NHL Elite: Consistent Point-Per-Game Players

In a season that featured the most regular-season games in NHL history, it’s not surprising that the year also featured the most scoring in the past 25 years. With teams scoring at a rate of 3.14 goals-per-game this season, the NHL matched its highest total since 1995-96, when the league also posted an average of 3.14 goals-per-game. This past year was only the fourth time since the 2004-05 lockout that saw teams surpass an average of three goals, although three of those four seasons all came within the last four years. It should also be no surprise that with all the scoring came an influx of players producing at a point-per-game (P/GP) clip, with more players hitting that milestone than in the past two years.

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I chose 40 games played — 28 games for the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season — as the minimum to qualify because it is low enough to preserve the difficulty of achieving the milestone while still allowing for minor injuries during the lockout-shortened seasons of 1994-95 and 2012-13 which featured only 48 games.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid hit the point-per-game mark for the fifth season in a row (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Although it is difficult to maintain a P/GP average for at least 40 games, an impressive 44 players this season accomplished the feat — more than the combined 22 in 20 games during the COVID-shortened season last year and the 21 who hit the average over 40 contests in 2019-20. It was also quite the jump from the 31 that achieved the feat in 2018-19 and the 24 in 2017-18. In addition, more players hit a P/GP this year than in the 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 seasons combined, a total of 36 skaters. Furthermore, there have only been 31 players who reached that average in multiple seasons over the past five years.

The Retired Players

With only four active players with at least 10 seasons of a P/GP average, let’s look at those who have the most such seasons in league history.

Wayne Gretzky – 19 Seasons

With his 2,857 points and 1.92 P/GP the best in league history, it’s no surprise that “The Great One” has the most seasons with 19, spanning from his first NHL season in 1979-80 to his next-to-last season in 1997-98. During that stretch, he was never below that mark and led the league in P/GP 11 times including a period of nine straight seasons between 1980 and 1988.

If you factor in his one World Hockey Association (WHA) season when he averaged 1.38 P/GP, Gretzky had 20 straight seasons. During the 19 seasons of his streak, he averaged 1.97 P/GP and reached a high of 2.77 in 1983-84, and had a low of 1.00 in 1994-95. Furthermore, between 1981 and 1989 he never averaged less than 2.05 P/GP.

Wayne Gretzky, Gretzky records, point-per-game
As the most accomplished player in league history, it should be no surprise that Wayne Gretzky has the most seasons as a point-per-game player. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

What’s remarkable is that he led his team in points-per-game every season including his last at 38 years old. Even more remarkable is that between 1980 and 1998, Gretzky’s 1.97 P/GP average was .69 higher than any other player with at least 750 games played. Even if you take away his 894 goals, his remaining 1.32 P/GP would still be the fifth-highest in history.

Gordie Howe – 17 Seasons

Gordie Howe, Point-Per-Game, Detroit Red Wings
Gordie Howe managed 26 NHL seasons in his career and was a point-per-game player in 19 of them. (THW Archives)

Gordie Howe’s 17 seasons as a point-per-game player stretched from 1951 to 1969 missing the mark twice, in 1954-55 and 1966-67. The 19 seasons between his first point-per-game season and his last spanned from age 22 until he was 40.

Between 1951 and 1969, Howe averaged 1.15 P/GP which was .05 higher than anyone else with at least 750 games during the time period. He had a high of 1.36 P/GP in 1952-53 and 1968-69 and a low of .94 in 1966-67. He led the league in points-per-game seven times, including four straight seasons from 1951 and 1954. He also led the Detroit Red Wings in all but two of the 19 seasons.

Additionally, he was a point-per-game player in five of his six WHA seasons. Mr. Hockey’s career 1.05 P/GP rank 41st all-time, a testament to his longevity in the league.

Marcel Dionne – 15 Seasons

Between 1973 and 1987, Marcel Dionne’s 1.38 P/GP average was second in the league only to Mike Bossy’s 1.50. In those 15 seasons, Dionne was a P/GP player every year, the second-longest streak to Gretzky’s 19 consecutive seasons. Dionne’s streak started in his sophomore season and lasted until his 16th when he was 35 years old. He also only missed the mark in his rookie season by .01 P/GP and by .03 in his 17th season.

Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings
One of the best players of the 70s and 80s, Marcel Dionne had 15 consecutive seasons as a point-per-game player. (Photo by Graig Abel Collection/Getty Images)

Dionne never led the league in P/GP but did pace his team 14 times including eight consecutive seasons between 1974 and 1981. At the height of his high scoring rate, he was leading the league with 1,606 points between 1973 and 1987 — 404 more than the next highest scorer. His 1.31 P/GP remains sixth all-time. Dionne may have never won a Stanley Cup but his place among the league’s elite is cemented.

