In honor of posting my 100th blog for The Morning Skate yesterday (noooooot a big deal), I decided to do a list of my Top 100 NHL hockey players. These are the top 100 according to ME and no one else. I’m sure you’ll disagree with many of these choices Dear Reader, and I imagine you’ll want to express your dissatisfaction and anger. For those who feel that way, my advice to you would be to get your own blog and list your own Top 100.
Now, since I’m the Bruins guy here at TMS, I’m sure all you Captain Obvious types will point out some glaring omissions – Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson (to name a few) are not included in my top 100. Calm down Francis. It’s simple, I’m not old enough to remember them really playing. That’s also why Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are so low down (or high I guess?) on my list. Back in my day, you didn’t have ESPN+ or the interwebs to view out of market games. So growing up in the Boston area (or the Northeast for that matter), you basically only got to see games from the Adams Division (look it up millennials). Actually the term “out of market” only existed when you were referring to getting “donated” goods off the back of a truck.
As always (ask Ked), I’m going to lead off with some honorable mentions. I mean you got to give these players their props, even if they didn’t make my overall list (since that’s strictly NHL focused). I’m going to apologize now for the length of this post, but all you got for hockey this weekend is the All-Star game so relax and settle in.
Thanks to my friendship with Associate Head Coach Nick Carpenito, I’ve been lucky enough to cover the Northeastern University women’s hockey team and all I can say is: what a wagon. The Huskies have won the Hockey East crown for the last 4 consecutive years and boast a roster made up of some of the best hockey players in the NCAA. I thoroughly enjoy watching them play and as the proud dad of a young girl, I can tell you that representation matters. My daughter will flit in and out of a Bruins game, but when watching the Huskies, she’s dialed in. Put it this way, she’s asked me to go to a Huskies game, but has not asked to go to a Bruins game. The skill on display each and every game as well as the full team commitment to each other is remarkable. Kudos to the players and the coaching staff that have built this program. Do yourselves a favor and check out a Huskies game, you won’t be disappointed. #HowlinHuskies
To the beauties that I skate with, (some of you would be on a list of this type) I want to thank you for the hours of entertainment in various rink parking lots around the Greater Boston area. It’s amazing that we tell the same dumb stories over and over and yet they are always funny. We’ve always said that guys need to fit in on the ice as well as in the parking lot but let’s be honest: the parking lot is where the magic happens. I raise a frosty Bud Heavy to all you beauticians.
So without further adieu, sit back and relax. Put another log on the fire, crack a cold one or pack a bongo and let’s dive deep into the recesses of my hockey memories and let’s talk about the Top 100 players I have enjoyed watching play over the years.
100. Terry O’Reilly – let the arguments begin. Listen I love Taz, but he wasn’t a great skater and at times it looked like he was fighting the ice with his skates. He makes this list cause of who he is and how he always had his teammates back.
99. Wayne Gretzky – yeah, it’s cheesy to put him at 99, but it is what it is. The greatest ever? Yep. Did I see him that much? nope. I did get to meet his dad once at the Gretzky vineyard.
98. Charlie Coyle – monster on the puck and a smart hockey player. Love that he’s on the B’s.
97. Colin Miller – the Bruins should have protected him in the Vegas expansion draft. He’s been a solid blue-liner his whole career playing top 4 minutes and great on the PP. Guy can skate too.
96. Pat LaFontaine – let’s ignore that he left his feet for almost every check he threw, but this guy can play. Back then is when people actually wanted to be in Buffalo.
95. Patrick Roy – should definitely be higher on this list, but fuck him for when he played for Montreal. I always will remember when the B’s finally swept the Canadiens (1992) at the Garden and I got to toss a broom on the ice in St. Patrick’s general vicinity.
94. Mario Lemieux – this guy was filthy and played all 200 ft of the rink. Back injuries limited his career, but what a legend. Def should’ve been higher, but he crushed the B’s his whole career.
93. Keith Tkachuk – Big Walt. What a legend on and off the ice. Ultimate power forward. Even though he is from this area, again I didn’t get to see him that much in his heyday.
92. Vladimir Sobotka – On the B’s for parts of 4 seasons and then went on to have a nice career in St. Louis. I always liked his in your face style and wish the B’s could have used him more.
91. Cale Makar – This is the prototype and the future of NHL defenseman. Kid can do it all.
90. Tuukka Rask – love him or hate him you can’t deny this cat’s numbers. Will go down as the statistical best goalie in Bruins’ history.
