Top Five Left Wingers In New York Islanders History
Top Five Islanders Left Wingers
Everybody loves a good debate, especially when it comes to the world of sports. What makes this interesting is trying to compare guys who played at different times, such as trying to compare guys playing in the 1980s against guys who play in today’s game. Sure it’s a tough task, but it has been done before, and it will be done here again today. With the task today, we are going to look at hockey and the NHL.
The New York Islanders have had plenty of great players in the history of the franchise. Sure we all know about the great centers that have played for the team, but let’s not forget there are other forwards on the ice as well. “Winger” is defined as a player who, as reported by NHL.com, played either left wing or right wing. The focus on this debate will be the best left wingers in the history of the Islanders. There were a few things that had to be taken into account when coming up with this list.
Stats were the first thing taken into account. In order to make this cut, a player would have had to play a minimum of 200 games in an Islanders jersey. Also scoring numbers were taken into account, to a certain degree. Putting up good point numbers played a factor into who made this list. The final factor in deciding who made this list, is what they did that didn’t make the scoresheet. Sure putting up points was nice, and still is, but there’s more to it than that. For a guy to make this list he also had to have had an impact away from the puck, whether it be with a physical presence or defensive play.
Now there have been a few good wingers that have played for the Islanders that didn’t make the cut at left wing. For example, Jason Blake played well, was a fan favorite while on the Island, and was the last Islander to hit 40 goals in a season. Also you have a guy like David Volek, who put up good numbers, and was most noted for scoring the big goal in the 2nd round of the Isles magical 1993 playoff run. Those guys had good careers but they just missed making the cut.
So now, without further ado, here’s the top five greatest left wingers in Islanders history!
5. Benoit Hogue
Hogue came to the Islanders in the blockbuster trade that saw him, Pierre Turgeon, Uwe Krupp and Dave McLlwain in exchange for Pat LaFontaine, Randy Wood, Randy Hillier, and future considerations. Sure Turgeon was the biggest fish in that trade to the Island, but Hogue carved out himself a decent career with the Islanders. Hogue's time in New York was the most productive of his career, as he scored 105 goals in three-plus seasons with the Islanders. That went along with the 124 assists he picked up, for a total of 229 points in 258 games played.
Sure Hogue put up the best offensive numbers of his career with the Islanders, but that’s not the only reason he cracked this list. Hogue set himself out as a solid all-around player. He could score, hit, and picked up slack in his defensive end. Hogue wasn’t exactly the flashiest player in the world, but he was reliable and got the job done.
4. Matt Moulson
This was one of the most underrated signings that Garth Snow has made since becoming Islanders GM. Matt Moulson only really got a sniff of NHL life playing with the Los Angeles Kings. Since coming to the Island, Moulson has gotten more playing time, and his offensive numbers have reflected that. In his first three full seasons with the Islanders, Moulson has scored 30 goals or more in every one of them. A year ago, he scored 15 goals in 45 games, but for the first time he had more assists than goals. In 293 games played with the Islanders, Moulson has scored 115 goals and 102 assists for 214 points.
I have Moulson where I do on the list because of his consistency. I know that Hogue had more goals during his career with the Isles than Moulson, but Moulson has hit three straight 30 goal years, something Hogue never did. Moulson has been consistently good, his confidence has grown with every passing season, and his overall game has gotten better. The first full year his defensive game lacked, but over the last three years Moulson’s defensive game has gotten much better.
3. Derek King
King was drafted 13th overall by the Islanders in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft. He played 638 games with the Isles, scoring 211 goals and 288 assists for 499 points. King's best years with the Islanders came from 1991-92 through 1993-94 when he had 30 or more goals in each of those years. The best year was his 40 goal year in 1991-92. It took King a little while to find his game and his scoring touch, but once it happened, his career took off.
King was added to this list because of his goal scoring touch in his prime. King had decent size and hands to match. He wasn’t the fastest player ever, but he was one of the smartest. King knew how to get to the open ice and get to those dirty scoring areas. King made life difficult for the opposition.
2. John Tonelli
Considered by many to be the hardest working players in the game, John Tonelli was as tough as anybody. Tonelli was a gritty forward with a never-say-die attitude, which made him extremely popular during the dynasty years. Tonelli, who was affectionately dubbed "The Greasy Jet" by his teammates, is remembered for scoring important "clutch goals" for the Islanders, particularly during the 1981-82 season. Tonelli is also the man partially responsible for starting the dynasty when he set up Bobby Nystrom for the Cup winning goal in 1980.
Tonelli was one of, if not the hardest working guy on the team. He was all over the ice. He was known for being virtually unbeatable in digging out the puck in the corners of the rink; however, Tonelli also had an excellent shot, was a good passer, and had excellent timing both offensively and defensively. During his career with the Islanders, Tonelli played in 594 games with the team, scoring 206 goals and 338 assists for 544 points.
1. Clark Gillies
One of the toughest guys to ever throw on the Islander uniform, Clark Gillies really defines what it means to be an Islander. Gillies was taken 4th overall by the Islanders in the 1974 draft and played 12 of his 14 NHL seasons on Long Island. Gillies scored over 30 goals for four straight seasons as part of the "Trio Grande", the Islanders' top forward line with Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier, and was named to the NHL's All-Star team twice. His two best years, points wise, came in 1977-78 (85 points) and in 1978-79 (91 points). From that point on, Gillies settled into a role as the tough guy on the club, often using his fists and physical game to open up more room on the ice for guys like Bossy and Trottier.
Gillies was a solid skater, possessed a great shot, passed the puck well, back-checked well, and developed an uncommon hockey savvy through the championship years with the Islanders. Gillies never exceeded 100 penalty minutes during any NHL regular season. During his career with the Islanders, Gillies played in 872 games and managed to score 304 goals and 359 assists for 663 points. All of those are team records among Islanders left wingers.