While hockey continues to work toward building a larger following in North America, it remains one of the most popular sports on a worldwide basis. From Russia to Sweden, from Germany to the Czech Republic, hockey has a global reach. On any given night, this online sports betting site attracts fans from across the globe looking to guess the winners of NHL games. People aren’t just looking to bet on the games, though. There are any number of prop bets, including division winners and even individual awards like the top goal scorer.
Among the top 11 goal scorers in NHL history, only one of them is still active – Alexander Ovechkin. And after 16 seasons with the Washington Capitals, he’s set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It’s certainly possible Ovechkin doesn’t change jerseys. However, his future team isn’t the only question being asked; many wonder how many more years he’ll play, and where he’ll end up on hockey’s legendary list of best goal scorers.
Here’s a quick look at the top 11 players who have scored the most goals in NHL history:
11. Mario Lemieux
‘Super Mario’ is the only player in this elite group who played less than 1,000 games in the NHL. In just 915 games, Lemieux scored 690 goals during his career, which was spent exclusively in Pittsburgh. Regular injuries prevented him from suiting up for more games. From 1989-91, Lemieux played in only 85 games combined, and was limited to just 22 games during the 1993-94 season. Additionally, he missed three seasons all together between 1997 and 2000. It will forever be wondered, what would have happened, what could have been, had Lemieux been healthy enough to play as many games as others from this group.
10. Steve Yzerman
A perennial captain in Detroit, Yzerman was part of the Red Wings for 22 years on the ice, and now serves as the team’s General Manager. Sporting his familiar No. 19, ‘Stevie Y’ potted 692 goals in 1,514 games.
9. Mark Messier
Unlike Yzerman, Messier played for a variety of teams and won Stanley Cups while playing in Edmonton and New York. He’s often referred to as the best leader in the history of hockey. During his 24 seasons in the NHL, Messier scored 694 goals over 1,756 games with the Oilers, Rangers, and Canucks.
8. Mike Gartner
A first round draft pick by the Capitals in 1979, Gartner suited up for a variety of teams on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. After spending the first 10 seasons of his career in Washington, he went on to play in Minnesota, Toronto, and Phoenix. Yet, his second-longest run came from 1990-94 with the New York Rangers. Overall, he recorded 708 goals in 1,432 games.
7. Phil Esposito
Another guy who played for a variety of teams, Esposito was never drafted, but rather signed with the Chicago Blackhawks as a teenager. A few years ago, he was named as one of the ‘100 Greatest NHL Players’ in history. He saw action in 18 seasons for three Original Six clubs — most notably the Boston Bruins — finishing his career with 717 goals.
6. Alexander Ovechkin
Another first round draft pick by the Capitals, Ovechkin just completed his 16th year in the NHL and has already played in 1,197 games. He was consistently scoring at a greater than 50 goals per season pace over the past few seasons. Then, in the shortened 2021 season, he posted 24 in 45 questions. With 730 goals total, how high on this list can he go? He’ll turn 36 this summer and could presumably play another three years. At a conservative 35 goals per season, that would put him solidly at No. 2, ahead of Gordie Howe. He’s 164 goals away from tying for No. 1 right now. If he was to play for five more seasons, he’d need to average 33 goals to tie that mark. It’s possible, even if there aren’t many players scoring 30+ goals as they close in on their 40th birthday. As Ovi has proven throughout his career, he is anything but normal.
5. Marcel Dionne
Although he began his career in Detroit, Dionne is most remembered for his time with the Los Angeles Kings, where he spent 12 seasons. When he finally hung his skates up in 1989, ‘the Little Beaver’ had played in 1,348 games, scoring 731 goals along the way. On a points-per-game basis, Dionne only trails Gretzky and Lemieux among the 11 players featured here. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 and has a junior hockey arena in Quebec named in his honor.
4. Brett Hull
A 20-year career began in Calgary, but he’ll forever be associated with his long run in St. Louis. Hull would later win a Stanley Cup in Dallas, before a three-year stop in Detroit, followed by just five games in Phoenix. He ended his career with 741 goals in 1,269 games.
3. Jaromir Jagr
Third place on the list goes to one of the NHL’s most beloved international superstars — and he’s still playing in the Czech Republic at 49 years young. During the early part of his time in the NHL, Jagr had extended time with the Penguins, Capitals, and Rangers. Following a few years in the KHL, his competitive juices were still flowing and he returned to the NHL on a series of one-year contracts, playing for Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey, Florida, and Calgary. With 766 goals over 1,733 games, nobody may embody playing ‘for love of the game’ more than Jagr.
2. Gordie Howe
A member of the Detroit Red Wings from 1946-71, Howe later played six seasons in the rival WHA before returning for one season in Hartford at the age of 50 and tacking on another 15 goals to his totals. A native of Western Canada, wearing his familiar No. 9, Howe tallied 801 NHL goals over his long and illustrious career; a mark long thought to be untouchable.
1. Wayne Gretzky
The gold standard for goals and assists, ‘the Great One’ spent 20 years at the top of the NHL. His early years saw him winning Stanley Cups in Edmonton, followed by leading the NHL’s popularity boom in the ’90s during his eight years in Los Angeles. He passed Howe’s 801 goal mark while with the Kings in 1994, then later pushed his total up to 894 goals during a three-year stint with the New York Rangers. In 1981-82, Gretzky scored a ridiculous 92 goals with the Oilers, one of his many NHL records that will likely never be touched.