Ranking the Top 5 Islanders Right Wingers in Franchise History

Andy Graziano
April 15, 2020 - 12:55 pm
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Last week, we continued our series of the greatest Islanders of all time by beginning with the wings (yes, I inexplicably had Gillies and Tonelli on my list of right wings, but right, left, they’re all wingers, right?). It contained a series of players that you have not thought about in a while, or maybe even forgot were even on the team at one point or another. 

Today, we continue roaming the side boards with, arguably, the greatest list of Islanders all in one column together. Watching Monday evening’s replay of Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup, when New York captured its first of four straight championships, was one of the most enjoyable experiences for me during these troubled times, and two of the men directly responsible for that title earned their way onto the list.

So, let’s jump right in.

5. Zigmund Palffy

One of the most exciting Islanders to watch, I used to love watching ‘Ziggy’ dance around the ice, on his way to being one of the rare Islanders post-dynasty to actually have a point-per-game career. Over his six seasons with the organization, 168-163-331 in 331 games, which included three straight 40-goal seasons (43,48,45). I’m not sure the trade of Palffy and Bryan Smolinski to Los Angeles, which netted Olli Jokinen, Josh Green, Martin Biron and a first-round draft pick can ever be forgiven. Palffy was only 26 at the time and went on to also post point-per-game totals for the Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. I was gutted.

4. Bob Nystrom

At 7:11 of overtime on the afternoon of May 24, 1980, ‘Thor’ wrote his own ticket into the Islanders Hall of Fame, scoring in overtime to defeat the Flyers and give New York its first championship after only eight years as a member of the National Hockey League. Drafted 33rd in 1972, the Swedish-born Nystrom would establish himself as a rugged, do-it-all winger, tallying 513 points in 900 games, all with New York. He was a star off the ice, giving back to a community that embraced each member of the team as their adopted son. Fun facts: when first promoted to the Islanders, he wore No. 5 and the class of Al Arbour allowed him to hit an even 900 games, playing one shift before never taking the ice again on April 5, 1986 after suffering a serious eye injury.

3. John Tonelli

Tonelli got his well-deserved night of recognition, mending fences with the Islanders after a brilliant 594-game career, which included 206-388-544 and a 42-goal season in 1984-85. How many memorable goals can one guy score? He assisted on Nystrom’s classic, beating Pittsburgh in 1981-82 and, I am delighted to say, provided me one of my most memorable moments as a young fan, when I witnessed him rip a slap shot past ex-teammate Chico Resch with under a minute to play in 1982, giving New York its 15th straight victory. Fun fact: He arrived early and stayed late. He made demands of himself that were so harsh that coaches felt compelled to ask Tonelli to save some of that work for the games.

2. Clark Gillies

‘Jethro.' Who can ever forget his legendary battles with Boston Bruin Terry O’Reilly. Watching him throw down fists with Paul Holmgren in Game 6 on Monday evening brought back memories so thick, I had to brush them away from my face. He scored 30-plus goals in six of his 12 seasons with the Islanders and finished a Hall-of-Fame career with 319-378-697 in 958 games (304-359-663 in 872 with the Islanders). His daughter, Brianna, is married to Bob Bourne’s son, Justin, and the couple have two children. Clark still resides in Greenlawn, New York and looks as if he can take the ice even to this day.

1. Mike Bossy

Where to even begin? Bossy is not simply the greatest goal scorer in Islanders history, he is, arguably, the greatest pure goal scorer of all time. With a deadly quick, accurate release, he was an absolute machine. A brilliant, 10-year career cut short by a balky back, Bossy racked up an incredible 573-553-1126 in only 752 games, a goal-per-game rate of 0.762, still number one in league history. He scored 60-plus goals a remarkable five times. The camaraderie he shared with roommate Bryan Trottier was evident both on and off the ice, and the two helped forge a dynasty. Fun fact: Bossy did a three-year stint as part of the morning zoo crew on CKOI, a French-language radio station in Montreal.

Honorable Mentions: Patrick Flatley (incredible 13 seasons, former captain), Josh Bailey (has played all three positions, fifth in games played all-time), however, neither can logically crack this list.

Stay safe, stay healthy. Keep up with your social distancing, which seems to be having a positive effect. Next week, we take a look at the defense