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Assembling the best 16-man fantasy roster of all time

By Pete Jensen - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Assembling the best 16-man fantasy roster of all time
NHL.com identifies the top statistical seasons -- by each position -- in NHL history to construct the best 16-man fantasy roster of all time
Imagine if you could construct a fantasy team where both the stars of yesterday and today would perfectly align to fill your 16-man roster.

Would you take Teemu Selanne's breakout rookie season or Brett Hull's memorable 86-goal campaign in 1990-91 to fill your top-line right wing slot? Would you use your last roster spot on Alex Ovechkin's explosive 2007-08 season or load up on PIMs by choosing Brendan Shanahan's well-rounded 1993-94 stat line?

NHL.com has decided to give you a glimpse of a team equipped with the greatest individual fantasy seasons at each position in NHL history. From Wayne Gretzky's remarkable 1981-82 season to Martin Brodeur's record-breaking output in 2006-07, this team is strategically stacked with the game's best since the expansion era began in 1967.

Here's a look at what we believe are the best statistical seasons -- by each position -- in NHL history.

(This roster was constructed under the generic Yahoo! Sports fantasy roster format: 2 C, 2 LW, 2 RW, 4 D, 2 G, 4 BN)


CENTER

1. Wayne Gretzky (1981-82 season, Edmonton Oilers)
80 games, 92 goals, 120 assists, 212 points, 26 PIMs, plus-81, 369 shots on goal

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With four 200-plus point seasons in his career, The Great One had the greatest arsenal of scoring ability in NHL history. While it was not easy to pick just one season for Gretzky, his ability to put up such astonishing goal and points totals sets 1981-82 apart from the others. While Gretzky's 92 goals is a record that likely will never be touched, his 212 points were not the most during his career -- he piled up 215 points in 1985-86. However, in '85-'86, he had "only" 52 goals. In '81-82, Gretzky's plus-81 rating was the second-best of his career, and his shots total was the most by 11. You can almost guarantee there will never be a display of Gretzky-like scoring prowess over the course of a regular season again.

2. Mario Lemieux (1988-89 season, Pittsburgh Penguins)
76 games, 85 goals, 114 assists, 199 points, 100 PIMs, plus-41, 313 shots on goal

Lemieux missed four games to injury in 1988-89 but still won the scoring title over Gretzky by a landslide. Gretzky was in his prime and had an outstanding season himself (168 points), but Super Mario was playing at another level, displaying an unprecedented combination of points (199) and PIMs (100). On top of setting the record for most shorthanded goals in a single season (13), Lemieux registered the fourth-best goal scoring total and the fifth-best point scoring total in league history. Because of his ability to consistently put forth astronomical goal scoring numbers in his career, Lemieux is the only center in NHL history whose name can be used in the same sentence as Gretzky.

LEFT WING

1. Luc Robitaille (1992-93 season, Los Angeles Kings)
84 games, 63 goals, 62 assists, 125 points, 100 PIMs, plus-18, 265 shots on goal

Gretzky missed nearly half of the regular season for the Kings in 1992-93, but it didn't end up being much of a detriment to Los Angeles due to the incredible production of Robitaille. The lethal forward had an incredibly balanced season, scoring 63 goals, adding 62 assists and also reaching the 100 PIM plateau. Robitaille put forth arguably the greatest statistical campaign at his position in history, scoring the most points ever in a single season by a left wing. He topped off his fine regular season by powering Los Angeles to the franchise's only Stanley Cup Final appearance.

2. Kevin Stevens (1991-92 season, Pittsburgh Penguins)
80 games, 54 goals, 69 assists, 123 points, 254 PIMs, plus-8, 325 shots on goal

Stevens starred as the left wing on the Penguins' top line with Lemieux during the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1990-91 and 1991-92. In '91-92, his production reached new heights, as he put forth one of the most brilliant and unique seasons in NHL history. Stevens became one of four players in League history to compile 50-plus goals and at least 200 PIMs (Gary Roberts, Brendan Shanahan and Keith Tkachuk being the others) . The diversity of his game makes him an invaluable asset as a top-six forward on an all-time great fantasy roster.

RIGHT WING

1. Brett Hull (1990-91 season, St. Louis Blues)
78 games, 86 goals, 45 assists, 131 points, 22 PIMs, plus-23, 389 shots on goal

Following in the footsteps of his father, the legendary Bobby Hull, Brett Hull became one of the most prolific goal-scorers in NHL history. During his near-immaculate stretch of three straight 70-plus goal seasons, Hull churned out 86 tallies in 1990-91 to surpass Lemieux's total (85) from two years earlier as the third highest output of all time. Despite Hull's low PIM output, the Hart Trophy recipient produced a high shot total (389) and displayed the kind of goal-scoring touch exhibited by few players in NHL history.

