Many of the top Rangers side-by-side
Every sport has its storied franchises. The Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers in baseball. The Giants, Packers and Raiders in the NFL, and the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks in the NBA. The NHL has the "Original Six," compiled of the Montreal Canadians, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and of course, the New York Rangers.
This is my list of the top 20 players to put on the Rangers' sweater since the team was founded back in the late 1920s. Of course, this list will consist of more recent players in the organization since I'm only 22 years old. Let's jump right in.
Most Ranger fans today remember John Davidson for his work in the booth with Sam Rosen, and forget that he had a solid career as a goaltender for the Rangers in the late 1970s.
JD was brought to New York in 1975 and put up decent numbers on decent Ranger teams in the late 1970s. By far, his greatest accomplishment came in 1979 when he led the Rangers past rival New York Islanders in the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They would go on to lose to the Montreal Canadians in the Stanley Cup finals, but many remember that season for the big upset let by Davidson's goaltending.
Davidson had to retired prematurely in 1983 due to chronic back problems, but took on the role of color-commentator for the Rangers for nearly 25 years, until he left the organization to become the President of the St. Louis Blues.
In 222 games with the Rangers, Davidson went 93-90-25.
Couldn't Find a Picture of Him in a Ranger Uniform
When you think of home-grown Rangers goalies, few come to mind. There are the Lundqvists and Richters more recently, but before them, there was John Vanbiesbrouck.
Aside from having the honor of having a very difficult name to pronounce, The Beezer was the man between the pipes for most of the 1980s and early 1990s for the New York Rangers. He debuted in 1981 at the ripe age of 18, winning his very first game against the Colorado Rockies (now New Jersey Devils) 2-1.
His first full season in the NHL was in 1984-85 when he started 42 games for the Rangers. The following season, he took home the Vezina trophy as the league's best goaltender, after posting a 31-21-5 record in 61 games.
The Rangers had an abundance of goaltending by1993, with Vanbiesbrouck and Mike Richter. Management ultimately chose Richter over the Beezer, and traded him to Vancouver in exchange for defenseman Doug Lidster. Both Lidster and Richter would be apart of the 1994 Stanley Cup championship team.
In 449 career games with the Rangers, Vanbiesbrouck went 220-177-47 with a 3.45 goals against average.
Wayne Gretzky tops many NHL lists, but he comes in at #19 on this one due to the short time he spent here in New York. When he arrived in the summer of 1996, he created a buzz in the city when he and Mark Messier re-united as Rangers.
During his three seasons with the Rangers, The Great One tallied just 57 goals, but shined in the only post-season he had on Broadway. In the first round of the 1997 playoffs, Gretzky had 10 goals and 10 assists, including a hat-trick against former Ranger goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck and the Florida Panthers in round-one. The Rangers would go on and lose to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After the 1997 season, Messier departed for Vancouver, breaking up arguably the greatest duo in NHL history.
Gretzky would play two more seasons for the Rangers, both of which missing the playoffs, before calling it quits after the 1999 season. Although Gretzky's time in New York was short, the Blueshirt faithful fell in love with the Great One.
Going back a bit to the 1930s and 1940s to one of the Rangers' most winningest goaltenders in franchise history, David Kerr.
Kerr was the netminder for the Rangers from 1935-1941, appearing in 342 games. Kerr would lead the Rangers to the 1937 Stanley Cup finals, and again in 1940, where he would capture his one and only championship against the Toronto Maple Leafs. No other Rangers goaltender would win another cup until 1994, when Mike Richter did it.
During the Stanley Cup winning season of 1940, Kerr had a 19 game unbeaten streak, going 14-0-5.
In 342 games with the Rangers, Kerr went 157-110-57. He ranks 5th all-time in wins, and second in shutouts with 40.
My father, a lifelong Ranger fan, has always said that the only thing missing from the 1994 championship team was that Mike Gartner wasn't apart of it. That sums up Rangers fans' love for Gartner.
Although he was not drafted by the team, or spent most of his career here, he used his time in the BIg Apple wisely.
Gartner was acquired by the Rangers in March 1990 for Ulf Dahlen, and immediately made his presence felt, scoring two goals in his debut, and finishing up the season with 11 goals and 16 points in his first 12 games with the Rangers.
In 1992-93, Gartner became the first Ranger in history to record 40-plus goals in three consecutive seasons, while becoming the All-Star MVP.
