Top 10 Best New York Islanders Players of All Time
Having been founded as recently as 1972, the New York Islanders have found quite a bit of success in their short history. Most notably, the Islanders won four Stanley Cups in a row between 1979 and 1983. The Islanders have had some seriously talented players on their roster over the years, but these ten players are the best in franchise history.
Who Are the Best NY Islanders Hockey Players of All Time?
- Denis Potvin
- Mike Bossy
- Bryan Trottier
- Billy Smith
- Clark Gillies
- Bobby Nystrom
- Bob Bourne
- Brent Sutter
- Pat LaFontaine
- John Tonelli
1. Denis Potvin
- Four Stanley Cup wins
- Three-time Norris Trophy winner
- Seven All-Star Game selections
Denis Potvin is not only the best defenseman to ever play for the New York Islanders, but he is also the best player overall in team history. Potvin was one of the most excellent defenders in the history of the NHL. In his first season in the league, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL that year.
He would continue that same success throughout his career by winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s best defender, in three separate seasons. Similarly, Potvin was selected to an eye-popping seven total All-Star games by the time of his retirement. Potvin would also go on to be a part of all four of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup wins. Potvin is also the best Islander of all time thanks to his loyalty to the franchise. He joined the team in 1973 and would retire in 1988 still as a member of the Islanders.
2. Mike Bossy
- 1981-1982 Conn Smythe Trophy winner
- 1977-1978 Calder Trophy winner
- Eight All-Star Team selections
Whereas Denis Potvin is the best defensive player in Islanders history, Mike Bossy was the best player on the offensive side. Bossy played right wing for the Islanders between 1977 and 1987. He, too, played his entire career in New York. In just over a decade, Bossy was able to put together one of the most excellent strings of seasons ever seen in the NHL. For example, he made the All-Star team in every season he played except for two.
He also had seven seasons in which he scored more than 100 points, including a 1981-1982 season in which he scored a truly preposterous 147 points. That was the same season in which he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the team's most valuable player throughout the playoffs. Like Potvin, Bossy was crucial to all four of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup wins. By the time of his retirement, Bossy had scored 573 goals, which stands at number one all-time in Islanders history.
3. Bryan Trottier
- 1978-1979 Hart Memorial Trophy winner
- 1975-1976 Calder Trophy winner
- 1979-1980 Conn Smythe Trophy winner
Bryan Trottier began what would be a lengthy career in the NHL with the New York Islanders in 1975. He would have an excellent first season, scoring 95 points and winning the Calder Memorial Trophy handily. He would keep up the pace in the following seasons with four All-Star teams made and 500 goals scored during his time with the team. Trottier’s best season might have been in 1978-1979, during which he led the league in points scored with 134 and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
While Trottier’s talents were consistently on display during the regular season, he was just as good during the playoffs. Trottier was critical to the Islanders’ success which led to their four consecutive Stanley Cup wins. He was even awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the 1979-1980 playoff campaign, during which Trottier scored an incredible 12 goals in 21 games.
4. Billy Smith
- 1981-1982 Vezina Trophy winner
- 1982-1983 Conn Smythe Trophy winner
- Four Stanley Cup wins
Billy Smith was the best goalie in New York Islanders history. Smith leads the team in all-time saves with a remarkable 17,075 amassed over his career with the team, which lasted from 1972 to 1989. In that time, Smith was an indispensable part of the squad which managed to win four Stanley Cup finals in a row. For his excellence, he was awarded a Vezina Trophy in the 1981-1982 season, along with being voted to the All-Star team that same season.
With the Islanders, Smith’s career save percentage sat at .895, but in the playoffs, he rose to the occasion and had an even better percentage of .905. In the 1981-1982 playoffs, Smith won the Conn Smythe Trophy as he played 18 games, winning 15 of them, one of which was a shutout win. With such a long career with the Islanders, and seeing as he leads in the majority of major goalie categories with the team, Smith is the best goalie in team history.
5. Clark Gillies
- Four Stanley Cup wins
- Two All-Star Team selections
- 350 goals with the Islanders
Playing left wing for the New York Islanders between 1974 and 1986, Clark Gillies was a core part of the juggernaut squad, which won four consecutive Stanley Cups. In his time with the team, Gillies was responsible for 304 regular-season goals and added an additional 46 during the playoffs. With those 304 regular season goals, Gillies stands at fourth all-time in goals scored among New York Islanders players. He’s also fourth in points with 663. He was absolutely vital to the team’s success during those golden years.
Gillies was named to the All-Star team during the 1977-1978 season, and again the following year. 1977-1978 was likely Gillies’ best season in professional hockey as he scored 35 goals and 50 assists in 80 games played. In addition to being incredibly talented, Gillies was also highly durable. He played at least 70 games in all of his seasons with the Islanders except for his final two.
6. Bobby Nystrom
- Four Stanley Cup wins
- Spent entire career with Islanders
- 235 career goals
Like some of the other players on this list, Bobby Nystrom was an incredibly loyal member of the New York Islanders franchise. Nystrom joined the NHL in 1972 and wouldn’t retire until 1986. In that span, Nystrom was a solid part of the offensive unit, which won four Stanley Cups. Nystrom didn’t garner some of the flashy awards or jaw-dropping stat lines like some of the other players on the team during those years, but Nystron was the definition of consistency.
