It’s been nearly two months since San Jose Sharks’ grizzled veteran Joe Thornton tallied his 400th career NHL goal on Nov. 13 against the Nashville Predators. While he’s netted another three goals since that game – and currently sits at 403 career goals – it was that one in particular that landed him a spot among some of the games best players.
Seen as more of a playmaker, the big forward joined an elite group of 10 other players who’ve scored 400 career goals and 1,000 career assists over their regular season NHL careers. On this list sits 10 Canadians, one Czech and one lone defenceman. Now, there is just one current NHLer on that list – Thornton.
With that, here’s a look at the list of players that Thornton joined with at least 400 goals and 1,000 assists.
Joe Thornton (403 goals, 1,042 assists)
Drafted first overall in 1997, Thornton started his career with the Boston Bruins as an 18-year-old in 1997-98. That season he tallied three goals and seven points in 55 games, but began his trek to the prestigious group he is now a part of.
He spent parts of eight seasons with the Bruins and established himself as an elite playmaker – recording 169 goals and 454 points in 532 regular season games with the team that drafted him. After frustrations boiled over in Boston, Thornton was traded to San Jose where he has spent parts of 14 seasons with the Sharks since 2005-06.
In that time, he’s averaged nearly a point per game with 234 goals and 991 points in 994 regular season games. At the moment, his career totals are 403 goals and 1,042 assists in 1,526 regular season games – an average of 0.95 points per game over his career.
While he did make it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Sharks in 2015-16, the 39-year-old still awaits the moment he will have a chance to raise the coveted Cup.
Ray Bourque (410 goals, 1,169 assists)
The only defenceman on this list, Ray Bourque was also drafted by the Bruins. Taken eighth overall in 1979, Bourque debuted for the Bruins as a 19-year-old blueliner during the 1979-80 season where he notched 17 goals and 65 points in 80 games. That year he was named to the all-star team and awarded the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
He went on to play the majority of his career with the Bruins – parts of 21 seasons to be exact – scoring 395 goals and 1,506 points in 1,518 regular season games. He finished his career by playing 94 games for the Colorado Avalanche adding another 15 goals and 73 points over that span.
Finally capturing the Cup in 2000-01 – his final season – Bourque won five Norris Trophies and one King Clancy Award on route to being named to the NHL’s list of top 100 players as well as an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
He finished his career with 410 goals and 1,169 assists in 1,612 regular season games – averaging 0.98 points per game.
Joe Sakic (625 goals, 1,016 assists)
A 15th overall pick in 1987 by the Quebec Nordiques, Joe Sakic quickly displayed just what he could do offensively. As a 19-year-old, he debuted in 1988-89 and averaged nearly a point per game as a rookie with 23 goals and 62 points in 70 regular season games.
From there, he played seven seasons in Quebec before the Nordiques were moved to Colorado. Sakic was a mainstay in the lineup even throughout the transition to Avalanche and remained a key piece as the team became one of the more dominant clubs through the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Over his 20-year career, Sakic tallied 625 goals and 1,641 points in 1,378 regular season games – an average of 1.19 points per game. He won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche as well as a number of individual awards over his career.
Sakic was named to the NHL’s Top 100 list and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
Mario Lemieux (690 goals, 1,033 assists)
Another number one pick on this list, the Pittsburgh Penguins got a good one when they took Mario Lemieux with the first overall selection in 1984 and it wasn’t long before he was making an impact in the league.
At 19, he debuted in 1984-85 with 43 goals and 100 points in just 73 games. It’s safe to say he was well on his way to putting up impressive career numbers. While his career was cut short thanks to numerous injuries, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Lemieux still managed to put up 10 seasons of 100 or more points and finished his career with 690 goals and 1,723 points in just 915 career regular season games with the Penguins over 17 seasons.
He won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 and filled his trophy case with individual awards, all while averaging 1.88 points per game during the regular season.
He was named to the NHL’s Top 100 list and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
Steve Yzerman (692 goals, 1,755 assists)
A major piece of the Detroit Red Wings during their successful run, Steve Yzerman was drafted fourth overall by the Wings in 1983. He broke onto the scene in Detroit as an 18-year-old, scoring 39 goals and 87 points in just 80 games as a rookie in 1983-84.
While he didn’t win the Calder Trophy, he set the tone for a career worth remembering. He went on to play 22 seasons for the Red Wings, retiring in 2005-06 as a 40-year-old and over that span he collected 692 goals and 1,063 assists in 1,514 regular season games.
Related: Steve Yzerman, The Captain
While he averaged 1.16 points per game over his career, Yzerman also won three Stanley Cups along with one Masterton, one Lester B. Pearson Award, one Selke and one Conn Smythe over his career.
Like many on the list, he was named to the NHL’s Top 100 list and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Marcel Dionne (731 goals, 1,040 assists)
Another Red Wings’ draft pick, Marcel Dionne was taken second overall by Detroit in 1971. He debuted as a 20-year-old during the 1971-72 season and played 78 regular season games – notching 28 goals and 77 points.
He played four seasons with the Red Wings, followed by parts of 12 with the Los Angeles Kings before he finished his career with the New York Rangers in 1988-89. Over his 18-year career, Dionne tallied 731 goals and 1,771 points in 1,348 regular season games. He averaged 1.31 points per game over his career.
While the Stanley Cup eluded Dionne over his career, but he did win a number of individual honours – including two Lester B. Pearson Awards, an Art Ross and two Lady Byng Awards.
