Power forward is a difficult position to play in the NHL. It combines the ability to score goals and the ability to play a tough, physical style of hockey.
Because the position requires size, power forwards are usually late bloomers who don't become very effective until they are in their mid-20s when their body becomes bigger and more mature.
The career of a power forward is often brief because they both give out and take a lot of physical punishment.
Here is a list of the 20 greatest power forwards in NHL history. These are players who can use their hands and size to intimidate goalies and enforcers alike.
Longevity does count for something as we are examining the entire career of these players. The rankings are a combination of how good a player was in his prime and how long he was effectively able to play at a high level.
Feel free to comment and to mention any players you feel I may have missed.
At 6'2", 210 pounds, Scott Hartnell is one of the best power forwards in the NHL today.
Last season with Philadelphia, the former first-round pick of the Nashville Predators scored a career-best 37 goals and 67 points to go with 136 penalty minutes.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is a big supporter of his veteran star. "In my opinion, he's the top power forward in the league right now," Laviolette said before the All-Star Game rosters were announced.
Hartnell is a battler and a player who works hard to earn his goals. He is out of the lineup now with a broken foot, and the Flyers are clearly feeling his loss.
Thus far, Hartnell has career totals of 222 goals and 475 points in 846 games. He also has 1,292 penalty minutes.
Tim Kerr overcame long odds to become one of the top power forwards of the late 1980s.
He was undrafted out of juniors, but finally made the Flyers in 1980.
In 1983-84, Kerr started his spectacular run of four straight 50-goal seasons for Philadelphia.
The Windsor, Ontario, native had two things that made him one of the best goal scorers in the league; he was very difficult to dislodge from the slot, and he was very dangerous on the power play. In 1985-86, Kerr set an NHL record with 34 power-play goals in a season.
Like many power forwards, Kerr had trouble staying healthy. He played only eight games in 1987-88, had 48 goals in 69 games in 1988-89 and then never played more than 40 games in a season before retiring at the age of 33.
Bruins' forward Milan Lucic is still just 24, but he's already established himself as one of the league's top power forwards.
Lucic stands 6'4" and weighs 220 pounds. He already has a 30-goal season to his credit and three seasons of 100 or more penalty minutes.
He was also a big part of Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup victory. Despite playing hurt throughout the playoffs that year, the Vancouver native scored five goals and 12 points while continuing to play a physical style for his club.
Lucic sets the tone for the Bruins and has earned the nickname "Ultimate" because he can do so many things well on the ice.
Johan Franzen's nickname tells you why he belongs on this list: The 6'3" Swede is known as "The Mule." Former Red Wings' captain Steve Yzerman gave him that moniker because he "carries the load."
Franzen's best offensive season came in 2008-09 when he scored 34 goals and 59 points.
He won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2007-08 and scored 13 goals and 16 playoff games for Detroit, including five game-winning goals.
The following season, he added 12 goals and 23 points in 23 postseason games as the Wings again reached the Stanley Cup Final before falling in seven games to Pittsburgh. He had nine goals in a series against the Avalanche that year, breaking a franchise record.
Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville once said of Franzen, "He's one of those big forwards that not only uses his size to his advantage, but has nice hands."
In 484 career NHL games, "The Mule" has scored 153 goals and 284 points.
Kevin Stevens was a sixth-round draft pick who reached the NHL after four years at Boston College.
Like many power forwards, the Brockton, Mass., native was a late bloomer who had a few seasons of absolute excellence before his body began to cause him to slow down.
From 1990-91 until 1993-94, Stevens was one of the top goal scorers in the NHL. He had two 50-goal seasons and two 40-goal seasons and twice topped 100 points.
Stevens was a major part of the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992. In the 1991 playoffs, Stevens scored 17 goals and 33 points in 24 games.
Only three other players achieved what Stevens did during 1991-92, scoring more than 100 points and accumulating more than 200 penalty minutes in the same season.
In 874 career NHL games with the Penguins, Bruins, Kings, Rangers and Flyers, Stevens scored 329 goals and 726 points.
Todd Bertuzzi played his best hockey with the Vancouver Canucks in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
His best year was 2002-03 when the Sudbury, Ontario, native scored a career-high 46 goals and 97 points while accumulating 144 penalty minutes. Bertuzzi played in the All-Star game and was named to the first team postseason All-Star team.
Most critics felt Bertuzzi was the best power forward in the game. The Hockey News declared,
There are times when Todd Bertuzzi simply appears unstoppable, nights when his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame and Downy-soft hands are just too much for any defenseman, games when it looks like the only player who can stop Todd Bertuzzi is Todd Bertuzzi.
On March 8, 2004, Bertuzzi's career was forever altered when he sucker punched Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore, breaking his neck and ending his hockey career. The league suspended Bertuzzi indefinitely, and he did not play again until after the 2004-05 lockout.
Bertuzzi had one more top season after that before becoming a very average forward after that. In fact, Bertuzzi hasn't topped the 20-goal mark in a season since 2005-06 while bouncing around between the Panthers, Ducks, Flames and two tours of duty with the Red Wings.
