Top 10 Best New York Rangers Players of All Time

Top 10 Best New York Rangers Players of All Time

The New York Rangers are one of the NHL’s “Original Six” clubs, and have a history stretching back almost 100 years to 1926. From players who helped shape the rules of the game in the 1920s and 30s, to players who pushed those rules to their limits in the 1990s, here’s a list of the top ten “Broadway Blueshirts” of all time.

Who Are the Best NY Rangers Hockey Players of All Time?

  1. Brian Leetch
  2. Rod Gilbert
  3. Mark Messier
  4. Henrik Lundqvist
  5. Jean Ratelle
  6. Mike Richter
  7. Eddie Giacomin
  8. Adam Graves
  9. Bill Cook
  10. Harry Howell

1. Brian Leetch

  • Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009
  • Two-time Norris Trophy winner
  • 1993-1994 Conn Smythe winner

Brian Leetch is the best New York Ranger of all time, and one of the best defensemen and American-born players in league history. Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Leetch was a high draft pick by the Rangers in 1986 who quickly paid dividends, winning the 1989 Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie.

Already among the Rangers’ all-time greats by 1994, he cemented his place as the best of them with his legendary playoff run in 1994. Leetch’s 34 points in 23 games, including four game-winning goals, propelled the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup since 1940. Leetch was no unsung hero: that season, he became the first ever American-born player to earn the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP, and the only one until Bruins goalie Tim Thomas joined him in 2011.

For all his accolades, Leetch couldn’t do it alone. His defensive partner, a 6’5”, 230-pound behemoth aptly named Jeff Beukeboom, protected the front of the Rangers’ net and allowed Leetch to work his magic offensively. Beukeboom-Leetch became one of the 90s’ most recognizable and feared defensive pairings.

2. Rod Gilbert

  • Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982
  • Two-time All-Star
  • 1976 Bill Masterton Trophy winner
  • Leads Rangers in all-time goals and points
  • "Mr. Ranger Award" named for him

In 2022, the Rangers debuted their Rod Gilbert "Mr. Ranger" Award. The award is given yearly to a player with significant contributions on and off the ice, from hockey leadership to charitable causes. No Ranger could have been a better namesake than Gilbert, who had passed away in 2021, and whose #7 hangs in the Madison Square Garden rafters as the first number the team ever retired.

Gilbert's career could have been cut short by several spine surgeries, but through his courage and perseverance, Gilbert returned to playing and became one of the most recognizable athletic icons of the 1960s and 1970s. He's the only Ranger to reach 400 goals with the club, and 1,000 points. The "GAG" line, with Gilbert on the right wing, Vic Hadfield on the left, and Jean Ratelle at center, was no joke, named for their averaging over a "goal a game" in 1972.

Gilbert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982, just five years after he played his final of 1,065 Rangers games. There will never be a "Mr. Ranger" like Rod Gilbert.

3. Mark Messier

  • 1994 Stanley Cup Champion
  • 1991-1992 Hart Trophy winner
  • #11 retired by Rangers

The "Messier guarantee," in which Messier bluntly proclaimed, "We'll win tonight" against a Devils team up three games to two in the 1994 Conference Finals, would have slipped under the radar had anybody else said it. Messier, one of the league's best ever players, earned the attention of all the tabloids in the five boroughs. Even today, nobody would remember what he said if he hadn't scored a hat trick in Game 6's third period. Nobody would remember the guarantee if the "Messiah" didn't captain the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup.

In a blockbuster 1991 trade, Messier came to the Rangers as a five-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Edmonton Oilers. New York was a radically different city for Messier, who was born in St. Albert, Alberta, a 30-minute drive from Edmonton. The bright New York stage didn't slow him down. By the end of his career, the strong center nicknamed "Moose" was second all-time in points to his longtime teammate Wayne Gretzky, with whom he reunited on Broadway in 1996.