89. Johnny Boychuk – pounded the puck, huge hits and would cave your face in if you wanted a tilt. Loved watching him during the 2011 run. Unfortunate injury ended his career prematurely but will always remember him fondly and Homeboy Jack’s call “A Johnny-rocket from Boychuk”
88. Marc Savard – when the Bruins signed Savvy and Big Zee you knew things were changing here in the Hub of Hockey. The way he operated on the half wall was surgical, guy was absolutely filthy and is now back involved with hockey after battling concussion symptoms.
87. Martin St. Louis – undersized guy with a huge heart and gigantic balls. I was at his 1000th game played. Humble brag.
86. Darren McCarty – one of the key players during Detroit’s run. The heartbeat of the Grind Line, he was an absolute joy to watch during that historic 4 Cup run.
85. Scott Hartnell – the red hair, the chirps, the facewashes. This guy was an absolute Flyer. Loved that he donated money to charity every time he fell. Never took himself too seriously on or off the ice and would have loved to see him in a Bruins sweater.
84. Adam McQuaid – Darth Quaider. This guy, man I wish we could clone him for future generations of Bruins’ squads. The nicest guy off the ice, but when those wires crossed look out.
83. Jordin Tootoo – Get off the tracks when the Tootoo Train is coming.
82. Pascal Dupuis – Great piece on the Pens teams that did all the little things right. One of those guys that’s totally underrated but beloved by his teammates.
81. Teemu Selanne – 76 goals his rookie year for the original Winnipeg Jets. Again, didn’t get to see him play much, but when you did, his absolute love for the game came through the TV.
80. Jacob Trouba – This might be recency bias, but this will make Ked happy and this guy plays without a single give-a-fuck and I respect that.
79. Ron Francis – before he rode shotgun with Mario he was the entire team in Hartford and that’s how I’ll always remember him.
78. Pavel Datsyuk – watch his highlights. Absolute filth.
77. Mike Bossy – my older cousin was a NYI fan and I still remember watching the Isles with him and how dominant Bossy was.
76. David Backes – the Backes I remember is the wrecking ball that played in STL. He was a pro here in Boston, but in my mind’s eye he’s fighting every Canadian he could get his hands on in the run up to the Olympics.
75. Marc-Andre Fleury – talk about having a good time playing? Find me a clip that doesn’t include him smiling. I also love when he talks to the pipes.
74. Dennis Seidenberg – with those T-blade skates chewing up the ice you could hear him over the TV. The German Hammer, the Bruins wouldn’t have won in 2011 without him.
73. Chris Chelios – slick, tough, smart and played for 75 years. What a legend.
72. Adam Graves – tough winger and alternate captain of the NYR. Just played gritty in all phases of the game. True warrior.
71. Randy Burridge – Stump. Originated the Stump Pump. Heart and soul player for some truly awful Bruins teams, but always brought the effort every single shift.
70. Rick Middleton – Nifty. Super nice guy, was lucky enough to meet him awhile back. Silky smooth in an era when everyone was trying to cave your head in.
69. PK Subban – Hate his slew foots. His social media can be tiresome, but man when he was in his prime could this cat skate and run the top of the umbrella.
68. Martin Brodeur – the best goalie in the history of the NHL.
67. Tyler Seguin – I like the version of Seguin that we’ve seen in DAL vs. the defensive liability we saw in BOS. He plays in all situations now and has turned himself into a complete player.
66. Charlie McAvoy – the sky’s the limit with this guy. Bobby Orr to Ray Bourque to Zdeno Chara to Chuckie Bright Lights. Future Norris winner and future captain of the squad.
65. Gabriel Landeskog – does everything from score to backcheck to fight. Complete player.
64. Darius Kasparitis – hit like a truck and was always on the edge of dangerous.
63. Brian Rafalski – had a tough time getting into the show, but once he did look out. Won 3 cups and was another silky smooth skating blueliner.
62. Mike Knuble – played 5 seasons for the Bruins but really shined as a Flyer. Tough in your face straight line type of player.
61. PJ Axelsson – played parts of 11 seasons for the Bruins and (in my opinion) is the prototype for the bottom six defensively responsible player the Bruins always seem to find. Good thing he’s working in the Bruins scouting department.
60. Dustin Brown – tough as nails, straight line player with some touch around the net. Would have made a great Bruin which is the highest compliment I can give.
59. Sergei Federov – I can still see him flying down the ice in his wide stance undressing a defenseman and then turning a goalie inside out. Played in a tough era, imagine what he could do in today’s NHL?
58. Jamie Benn – a current player who plays like it’s the 90’s. Does everything for that team and is (in my opinion) arguably the best DAL player of all time. Come at me @lacesoutfinkle87
57. Boone Jenner – the only Columbus player on this list. You know how I know he’s my type of player? Cause every time the Bruins play the Bluejackets or I watch a Bluejackets game I find myself saying “Goddamn Boone Jenner” in an admiring type of way.
