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The NHL's Highest-Scoring Defensemen: Beard Today, Bear Forever

Take a look at the NHL's top 10 all-time leaders and top 10 active leaders in defenseman scoring.
Brent Burns

Brent Burns

Ray Bourque's position atop the NHL's all-time defenseman scoring list is secure for the foreseeable future – and maybe forever. With 1,579 career points, Bourque is nearly 900 points ahead of active leader Brent Burns (694). Everyone in the active top 10 is at least 30 years old – and five of them are at least 35 – so they're in the sunset of their NHL careers. In fact, it seems more likely that one of the league's young guns – say, Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes or Miro Heiskanen – eventually reaches 1,000 career points than anyone currently in the active top 10. And if one of them manages to pull off that unlikely feat – only eight defensemen have ever reached 1,000 NHL points ­– they'd still need almost 600 more points to beat Bourque. Don't poke the bear.

Let's take a look at the NHL's top 10 all-time and top 10 active leaders in defenseman scoring.

Top 10 all-time NHL defensemen: Career points

Ray Bourque  1,579
Paul Coffey  1,531
Al MacInnis  1,274
Phil Housley  1,232
Larry Murphy  1,217
Nicklas Lidstrom  1,142
Denis Potvin  1,052
Brian Leetch  1,028
Larry Robinson  958
Chris Chelios  948

The two at the top: Ray Bourque arrived in the NHL in 1979, Paul Coffey in 1980 and they both retired in 2001. Bourque, who played 200-plus games more than Coffey, ultimately scored 48 more points to take the crown as the league's all-time leading defenseman scorer. Coffey's offensive peak was more stratospheric than Bourque's – Coffey hit 100-plus points on five occasions, including 138 in 1985-86, just one point shy of Bobby Orr's NHL-record single-season total of 139. There have been 14 times in NHL history when a defenseman has scored 100-plus points – with Orr (six times) and Coffey (five) combining for 11 of those slots, including all 10 of the highest-scoring D-man seasons of all-time. Bourque maxed out at 96 points in 1983-84 and reached 90-plus points four times in all, and also hit 80-plus points on six other occasions. Bourque also leads the way in career goals by a defenseman with 410, followed by Coffey (396) and Al MacInnis (340). Coffey, meanwhile, is the NHL's all-time D-man leader in playoff goals (59) and points (196). So, can Bourque's career total be beaten? Here's the math: 20 straight seasons of 80 points would do it. Your move, Makar...

Searching for Bobby: It is odd, to say the least, to look at the NHL's top 10 all-time highest-scoring defensemen and not see Bobby Orr's name on the list. For the record, Orr sits in 11th place with 915 points – in just 657 games. Orr's points-per-game average of 1.39 easily ranks first all-time – Coffey (1.09) is the only other blueliner to average a point per game during his career (among D-men with 200-plus NHL games). Denis Potvin (0.99), Bourque (0.98) and MacInnis (0.90) round out the all-time top five. Orr reeled off six consecutive 100-point seasons from 1969-70 through 1974-75, including his record-setting 139-point campaign in '70-71 and 135 points in '73-74, and he hit 120-plus points in two other seasons during that stretch. Revolutionary.

Best of the rest: Al MacInnis (103 points in 1990-91), Brian Leetch (102 points in 1991-92) and Denis Potvin (101 points in 1978-79) join Orr and Coffey in the 100-point club. MacInnis' 103-point output is tied with Coffey for 10th all-time. Leetch also had 88- and 85-point campaigns with the Rangers, while Potvin added 98- and 94-point seasons with the Islanders...Phil Housley reigns as the highest-scoring American defenseman in NHL history and he's the only U.S.-born blueliner with more than 300 goals (338). Leetch is second with 247...Who owns the NHL record for most points by a rookie defenseman? Larry Murphy, that's who! The beloved former Leafs blueliner (wait, that doesn't sound right...) began his 21-year career with a bang, posting 76 points with Los Angeles in 1980-81. He topped out with 85 points with Pittsburgh in 1992-93...Nicklas Lidstrom arrived in Detroit in 1991-92 and basically played every game and scored 60 points every season for 20 years. Well, almost. After a hiccup of a 38-point campaign in 2003-04, Lidstrom rebounded with a career-high 80 points in 2005-06 – remember, the 2004-05 season didn't happen – at age 35. He also ranks second to Coffey in career playoff points with 183...Larry Robinson set a personal best with 85 points in 1976-77, then came close with 82 points – at age 34 – in 1985-86...Chris Chelios saw his first NHL game in 1984 and his last one in 2010 (at age 48), setting the record for games played by a defenseman (1,651) in the process. He maxed out with a pair of 73-point campaigns.

Top 10 active NHL defensemen: Career points

Brent Burns  694
Duncan Keith  610
Erik Karlsson  603
Ryan Suter  588
Keith Yandle  573
Shea Weber  570
Kris Letang  537
Drew Doughty  502
Mark Giordano  483
John Carlson  478

The great bearded rover: Brent Burns leads all active NHL defensemen with 694 career points – and, yes, that includes his early days playing on the wing in Minnesota. So his total comes with an asterisk, but the good news is that his most productive seasons have been as a blueliner. Burns first reached 60 points as a 30-year-old with San Jose in 2014-15, then posted 75- and 76-point campaigns the following two years before peaking with 83 points as a 34-year-old in 2018-19. Given his age and the Sharks' decline, however, his ceiling is likely 800 points – about half of Bourque's all-time total.

Best of the rest: Duncan Keith's best effort was 69 points in 2009-10, and he also had 61 in 2013-14. At 37, he'll be fortunate to get to 700 points before he hangs 'em up. With three Stanley Cups in Chicago, Keith leads all active defensemen in playoff points (86)...Erik Karlsson broke out with 78 points as a sophomore NHLer in 2011-12, and he's had two other 70-plus point seasons plus a personal best of 82 in 2015-16. For a while there, Karlsson was looking like a shoo-in for 1,000 points. But an ankle injury slowed him considerably the past couple years, and now he's 30 and trying to recapture his elite form...Ryan Suter leads all active NHL defensemen with 1,142 games played – four more than Keith – and the soon-to-be 36-year-old Wild stalwart has played 25-plus minutes in most of those contests. He's under contract for five more seasons – 13-year deals last forever, it seems – but given his age and career pace of half a point per game, he seems destined for around 700 points...Keith Yandle, 34, is a bit of a surprise, given he doesn't carry the same star power as others on the list. He makes more sense, though, when you remember that he's the leading active defenseman in power-play points (264), followed by Burns (252) and Suter (231)...Shea Weber, 35, leads all active defenseman with 218 goals, a bit ahead of runner-up Burns (210) and way ahead of third-place Karlsson (135). He still produces when he's not on the injured list...It seems kind of crazy that Drew Doughty, 31, maxed out at 60 points in 2017-18. But to be fair, he's been somewhat handcuffed by the Kings' defense-first approach over the years...Not many defensemen bust out with a career-high 74 points as a 36-year-old – but that's exactly what Mark Giordano did in 2018-19, winning his first Norris Trophy in the process...What have you done for me lately? John Carlson, 30, has set new personal bests the past three seasons, with outputs of 68, 70 and 75 points, respectively.


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