With a strong playoff run in the the near rearview mirror, it’s worth a look back at the top five most electrifying players in New York Islanders franchise history. These are stars that changed the momentum of games with goals, hits, saves and overall explosiveness. For context, legends such as Bobby Orr, Pavel Bure, Paul Kariya and Dominik Hasek would be defined as “Electric!”
#5 Darius Kasparaitis
The Coliseum scoreboard would read “Darius Kasparaitis EXCITE US!” The undersized defenseman was notorious for terrorizing opposing team superstars such as Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux and even Wayne Gretzky. Physical and antagonistic, Darius would goad opponents into penalties with his pesky and relentless style of play.
In addition to scoring a few clutch goals and being a shutdown d-man, Darius was most known for his devastating hip checks. Kasparaitis once knocked Eric Lindros out for 18 games with a crushing hit and he was part of the Islanders team that ended Mario Lemieux’s bid for a third straight Stanley Cup.
#4 Mat Barzal
With only two full seasons in an Islanders sweater, critics would say it’s a bit early to anoint Barzal with any franchise tags just yet. The all-star and Calder Trophy winner has drawn comparisons to Islander greats with amazing quickness and playmaking ability. Has there ever been an Islander with the stickhandling magic of #13?
One thing that stands out with Barzal is his puck handling ability combined with the ability to change direction. Opposing teams give him so much room and respect when he has the puck that, at times, he seems like he’s the ringer in a beer league game! Just watching his skills in warmups is a treat as his skating and stickhandling are world class. He’ll be a fun player to watch for many years to come.
#3 Billy Smith
The Hall of Fame goalie was known for his big saves in key playoff games, along with controversial penalties and his incredible competitiveness. Tagged “Money Goalie” Smith’s aggressive style rattled opponents and seemed to elevate his game the bigger the stage and the greater the intensity.
“Smitty” would be treated to choruses of “BIL-LY” by the Coliseum faithful after huge saves. He would refuse to shake hands with opposing teams after playoff series and was involved in several dirty slashing incidents, including one on Gretzky. In addition, Smith adds to his “Electric” credibility as being the first netminder to score a goal, in addition to his four Stanley Cups and 1983 Conn Smythe.
#2 Pat LaFontaine
Arguably the greatest US born player of all-time, Pat LaFontaine spent eight seasons on Long Island and is best known for scoring in the fourth overtime against Washington in the “Easter Epic”. The longest Game 7 in NHL history, #16 needed oxygen to finish the tilt. In addition to being an outstanding playmaker, LaFontaine was known for his signature end to end rushes, along with the ability to wheel around, through and sometimes over NHL defenders!
The 5-foot-10 LaFontaine was selected third overall by the Isles and used his speed, determination and hockey sense for a bid to the Hall of Fame. While his time in Buffalo with Alexander Mogilny may be his best, LaFontaine still ranks #7 on the Islanders all-time scoring list.
#1 Mike Bossy
With his signature running on ice goal celebrations and uncanny ability to score from any area of the rink, Mike Bossy is the most electrifying player in Islanders history. Selected 15th overall by the Isles, Bossy predicted he would score 50 goals in his first NHL season. He made good on that claim and it landed him the Calder Trophy en route to an incredible nine straight 50-goal seasons. On top of being a gifted finisher, he was superb in traffic and scored many of his career 573 goals in front of the net while falling down or taking a beating from Patrick Division foes.
Dubbed a pure goal scorer, Bossy’s quick release wrist shot and bomb slap shot cruising down the right wing gave goalies in the ’80s nightmares. His 39 hat tricks rank third in NHL history behind Lemieux’s 40 and Gretzky’s 50. Like LaFontaine, injuries derailed Bossy’s career and forced him into an early retirement in 1987, capping a 10-year career with an NHL record .762 goals per game. “The Boss” won three Lady Byng trophies and was adamant about refusing to fight in an era rife with hockey violence. Arguably the greatest Islander of all time, #22 was as tough as he was electric!