56. Jaromir Jagr – met him once at a club in PGH and he picked up our tab. For that alone he makes this list, but this guy… what can you say about a living legend?
55. Nathan McKinnon – driven, skilled and a Crosby wannabe but what a talent in his own right. Gotta be tough to be the 3rd best player from Nova Scotia.
54. Cal Clutterbuck – heart and soul of the NYI. Tough guy that can play, plays hard but clean. Another guy that I would love to see in the Black and Gold.
53-52. Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog – these 2 will always be linked in my mind and the best goalie tandem I’ve ever seen. Contrasting styles kept opposing teams off balance. Lemelin with the standup and Moog with the butterfly. Worked well together and without egos.
51. Phil Kessel – Phil the Thrill. Does his thing, shows up and scores goals. Wicked shot and always finds the soft spot on the ice to get his cookies. What a legend.
50. Andrew Ference – always liked his game in CGY but absolutely LOVED him in Boston. Endeared himself to Bruins fans with his “glove malfunction” at Montreal. Also gave McQauid the nickname Darth Quaider. Originated the Bruins Starter jacket during the Cup run.
Ok, congratulations you’ve made it to the halfway point. I’d bookmark here and come back after a snack to finish this list off. Trust me, I didn’t realize what a gigantic post this was going to turn into. So I apologize again for the length of this self indulgent blog
49. Gary Roberts – known now more for his off-ice training but was one of the best power forwards in his day. One of my favorite Flames, will ignore that he was also a Leaf.
48. Dave Reid – penalty killer supreme for the Bruins back in the day. Played parts of 10 seasons in 2 different stints in Boston. Broke 20G a few times, but I just remember him for smart defensive plays and a grinder on the forecheck. Always have liked (and still do) players like him.
47. Duncan Keith – all world defensman that could skate for days. Integral part of the CHI Cup runs and still getting it done in EDM.
46. Paul Kariya – remembered him from UMaine as well as the NHL. Career cut short but is still involved with the Ducks organization. Smart skilled player that made the hard play look easy.
45. Claude Giroux – coming to the end of his PHI career. The biggest tragedy of this is that the Flyers wasted the prime of his career as this stud has only made the playoffs for 8 of his 14 years in Philly. Rumoured to be on the trade block currently, would love to see him in BOS.
44. Dominick Hasek – the living embodiment of “make the save however you can”. His acrobatics and unorthodox style opened the door for who knows how many goalies that didn’t fit into the mold that the NHL had in mind for their goaltenders.
43. Ryan Callahan – another player that would have made a great Bruin. The stones to lay out for the shot block, he played on the PP and PK and held everyone accountable. Guy was nails.
42. Sergei Samsonov – broke in with the Bruins along with Jumbo Joe and broke 20G 4x in 8 seasons in Boston. Electric with the puck and toe drags for days, played in a tough era as an undersized winger and ended up with nearly 900 NHL games.
41. Corey Perry – The Worm. Still getting it done and getting under the skin of whoever he plays against. Underrated player who (when not playing over the edge) can contribute in all aspects.
40. Gregory Campbell – one of my all time favorite Bruins. Will always be remembered for “The Shift” in which his leg was fractured but he still stayed out there. Part of the famed Merlot Line that ran roughshod over opponents in the 2011 cup run. Will forever be a Bruin. Soupy!
39. Chris Pronger – big, mean, physical and honestly? Kind of scary. The stories about this guy are legendary and his play was top notch. One of the best pairings in history with Niedermayer.
38. Brian Rolston – again, another PK guy that could chip in offensively and played hard at both ends of the ice. Will be remembered as a NJD but still loved him for the years he played in BOS.
37. Ken Linseman – The Rat. My memory may be clouded, but I remember him getting sticked in the mouth during playoffs and coming up bloody to get the double minor. On the replay (with a reverse angle) you could see him biting his lip to draw blood and get the double. This may have taken place in my imagination, but I could see him doing it to get the PP. Whatever it takes. Also rocked 13 which I respect.
36. Connor McDavid – McJesus. Some day will be know as the best player to ever play in the NHL. On the podcast recently, Ked commented how he’s playing at a level above the NHL and it’s tough to argue that point.
35. John LeClair – this is the tale of 2 LeClairs. Hated him when he played for MTL, but man when he was on PHI was he awesome. He drove the Legion of Doom line and was an absolute beast.
