The top 20 underrated NHL players of all time are those who aren’t usually mentioned in the same breath as the greats such as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and Sidney Crosby. However, they’re all consistent players who posted excellent numbers on a regular basis throughout their NHL careers. Some of them were expected to do well as they were high draft picks while others were late-round selections or weren’t even drafted at all.
Some of the players are deservedly in the Hockey Hall of Fame while others should be, but aren’t. But even the Hall of Famers were typically underrated by the majority of fans during their careers and it wasn’t until they retired and their numbers were added up that they got the recognition they deserved. There’s just one goalie on the list and the other 19 are forwards. Interestingly, two of the 20 were born in England, although they were raised in Canada during their formative years.
The top 20 players come in all sizes as they range from just 5-foot-8-inches to about 6-foot-4. Some of these players may eventually end up in the Hall of Fame where they belong, but for the time being most of them have often been forgotten by fans when conversations of the league’s all-time great players take place. This list of 20 underrated players could easily be doubled or tripled and the only statistical criteria they needed to make the list was to have played in a minimum of 400 regular season games.
20 Pit Martin
Centre Pit Martin of Noranda, Quebec, played with the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks from 1963 to 1979. He was a former Hawks captain, two-time all-star and winner of the Bill Masterton Trophy. Martin scored 324 goals and 485 assists for 809 points in 1,101 regular-season games and chipped in with 58 points in 100 playoff contests. Martin scored at least 20 goals on eight occasions with his best offensive season being 30 goals and 47 assists for 77 points in 78 games with Chicago in 1973-74.
19 John Ogrodnick
Ottawa, Ontario’s John Ogrodnick played the left wing from 1979 to 1993 with the likes of the Detroit Red Wings, Quebec Nordiques, and New York Rangers. He scored 827 points in 928 regular-season games with 402 goals and 425 assists and added another 26 points in 41 playoff encounters. His best offensive campaign came in 1984-85 when he racked up 55 goals and 55 helpers for 105 points. Ogrodnick had nine seasons of at least 20 goals and broke the 35-goal mark half a dozen times and the 40-goal mark on four occasions. His stellar campaigns are overlooked due to the Detroit Red Wings being in their most abysmal period in franchise history during Ogrodnick's prime.
18 Pete Mahovlich
Pete Mahovlich of Timmins, Ontario will always be remembered as Frank Mahovlich’s little brother. He may not have been as flashy as the Big M, but he may have been more consistent. The centre played from 1965 to 1981 with the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins and won four Stanley Cups with the Habs. Mahovlich appeared in 884 regular-season games with 288 goals and 485 assists for 773 points. He also earned 72 points in 88 playoff games. The Little M enjoyed five seasons with at least 34 goals and had his best year in 1974-75 when he racked up 117 points on 35 goals and 82 assists in 80 outings.
17 Steve Shutt
Left-winger Steve Shutt’s NHL career spanned from 1972 to 1985 with every season except his last being played with the Montreal Canadiens. The Willowdale, Ontario native won five Stanley Cups with the Habs and had scored 98 points in 99 career playoff games. He was no slouch during the regular seasons either as he chipped in with 424 goals and 393 assists for 817 points in 930 contests. He had nine straight seasons with at least 30 goals with four seasons of at least 45 goals. Shutt’s best output was 60 goals and 45 helpers for 105 points in 80 games back in 1976-77. The fact that Shutt was on perhaps the greatest team in NHL history with superstars like Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard and Guy Lapoint often leaves Shutt overlooked even though he was one of the league's best pure goal scorers in his time.
16 Rick Kehoe
Rick Kehoe of Windsor, Ontario patrolled the right wing from 1969 to 1985 with the Toronto Maple Leafs and then the Pittsburgh Penguins. He finished his career with 371 goals and 396 assists for 767 points in 906 regular-season encounters. Kehoe happened to play on some poor teams during his career and appeared in just 39 playoff games with 21 points in them. He took home the Lady Byng Trophy for the 1980-81 season and scored at least 30 goals on six occasions. He also fell just one short with 29 goals twice. Kehoe’s best season came in 1980-81 when he scored 55 goals and 33 assists in 80 games.
15 Steve Thomas
Winger Steve Thomas of Stockport, England was small in stature at 5-foot-11 and 185 lbs, but had a huge heart, could score goals by the bucketful, and wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves with anyone. Thomas was undrafted and played for 20 years in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings. Thomas scored 421 goals and 512 assists for 933 points in 1,235 regular-season outings and accumulated 1,306 penalty minutes. He was also a fine playoff performer who added 107 points in 174 postseason games. His top goal output in a season was 42 with 87 points being a career high.