The following season of 1993-94 saw Garnet exit New York in exchange for Glen Anderson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Obviously no one knows what would have happened had the Rangers opted to keep Gartner over Anderson. Anderson would go on to score a handful of big goals for New York en route to their first Stanley Cup since 1940.
In 322 games in New York, Gartner registered 173 goals and 286 points.
Gartner holds two of the top 10 best single season records for goals by a Ranger.
Arguably the most difficult name to spell in Rangers history, Walt Tkaczuk played his entire career with the Rangers from 1968-198.
Tkaczuk joined the organization during the Original Six days, and stayed with them while they transferred into the NHL that we know today.
Although his playing time was cut short due to an eye injury, Tkaczuk is still 5th on the all-time list in games played (945), 5th in assists (451), 6th in points (678).
Putting Graves this low on the list was a difficult decision, but I've always felt that Graves the person was better than Graves the player, and that is 100 percent a compliment.
Adam Graves was acquired by the Rangers in 1991 in exchange for Troy Mallette from the Edmonton Oilers. His grit, toughness and determination won Ranger fans over for the next 10-plus seasons on Broadway, ultimately leading to his number nine being retired in 2009.
Graves' style of play was never pretty or jaw-dropping; he put in dirty goals and protected his teammates in anyway he could, personifying the hardworking attitude of the Blue-seaters in the Garden that watched him play for over 770 games.
In those 770 games, Graves registered 280 goals and 507 points, including 52 goals in that magical year of 1993-94. No goal was bigger that season than the second goal in game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks.
Three seasons later, Graves scored a wrap-around goal against Martin Brodeur and the Devils in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals that eliminated New Jersey from the playoffs.
Graves will always be remembered more for his work off the ice with children's charities in the New York City area.
Graves is 9th on the all-time list in games played (772), third in goals (280), 10th in points (507), 8th in penalty minutes (810), and second in single-season goals (52) with the Rangers.
Few players have come to the Rangers and completely changed the dynamic of the organization. I can't name anyone aside from Mark Messier, except for number 68 Jaromir Jagr.
When he was traded to the Rangers from the Capitals in January 2004 for Anson Carter, Jagr lit up the stat sheet putting up nearly a point a game (29) in 31 games.
It wasn't until the next- 2005-06 after the lockout- that Jagr turned the entire organization around, breaking Adam Graves' single-season goal record with 54 goals, and the points record with 123 points, finishing just behind Joe Thornton for league MVP, all while leading the Rangers back to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Jagr continued to put up big numbers the last two seasons on Broadway, scoring 96 and 71 points respectively, while never missing a game.
Although his time in blue was short, Jagr made a large impact on the team unseen since Messier in the early 1990s. Jagr was never able to win the big one here in New York, but left the team better than he arrived.
Aside from the goals and points records in 2005-06, Jagr also holds the Rangers season records in powerplay goals (24), game winning goals (9- shares), shots on goal (368), and most assists by a right-winger (69).
Ratelle and Jaromir Jagr
Jean Ratelle is one of the most offensively gifted players in Rangers history. He is near the top of every offensive record in the storied history of the New York Rangers.
Ratelle debuted in 1961, but wasn't a mainstay on the team until 1964. From 1968 through 1970, Ratelle scored 30 goals or more each season, along with 70-plus points from 1968-73.
In the 1971-72 season, Ratelle became the first Ranger in history to break the century mark, scoring 1009 points in a single season as part of the GAG (goal-a-game) line with Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield. The record stood for 34 games until Jaromir Jagr shattered it in 2005-06.
From 1972-74, Ratelle put up 87 goals and 203 points in 151 games. From 1972-76, he put up 151 goals and 361 points in 298 games.
In his tenure with the Rangers, Ratelle was a four-time All Star and a four-time Ranger scoring leader.
In 862 games as a Ranger, Ratelle finished with 336 goals and 817 points. He is 6th all-time in games played, 2nd in goals, 3rd in assists, and 3rd in points.
Is it too early to say that Henrik Lundqvist is one of the greatest New York Rangers of all-time? No.
When Lundqvist debuted in 2005-06, he took the city by storm, posting 30 wins in 53 games en route to the Rangers' first playoff birth since 1997.
Since his rookie season, Lundqvist has consistently put up 30-win season (37, 37, 38, 35), and has made the playoffs all but one season in New York.
In 2006, he led Team Sweeden to a Gold Medal in the Winter Olympics.
Although he has yet to win a Stanley Cup here in New York, his dominance and determination has made him the most loved Ranger since Brian Leetch.