Thus far in 1,100 NHL games, Bertuzzi has 305 goals and 754 points to go along with 1,438 penalty minutes.
John LeClair was the first American-born NHL player to score 50 or more goals in three consecutive seasons.
His best seasons came with the Flyers when he was part of the "Legion of Doom" line along with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg. Those three large forwards were arguably the NHL's most dominant line in the late 1990s.
At 6'3", 226 pounds, LeClair had both the size and the skill to dominate opponents.
He scored two overtime goals during the Canadiens' run to a Stanley Cup title in 1993 and was a part of the Flyers club that reached the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. Five times, LeClair was named to a postseason All-Star Team and twice he led the league in plus/minus.
In 967 career games, LeClair scored 406 goals and 819 points.
Rick Tocchet had a lot of success during his 18-year career with the Flyers, Penguins, Kings, Bruins, Capitals and Coyotes.
Tocchet had three seasons with 40 or more goals and four campaigns with 200 or more penalty minutes.
In 1991-92, the Scarborough, Ontario, native was traded from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and helped the Penguins repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Tocchet had 19 points in 14 postseason games for the Pens.
In 1,144 career NHL games, Tocchet scored 440 goals and 952 points while accumulating 2,972 penalty minutes.
He is considered one of the best power forwards of all time because of his grit, scoring ability and leadership.
For a few years, big Eric Lindros was the most dominant player in the NHL. He had a combination of size, hands and physical presence that was tough to defend, but injuries ended his career prematurely.
Lindros was controversial before he ever set foot on an NHL rink. He was originally drafted by the Quebec Nordiques, but refused to play in Quebec and forced a trade to Philadelphia.
During his brief prime, the big London, Ontario, native had four seasons with both 40 or more goals and 100 or more penalty minutes.
The lockout-shortened 1994-95 season was probably Lindros' best. That year, he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP with 29 goals and 70 points in just 46 games.
The following season was the most productive full season in Lindros' career. Centering the "Legion of Doom" line with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, Lindros scored 47 goals and 115 points.
Eventually, concussions and other injuries slowed Lindros down, and he sat out the entire 2000-01 season. After that, Lindros was more or less a journeyman, playing well in spurts for the Rangers, Stars and Maple Leafs before retiring after the 2006-07 season.
Lindros finished his NHL career with 372 goals and 865 points in 760 games.
At 6'2", 233 pounds, Alex Ovechkin is bigger than most players to lead the league in scoring. Unlike say Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby, Ovechkin has always played a physical game and was never shy about playing the body.
Offensively, Ovechkin has had a great start to his career. He is still only 27-years-old and has already had four seasons with 50 or more goals, including a career-best 65 goals and 112 points in 2007-08.
Ovechkin's trophy case is already full. He was won two Hart Trophies as league MVP, the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie and a pair of Rocket Richard Trophies as the NHL's leading goal scorer. The only thing "The Great Eight" hasn't won is a Stanley Cup.
In 565 career games, Ovechkin has scored 343 goals and 687 points.
Wendel Clark is probably the smallest player on this list. Clark was only 5'11" and weighed less than 200 pounds in his playing days, but he played like a much bigger player, often showing complete disregard for his own body. His hard-hitting style earned him the nickname "Captain Crunch."
Early in his career, Clark made a name for himself by battling with and dropping the gloves against many of the league's biggest and baddest enforcers.
Clark's physical style made him a fan favorite, especially in Toronto. Even the legendary King Clancy called Clark the Leafs best rookie in 50 years.
He was a very effective offensive player, too. Clark had five seasons of 30 or more goals including a career-high 46 goals and 76 points in 1993-94. He also went over 100 penalty minutes in a season seven times.
By the time he retired after the 1999-2000 season, Clark has scored 330 goals and accumulated 564 points as well as 1,690 penalty minutes.
Terry O'Reilly personified "The Lunch Pail Crew" Bruins of the late 1970s. O'Reilly may not have been the most talented player on the ice, but he was almost always the hardest working and the most fearless.
His effort and tireless hustle earned him the nickname, "Taz," short for the Tasmanian Devil.
The Niagara Falls, Ontario, native worked hard for each of his 204 career goals. He had four seasons with 20 or more goals and 12 seasons with at least 100 penalty minutes.
Three times during O'Reilly's career, the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final, although he never won a title during his 13-year career.
Don Cherry, O'Reilly's former coach summed up his former power forward by saying, "He was tough, really tough, and that's the way I like 'em."
At 6'2" and 235 pounds, Keith Tkachuk was an imposing figure for opposing goalies.
The native of Melrose, Mass., had two 50-goal seasons and became only the fourth player in NHL history to score 50 goals and accumulate 200 or more penalty minutes in the same season.
"Big Walt" was a natural leader on the ice and served as captain of the Jets/Coyotes franchise for eight seasons.
He also became the first American-born player to lead the league in goals scored which he did in 1996-97.