14 Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers of Calgary, Alberta played just 484 NHL regular-season games and moved around quite a bit as he played centre with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers and Hartford Whalers between 1979 and 1986. Rogers started his pro career in the WHA and played six seasons there before making his NHL debut. Rogers retired with 519 points in his NHL contests on 202 goals and 317 assists and added 14 points in 17 playoff outings. Rogers hit the 40-goal mark twice and scored at least 20 times in six straight seasons. He also broke the 100-point barrier in three consecutive seasons. His best output was 44 goals and 61 assists for 105 points in 1979-80 and he hit 105 again the next year with 40 goals and 65 assists.
13 Mike Gartner
Mike Gartner of Ottawa, Ontario played the right wing for 19 seasons with the Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes between 1978 and 1998. In addition, he suited up for one campaign in the former World Hockey Association (WHA). During his career, Gartner never won an individual trophy or the Stanley Cup. However, he was rightfully inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. Gartner scored at least 30 goals in each of his first 15 NHL seasons and led his team in goal scoring nine times. Gartner’s best year came in 1984-85 with Washington when he scored 50 goals and 52 assists in 80 games. He finished his career with 708 goals, 637 assists and 1,335 points in 1,432 games, making the speedster just one of seven players to reach the 700-goal mark. He also added 93 points in 122 playoff contests.
12 Dave Taylor
Dave Taylor of was a member of the Los Angeles’ Kings Triple Crown Line with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer. The right-winger from Levack, Ontario scored 431 goals and 638 assists for 1,069 points in 1,111 regular-season games and posted another 59 points in 92 postseason encounters. Marcel Dionne gets the most recognition from that line, but Taylor holds the Kings’ record for games played and also served as the club’s captain between 1985 and 1989. He’s also in the history books as the lowest drafted NHL player to ever score 1,000 points as he was selected 210th overall in the 15th round in 1975. Taylor played from 1977 to 1994. He scored at least 35 goals five times and hit the 20-goal mark on 12 occasions. Taylor’s best year came in 1980-81 when he scored 112 points on 47 goals and 65 assists. He then scored 106 more points the next season.
11 Bernie Federko
Foam Lake, Saskatchewan native Bernie Federko played with the St. Louis blues from 1976 to 1989 and then finished off his career with one season in Detroit. The centre played in exactly 1,000 NHL regular-season contests and scored 1,130 points on 369 goals and 761 assists. Federko also scored at better than a point-per-game in the playoffs with 101 points in 91 outings. Federko reached the 100-point plateau four times and had at least 90 points seven times. He also became the first-ever player to record at least 50 assists in 10 straight seasons. Federko holds numerous Blues’ records and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. His best campaign came in 1983-84 when he scored 107 points on 41 goals and 66 assists in his first of three straight 100-point years.
10 Chris Osgood
The only goalie making the list of the top 20 underrated NHL players of all time is Chris Osgood of Peace River, Alberta. Osgood played in 744 regular season games, the 20th-most in history for a goaltender, with the Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues between 1993 and 2011. He retired with a regular-season record of 401-216. Osgood recorded 50 shutouts, posted a 2.49 GAA and had a .905 save %. He also chipped in with a goal and 19 assists. He ranks ninth on the all-time list for postseason games played at 129 and ranks 16th in GAA at 2.09. Osgood added 15 playoff shutouts and raised his save percentage to .916 when the Stanley Cup was on the line and that’s why his name is etched on the trophy three times with the Red Wings. Osgood is currently 10th on the all-time list for regular-season wins, eighth for postseason victories and fourth in playoff shutouts.
9 Ken Hodge
There haven’t been many British-born NHL players in the modern era, but those who have made it have been quite successful such as Owen Nolan, Steve Thomas and Ken Hodge of the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Hodge, a big right-winger from Birmingham, England, played in the NHL from 1964 to 1978 and appeared in 880 regular-season contests. He racked up 800 points on 328 goals and 472 assists and added 81 points in 97 playoff games. Hodge won the Stanley Cup in 1969/70 and 1971/72 and was named to two end-of-season all-star teams. Hodge scored at least 25 goals on seven occasions with his best output being 43 goals and 62 assists for 105 points in 1970/71 and 50 goals and 55 assists for another 105 points three season later.
