NHL Players

20 Greatest Canadian Hockey Players Of All Time

By Biraj Khanal / 24 December 2023 06:43 AM

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Legends like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, and Mario Lemieux have shaped the game across generations.

Imagine how the offensive wizardry of "Flying Frenchmen" like Guy Lafleur and Maurice Richard, or the defensive prowess of Denis Potvin and Bobby Orr, could alter the course of history.

Beyond the household names, Stanley Mikita's "no-look pass" redefined skill, while "The Dominator" Dominik Hasek redefined goaltending with his acrobatic saves.

The discussion of the "Greatest Canadian Hockey Players" is so fascinating because of this diverse array of skills.

It's a journey through generations of passion, skill, and unwavering dedication to the sport that defines a nation.

1. Wayne Gretzky

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Wayne Gretzky is widely considered the greatest Canadian hockey player of all time.

His numerous accolades and achievements serve as the witness to his claim of being the greatest player ever. 

He holds numerous NHL records, including most goals (894), most assists (1,963), most points (2,857), and most assists in a single season (163).

Gretzky has an overflowing cabinet with a staggering nine Hart Memorial Trophies as MVP, four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, and a plethora of other league and playoff awards.

His vision, playmaking ability, and anticipation fundamentally changed how hockey is played. 

2. Mario Lemieux

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Mario Lemieux was a force to be reckoned with on the ice, leaving an undeniable mark on hockey history as one of the greatest Canadian players ever. 

Lemieux held the record for most goals in a playoff season (16) for 16 years, a testament to his ability to elevate his game when it mattered most.

He led the Pittsburgh Penguins to two Stanley Cup victories in 1991 and 1992, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP both times.

Mario became the owner of the Penguins in 1999, saving the team from financial turmoil and bringing them three more Stanley Cups in 2009, 2016, and 2017.

He retired for good in 2005, finishing his career with 690 goals and 1033 assists in 915 regular season games.

3. Bobby Orr

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Bobby Orr was a revolutionary force in hockey, changing the way the game earned his place among the pantheon of Canadian hockey legends.

Orr wasn't just a stopper but an offensive juggernaut.

He holds the single-season record for points by a defenseman (139) and remains the only defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring two times.

Orr's flying goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals is etched in hockey history as he soared through the air after scoring the winning goal.

He amassed an impressive trophy cabinet, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins, eight Norris Trophies, two Conn Smythes, two Art Ross trophies, and three Hart Memorial Trophies as MVP.

4. Gordie Howe

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Gordie Howe was a titan of the sport, carving his name into hockey history as one of the most dominant and enduring players Canada has ever produced.

His statistical records cemented his legacy as a true legend of the ice hockey world.

Howe played a staggering 26 seasons in the NHL, amassing 801 goals and 1,049 assists – numbers that stood as NHL records for decades.

His scoring prowess was legendary. He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring six times.

5. Mark Messier

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Mark Messier's career spanned 25 seasons, and his status as a cultural icon solidified his place in the pantheon of Canadian hockey legends.

He captained five different teams, including the Edmonton Oilers to five Stanley Cups and the New York Rangers to their first Cup in 54 years in 1994.

His guarantee of victory before Game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals etched itself in hockey folklore.

Messier has impressive offensive numbers, scoring 694 goals and 1,193 assists throughout his career.

Mark won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring once and the Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP twice.

6. Steve Yzerman

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Steve Yzerman holds a special place, not just for his impressive stats and Stanley Cup wins, but for his unwavering loyalty, leadership, and dedication.

Yzerman spent his entire 22-year NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, captaining the team for 19 seasons. 

His dedication bore fruit, leading the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, and 2002, and solidifying his legacy as a champion.

Yzerman finished his career with 696 goals and 1,063 assists, ranking 6th in NHL history for points and 7th for assists.

7. Maurice Richard

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Maurice "Rocket" Richard, a name undoubtedly stands tall among the greatest Canadian hockey players of all time.

His impact on the sport transcended statistics and trophies, shaping the cultural landscape of Canada and changing the face of the NHL.

Richard was a goal-scoring machine, shattering records and redefining offensive dominance.

He was the first player to reach 50 goals in a 50-game season and held the NHL record for most goals in a playoff season for almost 35 years.

Maurice led the Montreal Canadiens to five Stanley Cups, cementing his legacy as a champion in the history books. 

His iconic number 9 is retired by the Montreal Canadiens, his statue stands tall in Montreal, and his story continues to resonate with fans.

8. Jean Arthur Beliveau

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Jean Arthur Beliveau undeniably deserves a spot among the top contenders, among Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr, and others.

He was a graceful skater with a powerful shot, excellent playmaking skills, and a knack for scoring clutch goals.

His career boasts 507 goals, 794 assists, and 1,291 points in 1,125 games, impressive numbers even considering his playing era.

His biggest achievement was winning 10 Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.

He captained the Canadiens for ten seasons, leading by example with his dedication, work ethic, and calm demeanor on the ice.

9. Bobby Hull

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Bobby Hull left an undeniable mark with his incredible skill, and lasting impact and was one of the most electrifying figures in Canadian hockey history.

Hull holds the NHL record for most goals in a single season (54) for 36 years with his powerful slapshot and unmatched speed.

He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring three times and the Hart Memorial Trophy for MVP twice, etching his name as the most dominant offensive player of his era.

Hull led the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup victory in 23 years in 1961 and became a key figure in their success throughout the 1960s.

10. Syndey Crosby

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Sidney Crosby is a phenomenal athlete and is the center and the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL.

