We’re getting the gang back together.
The New York Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980s – the last NHL team to accomplish such a feat. And that dynasty is clearly evident on the franchise’s all-time all-drafted team, with about half of the players sporting Cup rings from the Isles’ heyday.
Take the first line, for example. It’s the same three players who handled most of the scoring duties when the Islanders were winning Cup after Cup (after Cup after Cup): all-world centre Bryan Trottier between unparalleled goal-scorer Mike Bossy and Hall of Fame power forward Clark Gillies. Simply put, this unit ranks with the greatest lines of all-time.
The second line is more current, with active NHL stars (and respective team captains) John Tavares and Anders Lee joined by mammoth scoring winger Todd Bertuzzi. Tavares and Lee had great chemistry when they were line mates on Long Island, while Bertuzzi rates as one of the best power forwards of the 21st century. Plenty of goals, Lee plays defence and Bertuzzi provides over-the-top intimidation.
The third unit features three players of championship vintage, with two-way centre Brent Sutter between Bob Nystrom – who scored the Cup-winning overtime goal for the team’s first title in 1980 – and banger John Tonelli. Great defence, in-your-face physicality and 100-goal potential. Not bad for a third line.
On the fourth line, there’s first-line offence in Pat LaFontaine and Ziggy Palffy – weep for opposing defencemen – along with hard-charging franchise original Billy Harris, the Islanders’ first-ever draft pick at No. 1 overall in 1972. Harris played for the Isles during their first eight seasons, then was dealt to Los Angeles (with defenceman Dave Lewis) in exchange for Butch Goring in the trade that’s credited with putting the team over the championship hump and kicking off the dynasty. Neither Harris nor Lewis ever won a Cup as players, but Lewis was an assistant coach with Detroit for three of the Red Wings’ Cup wins in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
On defence, it just doesn’t get any better than Denis Potvin and Zdeno Chara on the first pairing. Potvin ranks among the greatest defencemen the game has ever seen, while Chara represents an unprecedented combination of size, skill, leadership and dedication. You really don’t want to be an opposing forward on the ice against this duo. The second pair features a couple more ’80s champions in two-way Swedish trailblazer Tomas Jonsson and all-time defensive defenceman Ken Morrow. Jonsson provides offensive spark, Morrow shuts down incoming attacks. Stefan Persson, another of the NHL’s early Swedish players as well as a staple of the Isles’ dynasty, is joined by Darius Kasparaitis, who was much hated for his borderline physical play and endless agitation.
There’s no Billy Smith in net – he was a Kings draft pick. But the Islanders have elite goaltending in the form of Roberto Luongo and Kelly Hrudey. Both netminders made it to a Cup final – Luongo with Vancouver in 2011 and Hrudey with L.A. in 1993 – but came up just short. With this lineup in front of them, though, they’d have fingers full of rings.
Obviously, there’s some notable names missing from this all-time team. Mathew Barzal (16th, 2015), Lorne Henning (17th, 1972) and Frans Nielsen (87th, 2002) were considered at centre. Patrick Flatley (21st, 1982), Josh Bailey (ninth, 2008), Duane Sutter (17th, 1979) and Kyle Okposo (seventh, 2006) were in the mix at right wing, along with Derek King (13th, 1985), Garry Howatt (144th, 1972) and Greg Gilbert (80th, 1980) on the left side. And there were plenty of options on defence, too, including Wade Redden (second, 1995), Vladimir Malakhov (191st, 1989), Bryan McCabe (40th, 1993), Travis Hamonic (53rd, 2008), Lewis (33rd, 1973), Dave Langevin (112th, 1974), Gerald Diduck (16th, 1983) and Pat Price (11th, 1975). In net, Rick DiPietro (first, 2000), Richard Brodeur (97th, 1972) and Tommy Salo (118th, 1993) are the depth options.
Here’s a look at the Islanders’ all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.
Bryan Trottier (22nd, 1974)
John Tavares (1st, 2009)
Brent Sutter (17th, 1980)
Pat LaFontaine (3rd, 1983)
Mike Bossy (15th, 1977)
Todd Bertuzzi (23rd, 1993)
Bob Nystrom (33rd, 1972)
Ziggy Palffy (26th, 1991)
Clark Gillies (4th, 1974)
Anders Lee (152nd, 2009)
John Tonelli (33rd, 1977)
Billy Harris (1st, 1972)
Denis Potvin (1st, 1973)
Zdeno Chara (56th, 1996)
Tomas Jonsson (25th, 1979)
Ken Morrow (68th, 1976)
Stefan Persson (214th, 1974)
Darius Kasparaitis (5th, 1992)
Roberto Luongo (4th, 1997)
Kelly Hrudey (38th, 1980)