They Wore It Once: Oilers Players and Their Unique Numbers

*This archive was originally written by Colton Pankiw

If you were to ask a hockey fan the first thing that came to their mind when they think of the Edmonton Oilers, you would get a variety of responses. Some would immediately be drawn to the dynasty they had in the ’80s, while others may quickly think of a team that struggled immensely in the early to mid-2010s and picked first overall four times in six years. You may also have some that first think of their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 or perhaps think more individually and think of Connor McDavid when hearing about the Oilers.

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One thing that little to no fans would think to mention is all the different numbers Oilers players have worn over the years. Of course, the one number that is always associated with them is 99, which is not only retired in Edmonton but league-wide, but a deeper look shows that Wayne Gretzky hasn’t been the only Oilers player over the years to select a unique number.

Wayne Gretzky #99
UNIONDALE, NY – 1983: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck during an NHL game against the New York Islanders circa 1983 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Since the Oilers organization joined the NHL in 1979-80, nearly every number from 1-99 has been worn by at least one player. In fact, the only numbers that haven’t been worn in Oilers history are 53, 61, 66, 69, 72, 95, and 96. While plenty have worn the same number — with 15 leading the way being worn by 29 different skaters — there are 14 total that have only been worn by one player ever in a regular-season game. Let’s look at them below.

#3: Al Hamilton (1979-1980)

Given that Al Hamilton hasn’t played since 1979-80, it may seem odd to some that he is the only player in franchise history to wear No. 3 which is generally a pretty popular one. However, the reason behind this is that the now 74-year-old’s jersey can be found hanging from the rafters as the Oilers retired his number back in 1980.

Interestingly enough, Hamilton only played in 31 NHL games with the Oilers, which came in the final season of his career. This was because of the fact that before the 1979-80 season, they played in the World Hockey Association (WHA), a league that no longer exists. In 455 WHA with the Oilers, he scored 53 goals and 311 games, while also serving as team captain from 1972 to 1976.

#11: Mark Messier (1980-1991)

Another jersey that has only been worn once in Edmonton due to being retired is No. 11, which belonged to the legendary Mark Messier. Not only was he a terrific player, scoring 392 goals and 1,034 points as an Oiler, but he was one of the most feared opponents in the game due to his devastating body checks.

Messier won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton, the final of which came without Gretzky on the team, and a sixth with the New York Rangers. His 1,034 points with the Oilers is good enough for third in franchise history, while his 642 assists rank second. He is considered not only one of the greatest Oilers of all time but one of the best NHLers to ever lace them up.

#59: Brad Hunt (2014)

While you won’t find any Oilers fans who haven’t heard of the first two on this list, there may be plenty who don’t remember the name Brad Hunt. The now 35-year-old was an undrafted defenceman who former general manager Craig MacTavish chose to sign as a free agent. During his time in the organization, he proved at the AHL level that he was very offensively gifted, but was unable to replicate those same results in the NHL.

Related: THW’s They Wore it Once Collection

Hunt played just 21 games with the Oilers over the span of three seasons, scoring a goal and three points, though he only wore the jersey No. 59 for one of those years. He has been able to carve out a journeyman career since leaving Edmonton, and just recently signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks.

#63: Tyler Ennis (2020-2021)

Until the 2019-20 season, no Oiler had ever worn the No. 63. However, that changed when, at the 2020 Trade Deadline, general manager Ken Holland chose to trade for Tyler Ennis who was playing for the Ottawa Senators at the time. The now 31-year-old played good hockey in his brief stint in Edmonton, scoring two goals and four points in nine games. His season ended up being cut short by a devastating injury in the play-in round versus the Chicago Blackhawks, but despite it was still able to earn a one-year extension.

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Unfortunately for both Ennis and the Oilers, his first full season with the team was not what anyone had hoped for. He recorded just nine points in 30 games and spent time on the taxi squad. He now finds himself as a free agent in a market where teams don’t have much cap space and may be forced to take a professional tryout offer in hopes of continuing his NHL career.

#68: Tyler Pitlick (2014)

During Tyler Pitlick’s first brief callup with the Oilers near the end of the 2013-14 season, in which he played his first 10 career NHL games, he became the first player in franchise history to dawn the No. 68. It wasn’t exactly a memorable stint as he managed just a single goal in that short stretch.

