NHL Career Assist Leaders
It takes an unselfish hockey player to rack up assists the way some players do. Precision passing is in some ways even more difficult than putting the puck in the net, too. Wayne Gretzky is maybe the greatest player of all-time, and that's because he leads the NHL all-time in both goals and assists. Here is a complete list of the Top 10 in career assists in the league:
Wayne Gretzky (1963)-Wayne Gretzky may be considered a freak of nature for the ridiculous amount of talent he displayed on the ice. Not only does Gretzky lead the NHL all-time in goals, but he racked up 1963 assists in his illustrious career as well. His game included parking himself behind the opponents' net and dropping perfect passes to the likes of Mark Messier and Jari Kurri on those old Oilers' teams. The fact that "The Great One" had 92 goals and 120 assists in 1981-82 was amazing enough, but how about the fact that in 1985-86, Gretzky had 52 goals and 163 assists, the latter of which is a single-season record that may never be broken.
Ron Francis (1249)-Though it's difficult to measure up to Gretzky, Ron Francis had a nice career himself, and played up until the 2003-04 season. Francis played in what might be considered hockey purgatory with the Hartford Whalers early in his career, then wound up playing for those great Penguins' teams of the early ‘90's. Francis never had more than 32 goals in a season, but his career high in assists was 92 in the 1995-96 season for the Penguins.
Mark Messier (1193)-Mark Messier is one of the all-time greats, and it's almost unfair that as young players he and Gretzky were on the same offense in Edmonton. But Messier also played for a long time, until he was 43 years old in 2004. It helped Messier that he played in Edmonton all those years, but he pretty much scored points everywhere. His season best was 74 assists in the 1987-88 season in Edmonton, but Messier also racked up 72 assists while with the New York Rangers in 1991-92.
Ray Bourque (1169)-This list is littered with players who played at a high level for a long time, so it should be no surprise that Raymond Bourque is on here. A defenseman for the Bruins and Avalanche, Bourque is probably the greatest offensive defenseman of all-time. He never led the league in goals or assists, but Bourque had 72 assists in 1986-87 with Boston, and 73 for the Bruins in 1990-91.
Paul Coffey (1135)-With defenseman Paul Coffey ranking fifth all-time in assists, you have to wonder how the Oilers of the ‘80's didn't win ten Stanley Cups. Coffey played for a number of teams in his long career, but his best years were with the Oilers. In 1985-86, Coffey had career highs in goals (48) and assists (90) for 138 total points.
Adam Oates (1079)-Adam Oates was a journeyman center who began his NHL career with the Red Wings in 1985. Oates had his best season in 1992-93 with the Bruins, when he racked up career bests in goals (45) and assists (97). But what might be most remarkable is that Oates notched 69 assists in 2000-01 with the Capitals, at the tender age of 38.
Steve Yzerman (1063)-Steve Yzerman is one of those rare breeds who played his entire career with one team. But this center did just that, playing for the Detroit Red Wings from 1983-2006. Yzerman was a steady player, but he had career highs in both goals (65) and assists (90) in the 1988-89 season for 155 total points.
Gordie Howe (1049)-Now here is an amazing story. Gordie Howe began his career with the Red Wings in 1946, moved to the WHA in 1973, and then played one final season in the NHL with Hartford in 1979-80 at the age of FIFTY-ONE. What's more, Howe scored 15 goals with 26 assists that season! But Howe's best total for assists was with the Red Wings in 1968-69, when he had 59 to go along with 44 goals for a career best 103 points.
Marcel Dionne (1040)-Marcel Dionne had a nice long career, mostly with the Los Angeles Kings. Dionne's best season was 1979-80 when he led the league in total points with 137, knocking in 53 goals and 84 assists, the latter of which was a career high.
Mario Lemieux (1033)-Mario Lemieux is hockey royalty in Pittsburgh, and for good reason. He played his entire career there, from 1984 through 2006, and in between won his battle with cancer, missing a few seasons when many thought he would never play again. But he did, and also bought the team. Lemieux was considered to be as good as Gretzky, and while he did put up monster numbers, never quite matched "The Great One" in total numbers. But Lemieux's best season was still really amazing-85 goals and 114 assists for 199 total points in 1988-89, all of which were career highs.