This is the final position that needs to be ranked for my series of the 5 greatest players at every position in NHL history. It is only fitting that we saved the best position for last, as this article will rank the five greatest centers to ever play in the NHL.
5. Steve Yzerman
The model of consistency and leadership during his career, as he captained the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cups. Yzerman is one of the greatest defensive centers of all time, winning the Selke trophy in 1999-00.
Yzerman is also one of six players to ever score over 150 points in a season, which also speaks to the ability to still dominate on both ends of the ice. Yzerman is seventh all time in career points and 10th all time in career goals with 692.
Yzerman won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1998 and was known for his playoff heroics, as he ranks 11th all time in playoff points with 185 in 196 games played.
4. Mark Messier
Mark Messier is a six time Stanley Cup Champion, five with the Edmonton Oilers, and once with the New York Rangers, which might be his most famous moment of all time. Messier is third all time in career points behind Gretzky and Jagr.
Messier also is second all-time in playoff points, trailing only Wayne Gretezky. Messier would win the Conn Smythe trophy in 1984 with the Edmonton Oilers. Messier won the Hart trophy twice during his career in 1990 and 1992.
Messier never led the league in scoring or goals, but his toughness, leadership, and longevity is why he is ranked this high as one of the greatest centers to ever play the game.
3. Sidney Crosby
Sindey Crosby might be the only player to have expectations that were impossible to live up to, and somehow actually surpass them. Sid the Kid has won three Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe trophies, and two gold medals for Canada.
Crosby also won two Hart trophies, two Art Ross trophies, and two Rocket Richard trophies. Crosby is currently 15th in all time points, but still has time to climb that list, as well as, that he missed many games during his prime due to concussions.
Crosby’s career numbers might not be able to put into context how truly great he was, because he could easily be higher on this list if he continues to add to his legacy.
2. Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux missed four years due to cancer, but his career numbers are still at the top of every category in hockey. He helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win back to back Stanley Cups, winning the Conn Smythe in 1992.
Lemieux led the league in points six times, and goals three times, as well as winning three Hart trophies during his career. He still ranks eighth in career points despite missing four seasons, which is truly remarkable.
Lemieux’s style of play is also what separated him from the rest, he stood 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed close to 230 pounds, but was also one of the fastest and most agile skaters there ever was. Some of the moves he could pull off at his size are feats that no one else in the game has ever done.
1. Wayne Gretzky
I don’t think the man nicknamed the “Great One” needs any explanation to be ranked here, but I’ll try anyway. Gretzky won four Stanley Cups, 10 Art Ross trophies, nine Hart trophies, two Conn Smythes, and is the NHL all time leader in goals, assists, and points.
Gretzky was so dominant they had to implement rules to try to stop him. He also revolutionized the game of hockey forever when he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and without that, there probably wouldn’t be any other teams in California, Texas, or Florida like there is today.
One final stats for the great one, if you took away all of his 894 career goals, he would still have more assists than anyone else has points.