Top Five Centers In New York Islanders’ History
Top 5 New York Islanders Centers
One of the most critical positions for a hockey team is that of the center. That’s not to say that the other positions aren’t important, because trust me they are. Centers, however, seem to get more of the attention and prestige than the other players and positions. Centers do everything. They score, they play defense and they take faceoffs. No one is busier on the ice than these multitaskers, which is why having a top center on your team is so crucial for success. With the New York Islanders, that is no different.
Since coming into the NHL in 1972, there have been many players come through the Islanders organization and make an impact. Centers have been at a premium in the league, and there have been quite a few that have played on Long Island. Some of the guys that have played on Long Island have scored big goals, won big faceoffs, and made the big defensive play when it counted most. Don’t get me wrong, the Islanders have had great players at other positions. I just figured the center position would be a good place to start the top five franchise list.
Playing center is a tough job, especially in the city of New York, where the spotlight is on the brightest. Some guys have thrived at center, while others have fizzled out. There are five guys in particular that have stood out above the rest at the position of center for the Islanders. The guys on this list are here for a few reasons. They are here because they put up huge offensive numbers. They are here because they could win the big faceoff. They are here because they made the guys on their line that much better. They are here because they were solid at both ends of the ice.
Now there are a few guys who deserve honorable mention for their play on Long Island. You have guys like Anders Kallur, Ray Ferraro, Butch Goring and Pierre Turgeon who all had stellar careers with the Islanders. Some may have been brief, but they still had a big impact on the team. Those players just listed had good careers but just missed cracking the top five.
So now, without further ado, here are the top five centers in the history of the New York Islanders!
5. Brent Sutter
One of the six Sutter Brothers from Viking, Alberta, Brent Sutter played 12 years on the Island after being drafted in the 1st round in 1980. His tenure with the Islanders lasted between 1981 and 1991 with much early success. Sutter would have the fortune of being on a team that entered the Stanley Cup finals in his first three seasons, winning in his first two. Sutter was named captain of the Islanders in 1987, when Denis Potvin relinquished the role. Sutter finished his career on Long Island having played in 694 games, while recording 610 points, second most by a center in franchise history.
Sutter is on this list for two main reasons, and the first was his scoring touch. He scored 20 or more goals every year on the Island, except his last, with his best total being 42 in 1985. Sutter found a way to contribute in all situations and had a solid impact on offense. Defensively, Sutter could hang with the best of them. He made a name for himself as a checking forward, as well as a scoring threat, which made it tough for other teams to defend against.
4. Bob Bourne
Bob Bourne was drafted into the NHL in 1974 and was traded to the Islanders before the start of the 1974-75 season. Bourne played with the Islanders until 1986. He put up some decent offensive numbers with the club, hitting double digits in goals in every year but two. Bourne finished his career with the Islanders having played 814 games and recording 542 points. The point totals rank 4th in team history among centers.
I know his scoring numbers weren’t as potent as others in team history, but there are two main reasons I have Bourne on this list. First was his foot speed. Bourne was easily the fastest skater on the club for a long time. Best way to describe it would be a lot like Michael Grabner today, just on pure foot speed. Borune used that speed to his advantage and was able to create plays by skating circles around opposing players. That speed made him a valuable asset in the defensive end and on the penalty kill.
3. John Tavares
John Tavares is the face of the franchise at the moment and is by far the best center on the team today. After being taken No. 1 overall in the 2009 entry draft, Tavares' impact on the team was immediate, scoring two points in his first NHL game. During this last year, Tavares was one of the big reasons the Islanders were able to make the playoffs for the first time in six years. Currently, Tavares sits 7th in team history, among centers, with 249 points in 291 career games.
This one is almost an obvious choice at this point. Tavares reminds me a lot of Mike Bossy, in that he can change the game with a single shot. Tavares can basically he can do it all on offense. His skill set puts him up with some of the elite in the game today, and that talent and overall play has him where he is on this list.
2. Pat LaFontaine
LaFontaine was drafted by the Islanders No. 3 overall in the 1983 entry draft and joined the big club during after the Olympics in 1984. During the first part of his seven year stint on the Island, it took a little time for LaFontaine to get going. By 1986, his career really started to take off and he had hit his stride as a player in the big league. His last four years on Long Island were among the best in team history by a center. His single best season came in 1990 when he scored 54 goals and 105 points. During his seven years with the team, in 530 games played, he posted 566 points, 3rd most by a center.
LaFontaine’s best moment was scoring the game winner in the 4th overtime in the 1987 playoffs against Washington in the Easter Epic. That was what LaFontaine became known for with the Islanders. He knew how to score the big goals, and he did that on a regular basis. After the dynasty team started to fade, he became the star player and face of the franchise. He was the best offensive player on the team during the final four years of his stay on Long Island, and he routinely pulled fans out of their seats with dazzling offensive skills.
1. Bryan Trottier
Being taken in the 2nd round of the 1974 entry draft, Brian Trottier is now considered to be one of the biggest draft day steals in NHL history. He is currently the Islanders franchise leader in points with 1,353 points and 853 assists. During his heyday with the Islanders, he was considered the best center in the league outside of Wayne Gretzky. Trottier’s best year with the team came in 1978–79 when he had 134 points which earned him the Art Ross Trophy as well as the Hart Trophy as league MVP. In winning the Art Ross, he became the first player from a post-Original Six expansion team to win the award. In that same season, he led the NHL in assists with 87, which he had also done the year before with 77.
Trottier was often referred to as the "glue" on the Isles team, centering his fellow stars Clark Gillies and Mike Bossy on a line known as The Trio Grande. Trottier was described as a forward possessing an all-around game, including ruggedness. He was the best player to ever throw on the Islanders crest and is hands down the greatest center to ever play on Long Island.