He has won numerous accolades, led teams to victory, and continues to inspire young players to lace up their skates. 

Crosby is the second youngest player to score 100 points in a season and leads the league in scoring twice.

He's won the Hart Memorial Trophy as MVP twice, the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring, and two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Crosby captained the Penguins to their Stanley Cup victories and is the only active player to make the list of the greatest Canadian players.

11. Phil Esposito

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Phil Esposito is a true legend of Canadian hockey, known for his prolific scoring, infectious personality, and undeniable impact on the game.

He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring twice and finished second another five times.

Phil holds the record for the most goals in a single season by an American-born player (76), and ranks 6th all-time with 717 career goals.

He did win two Stanley Cups, one with the Boston Bruins and another with th

His #7 jersey was retired by the Bruins on December 3, 1987, and there is his statue outside TD Garden in Boston.

12. Bobby Clarke

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Bobby Clarke legend left an indelible mark on the game with his fierce competitiveness, offensive skill, and leadership qualities. 

He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring once and finished top-10 eight times.

He concluded his NHL career with 358 goals and 849 assists.

Bobby led by example, helping the Philadelphia Flyers win two Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.

He served as captain of the Flyers for eight seasons, famously leading them to a physical, "Broad Street Bully" style of play.

His leadership and competitive spirit were instrumental in the Flyers' success and solidified his place among the NHL's elite champions.

13. Guy Lafleur

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Guy Lafleur, "The Flower," was indeed a true legend of Canadian hockey.

His captivating blend of offensive prowess, flamboyant style, and undeniable charisma cemented him as an icon throughout Canada. 

 He sits second in Montreal Canadiens' all-time scoring with 518 goals and 728 assists.

He was a key part of the Canadiens' dynasty in the 1970s, contributing to five Stanley Cup victories, and showcasing his talent on the biggest stage.

His statue is outside the Bell Centre in Montreal and his memory continues to inspire players and fans alike.

14. Georges Vezina

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Georges Vézina nicknamed the "Chicoutimi Cucumber" for his calm demeanor in goal, was indeed a pioneer and legend of Canadian hockey.

He allowed the fewest goals in the league seven times in his career, four times in the NHA, and three times in the NHL, showcasing his consistent excellence.

He held the NHL record for most consecutive regular-season games played by a goalie (327) for 32 years.

Vézina guided the Montreal Canadiens to two Stanley Cup victories in 1916 and 1924.

The Vezina Trophy remains one of the most coveted awards in hockey, serving as a constant reminder of his contributions to young goaltenders.

15. Joe Sakic

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Joe Sakic was indeed a force to be reckoned with on the ice.

His tenure with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche earned him a well-deserved spot among the Canadian hockey greats. 

He finished his career with 625 goals and 1,016 assists, ranking 23rd and 12th all-time in NHL history.

Sakic won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct five times, showcasing his leadership and class on and off the ice.

He led by example and helped the Avalanche win two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001 and captained the team for 14 years.

16. Mike Bossy

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Mike Bossy, the "Hammer," a name synonymous with pure scoring magic in the NHL's high-flying 1980s.

His uncanny goal-scoring instinct cemented him as a legend of Canadian hockey.

He won the Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals five times, a feat only matched by Wayne Gretzky, and finished his career with 573 goals in just 752 games.

Bossy won four Stanley Cups in the early 1980s with the New York Islanders, showcasing his ability to perform in the biggest moments.

His overtime goal against the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 Final remains etched in Islanders' lore.

17. Bryan Trottier

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The name, Bryan Trottier is the pivotal piece of two hockey dynasties and leaves an indelible mark on the game.

He racked up 524 goals and 901 assists in 1,279 games, averaging over a point per game throughout his career.

He won the Lester B. Pearson Trophy for outstanding player voted by players twice and the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring once.

He played a key role in both the New York Islanders' dynasty of the early 1980s, winning four Stanley Cups, and the Pittsburgh Penguins' championship run in 1992.

18. Glenn Anderson

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Glenn Anderson was indeed a phenomenal talent who carved his name in the annals of Canadian hockey history.

His combined Stanley Cup victories and international accolades solidify his place among the greats.

Glenn amassed 498 goals and 1,099 points in 993 career NHL games, averaging over a point per game throughout his 16-year career.

Anderson achieved nine 30-goal seasons, showcasing his consistent scoring ability.

He ranked fifth all-time in playoff game-winning goals with 17 and fourth in playoff points with 214.

Anderson played a key role in five Stanley Cup victories, four with the Edmonton Oilers and one with the New York Rangers.

19. Dominik Hasek

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Dominik Hašek is widely considered one of the greatest ice hockey goaltenders of all time.

His unorthodox style, athleticism, and incredible reflexes made him a fan favorite throughout his career. 

He won six Vezina Trophies as the NHL's best goaltender, two Hart Memorial Trophies as the league's most valuable player, and two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.

Hasek also led the Czech Republic to two Olympic medals and three World Championship medals.

20. Stanley Mikita

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Stanley Mikita was indeed a legend of the Chicago Blackhawks and a true icon of Canadian hockey with his dazzling talents and relentless drive.

He amassed 541 goals and 927 assists in 1,394 games, averaging over a point per game throughout his 22-year career.

Mikita led the Blackhawks to four Stanley Cup victories, including as captain in 1961.

His signature "no-look backhand pass" became a staple of offensive strategy and inspired a generation of young players.

He served as Blackhawks captain for 14 seasons, guiding the team through multiple Stanley Cup appearances.

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