Ron Francis – 15 Seasons

Ron Francis Hartford Whalers
Ron Francis was the face of the Hartford Whalers for a generation and for good reason. His .99 P/GP is the franchise’s best among those who played at least 500 games in their sweater. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ron Francis only missed the point-per-game mark twice between 1982 and 1998. His streak started in his rookie season and ended when he was 34. After his streak ended, he had two more seasons in which he knocked on the point-per-game door. He had a .94 P/GP average in 1999-2000 and .96 in 2001-02 when he was 38.

During the span of 17 seasons between his first and last point-per-game season, Francis averaged 1.16 P/GP with a high of 1.55 in 1995-96 and a low of .77 in 1991-92. Largely the result of playing in an era with Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier, and Mario Lemieux, Francis never had the league’s highest-scoring rate. However, he did lead the Hartford Whalers each season from 1982 to 1991 when he was traded midseason to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mark Messier – 15 Seasons

Between 1982 and 1997, Mark Messier averaged at least a P/GP in all but one season, missing the mark by .02 P/GP in 1984-85. During those 16 seasons, he averaged 1.29 P/GP with a high of 1.63 in 1989-90. During that span, Messier’s rate was third-highest in the league behind Gretzky and Yzerman.

Messier never led the league in points-per-game and because he was teammates with Gretzky, he didn’t lead his team until the 1989-90 season. Including that season, Messier led his team in P/GP seven times, the last occurring in 1996-97 when he and Gretzky tied for the New York Rangers scoring lead.

Joe Sakic – 15 Seasons

In his 20-year career, current Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic never finished a season averaging less than .80 P/GP. His 19 seasons with at least 40 games played while maintaining that average are tied for the fourth-most behind Howe, Gretzky, and Messier.

Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
Lifelong Quebec Nordique/Colorado Avalanche forward, Joe Sakic averaged at least a point-per-game in 15 of his 20 seasons. (THW Archives)

Arguably the best player in Avalanche history, Sakic averaged at least a point-per-game in 15 of his 20 seasons, beginning with his sophomore season and ending with his age-37 season. Between 1990 and 2007, he missed that mark just twice with a .98 P/GP rate in 1997-98 and .96 in 2001-02. Between those years, he averaged 1.22, second-highest behind Jaromir Jagr, and had a high of 1.46 P/GP in 1995-96.

Sakic never led the league in scoring per game but led the Quebec Nordiques/Avalanche 11 times. Had he not played with Peter Stastny and Peter Forsberg, he would have led his team more often. Stastny led the team in 1988-89 while Forsberg led them in 1996-97, 1997-98, and 2002-03. Sakic retired with a 1.19 career P/GP average, 13th all-time, and between 1990 and 2007, his 1.20 P/GP average was third-highest in the league among those with 750 games played.

Ray Bourque – 14 Seasons

Ray Bourque is the only defenseman in history to have 14 or more seasons of at least 40 games while maintaining a point-per-game average. His .98 P/GP for his career may only tie for 67th all-time but he is third among defensemen with at least 750 games played behind only Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin.

Raymond Bourque Boston Bruins
Long-time Boston Bruins captain Ray Bourque is third all-time in points-per-game among NHL defensemen. His five Norris Trophies are second-most in history and a testament to his prolific play on the blue line. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Between 1982 and 1996, Bourque averaged at least a P/GP in 14 of the 15 seasons, equal to a 1.10 average during those 15 seasons. He had a high of 1.26 P/GP in 1993-94 and a low of .93 during the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95.

As a blueliner, he never led the league in points-per-game but finished among the top five for defensemen in all 14 seasons. He led his position in the stat twice, in 1986-87 and 1993-94, unsurprising considering he finished his career with more points than any other defenseman. He also managed to lead the Boston Bruins in scoring rate five times.

Jaromir Jagr – 13 Seasons

Jaromir Jagr Washington Capitals
Shown here as a Washington Capitals, legendary player Jaromir Jagr maintained a point-per-game average in 13 of 14 seasons between 1993 and 2007. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Between the 1992-93 and 2006-07 seasons, Jaromir Jagr was a point-per-game player in 13 seasons, including 11 consecutive seasons between 1993 and 2003. During those 14 seasons, Jagr’s 1.35 P/GP was .15 higher than Sakic in second place. This includes a high of 1.82 in 1995-96 and a low of .96 in 2003-04. He also only missed the mark by .01 P/GP in 1991-92.

Jagr led the league in scoring three straight seasons from the 1997-98 season to 1999-00, alongside three of his Art Ross Trophy seasons. Jagr also led his team in scoring rate a total of 11 times, including six seasons in a row from 1998 to 2003.

