NHL: Wayne Gretzky and the All-Time Ontario-Born NHL Team

Matt RyanCorrespondent IIMay 4, 2011

NHL: Wayne Gretzky and the All-Time Ontario-Born NHL Team

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    16 Dec 1997:  Center Wayne Gretzky of the New York Rangers in action during a game against the New Jersey Devils at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won the game 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    As Canada's largest providence, it's no surprise that so many players from Ontario have made the NHL. Hockey-reference.com lists 2,056 Ontario-born players who have gone on to play in the NHL.

    This is by far and away, the most of any Canadian providence. With so many players to choose from, narrowing down an all-time team will keep some great players out of the mix.

    Adam Oates, Rob Blake, Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk all had had successful careers, but you won't find any of them on this team.

First Line

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    CHICAGO - MAY 05:  Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull walks out to drop the puck for the ceremonial face off prior to the Blackhawks hosting the Vancouver Canucks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs o
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Left Wing: Bobby Hull

    Center: Wayne Gretzky

    Right Wing: Brett Hull 

    The greatest hockey player of all time is a no-brainer to be the first line center. His left wing, Bobby Hull may be the best ever at the position. "The Golden Jet" scored 913 goals in his pro career (between the NL and WHA) and had arguably the best slap shot the game has ever seen.

    His son Brett might have played for the United States during the Olympics and World Championships, but he was born in Belleville, Ontario, which makes him eligible for the team. The younger Hull scored 741 goals in his NHL career, which ranks third all time.

Second Line

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    19 Jan 1996:  Wielding a double bladed stick, Gordie Howe #9 of the NHL Heroes checks Phil Esposito #7 of the Boston Bruins Heroes from behind during the second period of the NHL Heroes of Hockey game played at the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts. M
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Left Wing: Frank Mahovlich

    Center: Phil Esposito

    Right Wing: Mike Gartner

    Phil Esposito was the NHL's most productive forward during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was the league's leading goal scorer from 1970-1975. Esposito helped Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972.

    Before he was a Senator for Toronto, The Big M was a four-time champion with the Maple Leafs. Mahovlich later won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadians and played for Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

    Mike Gartner may be the most underrated player in NHL history. He holds the record for most seasons with at least 30 goals (17) and scored at least 30 times in 15 consecutive seasons, a record he holds with Jaromir Jagr. The Ottawa-born right wing never won a Stanley Cup, but he is one of the most consistent scorers of all time. 

Third Line

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 2:  Forward Ron Francis #10 of the Carolina Hurricanes stands in the ice before the game against the Washington Capitals at the MCI Center on March 2, 2003 in Washington, DC. The Capitals shut out the Hurricanes 2-0. (Photo by Elsa/Gett
    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Left Wing: Brendan Shanahan

    Center: Ron Francis

    Right Wing: Dino Ciccarelli

    The greatest player in Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes is an ideal choice to center the third line. Francis was well respected during his playing days, winning the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy on three occasions. Francis was also a strong defensive player, in addition to being the fourth all time in points.

    His linemates will be two former Detroit Red Wings.

    Brendan Shanahan was one of the NHL's most productive offensive players at a time when scoring was declining (aka the deadpuck era). He only scored fewer than 20 goals twice during his career and was an integral player for Scott Bowman's Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1997-1998 and 2002.

    Dino Ciccarelli's conduct often overshadowed his accomplishments on the ice. This is a big reason why he had to wait eight years to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame. However, 608 career goals won't keep him off this team.

    Ciccarelli may not be the best player to never win a Stanley Cup, but he is the best player that was never selected in the NHL draft.

Fourth Line

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    22 Apr 1998:  Center Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers watches the action during a game against the Buffalo Sabres at the Corestates Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Sabres defeated the Flyers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Craig Melvin  /Allsport
    Craig Melvin/Getty Images

    Left Wing: Bob Gainey

    Center: Eric Lindros

    Right Wing: Pat Veerbek

    Adam Oates, Doug Gilmour, Dale Hawerchuk and Joe Nieuwendyk all had stellar careers, but none of them ever reached the level of play that Eric Lindros had in the middle of the 1990s.

    Injuries and controversy derailed what once seemed like a first ballot Hall of Fame career, but Lindros was once a top-five player and the Sidney Crosby of his day. He ranks 18th all time in points per game and won the MVP award in 1995.

    Dave Andreychuk may have scored 640 goals in his career, but it's hard to keep a four-time Selke winner off this team. Bob Gainey may be the best defensive forward in NHL history and helped the Montreal Canadians win five Stanley Cup championships.

    Pat Verbeek wasn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he was one of the best power forwards during his prime. Verbeek probably won't make the Hall of Fame, but his career production gets him on this team over Steve Larmer.

First Defensive Pair

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    BOSTON - MARCH 04:  Robert Orr's retired number hangs in the rafters during the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Boston Bruins on March 4, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in an overtime shootout.  (Pho
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson

    Orr is the most dominant defenceman in NHL history. He won the Norris trophy for eight consecutive seasons.

    Larry Robinson was integral part for six Stanley Cup winning teams. He also played in the playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons, an NHL record. 

Second Defensive Pair

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    Defenseman Paul Coffey of the Pittsburgh Penguins moves down the ice during a game against the Buffalo Sabres at Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, New York.
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy

    Paul Coffey was the most prolific scoring defenceman throughout the 1980's and 1990's. He won four Stanley Cups and three Norris trophies. Larry Murphy was once a teammate of Coffey, but had quite the career himself. Murphy was a three time All-Star and four time Stanley Cup champion. He is one of the better defenceman that never won the Norris Trophy.

Third Defensive Pair

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 9:  Scott Stevens #4 of the New Jersey Devils holds up the Stanley Cup after defeating the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 3-0 in game seven of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals at Continental Airlines Arena on June 9, 2003 in East Rutherford
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    Chris Pronger and Scott Stevens

    This would be a nightmare matchup for any scoring line. Pronger and Stevens are two of the most intimidating enforcers in NHL history.

    Despite his villainous image, Pronger has been a winner everywhere he has gone in his career since his days with the Hartford Whalers.

    Stevens was an equally important piece for those New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup teams as Martin Brodeur. His infamous bodychecks on Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya are still talked about amongst hockey fans.

Goalies

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    MONTREAL- APRIL 19:  A photo of the banners commemorating the retired jerseys of Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer and Ken Dryden hanging in the Bell Centre prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Washington Capitals and Montre
    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Starter: Ken Dryden

    Backup: Tony Esposito

    He only played for eight seasons, but Ken Dryden secured his place amongst the best goalies ever with five Vezinas and six Stanley Cup championships.

    Curtis Joseph has the most wins ever for a goalie without a championship ring but was never quite as dominant as Phil's younger brother.