The 25 Most Natural Goal Scorers in NHL History
After watching an incredible skills challenge in Ottawa, bars all over North America are buzzing with conversations trying to put today's players into proper historical context.
As Steven Stamkos chases 50 goals again this year, many fans wonder where he and other current stars fit in the history of the league. Is Stamkos one of the most naturally lethal scorers in the history of the game?
What follows is a list of the 25 most natural scorers in NHL history. Some of the players are household names, some are fondly remembered by their fans (and are hated by their opponents). And yes, there are a couple of current players on the list.
Is Stamkos one of them?
25. Tim Kerr
We'll start the list off the radar a little bit with Tim Kerr, who was outstanding for the Flyers in the 1980s.
He posted four straight seasons of 50-plus goals (two of 54 followed by two of 58) and finished his career with 370 goals in only 655 games. He has the tenth-highest goals-per-game average in NHL history (.565).
24. Jeremy Roenick
Jeremy Roenick is already in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, and it's because he could score whenever he wanted to throughout his career.
He posted 513 goals in 1,363 games and had two straight 50-goal seasons early in his career in Chicago.
23. Alex Mogilny
Alex Mogilny had an up-and-down career but managed to score 473 goals in only 990 NHL games.
He peaked in Buffalo early in his career, when he piled up an amazing 145 goals in only 206 games between 1991 and 1993, including an astronomical 76 goals in 77 games with the Sabres in 1992-93.
In total, Mogilny scored at least 30 goals in a season eight times.
22. Frank Mahovlich
In a career that started with the Leafs but also saw time in Detroit and Montreal, Frank Mahovlich was one of the most electrifying superstars of the late 1950s and 1960s.
He scored 533 goals in 1,181 games in the NHL and was once part of what could have been the most infamous bar stool transaction in history.
Over cocktails before one season, Blackhawks ownership offered the Leafs $1 million for Mahovlich, and one member of the Leafs' ownership agreed. When all parties were sober, the deal was called off.
21. Pat LaFontaine
Pat LaFontaine split his career almost in half between the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres and was consistently deadly with the puck.
He has seven seasons of at least 40 goals, and he finished with 468 goals in just 865 games.
20. Denis Savard
The inventor of the "Spin-o-Rama," Denis Savard flew up and down the ice in Chicago in the 1980s and scored hundreds of pretty goals.
He finished his career with 473 goals in 1,196 games and had at least 30 goals in seven consecutive seasons (1981-82 through 1987-88).
19. Gordie Howe
It might seem odd that Gordie Howe and his 801 career NHL goals rank only 19th on this list. But what we're looking at here is "natural goal scorers," and Howe's longevity was as much a part of his enormous career numbers as his skill was.
At the end of the day, Howe currently ranks 49th in NHL history in goals per game (.453).
He was a magnificent player, especially early in his career, but Howe never scored more than 49 goals in a season. Just because he reached 800 doesn't entitle him to the top of the list, but it certainly earns him a spot among the all-time greats.
18. Pavel Bure
At some point, the hockey world will get it right and put Pavel Bure in the Hall of Fame. During the 1990s, there weren't many scorers as dominant as Bure, who scored 437 goals in only 702 games.
Bure broke into the league quietly, only scoring 154 goals in his first three seasons, including back-to-back 60-goal seasons with the Canucks in 1992-93 and 1993-94.
He added three more seasons with over 50 goals later in the decade, including seasons of 58 and 59 goals with the Panthers.
17. Jari Kurri
Jari Kurri started his NHL career with a couple of 32-goal seasons and then didn't score fewer than 43 in the next seven seasons. He peaked in 1984-85 and 1985-86, when he scored an incredible 139 goals in just 151 games.
In his career, Kurri piled up 601 goals in 1,251 games.
16. Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion
Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion was the second player in NHL history to hit the 50-goal plateau, achieving the mark in 64 games in the 1960-61 season.
In 883 games between 1950-68, Geoffrion scored 393 goals.
He's remembered by many as one of the finest Canadiens ever, and he doesn't get the respect he deserves because he's often overshadowed by Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Bobby Hull, who dominated his era in the league.
15. Guy LaFleur
Between 1971 and 1991, Guy LaFleur was one of the most dominant players to ever play the game. He registered 560 goals in 1,126 games, including six consecutive seasons of at least 50 goals in the late 1970s.
14. Steve Yzerman
"Stevie Y" was on the Detroit Red Wings from 1983-2006. Over his remarkable career, Steve Yzerman scored 692 goals in 1,514 games, every one of which was in a Detroit sweater.
When you consider the incredible history of the Wings, the fact that Yzerman has the top three individual goal-scoring seasons in the franchise's history says volumes about his ability to put the puck in the net.
