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Single-season goal-scorers

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

After Tuesday night’s games, at least one media outlet began running graphics about just what kind of numbers Alex Ovechkin is on pace to put up this year. Numbers were splashed across the television screen that looked more like area codes than anything else – 137 and 246, as in goals and points Ovie is on pace for after three games.

Not that we think it’s anywhere near possible he’ll reach those lofty numbers – and, for the record, why even bother putting them out there – but wouldn’t it be fun?

And since we’re all about fun around here, we thought it’d be fun to look at the 10 best goal-scoring seasons of all-time. But to be fair to players not named Wayne, we decided individuals could only appear on this list once. So we went with career-best totals; if we didn’t there’d only be six names on the list. As for Ovie, he’ll have to better his career best of 65 goals – most ever for a left winger – in 2007-08 to make our list.

Who does make our list? Find out with’s Top 10 goal-scoring seasons:

10. Lanny McDonald, 66 goals, Calgary, 1982-83

Bet you didn’t think ‘The Moustachioed One’ would be on the list. McDonald was a spry 30 – still young by today’s standards, but nearing the end a quarter-century ago – when he notched 66 – the 22nd-most in NHL history – for the Flames. Only Wayne Gretzky potted more that season.

9. Mike Bossy, 69 goals, NY Islanders, 1978-79

No player has a higher career goals-per-game average than the .762 the Islanders great amassed. Bossy was a 21-year-old sophomore when he hit his career high, 10 more than the No. 2 sniper that season, Marcel Dionne. Bossy hit 60-plus goals four more times during his too-short career and only dropped below 50 once, during his 10th and final season when he managed 38 playing with a back wracked by pain.

8. Bernie Nicholls, 70 goals, Los Angeles, 1988-89

Nicholls had put up some big numbers prior to ’88-89, averaging 38 goals the previous five seasons. But with the arrival of The Great One in La-La-Land, Nicholls went all pumpernicholl, posting a total only Mario Lemieux could better that year.

7. Jari Kurri, 71 goals, Edmonton, 1984-85

Kurri’s best season ever (he had 135 total points) still wasn’t good enough to lead the league in either category. His center – you can likely guess who – netted 73 goals and 208 points. But Kurri’s goal total is good for fourth-most by a right winger and the 10th-most all-time.

6. Teemu Selanne, 76 goals, Winnipeg, 1992-93

Amazingly enough, the Finnish Flash reached 76 goals as a rookie, smashing Bossy’s 15-year-old freshman record by 23. Selanne, the only active player to make our list, has never come close to 76 again, but is a seven-time 40-plus goal-scorer with 579 total tallies.

5. Phil Esposito, 76 goals, Boston, 1970-71

Espo’s 76 began a streak of five seasons during which he averaged 65 goals a year, cementing his place as the greatest goal-scorer the NHL had known to that point. Johnny Bucyk scored the second-most goals that season, 51 and measly in comparison. If the Rocket Richard Trophy had existed in the 1970s, Esposito would have won it by an average of 14 goals each of those five seasons.

4. Alexander Mogilny, 76 goals, Buffalo, 1992-93

Mogilny’s 76 ranks higher on the list thanks to the amount, 77, of games he played – Selanne played 84 games, Esposito 78. Mogilny was just 24 when he reached 76 and it seemed the sky was the limit for him. He wouldn’t come within 22 goals of his career high again, but still wowed fans with his sublime skill for years.

3. Mario Lemieux, 85 goals, Pittsburgh, 1988-89

No. 3 on this list, No. 4 all-time, the Magnificent One’s best goal total came during his best all-around statistical season – he scored 199 total points, fifth-most ever. Lemieux scored 40-plus goals five more times (including 69 twice), but only played 70 or more games twice more during his career. Arguably the most talented player in history, one can only imagine the point totals he would have reached if not for a career interrupted by injury, a three-year sabbatical and cancer.

2. Brett Hull, 86 goals, St. Louis, 1990-91

For a guy drafted 117th overall, the Golden Brett did all right for himself. Hull scored at least 25 goals 16 times during his career, topped 40 goals eight times, 50 goals five times and managed 70-plus three times. His 741 grand total NHL goals rank third all-time behind only Gordie Howe and Gretzky and his 86 in ’90-91 is third-most ever behind – you guessed it – two of Gretzky’s seasons.

1. Wayne Gretzky, 92 goals, Edmonton, 1981-82

It’s fitting that the highest-scoring player (in terms of goals, assists and points) in history sits No. 1 on this list. Gretzky owns four of the 10 highest single-season goal scoring marks. No player has more consecutive seasons of scoring 40 goals (12) or 60 goals (four, all 70-plus) and no player has scored three-or-more goals in a game (50) or in a season (10) more than The Great One. He also scored 20 goals 17 times, 13 in a row; 30 goals 14 times; 50 goals nine times, eight in a row; and 60 goals five times.

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