34. Patrick Kane – year in and year out, he gets it done. The best American born player of all time? Could be. You could also argue that he’s got the silkiest mitts in NHL history and people wouldn’t argue. Avoids the big hit, sees the ice ahead of everyone and is so smooth.
33. Ryan O’Reilly – this is the most interesting man in the NHL. Watch his workout videos, hear his teammates talk about him, check out the toe of his blade. He’s a true original and one of the first players I’d pick if starting a team.
32. Tim Thomas – the highest rated goalie on my list. There wouldn’t be a 2011 Cup without him. Absolute legend and extremely humble individual. This highlight package is from that run.
31. Rick Tocchet – was there ever another (modern) player that was more of a perfect fit than Tocchet for the Flyers? It was a match made in heaven. Hard edged, would fight, could score and rocked that sick mullet.
30. Billy Guerin – we talk about him almost weekly on the pod. Stud on the ice and has remade the Wild in his image. Local boy. Won a Cup early with NJD and then another at the end of his career with PGH. The legend of Guerin grows each year.
29. Ryan Getzlaf – another player who I wish I got to see more when he was in his prime. Absolute stud, perfect captain and still getting it done in ANA. Also part of the all time greatest hockey team assembled – 2010 Canadian Olympic team.
28. Mark Recchi – all time ending to a career. Won the Cup with the B’s in 2011 and rode off into the sunset. He was 43 years old when the B’s won the Cup (and he set a record in game 2 of the Finals for being the oldest player to score a goal in a Final) and played significant minutes that whole run on a line with Bergeron and Marchand.
27. Craig Janney – underrated setup man for the Bruins during the late 80’s. Great vision and tough. I always liked his game and respected his toughness as he would get abused but held the puck until laying the perfect pass over to Neely.
26. Zdeno Chara – turned the fortunes of the Bruins around when he signed as a free agent before the 2006-2007 season. Set the foundation of how the franchise should be run and led by example off and on the ice. Will see his #33 in the rafters once he hangs them up. Unbelievable shutdown defensive pair with Seidenberg in the 2011 Cup run. Still getting it done at age 44.
25. Joe Thornton – this beauty has played over 1700 (and counting) games in the NHL after being drafted by the Bruins back in 1997. Part of one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history has gone on to a first ballot HOF career and one of the biggest beauties in the game. Great vision, hands and holds everyone accountable. Can still find people wearing his jersey at B’s games.
24. Cam Neely – the best power forward the NHL has ever seen. Unstoppable down the wing and would also cave your face in if his wires crossed. His career was cut short but when coming back in the 1993-94 season put up a stat line of: 50-24-74 in just 49GP. First ballot HOF and his number 8 is already in the rafters.
23. Theo Fleury – undersized power forward for the Flames. How is it possible that a player his size played so much bigger? Fearless, tough and skilled in an era where defenseman were asked to eat forwards. Topped 100pts 2x and broke the century mark for PIM 10x in his 16 year career
22. Blake Wheeler – thought he got a raw deal in BOS but man has he blossomed into a player (that he should have been here) in WPG. Great leader, plays all situations and low key physical. Great to see the success he’s had out West.
21. Greg Hawgood – Hawgie Hockey. This guy was the mold-breaker for the undersized mobile defenseman. Played parts of 15 NHL seasons and was always successful until the team (whoever he was playing for) decided to give a bigger D-man his minutes. I’ve asked former players about him and they all agree that he would’ve been one of the top defensemen in today’s NHL. Hawgie you came too soon for a league that wasn’t ready for you.
20. Brendan Shanahan – he had my favorite curve for my own sticks. Highly skilled and tough as nails. Was tough for the B’s when he was in Hartford, but loved to see him in DET kicking ass and taking names. Currently hoping him no success in his role with TOR.
19. Dave Poulin – I know he’s a PHI legend, (and I agree) but man did I love seeing this guy play for the Bruins. Wide base, stick out in front ready to pounce on any mistake on the PK. Great faceoff man and super smart on the ice. Loved to watch this guy kill penalties.
18. Doug Gilmour – this was when the Leafs at least were fun to watch and this is how I’ll always remember Killer. Shifty, skilled, kinda dirty and tough. When he came over from Calgary it was like shock waves went through the NHL.
17. Matthew Tkachuk – part of the only father/son duo on this list. Skilled agitator who has offense for days. Would be perfect as a Bruin, love to see him do his thing and have the entire opposing bench yelling at him.
16. David Krejci – the master of the time and space continuum as Homeboy Jack loves to say during Bruins games. The way he slows down the game and bends it to his own will is nothing short of sublime. When he was in between Horton and Lucic they were unstoppable. Playoff Krejci is a beast and I can’t wait to see him back here.
