We considered not even writing this one.
Like, why bother? Barring a radical change to the way the sport is played, nobody is ever – ever – going to surpass Wayne Gretzky in career NHL points.
It’s simple math. Gretzky has more assists than anyone else has points – and, oh yeah, he also happens to be the all-time leading goal-scorer, too. Add it all up and he’s more than 900 points ahead of all-time runner-up Jaromir Jagr and nearly 1,000 ahead of third-place Mark Messier. Among active players, Gretzky is more than 1,300 points ahead of Joe Thornton and nearly 1,600 ahead of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
But, since we’ve already done all-time goals and assists and games played and defenseman points and goalie wins, well, we figured we should at least go through the motions and see if maybe, just maybe, someone might have a shot at one day beating Gretzky’s all-time NHL point record. (Spoiler: They don’t.)
Take a look at the NHL’s top 10 all-time leaders and top 10 active leaders in career points.
Top 10 all-time NHL players: Career points
Wayne Gretzky 2,857
Jaromir Jagr 1,921
Mark Messier 1,887
Gordie Howe 1,850
Ron Francis 1,798
Marcel Dionne 1,771
Steve Yzerman 1,755
Mario Lemieux 1,723
Joe Sakic 1,641
Phil Esposito 1,590
Wayne’s world: Where to begin? How about with the fact that Wayne Gretzky is the only NHL player to ever score 200 points in a single season – and he did it not once, but four times? Or the fact that Gretzky owns nine of the NHL’s top 11 single-season scoring marks? Or that he owns the NHL record with 15 seasons of 100-plus points, including his first 13 seasons in the league? (For comparison, Mario Lemieux is second all-time with 10 career 100-plus point seasons, followed by Marcel Dionne with eight. Sidney Crosby is the active leader with six, followed by Alex Ovechkin with four.) Gretzky had a seven-year stretch where his worst season was 164 points, and an 11-year stretch where his worst season was 142 points. In his 20s, he was the NHL’s highest-scoring player in the 1980s by a mile (more than 800 points ahead of Peter Stastny). In his 30s, he was the NHL’s highest-scoring player in the 1990s by a bit (12 points ahead of Jaromir Jagr). We could go on and on and on, like Gretzky’s NHL-record 51-game point streak in 1983-84. But you get the point – nobody’s beating Gretzky’s point record. Ever.
Best of the rest: Jaromir Jagr, who scored the overtime winner for Pittsburgh in Gretzky’s final NHL game with the Rangers in 1999, peaked with 149 points in 1995-96 and had a total of five 100-plus point campaigns during his 24-year NHL career. But for a three-year KHL hiatus in his late 30s, Jagr surely would’ve become the NHL’s second 2,000-point man…Mark Messier counted six 100-plus point campaigns during his 25-year NHL career, with a high of 129 in 1989-90 (after Gretzky was traded to L.A.)…Gordie Howe took over the NHL’s all-time scoring lead from Maurice Richard in 1960 and remained on top for 29 years until Gretzky recorded point No. 1,851 in 1989. Amazingly, Howe only had one 100-point season during his 26-year NHL career – hitting 103 points as a 40-year-old in 1968-69. (Note: Howe had two 100-point seasons and two 90-point seasons during his six-year WHA stint in his late 40s.)…Ron Francis posted three 100-point campaigns during his 23-year career, including 119 with Pittsburgh in 1995-96…Marcel Dionne never won the Stanley Cup and his offensive exploits were largely underappreciated as he spent the prime of his career on a non-contending team on the West Coast. But the numbers don’t lie. Only Gretzky (15) and Lemieux (10) had more 100-point seasons than Dionne (eight), who hit 130-plus points in three straight seasons including a personal-best 137 in 1979-80…Steve Yzerman owns the NHL’s highest-scoring season by a player not named Gretzky or Lemieux, with 155 points in 1988-89, during a six-year stretch of 100-plus point seasons for the Red Wings legend…While Gretzky owns nine of the NHL’s 11 highest-scoring seasons, Mario Lemieux owns the other two – including a 199-point effort in 1988-89 – as well as the 12th and 13th highest-scoring seasons. Lemieux’s career point-per-game pace of 1.88 is the only one close to Gretzky’s career rate of 1.92. Mike Bossy sits third (1.50)…Joe Sakic had six 100-point seasons, the first as a 20-year-old sophomore NHLer in 1989-90, the last as a 37-year-old grizzled veteran in 2006-07…After setting the NHL record with 126 points in 1968-69, Phil Esposito shattered it two years later when he posted 152 points in 1970-71. It stood until Gretzky and the ’80s showed up; today, it ranks as the 15th-most prolific season in NHL history.