Over the course of his career, Tkachuk scored 538 goals and 1,065 points in 1,201 NHL games.
Jarome Iginla has been a model of consistency for the Calgary Flames since 1996. The 6'1", 202-pound Edmonton native has 11 consecutive seasons of 30 or more goals, including a pair of seasons with at least 50 goals.
Iginla leads by example and isn't afraid to drop the gloves when it's needed to inspire his teammates. He has served as captain of the Flames since 2003-04. He helped lead Calgary to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season as captain.
Twice Iginla has led the NHL in goals scored, and he also led the league in points in 2001-02. That same season, Iginla was voted league MVP by the players.
In 1,197 career games, Iginla has scored 517 goals and 1,079 points.
Mark Messier is mostly on this list for his play with the Oilers in the first part of his career.
He earned the nickname "Moose" for his 6'1" frame and his physical style of play. Messier often threw an elbow to opponents who dared to skate down his wing.
Messier had seven seasons of 100 or more penalty minutes and six seasons of 100 or more points. He won six Stanley Cups and became the first player to captain two different teams to a championship.
The Edmonton native has been described as "a powerful skater who combined playmaking skill and a goal-scoring touch with the toughness necessary to survive and thrive in the corners."
In 1,756 NHL games, Messier scored 694 goals and 1,887 points.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Cam Neely was the perfect power forward when he was healthy, but injuries ended his career early and prevented him from climbing even higher on this list.
Neely stood 6'1" but weighed only 185 pounds, but he played big and always used his body to create space for himself in the opposition's zone.
Neely had six seasons with 30 or more goals in his career including three seasons with 50 or more goals. In 1993-94, the Comox, BC, native scored 50 goals in just 49 games. Neely also had six seasons of 100 or more penalty minutes.
Wayne Cashman (who came very close to making this list) paid high praise to Neely when he said, ""If you are going to write the description of a power forward, you just put down Cam Neely. You don't need to put anything else."
Neely scored 395 goals and 694 points in 726 career NHL games with Vancouver and Boston. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.
Clark Gillies stood an imposing 6'3" and 210 pounds. He was one of those big players who didn't need to fight much because opponents thought twice before challenging the big man.
"Jethro" won four Stanley Cups with the Islanders from 1980-83 and had six seasons of at least 30 goals. He was a part of the Islanders "Trio Grande" line along with Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy.
The Islanders won their first Stanley Cup in 1980 after Gillies fought and beat Bruins' tough guy Terry O'Reilly in the semifinals. That battle helped give the Isles the confidence that they could win a Stanley Cup.
Gillies finished his career with 319 goals and 697 points in 958 games. He also accumulated 1,023 penalty minutes.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
Brendan Shanahan holds a unique place in the NHL record book: He is the only player ever to score more than 600 career goals (656) and 2,000 penalty minutes (2,489).
The Mimico, Ontario, native won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and used his 6'3", 220-pound frame to score goals and intimidate opponents.
Shanny had 12 seasons of 30 or more goals including two 50 goal seasons and 17 seasons with at least 100 penalty minutes. He also recorded 17 Gordie Howe hat tricks (a goal, assist and fight in the same game).
After the 2004-05 lockout, Shanahan was very involved in the changes in the game that included reduced obstruction and other attempts to open up the game.
Shanahan now works for the league office, but his consistency and longevity put him among the all-time elite power forwards in NHL history.
Maurice "Rocket" Richard was a power forward before the term was even invented.
He stood only 5'10" and 180 pounds, but that was above-average size back in the 1940s and '50s when "The Rocket" was in his prime. Richard was combative and never backed down from a challenge.
Richard was tough and topped 100 penalty minutes five times in his career. He also had nine seasons with at least 30 goals including the first ever 50-goal season in NHL history back in 1943-44. It happened in a 50-game season which became the standard for goal scorers throughout the NHL.
Richard won eight Stanley Cups with Montreal including a remarkable five in a row from 1956-1960. He was captain for four of those wins.
Richard scored 544 goals and 965 points in his NHL career while adding 1,285 penalty minutes.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 just one year after his retirement as a player.
Today, the NHL's leading goal scorer is awarded the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Gordie Howe became known as "Mr. Hockey" because he combined elite skills with physical play and toughness.
Howe was equally famous for winning six scoring titles and for giving opponents who dared challenge him an elbow when the referee wasn't looking.
Howe won four Stanley Cups with Detroit and later won two Avco World Trophies as champion of the WHA with the Houston Aeros.
In 1964, Sports Illustrated said of Howe,
Despite an even temperament and a real distaste for combat, there is a part of Howe that is calculatingly and primitively savage. He is a punishing artist with a hockey stick, slashing, spearing, tripping and high-sticking his way to a comparative degree of solitude on the ice.
Howe's NHL career started in 1946 and ended in 1980. When he retired, he held nearly every meaningful career scoring record in the NHL record book.
A "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" is when a player scores a goal, gets an assist and has a fight in the same game. It is only fitting that this is named for "Mr. Hockey."