The 7 Best NHL Players of All Time from Ontario, Canada
It’s no secret that if you end up as a top-tier hockey player in the NHL and you’re Canadian, you’ll absolutely be a hometown hero for the rest of your life. Everywhere you go you’ll be recognised and potentially praised as, well, it depends how good you were but, a god. Today we’re going to look specifically at the all time top 7 players from Ontario in the NHL. But first it’s worth taking a look at a couple of the players who are playing in the NHL right now, who were born and raised in Ontario, and check what the experts and sportsbooks think of their chances to break into this top 7 by the end of their career!
With the introduction of legal sports betting in Ontario, you’d better believe that all the best bookmakers are looking at players right now, trying to work out which ones will be in the Hall of Fame at the end of their careers. There are always markets for stuff like this and depending on where you look, you may get some pretty good odds on current players like Eric Staal and Jason Spezza.
Since we’re only talking about Ontario-born players, you can’t look at the list of active players right now without mentioning players like Joe Thornton, John Tavares and Tyler Seguin. The last one may come as a surprise, but all of them have won MANY honors with the Team Canada. However, Seguin is the only one of the 3 listed to lift the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. Worth a look if you’re after a dabble on something that isn’t particularly the game.
Okay, so back to why we’re here today. Top 7 Best NHL players of all time, born in Ontario. I’m looking at this statistically based on how many points these players have.
- Photo: s_bukley / Shutterstock
Before I start, does anybody want to argue that Gretzky isn’t the greatest of all time? Didn’t think so. Now that that’s out of the way, Wayne Gretzky, born in Brantford, Ontario in 1961 spent his time in the NHL playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, and St. Louis Blues before a move to the New York Rangers that saw him retiring in ‘99. Speaking of 99, the number 99 was retired league-wide in 2000 following Gretzky’s retirement. Of course the Oilers and Kings had already done so, but this was a lovely gesture from the NHL for the GOAT.
This man has some honors and some stats, so bear with me. To start with, 2 bronze medals with Canada, the first coming at age sixteen in the ‘78 IIHF U20 World Championship and the second in the IIHF World Championship. Then you’ve got four Stanley Cups, all with the Oilers (’84, ‘85, ’87, and ‘88), back to back TWICE! Then Gretzky was a 3-time World Cup winner with Canada in ’84, ‘87 and ’88. Crazy! His points tally speaks for itself; Gretzky tops the charts for all-time points, goals and assists with 2857 points in 1487 games, with 1963 assists and 894 goals. Outrageous. Unmatched. Nobody even comes close. The greatest of all time.
And that’s going to do it for this one. Was anybody in doubt that number one was going to be the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky? Can anybody argue that he isn’t the GOAT, never mind that you’re talking just about players born in Ontario? Every young player in the league looks up to that legacy left by Gretzky and aims to get to that level, but will we ever see that in our lifetime? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure - the hockey world will lose their minds if anyone ever takes that mantle.
- Photo: akulawolf / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0
The second player born in Sault Ste. Marie, but a fair bit younger being part of the 1963 club, Ron spent a big portion of his career with the Hartford Whalers before moving to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Following this, he moved to the Carolina Hurricanes and then retired in 2004 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. We mentioned earlier that the Hartford Whalers are now the Carolina Hurricanes, Francis left the Whalers in '91, the Whalers were then relocated to Carolina in '97, and two seasons later Francis returned to the Hurricanes.
Not quite as many honors for Francis compared to some of his predecessors on this list, he won back to back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in ‘91 and ’92 and a silver medal in the 85 IIHF World Championship with Canada - not something to turn your nose up at, is it? Not to mention Francis has 1798 points to his name in 1731 games, with 1249 assists and 549 goals. Very solid career and I personally appreciate the fact that he spent most of his career with one franchise, 16 of his 25 seasons. Love to see it.
- Photo: Boston Bruins / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
The first of two players on this list born in Sault Ste. Marie, born in 1942, Phil Esposito spent his time in the NHL playing for the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins before eventually retiring with the New York Rangers in 1981. He repped the least teams of every player on this list.
Seemingly having the best years of his career between 1970 and 1976, Esposito won four honors in that time: the 1970 and 1972 Stanley Cups with the Bruins, the 1972 Summit Series, and the 1976 World Cup with Canada. Not only that, but Esposito has a VERY good points return, 1590 in 1282 games, coming on 717 goals and 873 assists, which makes him the SECOND highest goal scorer on our list.
- Photo: mark6mauno / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
Born in London, Ontario in 1979, “Jumbo” Joe Thornton is the only player in this list that is still active (yes, he’s still playing at 42). Spending the biggest chunk of his NHL career with the San Jose Sharks (twice), Thornton has also repped the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers.
He's another player on the list with plenty of honors, but none from the NHL. Winning two World Cups (2004 and 2016), one IIHF U20 gold medal, one Olympic gold medal, and one IIHF World Championship silver medal puts him up there with some of the best. Thornton has 1538 points on the board in 1710 games, with 1108 assists and 430 goals. Though Jumbo still plays on, I can’t see him surpassing Number 3 on the list.
- Photo: Horge / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0
Paul Coffey is the first and only defensive player on this list. Coming in at number 5, it’s worth remembering when we get to the stats that he’s a defensive player. Born in 1961, Coffey is another player on this list from Weston, Ontario. His days in the NHL were spent with the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Redwing, Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes), Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Carolina Hurricanes before retiring with the Boston Bruins in 2001.
Stats-wise, Coffey has an impressive amount of honors under his belt, winning the Stanley Cup four times (in ‘84, ’85, and ‘87 with the Oilers, and ’91 with the Penguins) as well as three national team honors with Canada, winning the ‘84, ’87, and '91 Canada Cups. As a defensive player, Coffey has a very impressive points tally, racking up 1531 points in 1409 games, with 1135 assists and 396 goals. This man has a crazy amount of goal involvements and medals in his cabinet. Arguably he belongs higher, but we’re looking OBJECTIVELY at points.
- Photo: Alena Schwarz / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Number 6 on the list is Adam Oates, born in Weston, Ontario in 1962. Oates didn’t hop teams quite as much as Gilmour, donning the jerseys of the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, and the Washington Capitals before moving to three teams in three seasons (Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Edmonton Oilers) before retiring.
Unfortunately for Oates, he never quite managed to reach the heights of winning any national or league honor. But putting up more than a point per game (1420 points in 1337 games, with 1079 assists and 341 goals) is more than impressive enough to put his name among the greats. Honestly, I don’t think you can argue with that.