NHL All-Time Goal Scoring Leaders
The National Hockey League has been around for almost 100 years but has grown in size and popularity mostly over the last three or four decades. So it's no surprise that most of the league's all-time leading goal scorers are recent players-in fact, there are several of them that retired in 2006. Below is a list of the top ten goal scorers of all-time in the NHL. Most of these players are recognized as some of the greatest players ever, but some are better known as prolific scorers. Either way, the numbers are in and we hope you enjoy reading about them.
Wayne Gretzky--Nicknamed "The Great One" for good reason, center Wayne Gretzky is widely recognized as the greatest hockey player of all-time. Though he spent the first full year of his big league career in the WHA before his Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL in 1979 (and played until 1999), Gretzky still holds the all-time record for goals scored with 894 for his career. Gretzky scored a career high of 92 goals (still an NHL record) in the 1981-82 season, but his best overall season was 1985-86 when he had 52 goals and 163 assists (another NHL record) for 215 points (also an NHL record). In addition, Gretzky is the only player to ever have 200 or more points in one season, and he did that four times. After helping the Oilers win four Stanley Cups, Gretzky went on to play for Los Angeles, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, and is currently part owner and head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Gordie Howe--Right winger Gordie Howe was considered as possibly the greatest hockey player of all-time, before Wayne Gretzky came along. Howe played almost his entire career for the Detroit Red Wings (1946-1971), and scored 801 goals overall in the NHL. Howe also spent a few years in the WHA, and returned to the NHL in 1979-80 with Hartford at the age of 51. Howe's best seasons came in 1952-53 when he scored 49 goals and 95 total points; and in 1968-69, when he had 44 goals and 103 total points. Howe also led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups.
Brett Hull--Right winger Brett Hull was initially known as the son of legendary NHL player Bobby Hull, but as his career progressed, the younger Hull became the third leading goal-scorer in NHL history, with 741 goals in a career that spanned over 20 years (1985-2006). Hull began his career with the Calgary Flames, played mostly with the St. Louis Blues, and also with Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix. Hull's best season was 1990-91 when he had 86 goals and 45 assists for 131 total points-and the goals and points were both career highs. Hull led the NHL in goals in three straight seasons (1990-92) and won two Stanley Cups during his career, one with Dallas and one with Detroit.
Marcel Dionne--Center Marcel Dionne was one of the NHL's most prolific goal scorers ever, tallying 731 goals over a career that spanned from 1971-1989 with Detroit, Los Angeles, and the New York Rangers. Dionne had his best years with the Los Angeles Kings, including a career high of 59 goals in 1978-79. In 1979-80, Dionne had 53 goals and career highs of 84 assists and 137 total points.
Phil Esposito--Center Phil Esposito played 18 seasons in the NHL (1963-1981) for the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, notching 717 goals over that span to rank fifth all-time in NHL history. In the 1970-71 season with Boston, Esposito had his best season, with 76 goals and 76 assists for 152 total points. He won the Hart Trophy for the NHL's most valuable player twice, in 1969 and 1974.
Mike Gartner--Right winger Mike Gartner is another player who began his career in the now-defunct WHA (with the Cincinnati Stingers in 1979) but went on to have an illustrious NHL career with Washington, Minnesota, the New York Rangers, Toronto and Phoenix before retiring in 1998. Gartner ranks sixth all-time in goals scored in the NHL with 708. His best season was 1984-85, when Gartner scored career highs in goals (50), assists (52) and total points (102). Gartner also shares the NHL record for most consecutive seasons with 30 or more goals (15) with Jaromir Jagr, who is still an active player.
Mark Messier--Center Mark Messier began his career in the WHA with Indianapolis, but made the move to the NHL's Edmonton Oilers in 1979, joining a team of incredibly gifted offensive players that included Wayne Gretzky. In all, Messier scored 694 goals over the course of a career that spanned over 25 years (1979-2004) with Edmonton, the New York Rangers and Vancouver. Messier scored a career high of 50 goals in 1981-82, but his best season overall was 1989-90, when he notched 129 points (45 goals and 84 assists). Messier also won six Stanley Cups, five with Edmonton and one with New York.
Steve Yzerman--Known as "The Captain," Steve Yzerman played for the Detroit Red Wings his entire NHL career (1983-2006) and was the team's captain from 1986 until he retired. Yzerman was also one of the NHL's most prolific scorers, with 692 goals overall. In 1987, he began a string of six straight seasons with 100 or more points, including 1988-89, when Yzerman had 65 goals and 90 assists for 155 points (all career highs). He also helped the Red Wings to Stanley Cup titles in 1997, 1998, and 2002.
Mario Lemieux--Mario Lemieux was touted as the next "Great One" when he broke into the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1984. And even though he had a long and illustrious career, Lemieux battled injuries and even cancer, which took years from his career and probably numbers from his goal scoring potential. Still, Lemieux played parts of 17 seasons, all with Pittsburgh, and notched a total of 690 goals. In 1988-89, Lemiex had 85 goals and 114 assists for a total of 199 points, all career highs; and he helped the Penguins to two straight Stanley Cups, in 1991 and 1992. Currently, Lemieux is the owner and chairman of the board of the Penguins.
Luc Robitaille--Left winger Luc Robitaille is the highest scoring player at his position in NHL history, with a total of 668 career goals. Robitaille played from 1986 to 2006 for Los Angeles, Detroit, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers. His best season was 1992-93 with Los Angeles, when Robitaille scored 63 goals with 62 assists for 125 total points. In a strange bit of trivia, Robitaille was drafted in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL draft, five rounds later than baseball pitcher Tom Glavine, who chose baseball over hockey and is on his way to becoming a baseball Hall of Famer.