Graziano: Ranking the Top 5 Left Wingers in Islanders History

Andy Graziano
April 09, 2020 - 2:35 pm
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Here we are, with another week passed of sports being shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, and league commissioner Gary Bettman, for the first time, acknowledged that there is a possibility the season might not be completed.

Whether you are on the side that favors summer hockey and a flimsy system of awarding teams playoff spots, or believe the league should just shut it down and open up the 2020-21 off-season on time, we all can agree there is no perfect answer for this. Should it be that tough of a call — weighing the economic hit of a lost season versus the safety of the players and all involved? Eventually, we will all find out.

Last week, we opened up our series of the greatest Islanders of all time with the center position. Today, we continue that with the left wings. The Islanders have not been blessed at the wing position throughout their storied and sometimes tumultuous history, but we’ll give it a shot after we reviewed all those who played the position for the franchise.

5. Garry Howatt (596-93-120-213)

As we did with the centers and Butch Goring, we took it back with this selection at number five. Howatt was one of the toughest players, if not arguably, the toughest to ever lace up the skates for New York. He and Bob Nystrom had their own fan club in the 1970s, dubbed ‘the Dynamic Duo fan club.’ Small in stature, but with a heart that could fill the entire roster, Howatt racked up 1,466 penalty minutes in his nine-year Islanders career. The guy could score some too in this role, averaging 30 points per season. A little known fact is Howatt actually officiated a game in 1983, when a snowstorm prevented the officials from attending the New Jersey Devils and Hartford Whalers game.

4. David Volek (396-95-154-249)

In 1993, Volek scored one of the most memorable goals in Islanders history, when his overtime tally knocked the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins from the playoffs, sending New York to the Eastern Conference Final. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 1988-89, scoring 25 goals, but five years later a herniated disc in his back forced his early retirement from the ice after 396 games.

3. Benoit Hogue (258-105-124-229)

Hogue was with the Islanders for only three-plus seasons, but they were the most productive at the position the team has witnessed in their history. He scored 30, 33 and 36 goals before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs 33 games into the 1994-95 season. He was an exciting player to watch with a nasty wrist shot and went on to play in 863 NHL games, scoring 543 points.

2. Anders Lee (493-172-129-301)

Lee is the current captain of the Islanders after the Minnesota native was selected in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL entry draft. A classic grinding, corners winger, he is typically the one who is coming out with the puck and has the only net front presence of all current players. In four of his first five seasons, he scored 25 goals or more, with two 30-goal seasons under his belt, hitting 40 in 2017-18, playing on a line with former captain John Tavares. He now patrols with the young phenom Mathew Barzal, and Islanders fans are ecstatic Lee chose hockey over football, another sport he excelled at in his youth.

1. Derek King (638-211-288-499)

King was one of the most underrated wingers of his time, and deserves the top spot on this list, for now, as when all is said and done, Lee will likely surpass him. New York chose King with the 13th selection in the 1985 entry draft, and he would give them 11 seasons and 638 games, finishing a point shy of 500. He scored 108 goals over a 235-game stretch between 1991-92 and 1993-94 before finishing his 830-game career with the Maple Leafs. A fan favorite who played with both Zigmund Palffy and Mike Bossy, King was always one of the nicest players you could come across.

Honorable mentions: Matt Moulson, Mikko Makela (mostly based on the name, yeah?)