His 1.11 career P/GP is 25th all-time and fourth among active players — he is still technically active. However, had he retired after the 2013-14 season when he had 67 points in 82 games with the New Jersey Devils, his career average would be 1.19 P/GP and he would be tied for 13th all-time.

The Actives

Sidney Crosby – 15 Seasons

Since he entered the league in 2005, Sidney Crosby’s 1.27 P/GP is second only to Connor McDavid’s 1.43 among players with at least 100 games played. His scoring rate is the seventh-highest all-time and the second-highest among active qualified (according to Hockey-Reference) players. He has averaged at least a point-per-game in all 17 of his seasons but he didn’t reach the 40-game threshold in 2011-12 or 2012-13, giving him 15 qualified seasons.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, Points-Per-Game
Pittsburgh Penguin captain Sidney Crosby is seventh all-time in points-per-game and has the second-highest scoring rate among active players. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In those 15 seasons, Crosby averaged 1.27 P/GP with a high of 1.61 in 2006-07 and a low of 1.06 in 2015-16. He has led the league in scoring rate five times if you include the two seasons in which he played less than 40 games. And two of those times he was also awarded the Art Ross Trophy. He has also led the Penguins in points-per-game 11 times with a minimum of 40 games played.

Evgeni Malkin – 13 Seasons

Fellow Penguin Evgeni Malkin is third in scoring rate since 2006 with a 1.17 P/GP average. He has achieved at least a point-per-game average in all but two of his 16 NHL seasons. In 2020-21, he averaged .85 P/GP in 33 games while 2010-11 saw him average .86 P/GP in 43 games. In 2012-13 Malkin only played in 31 games during the shortened 48-game season, giving him 13 qualified entries on this list.

Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin traditionally lives in Sidney Crosby’s shadow but has been prolific in his own right, averaging 1.18 P/GP. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From the 2006-07 season through 2021-22, Malkin averaged 1.17 P/GP with a career-high of 1.45 in 2011-12 — the season he led the league in the category. Naturally, he received one of his two Art Ross Trophies that season. Malkin also led the Penguins in scoring average in 2008-09, 2017-18, and 2019-20. Malkin’s career 1.17 P/GP rate is good for 16th all-time and third among active qualified players.

Alex Ovechkin – 12 Seasons

Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin is the third active player with at least 10 seasons averaging a point-per-game or better. Since entering the league in 2005, Ovechkin has appeared in at least 40 games every season and has been a point-per-game player in 12 of them. He missed that mark in 2011-12, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2019-20, and the 2020-21 season by .07 P/GP. He led the league in scoring rate for three consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2010 and won an Art Ross Trophy in 2007-08.

Alex Ovechkin 700 goals
Alex Ovechkin was the latest player to have 11 seasons averaging at least a point-per-game. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ovechkin has averaged 1.11 P/GP over his career, tied for 23rd all-time and fifth among active players. His high of 1.51 P/GP occurred in 2009-10 and his low of .83 P/GP was in 2011-12. In addition to leading the league in scoring rate, Ovechkin has led the Washington Capitals in all but three of his seasons.

Patrick Kane – 11 Seasons

Patrick Kane followed up his 10th P/GP season in 2020-21 (66 points in 56 games) by scoring at the exact same rate in 2021-22 (92 points in 78 games) — with 2017-18 ending his streak of five straight seasons as a point-per-game player. He would average above a P/GP again in 2018-19 and 2019-20, before finishing the past two seasons with a 1.18 P/GP pace.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, Points-Per-Game
With a point-per-game player in five of his last six seasons, Patrick Kane has become the most recent player to reach 10 seasons. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kane’s best season came three years ago when he scored 110 points in 81 games for an average of 1.36 P/GP. While he has never finished a season with fewer than .80 P/GP, Kane currently sits tied in 35th place all-time and eighth among active players.

Other Active Players Who Can Reach 10 Seasons

Ryan Getzlaf has seven such seasons, most recently in 2017-18. He also has seasons of .99 and .91 P/GP, but has recently seen a huge dropoff — only posting .66 P/GP this season. Steven Stamkos has also been a point-per-game player in eight seasons, including five of the last six prior to scoring .89 P/GP in 2020-21. He also reached the P/GP average in 2013-14 and 2016-17, but only played in 37 and 17 games, respectively. Should Stamkos stay healthy, he will be the next player to make this list.

Of course, there are also players like McDavid (seven seasons), Mark Scheifele (six), Nathan MacKinnon (five), Nikita Kucherov (five), Artemi Panarin (five), and Auston Matthews (five) who have averaged better than a point-per-game in multiple seasons and are young enough to reach 10 seasons in the future.

*All stats came from Hockey-Reference