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Ranking the 10 Best NHL Goal-Scorers of the 1990s

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

Ranking the 10 Best NHL Goal-Scorers of the 1990s

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    Denis Brodeur/Getty Images

    In the National Hockey League, the 1990s was a decade like a coin, with two distinct sides.

    The era began under the stewardship of star scorers Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. They were soon joined at the top of the ranks by a wave of exciting new talent. But as the decade wore on, a more defensive style of play squelched the creativity and excitement of the game, slowing goal-scoring to a trickle.

    When looking at the league's best scorers of the '90s, it's important to consider how the game changed over that 10-year period. The individual performers on this list are ranked based on total output, but also on goals per game, consistency, standout seasons such as scoring titles and contributions to their teams' overall success.

    Here are the top 10. See if this brings back some memories.

     

    Stats are from NHL.com, Hockeydb.com and Quanthockey.com.

10. Keith Tkachuk

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    Keith Tkachuk was the poster child for the Winnipeg Jets' move to Phoenix. He led the franchise with 50 goals in its last season in Winnipeg, 1995-96, then captured the NHL goal-scoring title in the team's first year in Phoenix with 52 goals.

    A hulking power forward who played over 1,200 NHL games in his career, Tkachuk scored more than 30 goals nine times and logged over 100 penalty minutes 11 times in his NHL career.

     

    By the Numbers

    1991-99: 576 GP, 294-258-552, .510 goals per game

    Tkachuk's NHL career lasted from 1991 to 2010. He scored 55 percent of his 538 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Tkachuk was a consistent contributor who was remarkably durable in the '90s considering his physical style of game. He never came close to replicating those 50-goal seasons, though, and failed to get his team out of the first round of the playoffs at any point in the 1990s.

9. Peter Bondra

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    In the prime of his career with the Washington Capitals, Peter Bondra was a goal-scoring machine. He broke the 40-goal plateau four times in his career—three of which were in the '90s—and tied Teemu Selanne for the NHL scoring lead with 52 goals in 1997-98.

    Despite his scoring prowess, Bondra played on a Washington Capitals team that couldn't find a way to break through in the playoffs. They advanced to the Stanley Cup Final once in Bondra's 13 full seasons with the team, in 1998, where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-99: 672 GP, 337-246-583, .501 goals per game

    Bondra's NHL career lasted from 1990 to 2007. He scored 67 percent of his 503 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Bondra was one of the NHL's strongest scorers in an era when goal-scoring was declining, but he played in a low-visibility media market in Washington. Like Tkachuk, Bondra also failed to lead his team to playoff success.

8. Alex Mogilny

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    In 1992-93, Alexander Mogilny had one of the most prolific goal-scoring seasons in NHL history. His 76 goals for the Buffalo Sabres tied him with Phil Esposito on the all-time list and put him behind only Gretzky, Hull and Lemieux.

    Unfortunately for the fourth-year NHLer, a rookie named Teemu Selanne showed up and also scored 76 that same season. Selanne got the lion's share of the acclaim as the two shared the NHL scoring title.

    Over the course of his career, Mogilny would have one other 50-goal season, in 1995-96 with Vancouver. He also won a Stanley Cup in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-99: 640 GP, 338-377-715, .528 goals per game

    Mogilny's NHL career lasted from 1989 to 2006. He scored 71 percent of his 473 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Mogilny makes this list primarily due to his 76-goal season—one of the best in NHL history. For the rest of his career, he was inconsistent.

    Though he struggled or seemed indifferent for long stretches, Mogilny still managed an average of .528 goals per game in the '90s—10th among all players in the decade.

7. Brendan Shanahan

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    He wasn't always Mr. Player Safety. In his playing days, Brendan Shanahan was your prototypical 1990s power forward—an on-ice bruiser and consistent goal-scorer who logged two 50-goal seasons with the St. Louis Blues in the early '90s. His best year was 52 goals in 1993-94.

    Shanahan started the '90s with the New Jersey Devils before signing as a free agent with the Blues. He was eventually traded to Hartford, then on to Detroit, where he won Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-99: 741 GP, 376-355-731, .507 goals per game

    Shanahan's NHL career lasted from 1987 to 2009. He scored 57 percent of his 656 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Shanhan's goals-per-game average is a little lower than most of the others on this list, but he's another power forward who stayed impressively healthy—never missing more than 10 games in any season in the '90s. On every team he played for, Shanahan could be counted on to be there for his team, providing solid offense as just one element of his complete game.

6. Pavel Bure

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    Glenn Cratty/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    One of the most explosive skaters and scorers that the NHL has ever seen, Pavel Bure turned heads from the moment he arrived in the NHL. He won the Calder Trophy in 1991-92 and helped propel the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994.

    The Russian Rocket scored 60 goals back-to-back in 1992-93 and 1993-94, leading the league in scoring the second time. He also won two Rocket Richard Trophies as top goal scorer later in his career, with 58 goals in 1999-00 and 59 goals in 2000-01.

     

    By the Numbers

    1991-99: 513 GP, 325-263-588, .634 goals per game

    Bure's NHL career lasted from 1991 to 2003. He scored 74 percent of his 437 career goals in the '90s, the highest percentage on this list.