Top 10 active NHL players: Career points
Joe Thornton 1,509
Alex Ovechkin 1,278
Sidney Crosby 1,263
Patrick Marleau 1,188
Evgeni Malkin 1,076
Patrick Kane 1,022
Eric Staal 1,021
Ryan Getzlaf 965
Anze Kopitar 950
Jason Spezza 940
Grey power: Joe Thornton ranks 14th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list, and the 41-year-old might move up a couple spots this season, but making his way into the top 10 is another matter. With 1,509 career points, Thornton is 22 back of Paul Coffey (1,531) and 24 behind Mark Recchi (1,533), and 70 points behind 11th-place Ray Bourque (1,579) and 81 behind 10th-place Esposito. Does Thornton have two 40-plus point seasons in him? We know he loves to play, but he’s on a one-year deal and given his age and declining output, he might have to be satisfied with squeezing past Coffey and Recchi. Thornton had a career-best 125 points in 2005-06, the season he was traded from Boston to San Jose, and hit 100-plus points on two other occasions.
Sid & Ovie: It’s hard to believe, but we’re 15 years into Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin’s NHL rivalry. After all that time, the league’s standard-bearers are separated by a mere 15 points. Ovechkin holds a decided edge in games played – he’s suited up in 1,152 NHL contests compared to Crosby’s 984 – but durability is part of the deal in the big leagues. Ovechkin and Crosby both recorded 100-plus point campaigns in four of their first five seasons, and Crosby later did it two more times. Currently, Ovechkin, 35, sits 36th on the all-time scoring list, while Crosby, 33, ranks 39th. How much higher can they climb? If Ovechkin can add 300 points to his total – with, say, five 60-point seasons – he’d be one point behind 11th-place Bourque and 12 behind 10th-place Esposito. Crosby, meanwhile, is two years younger but has been more susceptible to injury. So, let’s project 300 more points for him, too, which puts Crosby just outside the top 10. They’ve still got work to do, but at this juncture both Ovechkin and Crosby look like better bets to crack the all-time top 10 than Thornton.
Best of the rest: You can lump Patrick Marleau in with his old Sharks pal Thornton – he might notch a few more points this year, but he’s slowing down at 41 and this will surely be his final season. Currently, Marleau sits 50th all-time, and he can move up into the low 40s if he can produce 30 points this season. He’s never had a 100-point campaign in his 22 NHL seasons, maxing out at 86 in 2005-06…What is it about Pittsburgh’s superstar centers? Evgeni Malkin, 34, is still scoring at a point-per-game rate (or better), but staying healthy has been an issue – he’s only played 70-plus games in a season once in the past eight years. Malkin has had three 100-point efforts, including 113 in 2008-09…Patrick Kane struck for 106 points in 2015-16 and then set a career best with 110 points at age 31 in 2018-19. His supporting cast ain’t what it used to be, but with his sublime skill set he’s still got an outside shot at 1,500 career points before all is said and done…Eric Staal hit 100 points bang-on in his breakout sophomore season in 2005-06. At 36 the end is near, but Staal was surprisingly productive in Minnesota and will get plenty of opportunity to produce in Buffalo. The best-case is 1,200 points, but 1,100 wouldn’t be shabby, either…At 35, Ryan Getzlaf is a year younger than Staal, but the Ducks captain has slowed in the past couple seasons. He’ll hit 1,000 points, but don’t expect any milestones beyond that. Getzlaf’s best season was a 91-pointer in 2008-09…It’s not nearly as bad as it was during Dionne’s days, but playing in L.A. still means you’re a little lower on the league’s radar. Like, Anze Kopitar has 950 career points? When did that happen? It helps that the 33-year-old has basically been a point-a-game player since arriving in 2006-07, with a personal-best 92 points in 2017-18…Jason Spezza will likely come up short in his quest for 1,000 career points. He’s 37 years old and has posted point totals of 26, 27 and 25 over the past three seasons. He topped out at 92 points in 2007-08.