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Top 25 NHL Players of All Time

All hockey fans have their own opinions and that’s what makes it so hard to put together an all-time best list. It’s hard to get everybody to agree on the selections, but the statistics don’t lie and that’s why some players simply can’t be ignored. This list of the top 25 NHL players of all time consists of three goaltenders and 22 skaters from various teams. Twenty three of them have at least one thing in common as they’ve all been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The other two will certainly join them when their time comes.

Just one player, centre Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is still active and another, goaltender Martin Brodeur just retired this past season. Since the game of hockey went through some major changes over the years, this list consists of players who skated from the 1940s onwards. There are some excellent players who have been omitted, but each player here deserves his spot. These players had the skills to shine in any of hockey’s eras, but fortunately for fans there is plenty of film footage and information out there on each one of them.

Great hockey players don’t just excel at their positions, score goals, set up teammates and win trophies. They also exude great leadership qualities and easily fit into a team atmosphere. None of these players got where they did on their own as they were all helped and supported by their families, friends, teammates and coaches along the way. This list could easily change decades from now, but these players’ achievements will never be forgotten and will stand the test of time.

25 Sidney Crosby

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24 Doug Harvey

via thehockeywriters.com

23 Terry Sawchuk

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22 Marcel Dionne

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21 Paul Coffey

via thescore.com

20 Ken Dryden

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19 Bryan Trottier

via edgecast.com

18 Ron Francis

Pittsburgh Penguins Archives

17 Guy Lafleur

via sportsnet.ca

16 Jean Beliveau

via sportcardexpo.com

15 Maurice 'Rocket' Richard

via hockeygods.com

14 Phil Esposito

Graham Bezant / thestar

13 Mike Bossy

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12 Stan Mikita

via espn.com

11 Ray Bourque

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10 Bobby Hull

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9 Joe Sakic

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8 Martin Brodeur

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Goaltender Martin Brodeur, who played from 1991 to 2015, leads the league in several categories. These include games played at 1,266, wins with 691, most playoff shutouts at 24, and regular season shutouts at 125. He leads these categories by quite some margin as he has 23 more shutouts than runner-up Terry Sawchuk, played 237 more games than Patrick Roy, and won 140 more than Roy. He wasn’t a bad puck handler either as Brodeur scored a pair of regular-season goals and added 45 assists with one goal being a game-winner. He also scored a playoff goal and holds numerous other records.

7 Steve Yzerman

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6 Jaromir Jagr

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Jaromir Jagr is still playing in the league, there’s no point in waiting until he retires to name him to this list. Heading into the 2015-16 season, Jagr sits fourth in all-time scoring with 1,802 points on 722 goals and 1,080 assists. He’s posted 1.163 points per-game in 1,550 contests with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers. The 43-year-old won two straight Stanley Cups with the Penguins and is the league’s all-time leader in game-winning goals with 129.

5 Mark Messier

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4 Mario Lemieux

via pittsburghsportingnews.com

Centre Mario Lemieux came on the scene in 1984 and gave Wayne Gretzky a run for his money as title of the greatest player until retiring in 2006. Lemieux was an all star numerous times and won over a dozen individual trophies and a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He led the league in scoring half a dozen times and took home the rookie-of-the-year award. He managed to rack up 1,723 points in 915 games for 1.883 points per game, which is second best to Wayne Gretzky. The big centre scored 690 goals and added 1,033 assists and currently sits in eighth place on the all-time scoring list.

3 Bobby Orr

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2 Gordie Howe

via thestar.com

Gordie Howe could do it all. He could score, set up teammates, body check and fight. In fact, he was considered by many to be the toughest and perhaps dirtiest player in NHL history. The right-winger ranks number three on the all-time scoring list with 1,850 points on 801 goals and 1,049 assists in 1,767 games. His numbers would be even higher if he hadn’t taken off to the WHA for six seasons. Howe played his entire NHL career with Detroit other than his final season, which was with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80. He scored 22 points as a rookie in 1946-47 and posted 41 as a 52-year-old before retiring.

1 Wayne Gretzky

Mike Powell /Allsport

Critics said Wayne Gretzky was too small and couldn’t skate well enough to succeed in the NHL. But not only did the skinny centre from Brantford, Ontario succeed, he more or less dominated from 1979 to 1999 while skating with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. There’s hardly any type of offensive scoring record in the league that Gretzky doesn’t own. His individual trophies are too numerous to mention as there are more than 25 of them, but he is the all-time leader in goals with 894, assists at 1,963, shorthanded goals at 73 and points with an incredible 2,857. He’s also first in points-per game at 1.921 and fourth in plus/minus at plus-518. Gretzky won four Stanley Cups with Edmonton and the Hall of Famer played on three Canada Cup winners. No one other than The Great One could take the top spot here.

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Top 25 NHL Players of All Time