4. Henrik Lundqvist

  • Two-time All-Star
  • 2012 Vezina Trophy winner
  • #30 retired by Rangers in 2022

Henrik Lundqvist is the greatest Rangers goalie in history. The Swede leads all Rangers goalies in games played, wins, and shutouts, earning the nickname "King Henrik."

A quick glance at the stats don't tell the full story of Lundqvist's dominance. He was drafted in the 7th round in 2000, and didn't make his Rangers debut until 2005. A year later, he backstopped Sweden to an Olympic gold medal, proving he had the composure to win playoff games in net.

In the 2010s, the Rangers relied, perhaps to a fault, on Lundqvist's composure with their backs against the wall. In seven Game 7s, Lundqvist's goals against average was 0.97, with a 0.962 save percentage. His dominance in do-or-die games carried the Rangers to several deep postseason runs, including a Finals appearance in 2014, but his teams infamously couldn't get it done like he could.

5. Jean Ratelle

  • 1971 Masterton Trophy winner
  • 1972 Lady Byng Trophy winner
  • Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985
  • NHL 100th Anniversary Team

The center of the GAG line, Jean Ratelle may be the most underappreciated Ranger of all time. He was dominant on both sides of the ice, winning faceoffs and setting up his linemates with crisp passes. Ratelle ranks third all-time in Rangers points, behind Gilbert and Leetch, even though he spent the twilight years of his career with Boston.

The "GAG Line" in New York had been decades in the making. Ratelle and Gilbert were childhood friends who played on the same junior hockey team in Montréal. When Ratelle got traded to Boston in 1975, Gilbert described it as "like losing a limb."

Ratelle was also an exemplary sportsman, twice winning the Lady Byng Trophy for his "gentlemanly conduct" on the ice. Ratelle's skill and league-wide respect led the Rangers to retire his #19 in 2018, almost forty years after retiring his linemate Gilbert's #7.

6. Mike Richter

  • 1994 Stanley Cup Champion
  • 2002 Olympic silver medalist
  • #35 retired by Rangers

Mike Richter's numbers as Rangers goalie (solid, but not Hall of Fame caliber) aren't what makes him one of their all time greats. Rather, it's some of the saves he made: right place in the crease, right time to become a Blueshirts legend.

Richter's stop on Pavel Bure's penalty shot, in Game 4 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, is the most iconic save in Rangers history. The Canucks' Bure, one of the league's most explosive offensive talents, couldn't fake Richter out of position, nor could he get it by Richter's outstretched right pad. The Rangers' deficit remained at 1, and they would rally to win Game 4 in front of a stunned Vancouver crowd. The Rangers would eventually win the series in seven games, in no small part thanks to "The Save."

Injuries forced Richter to hang up his pads early. He's still sixth among U.S.-born goalies in wins, with 301, also a then-record for the Rangers.

7. Eddie Giacomin

  • Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987
  • Five-time All-Star
  • 1971 Vezina Trophy winner

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Eddie Giacomin was one of the league's best goalies in the 1960s and 70s. His pro career began almost by mistake, when the Washington Presidents of the Eastern League had requested for his older brother Rollie to tend the net for them, and Eddie stepped in instead.

Giacomin was extremely popular with Rangers fans. His "blue collar" demeanor and his aggressive style of goaltending seemed to fit right in with the New York faithful. He was so popular that, after being waived and claimed by Detroit, the fans chanted his name on his return to Madison Square Garden. Not just during the national anthem, but every time he made a stop for the Red Wings.

8. Adam Graves

  • 1994 Stanley Cup Champion
  • 1994 All-Star
  • #9 retired by Rangers

Adam Graves, a power forward who played on the left wing, endeared himself to New York fans in his 10 seasons playing in Rangers blue. He went under the radar as a free agent signing in 1991, after he didn’t put up great numbers in his second season with Edmonton. But reunited with Messier, with whom he won a cup in 1990, Graves took on a larger offensive role, and made the most of it. His career-high 52 goals in 1994, followed by his 10 goals in the postseason, established him as a Rangers star. 