In just five seasons, Lundqvist already ranks 6th in wins in franchise history with 150, and 8th in shutouts with 20. He also holds the record for most wins by a Rangers rookie with 30.
If Lundqvist can ever win a cup here, he will be the next Ranger to have his number raised to the rafters at Madison Square Garden.
Brad Park is often remembered as the second-best NHL defenseman of the 1960s and 1970s. Bobby Orr was that good. But Park held his own as well.
Park has the distinction of being the first player drafted by the Rangers to ever play for the team, his best season was 1973-74, when Park led the team- as a defenseman mind you- in goals with 25, and points with 82. His 25 goals still stands as a Rangers' record among defensemen.
He was named captain the following season, where he'd stay until he was traded to Boston in 1975.
Although not as remembered as Brian Leetch or Ron Greschner among fans of this generation, Park put up fantastic offensive statistics in a league where defenseman rarely found themselves on the scoresheet. In 465 games a Ranger, Park registered 95 goals and 378 points, en route to being named to the Hall of Fame
Sticking with defenseman, Ron Greschner was Brian Leetch before Brian Leetch. Gresch spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the New York Rangers, and was the heart of the team throughout the 1980s.
Drafted by the team in the second-round of the 1974 NHL draft, Greschner broke the single-season assists record at the time for rookies with 37. It was a taste of what was to come.
Over the course of his career, Greschner would tally four 20-goal seasons, including 27 in 1980-81, nearly unheard of for a defenseman in any era of the NHL.
He held the career points record by a defenseman until Brian Leetch broke it in the late 1990s. When he retired in 1990, he held the Rangers' all-time leader in points, goals and assists by a defensemen.
Many consider him to be the next Ranger to get their number retired. Only time will tell.
It's often said that Rangers fans love their goalies. They love them even more when they bring Stanley Cups, and that's exactly why Mike Richter is arguably the most beloved goalie in team history.
Looking at Richter's stats doesn't give this Pennsylvania-native justice. Just watch tape from 1994 against the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks. The guy stood on his head.
Richter was drafted by the Rangers in 1985, and spent the early part of his career splitting time between the pipes with veteran John Vanbiesbrouck, until ultimately winning the job in 1993.
In 1993-94, Richter emerged as one of the best goalies in the NHL. He broke Ranger records in wins with 42 and goals against average with 2.57.
In the playoffs that season, Richter set franchise records for wins in a playoff season (16), most minutes in a playoff season (1,477) and most shutouts in a playoff year (four).
Richter was a three-time All Star for the Rangers where he spent his entire nine-year career, which was shortened due to head injuries.
Richter is the all-time leader in wins with 301, games played with 666, and oddly enough, losses with 258. He was the third Ranger to have his number retired.
Vic Hadfield played his entire 13-year career for the Blueshirts, and is in the top-10 for most offensive-categories in team history.
Hadfield was the first player in Rangers history to score 50 goals in a single season in 1971.
Hadfield was part of the famous GAG (goal-a-game) Line with Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert, and became a top scorer in the NHL.
He would have four consecutive 20-goal seasons from 1968-1971, including 50 in 1971, which wasn't broken until Adam Graves in 1994, 22 years later.
Although he was never able to win a cup in New York, he is still remembered as one of the great Rangers.
Harry Howell spent his entire 17-year career playing for the New York Rangers, debuting in 1952 at just 19 years old.
You can say that Howell is the Rangers' version of Lou Gehrig. Howell missed only 40 out of a possible 1200 regular season games during his career, and owns the Rangers record for most games played with 1160, a record that will most likely never be broken, especially with free agency.
In 1966-67, Howell won the Norris Trophy for league's best defenseman, while being named to the very first All-Star game.
He, along with Andy Bathgate, had their numbers retired in 2009.
Like many others from his generation, Bathgate was a Ranger his entire 12-year career, during which he played in eight NHL All-Star Games.
Bathgate debuted as a 20-year-old in the 1952-53 season, and in his first full season, Bathgate scored 20 goals. He would lead the team in scoring in eight of the following ten seasons on Broadway.
Bathgate's best season was 1958-59, when he became the first Ranger to score 40 goals in a season, along with winning the NHL MVP award.
When he left the game in 1964, he was the owner of every major team scoring record.
He, along with Harry Howell, had their numbers retired in 2009.
I've stated this before, but Eddie Giacomin is arguably the most beloved Rangers goaltender in the franchise's illustrious history. Who can say they didn't get goosebumps watching the old footage of the old Garden Faithful chanting "Eddie, Eddie," when he returned home after being released by the team?