Tyler Pitlick with the Oklahoma City Barons (Steven Christy/OKC Barons)

Pitlick spent parts of two more seasons with the Oilers, albeit wearing No. 15 instead, before leaving the organization after the 2016-17 season. Since then he has been able to carve out a nice career for himself, mainly in an energy-type role on the fourth line. Edmonton fans will see plenty of him in 2021-22 as he was traded to the Calgary Flames this offseason.

#72: Nick Bjugstad (2023)

The Oilers were attempting to make a deep run for a Stanley Cup during the 2022-23 season and made that known by acquiring pending unrestrcited free agent veteran forward Nick Bjugstad from the Arizona Coyotes days before the trade deadline to bolster their forward group. Bjugstad has ultimately chosen to return to the Coyotes for the 2023-24 season and beyind, but he played a big role with the Oilers during their playoff run.

Bjugstad scored four goals and added two assists for six points through 19 games in the regular season, and had three goals through 12 playoff games. The team got eliminated in the second round by the Vegas Golden Knights, but Bjugstad’s impact was felt at both ends of the ice. He rejoins a Coyotes team that has a positive future in front of them.

#75: Evan Bouchard (2019-2022)

Ironically enough, one of the reasons Ethan Bear was traded was to help make room for the very next player on this list: Evan Bouchard. The now 22-year-old nearly cracked the Oilers’ lineup as an 18-year-old, appearing in seven games to start the season before being sent down to junior. He then spent the entire 2019-20 season in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors before rejoining Edmonton’s lineup in 2020-21.

Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was a frustrating season for Bouchard, who, despite playing quite well when called upon, spent the majority of the year on the taxi squad. He played in just 14 games, recording two goals and five points. It was critical for management to make sure he had a regular spot on the lineup for the upcoming 2021-22 season. It will be interesting to see what type of player he ends up developing into.

#76: Bryan Young (2007-2008)

When Bryan Young made his NHL debut during the 2006-07 season, he was by almost no account ready to do so. He had actually played the majority of that season in the ECHL but was called up to the Oilers due to a multitude of injuries suffered by various blueliners. He played in 15 games with the big club that season but was held pointless. He was able to get in two games, again with the Oilers, the following season, but was once again held off the scoresheet.

As it turns out, the brief two-game showing in 2007-08 was the last we saw from Young as an NHLer. Shortly after, he went overseas to play in the Asia League Ice Hockey, where he continued to play until the end of the 2019-20 season. Despite being born in Canada, he was able to suit up for South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics due to NHL players not attending the event.

#78: Marc-Antoine Pouliot (2006-2010)

Many Oilers fans to this day will still recognize the name Marc-Antoine Pouliot, though not for good reasons. The now 36-year-old was their first-round pick (22 overall) in the 2003 Draft, which is widely considered to be the best draft class of all time. Unfortunately, Pouliot was not one of the reasons it was such a great class, as his 192 career games are the third lowest in that entire first round.

Pouliot played parts of five seasons with the Oilers before moving on and having short stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes. He was able to hit the 20-point mark just once in his NHL career and as a result has been playing in Switzerland since the 2012-13 season. What stings the most about this selection is that the next two picks in the draft were Ryan Kesler and Mike Richards, while Corey Perry was also taken just a few short spots later.

#87: David Musil (2015)

Another number that has only been donned once in Edmonton and for an extremely short time was 87, which was worn by defenceman David Musil. Having been taken early in the second round (31 overall) of the 2011 Draft, he was once a very promising prospect for the Oilers. He had some ties to the organization as well, as his father, Frank Musil, played the final 69 of his 797 NHL games in an Oilers sweater.

Musil was called up to the Oilers from the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL during the 2014-15 season and was able to suit up in four games. Despite a fairly impressive showing in which he collected two assists, they were not just his only four games that season, but the only four in his entire NHL career. He spent parts of two more seasons with the Condors and has since been playing professionally in the Czech Republic.

#92: Tomas Jurco (2019)

Similar to the Zykov situation, there was some optimism when the Oilers signed Tomas Jurco that he could become a top-six winger for the team due to his high skill level. He, too, had proven in the AHL in years past that he was capable of putting up big numbers, but had failed to do so in the NHL. Unfortunately, the same thing held true in Edmonton as he started the season there, but was quickly sent to the Condors after putting up just two assists in 12 games.