2. Teemu Selanne (1992-93 season, Winnipeg Jets)
84 games, 76 goals, 56 assists, 132 points, 45 PIMS, plus-8, 387 shots on goal

Selanne, whose NHL career has spanned three decades, used the greatest rookie campaign of all time to show the world he would be one of the game's best for quite some time. His 76 goals and 132 points are by far the most ever by a rookie skater, and his 45 PIMs proved to be another element of his outstanding first season at the NHL level. His lofty totals in '92-93 will probably never be matched again by a first-year player.

DEFENSE

1. Bobby Orr (1970-71 season, Boston Bruins)
78 games, 37 goals, 102 assists, 139 points, 91 PIMs, plus-124, 392 shots on goal

JUST MISSED THE LIST


With only 16 spots to work with, it is only natural that many exceptional seasons in NHL history missed the cut in assembling this fantasy roster. But these five players deserve recognition for their masterful seasons that barely missed the list, for one reason or another:

LW - Brendan Shanahan (1993-94 season, St. Louis Blues)
81 gms, 52 goals, 50 assists, 102 pts, 211 PIM, -9, 397 SOG
Shanahan shined for the Blues in '93-94, joining Stevens as one of four players in League history to score 50-plus goals and add at least 200 PIMs in one season. But his minus-9 rating was the reason why this standout forward missed the list. Unfortunately, there is not much room for error when you are dealing with the top statistical seasons of all-time.

C - Pat LaFontaine (1992-93 season, Buffalo Sabres)
84 gms, 53 goals, 95 assists, 148 pts, 63 PIM, +11, 306 SOG
With so much depth at his position, LaFontaine would have been on the list had it not been for the array of outstanding numbers from Yzerman in '88-89. LaFontaine's 148 points is phenomenal and he even makes a case with 63 PIMs, but the talent historically at center and his average plus-minus rating left him on the outside looking in.

RW
- Gordie Howe (1968-69 season, Detroit Red Wings)
76 gms, 44 goals, 59 assists, 103 pts, 58 PIM, +45, 283 SOG
There is no disputing the fact that Howe was statistically sound from a fantasy standpoint in every category in '68-69, especially considering he was playing in the preliminary stages of the expansion era. But compared to stifling seasons from the likes of Bossy and Lafleur, no particular category sets him apart from a jam-packed race at right wing. If the list was based on career production, Howe would certainly be included on this roster.

D - Mark Howe (1985-86 season, Philadelphia Flyers)
77 gms, 24 goals, 58 assists, 82 pts, 36 PIM, +85, 193 SOG
One of the biggest toss-ups of this list was the Brian Leetch vs. Mark Howe selection. While Howe's plus-85 rating is the eighth-best total in League history, Howe's season fell 20 points short of Leetch's offensive production. With only 36 PIMs and a lack of earth-shattering point-production, Howe's numbers did not stack up with the other blueliners on the list.

G - Dominik Hasek (1997-98 season, Buffalo Sabres)
72 gms, 33 W, 23 L, 13 T/O, .932 SV%, 2.09 GAA, 13 SO
While Hasek logged 72 games, blanked the opposition 13 times and compiled an incredible 2.09 goals-against-average in '97-98, his 33 wins are far behind Brodeur and Roy in terms of statistical prominence. Also, despite the fact that he carried Buffalo all season long, Hasek's 23 losses do not help his cause when measuring up to the best season of each of his counterparts. In a very close call, "The Dominator" barely missed the cut.

-- Pete Jensen
One of the game's great pioneers, Orr displayed an unprecedented two-way game throughout his career, highlighted by his masterful season in 1970-71. That season, Orr dished out the most assists (102) and scored the most points (139) in a single season by a defenseman in NHL history. The Hall of Fame defenseman also set a record that season -- one that still stands 40 years later -- with a sensational plus-124 rating. His PIM total also sniffed the century mark, as Orr would shine on Boston's defensive front unlike any other blueliner in history.

2. Paul Coffey (1985-86 season, Edmonton Oilers)
79 games, 48 goals, 90 assists, 138 points, 120 PIMs, plus-61, 307 shots on goal

Coffey was one of the most durable blueliners in league history, playing in 70-plus games in 12 of his 21 NHL seasons and registering five 100-plus point seasons. His best season came in 1985-86, when this scoring machine reeled off 48 goals, surpassing Orr's 46-goal output in '74-75 for the highest single-season total in League history by a defenseman. Coffey added 90 assists -- the third highest single-season output in history -- along with a healthy 120 PIMs and an impressive plus-61 rating. From a fantasy standpoint, he proved to be the complete package as a defenseman.

3. Al MacInnis (1990-91 season, Calgary Flames)
78 games, 28 goals, 75 assists, 103 points, 90 PIMs, plus-42, 305 shots on goal

MacInnis' calling card throughout his career was his sizzling slap shot, and his signature scoring touch was never more documented than in 1990-91, when he registered the best statistical season of his career, becoming the fourth defenseman in NHL history to reach the 100-point mark in a single season. MacInnis also collected 90 PIMs and a plus-42 rating to nicely complement fellow blueliner Gary Suter and also supply Theo Fleury with ample opportunity to thrive on the offensive end. The Hall of Fame defenseman used the weapons around him effectively, and ultimately produced arguably the best fantasy campaign from a defenseman in the last two decades.