For 11 consecutive seasons between 1973 and 1984, Nystrom played at least 67 games. In all those years but one, he played at least 70. He managed to stay incredibly healthy, and his output on the ice was always strong. By the time of his retirement from the NHL, Nystrom had scored 513 total points, of which 235 were goals. He was also relied upon in the playoffs, where he scored an additional 39 goals.
7. Bob Bourne
- Four Stanley Cup wins
- 542 total points
- 92 playoff points with New York
Like many of the other players on this list, Bob Bourne was a core part of the legendary Islanders squads of the late 1970s and early 80s. Bourne played center for the team and managed to find quite a bit of success in a career in New York that lasted from 1974 to 1986. In that time, Bourne managed to score 542 total points with the team, with 238 of those points being goals. This puts him tenth all-time in goals scored in Islanders history.
In the playoffs, Bourne may have been even more effective. In 129 playoff games with the Islanders, Bourne scored 38 goals and 54 assists for a total of 92 points. He was a core part of the Islanders’ success in the playoffs. By the time of his retirement, Bourne had also scored two hat tricks, although only one was during his time as an Islander.
8. Brent Sutter
- Two Stanley Cup wins
- Six career hat tricks
- 102 points in 1984
Brent Sutter joined the New York Islanders at the start of the 1980-1981 season, just in time to win two Stanley Cups with the team. Sutter didn’t play much during his first season in the NHL, but he made more of an impact in his second season. The 1981-1982 season saw Sutter score 43 points and contribute to their Stanley Cup win that season with a very respectable 10 goals and 11 assists in 20 games played.
As a center for the team, Sutter was emblematic of the consistency of that era of Islanders hockey. He was a highly durable player and didn’t miss much time during his career with the team, which lasted until the 1991-1992 season when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. During his time as an Islander, Sutter was capable of excellence, as demonstrated in 1984, in which he scored his first and only 100-point season.
9. Pat LaFontaine
- 1992-1993 All-Star Second Team selection
- 287 goals with New York
- 13 career hat tricks
Pat LaFontaine was undoubtedly one of the most gifted hockey players to ever put on a New York Islanders jersey. LaFontaine played center for the team from 1983 to 1991. Despite not spending as much time with the team as some of the other players on this list, LaFontaine proved his excellence early and often. As an Islander, he scored 566 total points, which is eighth on the Islanders’ all-time list in the category. Of those points, 287 were goals.
For a player to rack up those kinds of totals with a team while having spent only eight seasons with them is truly remarkable. LaFontaine’s best season as an Islander was 1989-1990, when he scored 54 goals and 51 assists for his first 100-point season in his career. While he wouldn’t make the All-Star team that year, he would come in fifth for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
10. John Tonelli
- Two-time All-Star team selections
- Four Stanley Cup wins
- 83 playoff points with Islander
John Tonelli had a long and winding career in professional hockey, spanning from 1975 all the way to 1992. He played for five different teams in the NHL, but his best hockey was as a member of the New York Islanders. Tonelli played left wing for the team between 1978 and 1986, when he was acquired by the Calgary Flames. During his time as an Islander, Tonelli was nothing short of excellent.
As an Islander, he scored 544 total points, of which 206 were goals. Perhaps his best season was in 1984-1985, in which he scored 42 goals and 58 assists on his way to an All-Star team appearance. He made another All-Star team a few years prior in 1981-1982, thanks to his 35 goals and 58 assists. Tonelli was enormously consistent throughout his time with the team and contributed greatly to their four consecutive Stanley Cup wins.
- Mat Barzal
- Patrick Flatley
- Butch Goring
- Tomas Jonsson
- Dave Langevin
- Ken Morrow
- Stefan Persson
- Glenn “Chico” Resch
- John Tavares
- Ed Westfall
Who is the best New York Islanders goalie of all time?
Billy Smith is the best goalie to ever play for the New York Islanders. Smith played for the team between 1972 and 1989, his entire NHL career except for one season. In that span, Smith collected quite a bit of hardware, including four Stanley Cups, a Vezina Trophy, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. He led the Islanders in most all-time goalie categories and was a force for the team for many years.
Who is the best New York Islanders forward of all time?
Despite only playing ten seasons in the NHL (all of which were with the Islanders), Mike Bossy is the best forward in team history. In that short span of time spent with the team, Bossy amassed a truly astonishing number of points: 1,126 of them, in fact, 573 of them being goals. Over the course of his career, he was named an All-Star eight times, won the Calder Memorial Trophy, and won a Conn Smythe trophy.
Who is the best New York Islanders defenseman of all time?
The best defenseman in Islander history is Denis Potvin. Potvin was an excellent defender who played his whole career with the team and was instrumental to four Stanley Cup victories. Over the years with the team, he was a seven-time All-Star, won the Calder Memorial Trophy, and won the James Norris Trophy on three different occasions. He also managed to score a convention-defying 310 goals as a defender.