Top 10 New York Islanders of All Time
#10: Bob Nystrom
Known as “Mr. Islander” for his scrappiness, Nystrom was drafted in the third round of 1972 and went on to score the most famous goal in franchise history: the one that won its first Cup, in 1980, resulting in a photo as iconic as Bobby Orr’s flying Cup-winner of 1970. A hard-nosed grinder and fighter, Nystrom also had seven 20-goal seasons as an Islander, winning four Cups during his 14 years with the team.
#9: John Tavares
Billed as the franchise’s savior, the first pick in the 2009 draft has lived up to his hype. Now captain and a two-time Hart Trophy (MVP) finalist, Tavares has led the once downtrodden Isles to the playoffs in three of the past four years, snapping their 23-year series win drought with an epic performance vs. Florida in the first round of 2016. He scored the tying goal with just under 54 seconds left in Game 5 and netted the winner in double OT to send New York to the second round.
#8: Pat LaFontaine
The third pick in the 1983 NHL draft after a 104-goal junior season, the classy LaFontaine arrived in time for the Isles' fifth straight run to the Cup final. Though he never won it, he became a fan favorite and the face of the franchise. He had eight straight 30-to-50-goal seasons often playing on the Helicopter Line (LaFontaine and no wings to speak of) and cemented his place in Isles legend by winning their 4-OT Easter Epic playoff game vs. Washington in 1987. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
#7: John Tonelli
One of game’s greatest grinders, the furiously hard-working Tonelli came to the Isles in 1978 from the WHA where he’d played with Gordie Howe. A member of the heart and soul “banana line” (named for its yellow practice jerseys) with Wayne Merrick and Bobby Nystrom, Tonelli had a knack for upping his game in the playoffs. A stalwart on all four title teams, he assisted on Nystrom’s Cup-winning goal in 1980 and kept the dynasty alive with clutch tying and OT scores in the decisive Game 5 vs. Pittsburgh in the first round of 1982.
#6: Butch Goring
The “final piece” of the Isles’ dynastic puzzle, the veteran forward was acquired from the Kings at the 1980 trade deadline, bringing much needed grit, hustle, experience, discipline and superb special teams play (he’s the franchise leader in shorthanded goals, with 18). Goring paid immediate dividends (19 points in 21 playoff games en route to the Isles’ first Cup) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP in ’81 after tallying 20 points in 20 games. A key member of all four Cup teams, he later coached the Isles and is now one of their broadcasters.
#5: Clark Gillies
A classic two-way power forward, the 6’ 3”, 215-pounder nicknamed “Jethro” (after a Beverly Hillbillies character) was drafted fourth in 1974. Playing on the Trio Grande line with Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy, he added net-front presence and feared toughness. His bouts with notorious enforcers Dave Schultz, Terry O’Reilly and Ed Hospodar are legendary. A four-time Cup winner and six-time 30-goal scorer for the Isles, Gillies ranks fourth in games (872), goals (304), assists (359) and points (663) for the franchise. He was enshrined the Hall of Fame in 2002.
#4: Billy Smith
Acquired from the Kings in the '72 expansion draft, the cantankerous Battlin' Billy became one of the great money goaltenders of all time. He won the Vezina Trophy in 1982 but is best known for backstopping all four of the Isles’ Cup teams, winning a record 19 straight playoff series and the '83 Smythe when he held Wayne Gretzky goal-less in a four game sweep of Edmonton in the final. The franchise leader in games (675) and wins (304), Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
#3: Mike Bossy
Arguably the best pure sniper of all time, the Isles’ career goals leader (573) set an NHL record of nine straight 50-goal seasons while playing on a line with his friend Bryan Trottier. The 15th pick in the 1977 draft, Bossy became the first rookie to score 50 goals and the first player to tally 50 in 50 games (1981) since Rocket Richard in 1945. He was playoff MVP in 1982, scoring his famous flying goal in the Cup final vs. Vancouver. Limited to 10 seasons by a back problem, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
#2: Denis Potvin
Called “The Next Bobby Orr,” the top pick in the 1973 draft went on to break the Boston icon’s scoring records by a defenseman en route to becoming the first blueliner to reach 1,000 points. A ferocious hitter and deft passer, Potvin was captain and mainstay of the Islanders dynasty. He won the Norris Trophy three times during his 15-year career (all with the Isles) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
#1: Bryan Trottier
One of the finest two-way forwards in NHL history, he inspired Isles coach Al Arbour to say he wouldn’t trade Trottier for Wayne Gretzky in his prime. A second-round pick (1974), Trottier spent 15 seasons with the Isles, becoming their all-time leader in games (1,123), assists (853) and points (1,353). He won the scoring title and Hart Trophy in 1979, potted 500 career goals for New York and earned playoff MVP honors in 1980 when the Isles won the first of their four straight Cups. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.