The goal for NHL teams is to, well, score goals. If you are an NHL forward, one of your key jobs is to light the lamp for your squad. Some players have proven particularly good for it. This includes truly elite goal scorers, and also guys who had unexpected-prolific seasons. Here are the players who have scored the most goals in a single season for every NHL franchise, from the Original Six to the one in Vegas.
This is the first, but not the last, time we will see Selanne on this list. Let’s just say the Finnish Flash hit the ground running in his NHL career. Selanne scored 52 goals in the 1997-98 season, and when he scored 47 the next year he became the first player to win the Maurice Richard Trophy for having the most goals on the season. The Hall of Famer is arguably the Ducks’ all-time greatest player.
Hey, that name seems familiar. Remember, we are talking franchise records, and the original Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. While other leagues have given franchise’s back their history when they return (a la the Cleveland Browns and Charlotte Hornets), that isn’t the case for the new Jets. Anyway, Selanne scored 76 goals in his rookie season (1992-93). Yes, he won the Calder Trophy.
Once upon a time, scoring 50 goals in a season was a huge coup, Esposito was a big part in raising the bar when it came to scoring goals. Espo scored over 60 goals four times for the Bruins, but his top campaign came in the 1970-71 season when he scored 76 goals. Somehow, he finished second in the Hart voting, but it was to teammate Bobby Orr.
When we told you that Selanne scored 76 goals in the 1992-93 season, you likely assumed that he led the league in goals. In actuality, he merely tied for that distinction. Yes, somehow in one season both the Finnish Flash and Mogilny each scored exactly 76 goals. That was an incredible number for the young forward, but he never quite lived up to that again. In a 16-year career, Mogilny finished with 473 goals.
When you think of Lanny McDonald, you probably think of him and his incredible mustache lifting the Cup for the Flames in 1989. By then, he was 35 and more a veteran presence than anything else. Back in his prime, though, McDonald was quite the goal scorer. In the 1982-83 campaign, he racked up 66 goals, which is the Flames’ record.
This is the first name on this list that may leave you scratching your head. That is unless you were a Hartford Whalers fan in the 1980s. Stoughton came over from the WHA in the 1979-80 season and immediately made a splash, scoring 56 goals. He would have one more 50-goal season in the NHL but also be retired at 30 after the 1983-84 campaign.
The Hulls are the top father-and-son goal-scoring duo in NHL history, and Bobby has the honor of holding the record for lighting the lamp for Chicago. The elder Hall led the league in goals four times in a row, culminating with 58 goals in the 1968-69 seasons. When he was older, Hull joined the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets and scored 77 goals, but those numbers don’t count here, obviously.
You may think of players like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Nathan MacKinnon, but don’t forget about the Wild West days of the NHL in the 1980s, when goals were scored left and right. That’s not to knock Goulet, a Hall of Famer who played for the Quebec Nordiques. He racked up 456 goals in 11 seasons with Quebec, including a 57-goal campaign in 1982-83.
We want to give Nash the greater nod here, given that he scored 41 goals in the 2003-04 season, during the heyday of the trap and offensive suppression. Back then, 41 goals led the league. When Atkinson scored 41 in the 2018-19 season, he didn’t even finish in the top five. Still an impressive year, of course.
Ciccarelli has been talked about as an underrated goal scorer for so long he’s probably properly rated now. In only his second NHL season (1981-82) he scored 55 goals for the Minnesota North Stars out of the 608 he ended up with. Bellows is a bit more of a surprise, even if he was the second-overall pick in 1982. He only ever made three All-Star Games, but he did score 55 in the 1989-90 season.
“Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe has the most career goals for the Red Wings, naturally, but the Captain Stevie Y is the one who had the best campaign in franchise history. In the 1988-89 seasons, Yzerman racked up a whopping 65 goals and 155 points, though scoring was high enough neither led the league. He didn’t win the Hart, but he did win the Pearson as voted on by the players.
Gretzky has the two highest-scoring seasons in NHL history, and they both came with the Oilers. When you’ve scored 87 goals in a season and it isn’t your best year, that’s truly astounding. Also a reminder of how easy it used to be to score goals in the NHL. Despite that fact, you have to be a once-in-a-lifetime talent to score 92 goals in one season, which “The Great One” did in the 1981-82 campaign.
Before injuries hindered his career, Bure was a truly incredible player. The “Russian Rocket” had some great years in Vancouver, but then he moved on to Florida and carried that franchise. In his first full season where he scored 58 goals, and the next season (2000-01) he bested that by one to set the new Panthers franchise record. Both years he led the league in goals.
No, it isn’t Gretzky. It isn’t even Luc Robitaille or Marcel Dionne. Instead of one of those Hall of Famers, it’s Nicholls who has the franchise record. Gretzky joined the Kings for the 1988-89 season, and Bernie was the big benefactor. Playing alongside the best playmaker of all-time, Nicholls scored 70 goals and added 80 assists. Yes, he had 150 points. Gretzky, of course, had 168.