4. Brian Leetch (1991-92 season, New York Rangers)
80 games, 22 goals, 80 assists, 102 points, 26 PIMs, plus-25, 245 shots on goal

While MacInnis opened eyes with his tremendous point-production in '90-91, Leetch provided quite the encore the following season. Leetch racked up 80 assists and became the first American blueliner in history -- and just the fifth defenseman overall -- to reach the 100-point plateau in a single season. While he provided a solid touch of goal-scoring during his memorable season, Leetch was more renowned for being the orchestrator of the Rangers' offense, dishing out assist after assist and producing a plus-25 rating. While Leetch's game was never defined by his PIM output (26 in '91-92), his on-ice vision and unselfishness earned him the Norris Trophy that season and cemented his legacy as one of the best point-generating blueliners of all time.

GOALTENDERS

1. Martin Brodeur (2006-07 season, New Jersey Devils)
78 games, 48 wins, 23 losses, 7 T/O, .922 save percentage, 2.18 goals-against-average, 12 shutouts

Brodeur anchored the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup titles during his lengthy tenure with the club, but his 2006-07 season stands alone as arguably the most sensational regular season from a goaltender in NHL history. His 48 victories set a record for the highest single-season total of all-time, and his compilation of only 23 regulation losses in 78 games that season is beyond effective. Fantasy owners savored each of his 12 shutouts, and his stingy goals-against-average left something to be desired from his opponents on a night-to-night basis. Brodeur played in all but four games that season and captured his third career Vezina Trophy. His statistical brilliance and resolve between the pipes for New Jersey that season will live on for years to come.

2. Patrick Roy (2000-01 season, Colorado Avalanche)
62 games, 40 wins, 13 losses, 7 T/O, .913 save percentage, 2.21 goals-against-average, 4 shutouts

While Brodeur proved to be the ultimate workhorse in 2006-07, Roy was almost as good in 2000-01 when he led the Avalanche to the franchise's second Stanley Cup championship. Roy won 40 times in only 62 games and put up a 2.21 goals-against-average. While his shutout total was not spectacular that season, his .922 save percentage is on par with the best goaltending seasons of all time. Roy manned the crease admirably for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Avs, and ultimately bested Brodeur in the Cup Final -- taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. Having both of these tremendous netminders on this "dream team" fantasy roster is certainly appropriate.

BENCH

C - Steve Yzerman (1988-89 season, Detroit Red Wings)
90 games, 65 goals, 90 assists, 155 points, 61 PIMs, plus-17, 388 shots on goal

Because of his position and his elite company on this roster, Yzerman barely missed out on the starting lineup. But his tremendous campaign in '88-89 speaks for itself -- in every category. Honestly, what's not to like about this all-time great outing of 65 goals, 90 assists, and nearly 400 shots on goal?

LW - Alex Ovechkin (2007-08 season, Washington Capitals)
82 games, 65 goals, 47 assists, 112 points, 40 PIMs, plus-28, 446 shots on goal

The No. 1 selection in the 2004 Entry Draft lived up to the hype in 2007-08, scoring the most goals ever by a left wing (65). His youth and dazzling scoring ability has made him the most coveted asset among modern-day fantasy owners, and his '07-08 showing is the primary reason why. Ovi proved to be an aggressive offensive force that season by frequently attacking the net (446 shots on goal) and converting at an extremely successful rate (112 points).

RW - Mike Bossy (1978-79 season, New York Islanders)
80 games, 69 goals, 57 assists, 126 points, 25 PIMs, plus-63, 279 shots on goal

Bossy was the biggest gun during the Islanders' dynasty, although his best statistical season came a year before the Isles' first Cup. After bursting onto the scene with a then-record 53 goals in his rookie year, Bossy helped the Isles dethrone Montreal as the NHL's regular-season champion with a career-best 69 goals and 126 points, along with a plus-63 rating. Beginning with the '78-79 season, Bossy would go on to score 60-plus goals in four of five seasons on the way to the Hall of Fame.

RW - Guy Lafleur (1976-77 season, Montreal Canadiens)
80 games, 56 goals, 80 assists, 136 points, 20 PIMs, plus-89, 291 shots on goal

Lafleur's career was highlighted by his run of six consecutive 119-plus point seasons in the midst of Montreal's string of Stanley Cup titles in the late 1970s. The climax of the mighty right wing's career came in '76-77, when he set career highs in points (136), assists (80) and rating (plus-89). Lafleur powered the Habs to the second of four consecutive Cups, and his magnificent season also earned him the final bench spot on this all-time great fantasy roster.



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