Before I begin this list of the top 10 NHL points per game leaders I would like to note that I have only included players who have already retired from the game. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have both scored at a prolific rate during the early portion of their respective careers and would both crack the top 10. However, you must remember that in most cases a player’s points per game average drops dramatically in the twilight of their career. Crosby and Ovechkin are a long way from experiencing that drop, and thus their numbers aren’t “complete”. There is a relatively good chance when all is said and done that one or both of them will still crack the list, but until the day comes they hang up their skates they are ineligible. With that established, here are the top 10 all time NHL points per game leaders (rounded to two decimal places) counted down in reverse order:
10 – Phil Esposito 1.24 points per game
Though I said I was only going to go to two decimal places, I actually needed to go to four to break a tie between the 9th and 10th players on the list. One of the greatest personalities in the history of the NHL, Phil Esposito is also one of its all time highest scorers. Before Wayne Gretzky came along and demolished the record books, Esposito turned the hockey world on its ear, scoring an incredible 76 goals, and adding 76 assists for 152 points back 1970-71 as a member of the Boston Bruins. He averaged almost 2 points a game that year, enjoying arguably the greatest offensive season in history by a player not named Gretzky or Lemieux.
9 – Kent Nilsson – 1.24 points per game
Edging out Esposito by the merest whisper The Magic Man had a relatively brief NHL career, but it was certainly a productive one. Though he is probably most famously remembered for being on the receiving end of a Ron Hextall slash in the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals while a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Nilsson enjoyed his peak years as a member of the Calgary Flames. He twice eclipsed the 100 point barrier as a member of the Flames, including in 1980-81 when he potted a staggering 131 points.
8 – Peter Forsberg – 1.25 points per game
Peter Forsberg has both an advantage and a disadvantage on this list. Due to ongoing chronic injury problems this superstar Swedish forward didn’t remain in the NHL into his golden years, thus never suffering the steep decline others did as they neared their forties. However, those same injury problems also prevented him from reaching his ultimate potential. Many who’ve followed the game for a long time put Forsberg up with the game’s greatest players when it comes to pure talent. However, Forsberg wasn’t just supremely talented – he was a fierce competitor, and his refusal to play a perimeter game and the resultant injuries ultimately drove him from the NHL. One of the purest passers of all time, Forsberg averaged almost an assist per game in the NHL.
7 – Jaromir Jagr – 1.26 points per game
Though this Czech superstar was criticized throughout his NHL career as a floater and a coach-killer even his harshest critics couldn’t deny Jagr’s immense talent. Jagr may have had the fastest set of hands ever seen on an NHL player, and some of his highlight reel moves had even teammate Mario Lemieux shaking his head in wonder. In 5 separate seasons Jagr averaged 1.5 points per game or more, and twice had better than 150 points in a single season.
6 – Peter Stastny – 1.27 points per game
If someone asked which player scored the most points in the 80s, almost everyone who knows anything about the sport would quickly fire back with Wayne Gretzky. However, many hockey fans would struggle to name the player that had the second highest point total of that decade. Not Mike Bossy or Mario Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, or Mark Messier, but Peter Stastny holds that distinction. Stastny was a force for the Quebec Nordiques during that era, and his 1,239 points in only 977 career games makes him one of the most prolific point producers of all time.
5 – Marcel Dionne – 1.31 points per game
In my opinion this Hall of Famer is the greatest player to never win the Stanley Cup. Dionne always seemed to be in the shadow of players like Gretzky, Guy Lafleur, and Mike Bossy, despite the fact that he was a 6 time 50 goal scorer, and eclipsed the 100 point plateau on 8 separate occasions. In 1979-80 he beat out a young Wayne Gretzky for the Art Ross trophy. Both finished tied with 137 points, but Dionne got the nod by virtue of a higher goal total. With the Los Angeles Kings, Dionne played along Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer on the famed Triple Crown Line, forming one of the deadliest trios in NHL history. Dionne would finish his incredible career with 1,771 points, and at the time of his retirement he trailed only Gordie Howe on the all time list.
4 – Bobby Orr – 1.39 points per game
It is simply mind-boggling that not only would a defenseman show up on a list of the all time NHL points per game leaders, but that he would be in the top four! Orr’s skill was so immense that it defies belief. He revolutionized the game of hockey, and it can be argued that no one, not even Gretzky dominated his peers the way Orr did in his prime. Orr is, and probably will always be, the only defenseman to win the Art Ross trophy as the league’s leading score – and he did it twice! His best year he averaged 1.78 points per game and became the first player to ever record over 100 assists in a season.
3 – Mike Bossy – 1.5 points per game
Though Marcel Dionne is an obvious choice for the most underrated player on this list, I would submit that when the greatest players of all time are discussed this 4 time Stanley Cup champion rarely gets his due. He had 9 straight 50 goal seasons, was the first player since Rocket Richard to score 50 goals in 50 games, and if an ailing back hadn’t forced him into retirement when he was still in his prime I have little doubt it would be Bossy, not Gretzky, that would hold the all time NHL record for goals scored in a career.
2 – Mario Lemieux – 1.88 points per game
It almost defies belief that a player that averaged nearly two points a game for his entire career isn’t first on the list. Mario the Magnificent was an absolute wizard with the puck, and when it comes to pure individual skill I believe him to be unmatched in the history of the NHL. Playing with a chronically bad back Mario still managed to put up ridiculous numbers year after year. Though many point to the 1988-89 campaign when he scored 85 goals and 199 as his finest season, in my opinion, his most impressive year came in 1992-93. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphona that year, Lemieux missed a full quarter of the season. However, when he returned he didn’t miss a beat, putting on one of the most impressive, most courageous performances in NHL history. Upon Lemieux’s return the Pens reeled off an NHL record 17 straight victories. Lemieux reeled in Pat LaFontaine to capture the Art Ross trophy, and the 160 points he scored that year in just 60 games marks the 3rd highest points per game average in a single season in NHL history.
1 – Wayne Gretzky – 1.92 points per game
Most NHL players would be absolutely ecstatic to reach 100 points in a single season. However, only one man in NHL history knows how great it feels to reach the 200 point plateau. Gretzky performed the feat a miraculous four times, so it is little wonder he holds the #1 spot on the list of the all time NHL career points per game leaders. Gretzky also holds the single season points per game record with 2.77, as well as 6 more of the top 10 single season spots. He has set records that, barring a fundamental change to the way the game of hockey is played, are all but untouchable, and fully deserves the moniker, “The Great One”.