In 2007-08, Gaborik scored 42 goals for the Wild in his final full season with the team. After he moved to the Rangers he would score 42 goals in his first season there. Early in his career, Staal scored 44 goals for the Hurricanes, but by the time he had joined the Wild, he was a 33-year-old thought of as a depth player. Then he scored 42 goals out of nowhere. It was an incredible comeback.
We’ve got back-to-back campaigns here! Shutt lit the lamp 60 times in the 1976-77 season, and the very next year Lafleur repeated that trick. Imagine having two guys who can score 60 goals on the team at the same time. Is it surprising the Habs won four-straight Stanley Cups to end the ‘70s?
Sure, the Predators haven’t been around for that long, as an expansion team from the end of the ‘90s, but their franchise goal-scoring record is still a little lackluster. Arvidsson is a solid player, but the fact his 34 goals in the 2018-19 season is the best year for any Predators goal scorer is a bit of a surprise. In time, we expect this record to fall. We can’t say the same about the Oilers’ record.
What got into Gionta in the 2005-06 season? He scored 48 goals that year, the first season after the NHL lost a campaign to the lockout. It was the only time he scored more than 30 goals in a season, let alone 40. Hey, he’ll always have that season, and it’s still the Devils’ record.
It’s not unreasonable to wonder if Bossy and not Gretzky would have the goal-scoring record if injuries hadn’t cut his career short. Case in point, he only played in 10 seasons and still finished with 573 goals. He scored at least 50 goals in nine of those campaigns. His best year? That would have been in the 1978-79 season when he scored 69 goals.
Jagr racked up Hart Trophies and Art Ross Trophies, but interestingly he never led the NHL in goals scored. That’s despite the fact he scored 766 goals in his career, third-most in NHL history. After the lockout year (which robbed Jagr of who knows how many goals), he joined the Rangers and tallied 54 goals, a new franchise record.
Heatley liked scoring 50 goals so much he did it twice. In his first two seasons as a Senator – 2005-06 and 2006-07, Heatley scored 50 goals on the dot. He also had over 100 points in both of these campaigns. While his peak would be over fairly fast, it’s a reminder of just how skilled Heatley was at his pinnacle.
Leach, somewhat famously, is the only forward to ever win the Conn Smythe for a team that didn’t win the Stanley Cup. That’s what happens when you score 19 goals in 16 playoff games. This was a continuation of his regular-season campaign. In the 1975-76 season, Leach scored 61 goals, which was good enough to lead the NHL.
A big reason why Jagr never led the NHL in goals is that he spent many years as a teammate of Lemieux, one of the best players to ever lace up skates. He has three Harts, two Conn Smythes, and six Art Rosses. Lemieux scored 69 goals or more a staggering four times in his career. The peak came in the 1988-89 season, though, when he managed 85 goals, a number only two players have topped.
Joe Thornton is an elite playmaker, and Cheechoo certainly knows that. He had 37 career goals going into the 2005-06 season. Then, out of nowhere, he scored 56 goals to lead the league. Cheechoo retired with 170 career goals. This one season, a Sharks record, represents one-third of his career goals, an incredible stat.
Only Gretzky has lit the lamp more in a single season. Hull had three seasons in a row for the Blues with 70 goals or more. In the middle campaign of that bunch, 1990-91, Hull tallied 86 goals. That’s the kind of number we will never see again. Bobby was a great goal scorer, but Brett was even better.
Injuries and poor luck have kept Stamkos from truly reached his full potential, but early in his career, he showed why he was the first-overall pick and viewed as a franchise changer. Stamkos has led the league in goals twice, and when he scored 60 in the 2011-12 season it put him into truly rarified air, especially for a player from this millennium.
Vaive, far from a famous name, was one of those guys who racked up goals and penalty minutes in equal measure. In 1981-82, when he scored a franchise-record 54 goals, Vaive also had 157 penalty minutes. Imagine how many goals he could have managed had he stayed out of the box.
We’re back with the Russian Rocket, and like Heatley, before him, he’s tied with himself for a franchise record. However, for as good as Heatley was, he was never quite on Bure’s level. In back-to-back seasons (1992-93 and 1993-94) Bure notched 60 goals. There’s a reason he’s in the Hall of Fame even with a truncated career. Few have ever scored goals with as much gusto as Bure.
The Golden Knights have only been around for three seasons, so there has not been much time to set records. And yet, Vegas’ franchise record still beats a couple of teams. Karlsson stunned by scoring 43 goals in 2017-18, the Knights’ inaugural campaign. Wild Bill had 18 goals in three NHL seasons before that. While the Swede hasn’t lived up to that number since he did score 24 goals in his follow-up season.
Given how hard it is to score goals now relative to the ‘80s and early ‘90s, some argue that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer of all time. He’s notched 706 career goals and has lead the league in that category a whopping nine times. Fifty goals has proven to be nothing to Ovi, but in his best year (2007-08) he notched 65 goals, which you could consider a record of the modern era.
Yes, we have to talk Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers were an ignominious NHL franchise prior to moving to Winnipeg and giving Manitoba the Jets back. If not for Kovalchuk, they would have had basically nothing. They did have Kovy, though, and he scored 52 goals in both the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons.