Mark Messier

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Hartnett: Ranking The Top 10 Greatest Rangers Forwards

Sean Hartnett
August 27, 2019 - 1:25 pm
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After ranking the Rangers’ top 10 goaltenders and defensemen, this third installment offers a rundown of the greatest-ever Blueshirt forwards. According to Hockey Reference, 670 forwards have skated in a Rangers’ sweater – but only 10 can make this list.

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PREVIOUS LISTS: Top 10 Rangers goaltenders | Top 10 Rangers defensemen

#1 MARK MESSIER

He came, he saw and he conquered the ghost of 1940. Loud, rapturous applause greets Messier whenever his face is shown on the Madison Square Garden big screen. His name will forever be associated with winning in the Big Apple, “The Guarantee” and a brand of passionate leadership that willed a dressing room to believe and follow his example.

The perfect blend of skill and strength packaged with a mean streak, Messier joined the Rangers at age 30 and finished his second stint with the club at age 43. In 10 seasons as a Ranger, he was nearly a point-per-game player with 691 points in 698 regular season games as a Blueshirt. He tallied 80 points in 70 playoff games as a Ranger – including 30 in 23 games during the 1994 Stanley Cup championship season.

Though Messier lifted the Stanley Cup five times in Edmonton before his arrival on Broadway, the image most hockey fans think of when they hear Messier’s name is him receiving the Stanley Cup in a Rangers uniform and laughing like The Joker. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

#2 ROD GILBERT

In many ways, Gilbert is “Mr. Ranger.” If the pinstriped number 7 was synonymous with Mickey Mantle – so was Gilbert’s number 7 sewn on the back of a Rangers sweater. The Montreal native became an idol in Manhattan, scoring 406 goals and 1,021 points in an 18-year career. Both marks remain franchise records.

The legendary right wing also holds the following career records in team history: goals created – 388.8, even-strength goals – 298, power-play goals – 108 and game-winning goals – 52.

Alongside Vic Hadfield and Jean Ratelle, the trio formed the formidable “Goal-A-Game” line. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982. 

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#3 ANDY BATHGATE

Bathgate combined a stylish flair with physicality and a renowned ability as a pugilist. He captured the Hart Trophy in the 1958-59 season, fending off the immortal Gordie Howe. Bathgate thrived on unpredictability, was an excellent playmaker and packed a booming slapshot. In 1961-62, he missed out on the Art Ross Trophy to Bobby Hull by virtue of a goals-scored tiebreaker.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

#4 FRANK BOUCHER

A gentlemanly player of his era, Boucher’s playmaking artistry helped the pre-war Rangers lift the Stanley Cup in 1928 and 1933. Forming the “Bread Line” between brothers Bill and Bun Cook, Boucher led the NHL in assists for three seasons.

In fact, Boucher was so gentlemanly on the ice that he was allowed to keep the Lady Byng Trophy after capturing the award in seven of eight seasons and another trophy was donated to the league.

Boucher would later guide the Blueshirts to another Stanley Cup championship behind the bench in 1940. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958.

#5 JEAN RATELLE

Across 21 years for the Rangers and the Bruins, Ratelle finished his career with a remarkable 1,267 points in 1,280 regular season games. At the time of his 1981 retirement, Ratelle had finished as the NHL’s sixth all-time leading scorer.

A dominant face-off winner and celebrated playmaker, he was the glue of the GAG Line. Ratelle was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.

#6 JAROMIR JAGR

The trade that sent Anson Carter to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Jagr paid off handsomely for the Blueshirts. Jagr set single-season team records with 54 goals and 123 points during the 2005-06 season.

It was that season, following the retirement of Messier, that Jagr’s offense pretty much singlehandedly carried the Rangers into the 2006 playoffs. Nearly impossible to knock off the puck and possessing outrageous skill, he was awarded the Lester B. Pearson (now Ted Lindsay Award) for the NHL’s most outstanding player as voted by fellow players.

Though his stint on Broadway only lasted three-and-a-half seasons, Jagr tallied 319 points in 277 regular season games and 27 points in 23 playoff games during his time in Manhattan.

#7 BILL COOK

An original 1926 Ranger, Cook was considered the NHL’s greatest-ever right wing at the time of his 1937 retirement. He was the first skater signed by the Rangers, he became the first captain in club history and he scored the first goal in team history. Twice a Hart Trophy runner-up, Cook amassed 366 points in 475 career regular-season games.

At age 36, Cook became the oldest player to win an NHL scoring title until Martin St. Louis accomplished the feat at age 37 in 2013. Cook was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1952.

#8 ADAM GRAVES

The fan-favorite right wing excelled as a two-way power forward after joining the Blueshirts in 1991. Graves took full advantage of an increased role with the Rangers, having previously been relegated to checking line roles in Detroit and Edmonton.

His heart-and-soul desire and 10 goals scored during the 1994 playoffs were integral to the Rangers ending a 54-year Stanley Cup championship drought.

Graves held the team’s single-season goalscoring record with 52 scored during the 1993-94 regular season until Jagr eclipsed the record in 2005-06.

 #9 BRYAN HEXTALL

Twice the NHL’s leading goal scorer and once the league’s leading point-getter (before the Art Ross Trophy was conceived), Hextall was considered the most dominant right wing of his era and was supremely durable. His overtime goal in Game 6 of the 1940 Stanley Cup Final against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the series winner.

Hextall produced 367 points in 449 career regular-season games. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

#10 VIC HADFIELD

Across a 13-year chapter with the Rangers, Hadfield was a fan favorite of a different era. His brawn and physicality allowed line-mates Ratelle and Gilbert to find space to work their magic.

The 1971-72 season represented the peak of Hadfield’s career as he was named captain and proceeded to record 50 goals and 56 assists in 78 regular season games.

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