13. Joe Sakic
Between Quebec and Colorado, Joe Sakic was one of the most respected scorers of his generation.
Between 1988 and 2009, Sakic racked up 625 goals in 1,378 games. He posted at least 40 goals in five different seasons.
12. Luc Robitaille
In his first eight NHL seasons, Luc Robitaille never finished a year with fewer than 44 goals. He finished his career where it started, in Los Angeles, with 668 goals in 1,431 games.
11. Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr is back in the NHL with the Flyers, but most hockey fans remember the incredible early days of his career in Pittsburgh and the great seasons he spent with the Rangers.
He is one of only two active players on the list, and he has 658 goals so far. Where his career number ends is anyone's guess.
10. Teemu Selanne
The other active player on the list is Teemu Selanne. A magician with the puck, Selanne has led the NHL in goal scoring on three occasions (1992-93, 1997-98 and 1998-99).
So far in his Hall of Fame career, Selanne has posted 652 goals in 1,307 games.
9. Mike Gartner
From 1978-98, Mike Gartner was among the elite scorers in the NHL. He is one of only six players in league history to reach 700 goals, posting 708 in 1,432 games.
Gartner reached the 40-goal plateau in seven seasons during his NHL career.
8. Marcel Dionne
Younger fans might be surprised that Luc Robitaille isn't the highest-ranked member of the Kings organization, but anyone that watched Marcel Dionne play in the 1970s and 1980s knows that he was one of the best.
He scored 731 goals in 1,348 games, a total that ranks fourth in NHL history.
7. Brett Hull
The first Hull to make the list, Brett was arguably the most lethal sniper of the 1990s.
With the Blues, he posted an incredible 339 goals in a five-year stretch that started with seasons of 72, 86 and 70 goals between 1989 and 1992. He scored 741 goals, the third-highest total in NHL history.
His goal total is only 60 fewer than Gordie Howe, and he did it in 498 fewer games.
6. Phil Esposito
No, that isn't Sly Stallone in a Bruins sweater, though Phil Esposito might have seemed like "Rambo" to opposing goalies in the 1960s and 1970s.
He led the league in goals in six consecutive seasons, including four seasons of at least 60 goals.
Esposito posted 717 goals in 1,282 games and was the inspiration for one of the great bumper stickers of all time. Fans in Boston might remember seeing the back side of a car reading "Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound."
On a personal note, our thoughts and prayers are with Esposito in the wake of the recent and tragic death of his daughter.
5. Mike Bossy
Of the top 20 goal scorers in the history of the NHL, only two played in fewer than 1,000 games. Only one, Mike Bossy, played in fewer than 800.
Bossy had an incredible career with the Islanders, leaving the game far too soon. He scored 573 goals in only 752 games, an incredible .76 goals per game for his career.
To put Bossy's career in perspective, he scored only four fewer goals than recently-retired Mark Recchi in exactly 900 fewer games.
4. Maurice "Rocket" Richard
There's a reason his name is on one of the most prestigious awards in the NHL today. Maurice Richard was the first man to score 50 goals in an NHL season, doing so in 50 games in the 1944-45 season.
He played his entire career in Montreal and piled up 544 goals in 978 games.
3. Bobby Hull
"The Golden Jet" was the superstar in the NHL in the 1960s. Bobby Hull led the league in scoring seven times and became the first player to score more than 50 goals in a season.
When he left the NHL in the middle of his prime, Hull had already reached the 50-goal plateau more times than the combined number of seasons at the mark in league history, hitting the total five times.
If you add his ridiculous WHA numbers to his NHL totals, Hull had 913 goals in 1,474 games. But his NHL numbers stand on their own merits: 610 goals in 1,063 games is a remarkable total.
2. Wayne Gretzky
"The Great One" at No. 2?
Yes, we're absolutely aware that Wayne Gretzky is the all-time leader in NHL history with 894 goals, and he posted 93 goals more than second-place Gordie Howe in 380 fewer games (1,487). He owns the record books in the NHL, and the league has retired his number for a very good reason.
But he isn't the best natural goal scorer in NHL history.
1. Mario Lemieux
"Super Mario" was super in every way for the Pittsburgh organization.
He had four seasons with at least 69 goals. Only 13 times in NHL history has a player eclipsed 160 points in a season, and Mario Lemieux is the only player other than Gretzky to achieve the mark (Mario did it four times to Gretzky's nine).
The Hall of Famer amassed 690 goals in only 915 games, averaging .754 goals per game (third in NHL history), while Gretzky averaged "only" .601 goals per game (which ranks seventh).
If he hadn't been sick in the middle of his prime, who knows how many goals he could have scored?