Giacomin put together four consecutive 30-win seasons from 1967-70, and from 1967-71, he won 138 games, including 30 shutouts. In Eddie's eight years as starting goalie, the team never missed the playoffs. In 1972, he led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins.
Sadly, Giacomin's body could no longer carry the Rangers, and in 1975, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Detroit Red Wings. Two nights later he found himself back at MSG, and the rest is one of the greatest moments in Rangers history as Ranger fans cheered for him the entire night, a sentiment to how beloved #1 was in New York.
Giacomin is second to only Mike Richter in career wins as a Ranger with 266, and still holds the record for shutouts with 49.
His #1 was retired by the Rangers in 1989.
Rod Gilbert is probably the most successful Ranger to never win a Stanley Cup with the team. If you need more proof, Gilbert was the first man in Rangers history to have his number retired.
Gilbert holds the two biggest offensive records in team history: most goals and most points. He called New York home for 15 seasons, en route to a place in the hockey Hall of Fame.
Gilbert made the team in 1962 and never looked back. Over his 15 seasons, he appeared in nine All-Star Games, also a team record. In 12 of 15 seasons, he scored 20 goals. He also had five seasons of 30-plus, and in 1971-72, he registered a career high 43. In that same year as a member of the GAG line, he put up a career best 97 points.
Two seasons later, Gilbert reached the 97 point mark again, which was a Rangers record for most points by a right winger until Jaromir Jagr broke it in 2005-06.
Two years after his retiredment in 1977, Gilbert's #7 was retired to the Garden rafters.
Gilbert still holds the record for most goals as a Ranger with 406, and most points with 1065.
Mark Messier is my favorite athlete of all time. Period. Who can ever forget his heroics in 1994, leading the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1940. Sam Rosen was right, the Messiah had delivered.
When Messier arrived in New York in 1991, his goal was simply to win a championship here. It took him just three seasons to turn the seeminly hopeless Rangers into champions.
In his first season with the Rangers, Messier put up 35 goals and 107 points to earn his second MVP award. Strangely, that was the best season he ever had in a uniform in terms of statistics, but two seasons later, he'd bring a Stanley Cup to New York.
In that 1994 championship playoff season, he guaranteed a win against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals in game 6, with the Rangers down 3-2 in the series. All he did was go out and score a hat trick. The Rangers went on to win the series in seven games.
The following series against the Vancouver Canucks saw him get credit for (Brian Noonan scored it!!) the game winning goal in Game 7, ending the Rangers' 54-year curse.
That was the peak for Messier, as he never returned to the promise land again in his career. Although the following two seasons showed The Captain reach 80-plus points (aside from the strike-shortened season of 1994-95), he never led the Rangers back to the finals.
Messier really came alive in the playoffs for the Rangers. In 70 career post-season games, he put up 80 points, including 30 in 1994.
After spending three seasons with the Canucks, Messier returned home in 2000, eventually finishing his career with the Rangers in 2004.
Although Messier doesn't hold any major records with the team, his name is will always be linked to 1994.
His number was retired in
Picking who you think is the greatest Ranger of all time is like picking your favorite child. Each season, there are new faces as old ones leave. You love all of them (except Wade Redden). No man, though, is in the league of Brian Leetch, the greatest Ranger of all-time.
What made fans love Leetch is that he was a home-grown player. He was drafted by the Rangers in the first-round of the 1986 entry draft, and made his debut with the team in 1987-88. He'd spend the next 17 seasons manning the Rangers blue line.
In his rookie year, Leetch broke the record for most points by a rookie defenseman with 71 points, including 23 goals. That was enough to give him the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.
In 1991-92, Leetch had his more productive year of his career, scoring 22 goals and 102 points in 80 games, becoming only the fifth defenseman in history to break 100 points in a season. This was also his first Norris Trophy win as league's best defenseman.
In 1993-94, Leetch scored 23 goals- a career best- and 79 points. It was his post-season, though, that people remember. In 23 games, Leetch scored 11 goals and 34 points, leading to a Conn Smythe Trophy for Playoff MVP. He is still the only American born player to win the award.
Leetch won his second Norris Trophy in 1996-97, and the following year was named team captain after Mark Messier departed for Vancouver.
In one of the most hated trades in Rangers history, GM Glen Sather traded Leetch to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played one game in Madison Square Garden as a visitor.
Leetch holds 29 New York Rangers records, including most assists with 741, points by a defenseman 981, goals by a defenseman, 240, most career playoff points with 89.
He had his number retired by the Rangers in 2008.