There have been many discussions throughout the years on who are the most dominant goal scorers in NHL history. It has been said many times that lighting the lamp is the hardest thing to do in hockey. What is even harder is to be a goal-scoring force in the NHL for multiple seasons in a row. There have been many of them during the last 100+ years, but only a few have truly ruled the league as THE goal scorer of a particular generation. Here are who I consider to be the 5 most dominant goal scorers in NHL history.
The 5 Most Dominant Goal Scorers in NHL History
The earliest days of the NHL were not without their great goal scorers, with Babe Dye, Howie Morenz, and the Conacher brothers all being the best in the league for short periods of time. This was a time of upheaval in the league, with teams appearing and disappearing as live hockey tried to take off as a form of entertainment. However, with the beginning of the Original 6 era came stability in the NHL as well as the league’s first truly dominant goal scorer.
Maurice “Rocket” Richard – Peak: 1944 to 1957
First up on the list of most dominant goal scorers in NHL history is none other than Maurice Richard. From the 1944-45 season to the 1956-57 season, no one scored more than Richard. In fact, his 456 goals over that span were 103 more than his nearest competition: Gordie Howe. Though he did miss a significant number of games to injury, he was top 3 in the league in goals 9 of those 13 seasons. Richard won five Stanley Cups with Montreal during his reign as the league’s best goal-scorer, and he was also the first player to ever score 50 goals in 50 games.
During his peak, he scored at a rate of 0.57 goals per game and was either first or second in the league in goals per game 10 times. Though his goal-scoring prowess declined later in his career, he still won three more Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens before retiring in 1960. He finished his career with 544 goals, which was the most in NHL history at the time of his retirement. He is currently 31st on the all-time goals list.
Bobby Hull “The Golden Jet” – Peak: 1961 to 1970
It is sad to say that to some people Bobby is mostly only known as “Brett’s dad.” However, during his peak, Bobby Hull was arguably the most dominant goal scorer the NHL has ever seen. During the nine seasons from 1961-62 to 1969-70, Hull led the NHL in goals six times and in goals per game eight times.
Along with his teammate Stan Mikita, Hull was one of the first players to popularize playing with a curved stick blade (leading to the “Bobby Hull rule” which limited the amount of curvature a blade could have). This, along with his booming slap shot, led him to score 409 goals during his nine-year peak, 112 more than Mikita, who was in second place. Hull retired with 610 career goals, one of only 20 players to ever score more than 600 goals.
Mike “The Boss” Bossy – Peak: 1977-1986
The only right-winger on this list, Mike Bossy was scoring terror on the New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s. Predominantly paired with hall-of-fame centre Bryan Trottier, Bossy is the only player in NHL history to score at a 0.6 goals per game or better pace every season of his career. Unfortunately, that career ended far earlier than Bossy would have liked; he was forced to retire due to injury at the age of 30.
Despite only playing for 10 NHL seasons, Bossy was able to amass 573 goals and 1126 points in 752 regular season games (0.76 goals per game – first place all-time) and 85 goals and 160 points in 129 playoff games (0.66 goals per game – second place all-time). He was also top three in scoring 7 times. Because of these stats, Bossy is often considered to be the best pure goal scorer in NHL history.
Mario “The Magnificent” Lemieux – Peak: 1986-1997
Similar to Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux’s incredible career was impacted by injury (and cancer) though that didn’t stop him from being one of the most dominant goal scorers in NHL history. When he was playing, Mario was nothing short of remarkable. He was the shining star of the Pittsburgh Penguins during their depressing seasons in the 80s, and he led the team to their first two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, putting up 32 goals in 36 games during those playoffs.
During his 11-year peak, Lemieux only averaged 54 games played per season, but when he was able to play he scored at a rate of 0.88 goals per game. The number of games he missed caused him to only lead the league in goals three times, but he was in the top three in goals per game 9 times during his peak. Technically Mario was second in total goals during the 1986-87 to 1996-97 seasons to Brett Hull, but he only scored five fewer goals in 142 fewer games played. Despite only playing in 915 career games, Lemieux is still 11th all-time with 690 career goals.
Alex Ovechkin “The Great 8” – Peak: 2005-2020
No player has had a longer stretch as the best goal-scorer in the NHL than Alex Ovechkin. Though there have been other players who have had good goal-scoring seasons, Ovi was the most consistent goal-scoring threat in the NHL from his rookie season right up until his 15th year in the league. Over that stretch, he won 9 Rocket Richard trophies as the top goal scorer in the league, and he accumulated 706 goals, 244 more than the second-place goal scorer Sidney Crosby.
A model of durability, Ovechkin has missed very few games in his career. That along with his elite scoring ability has put him in a position where he will become the third player to score 800 career NHL goals, and this will almost certainly happen during this season. Along with these impressive goal totals, Ovechkin is also fifth all-time in goals per game for players who have scored at least 250 goals. These impressive numbers are exactly why he’s one of the most dominant goal scorers in NHL history. If he can stay healthy and productive, there is a very real chance that he could break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record of 894 career goals.