15. Drew Doughty – definition of a beauty. One of the top defenseman in the league, can put the puck in the net and play physical. The stories about this guy are legendary and he was clearly born without a GAF meter.
14. Scott Stevens – rugged punishing defenseman. Will be remembered for the heat seeking missile hits, but was a fantastic defenseman also. Won 3 Cups and set the tone for the defensive minded Devils Cup teams.
13. Mark Messier – guaranteed a Finals win and then went out and had a hatty. If that happened in a movie you’d call bullshit. The NHL named their leadership award after him while he’s still around to hand out the hardware. Shot down Madonna in her prime. Absolute legend.
12. Jonathan Toews – another member of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team. Captain Serious for the CHI Blackhawks. Plays a 200ft game and can play any style of hockey that’s needed.
11. Steve Yzerman – talk about leadership. Stevie Y drove those DET teams to the promised land. Smaller in stature but fearless in a very physical era. Smart, tough and skilled.
10. Scott Niedermayer – the story about this guys skating ability and conditioning are legendary. Play 30mins and not break a sweat. Half of one of the top tandems in NHL history and looked like he was skating warmies the whole time.
9. Sidney Crosby – will go down as one of the greatest of all time. Supremely talented, has the knack for the big moment, pressure doesn’t affect him and elevates everyone who plays with him. Also respect the hell out of his superstitions.
8. Brad Marchand – built himself from a 4th liner to one of the premier players in the NHL. Bruins all time leader in SHG, a threat to score every time he touches the puck, fierce in puck battles and has the occasional over the line moment. All time yapper both on ice and on social media, stands as the heir apparent for captaincy when Bergeron retires.
7. Ray Bourque – when I think about the Bruins defense, this is the guy who still comes to mind. Smart, strong skater, boomer of a shot, he could do it all and made it look easy. Played physical but clean and averaged nearly a point a game for his entire 20+ year career. Had to go to COL to win a Cup but I was there cheering for him when he brought it back to City Hall Plaza.
6. Bobby Carpenter – The Can’t Miss Kid. Was my favourite Bruin when I was younger. Was lucky enough to interview him awhile back. If you’re interested you can find it here. Smart skilled player who had to redefine himself on the fly as he got older and endured a tough knee injury. Went on to a successful coaching career and is the most famous person in my phone.
5. Adam Oates – the best setup man in the history of the NHL. That’s right I said it. Played with no curve so could dish from either side effectively, shares a birthday with yours truly and now works with NHL-ers to refine their games. To think this undrafted player from RPI went on to a HOF career where he averaged over a point a game in over 1300 NHL games.
4. Dustin Byfuglien – Big Buff. Simply said, the NHL is not as much fun without him. From the Cups in CHI and the red suit to ragdolling opponents in WPG while eye rolling the cameras to showing the world what kind of guy Evander Kane really is, Buff was/is the man. One of my Mt. Rushmore of guys to interview.
3. Wendel Clark – that’s right, I have a Leaf in my top 3. Clark was once described during his rookie season as a “running chainsaw that was tossed into a pile of stuffed animals” or something close to that. What an absolute legend. Could and would do it all. Look up some of his legendary bouts with Bob Probert or Marty McSorley but keep in mind that Clark also broke the 25G barrier 6x in his career (he also broke 200PIM 2x). Great captain and great player.
2. Patrice Bergeron – oh you thought I’d forget about The Perfect Human? A generational talent that is still underrated even with the accolades he’s received. Humble and professional, he probably doesn’t have to be asked to take out the trash or to walk the dog. Little kids and senior citizens all love him and I think he can talk to animals. I’m trying to arrange my daughter meeting his son at some point. A first ballot HOF who will see his #37 in the Boston rafters. It’s been a pleasure watching you play.
- Jarome Iginla – Iggy. If you have ever listened to one of our podcasts you know about my
obsessionfandom with Iginla. I’m not ashamed to say I love him. The perfect mix of grit and skill, talent and tenacity. Clearly I’m not shy about my worship of this guy; when the Bruins signed him as a FA in July 2013 my phone blew up like the Bruins were calling to sign me. He’s the reason I’m a CGY fan and if my number is not available, he’s the reason I’ll wear #12. I can only hope to get to meet him one day and try to control myself and keep it (sorta) professional. We got to interview Beau Bennett (watch your toes for that name drop) and when he told a story about being in a hot tub with Iginla I had to lay down.
That’s it. If you’ve made it this far I applaud you perseverance and wonder why you don’t have anything better to do. As always, tell me how much you agree with me here @abrow28
Catch you in another 100 blogs when I list my Top 100 most hated players.