Those 12 games turned out to be the only ones Jurco ever played in an Oilers sweater, as he was injured just eight games into his tenure with the Condors and required season-ending hip surgery. He then signed a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights last offseason and once again spent time in both the NHL and AHL in 2020-21. At 28 years old he has likely run out of chances at becoming a regular NHLer.

#94: Ryan Smyth (1995-2007/2011-2014)

After seeing plenty of names on this list who had little to no impact during their brief stints as Oilers, this next one in Ryan Smyth is much different. He was drafted to Edmonton with the sixth-overall pick in the 1994 Draft and became a fan favorite during his time wearing copper and blue due to his work ethic, leadership, and offensive abilities. The Oilers traded the now 45-year-old near the 2007 Trade Deadline in hopes of getting him a Stanley Cup, then welcomed him back as a free agent four years later.

Smyth played a total of 971 games as an Oiler, which ranks second all-time behind only Kevin Lowe. His 296 goals during that time rank fifth in Oiler’s history, while his 631 points are good enough for sixth. For his career as a whole, he played in 1,270 games, scoring 386 goals and 842 points. Since retiring, many Oilers fans have suggested his number should be hanging from the rafters in Rogers Place, though that has yet to happen. Nonetheless, he had a fantastic career, and the No. 94 will always be associated with him in the city of Edmonton.

#97: Connor McDavid (2015-Present)

Another player on this list who has made a huge impact as an Oiler is Connor McDavid. While the organization didn’t have much success in terms of wins in the early to mid-2010s, they had plenty at the draft lottery, none more so than in 2015 when they were awarded the first-overall pick to select the now 26-year-old phenom.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

To say McDavid has impressed while donning the No. 97 would be the understatement of the century. With 785 points in 535 career games, he is widely regarded as the best player in the NHL and is still only continuing to get better. He already has a big trophy case with four Art Rosses, three Ted Lindsays, and two Harts, and will have more of all three before his career is said and done. The big thing for him now is to try and elevate this Oilers squad to a Stanley Cup.

#98: Jesse Puljujarvi (2016-2019)

Despite now being a fan favorite in Edmonton, it wasn’t always that way for Jesse Puljujarvi. After being taken fourth overall in 2016, expectations were very high for the Finnish forward, and when he struggled early on, many began thinking he was a bust. He didn’t do himself any favors to win that crowd back over when he chose to leave the Oilers organization and return home to Finland for the 2019-20 season.

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Thankfully, general manager Ken Holland was patient with Puljujarvi and was able to regain his trust in the organization. The now 24-year-old returned to Edmonton for the 2020-21 season, choosing to switch his jersey number to 13, and had easily his best NHL campaign to date with 15 goals and 25 points in 55 games. Thanks to both his play and seemingly fun-loving personality, Oilers fans have embraced him.

#99: Wayne Gretzky (1979-1988)

The last player on this list is Gretzky who comes to almost everyone’s mind first when thinking about Oilers players. Like both Hamilton and Messier, Gretzky’s number is retired in Edmonton. It is also retired throughout the entire league, meaning we have not and will not see another player wear No. 99.

Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers
Wayne Gretzky #99 (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Gretzky is widely considered to be the best hockey player of all time, and for good reason. His 2,857 career points rank first all-time in NHL history and lead the second-highest all-time scorer in Jaromir Jagr by 936. As for his Oilers stats, he played in 696 games while recording an unfathomable 583 goals and 1,669 points. There will never be another player who comes close to touching The Great One’s scoring records, and it is very fitting that his number is retired league-wide.

Legendary Names

Though some of these names are ones that plenty won’t recognize, there is no denying some of the elite-level talent that appear on this list. Despite some rough times as a franchise in recent years, Oilers fans have certainly been lucky to have many fantastic players throughout their favorite franchise’s history.

As mentioned, the numbers 3, 11, and 99 will never be worn again in Edmonton. However, the others on this list are all up for the taking, making it interesting to think which one we may see first. For the organization’s sake, hopefully a few more of these numbers will soon be occupied by players that will leave lasting impacts with the Oilers.