Norris Trophy and become the first American-born recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP following the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup Victory. While Brain Leetch did not spend as much time as a teammate to Wayne Gretzky as some of the other players on this list, what stands out about Leetch and his connection to Gretzky is that he was the one who scored the goal on the final assist of Gretzky's career.
9 9. Brendan Shanahan
8 8. Luc Robitaille
The late-round draft gem Luc Robitaille surpassed all NHL expectations and became one of the best players in the league as well as one of the most effective goal-scorers around. Robitaille ranks 12th all-time with 668 goals scored. Robitaille spent many productive years in Los Angeles with Wayne Gretzky. When Gretzky went down with an injury during the 1992-93 season, it was Robitaille who stepped in as team captain in Gretzky's absence. Subsequently, that season would prove to be the most productive of Robitaille's career as he scored 63 goals and tagged on 62 assists.
7 7. Brett Hull
When Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the St. Louis Blues in February of '96, big things were expected to happen. Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull were to become the new dynamic duo of the league. However, something didn't quite mesh with Gretzky and Hull and the end result was disappointment. While they still managed to cause a slight disturbance on the ice for the opposing team, it just didn't go as planned. Gretzky did score 37 points in 31 games with the Blues but opted not to return the following season and brought his game to New York City.
6 6. Steve Yzerman
Much like Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman never played on an NHL team with Wayne Gretzky but did join him on Team Canada in 1998. The longtime captain of the Detroit Red Wings will go down as perhaps the most decorated captain in NHL history. Yzerman spent two decades wearing the “C” on his jersey in Detroit. Yzerman only scored once during the Winter Olympics but his lone gone was assisted by Wayne Gretzky. While the goal was not significant in the grand scheme of things, having the two legends connect on a scoring play was still pretty cool.
5 5. Jari Kurri
Jari Kurri is by far the most cherished linemate to ever take the ice alongside Wayne Gretzky. The duo were seemingly unstoppable in Edmonton during the Oilers assault on the NHL back in the '80s. The pairing of Gretzky and Kurri could very well be the greatest pairing in league history based on numbers alone. In fact, Gretzky assisted on 364 of 601 career goals scored by Kurri. The kind of chemistry and offensive excellence displayed by Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri during the Oilers heyday and with the Kings is the kind of natural connection that has become so hard-pressed for modern-day players to achieve.
4 4. Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey ranks second all-time in career goals, assists, and points for an NHL defencemen, only trailing the great Ray Bourque. Coffey is one of the best defencemen to ever play the game whose offensive abilities were on par with many of the game's forwards. Coffey holds the record for most goals in a single season by a defencemen with 48 netted back in 1985-86. The very season where Wayne Gretzky was accounted for on 163 helpers. Coffey spent a couple of season with Gretzky in Los Angeles, but his most memorable years came from their time in Edmonton.
3 3. Guy Lafleur
Here's another legendary player who joined Wayne Gretzky as a teammate for international play, this time during the 1981 Canada Cup. While Gretzky was still young, Lafleur had already been in the NHL for the past decade and had been one of the league's best while playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Despite the youth of Gretzky, it was already obvious that he was the game's newest star. Meanwhile, the numbers for Lafleur were on a steady decline. The veteran Guy Lafleur happened to score two goals during that Canada Cup, both of which were assisted by the young superstar, Wayne Gretzky.
2 2. Mark Messier
Mark Messier is perhaps the most famed teammate of Wayne Gretzky. Messier played with Gretzky throughout his entire stay in Edmonton and the pair were briefly re-united in New York. When Gretzky left the Oilers to head out West, it was Messier who took hold of the reigns and led Edmonton to another Stanley Cup victory in 1990, without Gretzky on the roster. Mark Messier eventually became a dominant centre but it was on the left-wing where he initially began his NHL career. The Gretzky/Messier legacy will live on forever in the city of Edmonton.
1 1. Mario Lemieux
The 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union provided the most dramatic and well-known goal in Canadian hockey history when Paul Henderson scored late in the third period, securing Canada the victory. In recent years, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Sidney Crosby scored the game-wining goal in overtime against the United States in the gold medal game. Somewhere between these historic goals lies another monumental moment in Canadian hockey history. The 1987 Canada Cup would be the only time that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux played on the same team and on the same line. The two greatest who have ever laced up skates dominated the tournament together and provided Canada with another memorable moment – once again against the Soviet Union. With the score tied at 5 late in the third period, Gretzky would set up Lemieux on an odd-man rush to net the tournament winning goal.
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