     

    Why He's Here

    Bure's scoring totals are lower than some of the others on this list due to a low number of games played. He missed almost the entire 1995-96 season with a knee injury, then sat out in 1998-99 as he waited for a trade. His goals-per-game number is fourth among all players in the 1990s.

5. Cam Neely

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    Cam Neely was just 31 when he retired after a string of lower-body injuries derailed an impressive NHL career.

    An impact player from the moment he arrived in Boston after a 1986 trade from Vancouver, Neely was a devastating hitter with a hard, accurate shot. He scored 50 goals three times in his career and did it in 49 games played in 1993-94. Neely won the Masterton Trophy that year for logging such an impressive season after all his injuries.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-96: 231 GP, 174-108-282, .753 goals per game

    Neely's NHL career lasted from 1983 to 1996. He scored 44 percent of his 395 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Neely's career was cut tragically short, but his achievements when he played were astonishing. His goals-per-game average ranks second in the decade. And after missing the better part of two seasons with injuries, his 50 goals in 49 games are in a class of their own.

4. Teemu Selanne

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    Ken Levine/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    Teemu Selanne landed in Winnipeg like a tornado when he started his NHL career in 1992-93. He tied for the NHL scoring lead with 76 goals in his rookie season with the Jets—a career high and an NHL rookie record. His 132 points that year were also record-setting for an NHL rookie, and Selanne won the Calder Trophy.

    His first season may have been his best, but 21 years later, Selanne is still in the NHL. Along the way, he has had six more seasons with 40 goals or more, tying for the NHL scoring lead with 52 goals in 1997-98 and topping the ranks with 47 goals in 1998-99, the first year the Rocket Richard Trophy was awarded to the league's No. 1 scorer.

    Selanne won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

     

    By the Numbers

    1992-99: 564 GP, 346-383-729, .613 goals per game

    Selanne's NHL career has lasted from 1992 to today. He scored 51 percent of his 679 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    No National Hockey League player has ever broken into the league like Selanne. The fact that he has remained an important contributor and is still playing at 43 years old is icing on the cake.

3. Jaromir Jagr

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    What He Accomplished

    Though he has never won a goal-scoring title, Jagr has scored at least 50 goals three times in his career and won the Art Ross Trophy for total points five times in seven years between 1994-95 and 2000-01. His best career year for goals was 1995-96, when he scored 62 for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Jagr won the Hart Trophy in 1998-99, as well as three Ted Lindsay awards and two Stanley Cups.

    At age 41, Jagr is still climbing the all-time goal-scoring list. He has just passed Steve Yzerman to move into eighth place and is one goal behind Mark Messier in seventh.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-99: 725 GP, 387-571-958, .534 goals per game

    Jagr's NHL career has lasted from 1990 till today, although he spent three years playing in the KHL from 2008-09 to 2010-11. He scored 56 percent of his 692 NHL career goals to date in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Jagr's current career resurgence at age 41 reminds us what a force he was during his younger days. Playing behind Mario Lemieux when he first arrived in Pittsburgh, Jagr has carved out a massive legacy of his own, which is building to this day.

2. Brett Hull

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    Brett Hull became the poster child for goal-scoring in the 1990s. He kicked off the decade with 72 goals in 1989-90, then followed that up with 86- and 70-goal seasons—winning the goal-scoring title each time.

    Hull's 86 goals in 1990-91 were the most ever by a player not named Gretzky and the high-water mark of of the decade. Hull was awarded the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL's most valuable player that season.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-99: 712 GP, 464-378-842, .652 goals per game

    Hull's NHL career lasted from 1986 to 2005. He scored 63 percent of his 741 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Brett Hull scored the most goals in the 1990s. He changed the fortunes of the St. Louis Blues. He was also a fascinating success story—the son of a former NHL star who had been tossed on the scrap heap by the Calgary Flames before rising from the ashes with the Blues.

    Hull would be remembered as the best scorer of his era, except for one thing...

1. Mario Lemieux

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    What He Accomplished

    Arguably the second-greatest player ever to play the game, Mario Lemieux's career took a roller-coaster path during the 1990s.

    He led his Pittsburgh Penguins to two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, but he dealt with serious back problems as well as Hodgkin's lymphoma, forcing him to miss large stretches of time. Lemieux retired from hockey completely in 1997 but made a comeback in 2000 and played for five additional seasons before hanging up his skates for good.

    Lemieux's best season was 1988-89, when he scored 85 goals and 199 points. In the '90s, he scored 69 goals twice and had one other 50-goal year. Lemieux won the Art Ross Trophy six times in total, four of which were in the '90s. He also won the Calder Trophy, two Conn Smythes, three Hart Trophies and four Ted Lindsay Awards.

     

    By the Numbers

    1990-99: 318 GP, 268-388-656, .843 goals per game

    Lemieux's NHL career lasted from 1984 to 2006. He scored 39 percent of his 690 career goals in the '90s.

     

    Why He's Here

    Mario only played half the number of games of most of the players on this list, but his legacy cannot be ignored. He was a difference-maker every time he came back into the lineup for Pittsburgh, and his goals-per-game average is miles above any of his competitors. When you add in Pittsburgh's Stanley Cups and Lemieux's individual accomplishments, Lemieux deserves, without question, to sit at the top of this list.

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