Adam Graves wasn’t only a scorer though. The Toronto native was also a gritty defender, and once finished in the top five in voting for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward. In 2009, the Rangers lifted Adam Graves’ #9 up to the Madison Square Garden rafters. Since then, he’s settled into a role coaching youth hockey at the New York Rangers’ camp.

9. Bill Cook

  • Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952
  • Four-time All-Star
  • Two-time Stanley Cup winner

When Bill Cook played, from 1926 to 1937, plus-minus wasn’t a tracked stat. The New York Rangers, who made their NHL debut in the same year that Cook did, shared their arena with a different NHL team called the New York Americans, who no longer exist. Bill’s brother Bun, his teammate on the Rangers, was innovating then unforeseen techniques like the slap shot and the drop pass. Hockey was a different sport back then, but Bill Cook, who led the Rangers to their first two Stanley Cups in 1928 and 1933, is still recognized as one of the game’s great players.

Cook was born in Brantford, Ontario, in 1896, and made his NHL debut at the age of 30. He was the left wing on the “Bread Line,” opposite his brother Bun, with Frank Boucher as the center. The Bread Line was one of the defining lines of the “Original Six” era of the NHL, and Bill Cook was its main scorer.

10. Harry Howell

  • 1967 Norris Trophy winner
  • Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979
  • Most Ranger games played (1,160)
  • #3 retired by Rangers

Harry Howell from Hamilton, Ontario, wasn’t a flashy defenseman. He never registered many points, and was only selected to one All-Star team. He was purely a “stay-at-home” defenseman, who prevented his opponents from scoring.

What’s most impressive about Howell is his longevity. He was one of the Rangers’ rare bright spots during the 1950s and early 1960s, and stuck with the team through their mediocrity. With 1,160 Ranger games across 17 seasons, Howell leads all Rangers in contests played. In those 17 seasons, he only missed 40 games, a testament to his durability.

Howell had his #3 retired on February 22nd, 2009, a little under three weeks after Adam Graves had his #9 hoisted up to the rafters. Two completely different players, who represented completely different eras of the Rangers’ long history, shared space on the same ceiling.

Honorable Mentions

  • Andy Bathgate
  • Frank Boucher
  • Phil Esposito
  • Ron Greschner
  • Vic Hadfield
  • Chris Kreider
  • Brad Park
  • Igor Shesterkin
  • Walt Tkaczuk
  • Gump Worsley


Who is the best New York Rangers goalie of all time?

Henrik Lundqvist is the best New York Rangers goalie of all time. He leads all Rangers goalies in games started, wins, and shutouts. Though he never won a Stanley Cup, his elite playoff performance delivered the Rangers several memorable seven-game series victories. Lundqvist carried the torch from Mike Richter, and passed it on to Igor Shesterkin, whose early Rangers career has him on pace to threaten some of Lundqvist’s records. However, Lundqvist’s consistency across his 15 seasons as a Ranger cement him as their best ever goalie for now.

Who is the best New York Rangers forward of all time?

Rod Gilbert is the best New York Rangers forward of all time. He’s the Rangers’ career leader in goals and points, and a key part of the famed GAG (“Goal-a-Game”) line of the 1970s. He spent his whole career in Broadway blue, and became such a fixture in New York sports culture that he earned the moniker “Mr. Ranger.” His #7 was also the first number the Rangers ever retired.

Who is the best New York Rangers defenseman of all time?

Brian Leetch is the best New York Rangers defenseman of all time. Born in Texas, Leetch is one of the best American players the sport has ever seen, in addition to one of its best defensemen. He leads all Rangers defensemen in points, and is second only to Rod Gilbert. Leetch was never any better than in the Rangers’ 1994 run to the Stanley Cup. That postseason, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, on a roster studded with star power like Mark Messier and Adam Graves.