8 Tim Kerr
Windsor, Ontario native Tim Kerr played right win for the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and Hartford Whalers between 1980 and 1993. He appeared in 655 regular-season contests and posted 674 points on 370 goals and 304 assists along with 71 more points in 81 playoff games. Kerr hit the 50-goal mark a club-record four times in a row during his career with Philadelphia and reached the 90-point plateau three times. His best outing was 54 goals and 44 assists for 98 points in 74 encounters with the Flyers in 1984/85, but his career-high goal total was 58. He scored an NHL record 34 power-play goals in 1985/86 and also holds the record for most power-play goals in a period with three and shares the playoff record for four goals in a period.
7 Steve Larmer
Steve Larmer was drafted 120th overall in 1980 by the Chicago Blackhawks and enjoyed a career which spanned from 1980 to 1993 with the Hawks and then moved to the New York Rangers for his final two campaigns. The winger from Peterborough, Ontario retired with 1,006 regular-season games under his belt along with 1,012 points on 444 goals and 571 assists. He was also a fine playoff performer with 131 points in 140 games. Larmer was named the rookie of the year for the 1982-83 season with 90 points in 80 appearances. He holds the iron-man record for the most consecutive games played with one team at 884 and holds the third-longest streak in league history. He scored at least 30 goals in nine of his seasons with the 1990-91 campaign being his best when he scored 44 goals and 57 assists for 101 points in 80 games.
6 Dennis Maruk
Centre Dennis Maruk played in the NHL from 1975 to 1989 with teams such as the California Golden seals, Cleveland Barons, Minnesota North stars and Washington Capitals. He was just 5-foot-8 and weighed in at 165 pounds, but managed to play in 888 regular season games. Maruk racked up 878 points in those contests on 356 goals and 522 assists and added 36 more points in 34 postseason games. He scored 30 goals as a rookie with California for one of his six 30-goal seasons. Maruk hit his peak in 1981-82 when he scored 60 goals and added 76 assists for 136 points with the Capitals.
5 Jean Ratelle
Classy centre Jean Ratelle of Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec, skated in the NHL between 1960 and 1981 with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Ratelle appeared in 1,281 regular-season fixtures and posted 1,267 points on 491 goals and 776 assists and scored another 98 in 123 postseason matches. He served just 276 minutes in penalties during his lengthy 21-year career. Ratelle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985 after 14 seasons of at least 20 goals, six 30-goal seasons and a pair of 40-goal campaigns. Ratelle’s best offensive output took place in 1971-72 when he scored 46 goals and 63 assists for 109 points. He also reached the 70-point mark on 11 occasions.
4 Brian Propp
Left-winger Brian Propp of Lanigan, Saskatchewan played for the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Minnesota North Stars and Hartford Whalers during an NHL career that spanned from 1979 to 1994. Propp appeared in 1,016 regular-season games and scored 1,004 points on 425 goals and 579 assists and added 148 points in 160 playoff fixtures. Propp played in five Stanley Cup Finals, but never managed to win the coveted trophy. He scored at least 66 points in his first 10 seasons and reached the 30-goal mark eight times and the 40-goal plateau four times. Propp’s best year came in 1984-85 with 43 goals and 54 assists for 97 points and also reached 97 again the next season with 40 goals and 57 assists.
3 Johnny Bucyk
Johnny Bucyk of Edmonton, Alberta starred in 1,540 regular-season NHL games between 1955 and 1978 with the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins with just the first two years being spent with Detroit. The left-winger scored 556 goals and added 813 assists for 1,369 points and chipped in with another 103 points in 124 postseason outings. Bucyk won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1971 and again in 1974 and played on two Stanley Cup winners. He holds the Bruins franchise record for goals scored and was inducted into the Hall of fame in 1981. Bucyk scored at least 20 goals in 16 of his seasons with his best campaign coming in 1970-71 with 51 goals and 65 assists for 116 points in 78 games when he was 35 years old.
2 Dave Andreychuk
Left-winger Dave Andreychuk of Hamilton, Ontario certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He played from 1982 to 2006 with the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning. He appeared in 1,639 regular-season games and scored 640 goals along with 698 assists for 1,338 points and added 97 points in 162 playoff contests. Andreychuk captained the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004. Among his most notable NHL achievements are: the sixth-most games ever played, the 14th-most goals scored, and for scoring the most power play goals in league history with 274.
1 Bernie Nicholls
Centre Bernie Nicholls of Haliburton, Ontario played from 1981 to 1999 with several teams. These were the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. He played 1,127 regular-season games and reached 1,209 points on 475 goals and 734 assists along with 114 points in 118 postseason contests. His best year was with the Kings in 1988-89 when he scored 70 goals and 80 assists in 79 outings. The fourth-round draft pick hit the 20-goal mark 11 times and at least 30 goals on six occasions. He’s one of just eight players to hit the 70-goal plateau and should someday be inducted into the Hall of Fame.