He was named to the NHL’s Top 100 list and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
Ron Francis (549 goals, 1,249 assists)
Like Yzerman, Ron Francis was drafted fourth overall in his draft year. It was 1981 when the Hartford Whalers selected Francis fourth overall and the following season he debuted in for the Whalers as an 18-year-old. He put up 25 goals and 68 points in 59 games as a rookie and followed that up with a 90-point season.
Over his 23-year career, he spent time with Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto as well as with the Whalers for 10 seasons. He finished his career with two 30-goal seasons and three 100-point seasons helping him to his career numbers of 549 goals and 1,798 points in 1,731 career regular season games.
While he averaged 1.04 career points per game during the regular season, he also put up 0.84 points per game in 171 playoff games with two consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He led the league in assists in both 1994-95 (48) and 1995-96 (92) and joined the NHL’s Top 100 list when it was released.
He – like every other player on this list with the exception of Thornton and Jaromir Jagr – was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Gordie Howe (801 goals, 1,049 assists)
They called him Mr. Hockey and he demonstrated why throughout his career. While he left for the WHA for six seasons, Gordie Howe still managed to play parts of 26 seasons in the NHL with Detroit and Hartford.
Over that time, he led the league in goals five times and assists three times. He was a force both offensively and physically and even had the Gordie Howe Hat Trick named after him. But when it came down to it, his career numbers spoke for themselves.
Related: The Gordie Howe Hat Trick
He finished with 801 goals and 1,850 points in 1,767 career regular season NHL games. He added another 160 points in 157 career playoff games and took home four Stanley Cups over his career – including back-to-back championships in 1954 and 1955.
As if there’d be any doubt, Howe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972 along with his six Hart Trophies and six Art Ross Trophies. A 21-time all-star, he was also named to the NHL’s Top 100 list.
Mark Messier (694 goals, 1,193 assists)
The first player on this list drafted outside of the first round, Mark Messier was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round, 48th overall, of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.
Messier debuted for the Oilers as a 19-year-old in 1979-80 and tallied just 12 goals and 33 points in 75 games for Edmonton. But that changed quickly. He followed that up with a 63-point season, an 88-point season and, finally, back-to-back 100-point seasons in 1982-83 (106 points) and 1983-84 (101 points).
He went on to play parts of 12 seasons with the Oilers, 10 seasons with the Rangers and three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Over his 25-year career, Messier racked up 694 goals and 1,887 points in 1,756 regular season games – an average of 1.08 points per game.
He added another 295 points in 236 postseason games and captured the Stanley Cup six times over his career. Add that to a Conn Smythe Trophy, two Lester B. Pearson Awards and two Hart Trophies and it’s no wonder Messier was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. Oh, and did we mention he’s also on the NHL’s Top 100 list?
Jaromir Jagr (766 goals, 1,155 assists)
In the first round in 1990, the Penguins drafted Jaromir Jagr fifth overall at the NHL Draft. He debuted the following season in 1990-91 as an 18-year-old and notched 27 goals and 57 points in 80 games.
While he never led the league in goals, he did hit the 50-goal plateau three times over his career and the 60-goal mark once. On top of that, he led the league in assists three times and hit the 100-point plateau five times over his career.
With stints with the Penguins, Rangers, Capitals, Panthers, Devils, Flyers, Bruins, Stars and Flames all under his belt, Jagr finished his NHL career (or so it seems) with 766 goals and 1,921 points in 1,733 regular season games. That’s an average of 1.11 points per game.
Add that to his two Stanley Cups (which came in his first two NHL seasons) and it’s understandable why Jagr was also named to the NHL’s Top 100 list.
Wayne Gretzky (894 goals, 1,963 assists)
Finally, the leader of this group is none other than The Great One – Wayne Gretzky. He made his NHL debut in 1979-80 as a 19-year-old and scored 51 goals and 137 points in his rookie season. That was enough to earn him the Lady Byng and the Hart Trophy.
He followed that performance up by leading the league in assists for 13 straight seasons and 14 of the next 15 seasons. He also led the league in points for his first eight seasons in the NHL – finally finishing outside the number one spot with a mediocre 149-point campaign in 1987-88.
Related: The NHL’s Most Unbreakable Records
Gretzky went on to play 20 seasons in the NHL with the Rangers, Oilers, Kings and Blues and picked up 894 goals and 2,857 points in just 1,487 career regular season games. That’s an average of 1.92 points per game over his career.
He won four Stanley Cups over his career – all of which came with the Oilers – and added five Lady Byngs, nine Hart Trophies, five Lester B. Pearson Awards, 10 Art Ross Trophies and two Conn Smythes. He was a 15-time all-star. He was named to the NHL’s Top 100 list and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Next Ones?
While these 11 players stand alone for the time being, there could be others who will eventually join them. With that in mind, here’s a short list of players that could reach the 400-goal, 1,000-assist club before their respective careers come to an end.
Alexander Ovechkin sits at 637 career goals. While he’s got the numbers when it comes to the goal department, he has just 531 career assists in 1,042 career regular season games. That means he averages just 0.51 assists per game and it would take him roughly 920 more games to get to the 1,000-assist mark.
Patrick Marleau has scored 545 goals so far in his NHL career. On top of that, he had 604 career assists in 1,615 career regular season games. While he’s surely nearing the end of his NHL career, his 0.37 assist-per-game average means he’d have to play another 1,070 career games to reach the 1,000-assist plateau.
Sidney Crosby could be possibly the closest to joining the club. In 901 career regular season games, Crosby has 430 goals and 736 assists. While he’s scored enough goals to be a part of the group, his 0.82 assist-per-game average means he could potentially reach the 1,000-assist mark in roughly 322 regular season games.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.