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NYI TOP 10: All-Time Speedsters

by Jason Lockhart / New York Islanders
Blake, Bourne, LaFontaine among the Islanders' fleetest

The Islanders have been blessed with talent of all sizes since they began back in 1972. While there is certainly a need for size and strength in the NHL, this week's focus is on those Islanders – past and present – who were usually one step ahead of the opposition. Our latest edition of NYI Top 10 marks the Islanders' All-Time speedsters – in alphabetical order.

Shawn Bates (2001-present) – C/RW: Built like a battering ram, Bates uses his feistiness as well as his speed effectively. The Massachusetts native has been one of the best penalty killers on the team since he arrived at the start of the 2001-02 season. Bates won the hearts of all Islanders fans when he scored the game-winning goal on a penalty shot in Game 4 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jason Blake (2001-present) – C/RW: The never-say-die Blake worked as hard as anyone to go from a fourth-line role player to a 40-goal scorer in the NHL. His board work is tenacious considering his size, but it's his acceleration that gives him an advantage when coming out of the corners.

Bob Bourne (1974-86) – C: The newly inducted Islanders Hall of Famer may not have been the most prominent player on the four Stanley Cup-winning teams, but he was certainly one of the fastest. His most memorable 200-foot skate came during the 1983-playoff run, when he danced around all five Rangers skaters before scoring the fifth goal in the Islanders' 7-2 Game 5 victory in the Patrick Division Final.

Butch Goring (1980-85) – C: In what was considered the final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle, general manager Bill Torrey acquired Goring from Los Angeles late in the 1979-80 season. With Goring in the lineup, the Islanders went 8-0-4 in the final 12 games of the season. The move added a combination of speed and grit unlike Islanders fans had ever seen. His tenacious forechecking and foot speed helped him to become one of the Islanders' all-time great penalty killers. Three years in a row he led the team in shorthanded tallies.

Benoit Hogue (1991-95) – C/LW: When the French-Canadian joined the Islanders for the 1991-92 season, head coach Al Arbour indicated to Hogue that he should watch tapes of Selke-Trophy winner Guy Carbonneau. The brash Hogue responded by saying, "I can be a lot better than that guy." While Hogue never won the Selke Trophy as the league's most defensive forward, he was a responsible two-way forward in his three-and-a-half seasons with the Islanders, tying for the team lead in shorthanded goals in 1993-94 with five.

Tomas Jonsson (1981-89) – D: Drafted by the Islanders in the second round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, Jonsson became a mainstay on the Islanders' defense core for the final two Cup seasons. Jonsson wasn't big – 5-10 – but he had a good stride that let him keep pace with his taller foes. Jonsson's NHL career – more or less – began and ended with the Islanders. After eight seasons with the Islanders, Jonsson was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, but played only 20 games before traveling back to Sweden to finish his professional hockey career.

Anders Kallur (1979-85) – C/RW: The slick Swede came to the Islanders in 1979 after being named the Swedish Elite League's most valuable player for the 1978-79 season. At 27, Kallur had plenty of experience, but also many good years ahead of him. Kallur was a member of all four Stanley Cup-winning teams and left his mark as the Islanders' all-time leader in shorthanded goals with 19.

Pat LaFontaine (1984-91) – C: The Hall of Fame center spent eight seasons on Long Island, narrowly missing the Stanley Cup in his first season when the Islanders lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the final. LaFontaine was all heart, becoming the second American-born player to eclipse the 1,000-point mark. But for Islanders fans, LaFontaine will always be remembered by his overtime winner at 8:47 of the fourth overtime in Game 2 of the 1984 Patrick Division final against the Washington Capitals – now dubbed "The Easter Epic."

Wayne Merrick (1978-84) – C: Part of the famous "Banana Line" along with Bobby Nystrom and John Tonelli, Merrick was a member of all four Stanley Cup teams. The line donned its nickname because the trio would wear yellow jerseys during the Islanders practices. Merrick scored a number of key goals for the Islanders during their Stanley Cup playoff runs. Among his 19 playoff goals, three were game-winners, including the overtime winner in Game 3 of the 1982 Conference Finals against the Quebec Nordiques.

Steve Tambellini (1978-81) – C: Like father, like son. Anyone who has been watching Jeff Tambellini skate with the Islanders the past couple of seasons can see where he gets his wheels from. Steve played with the Islanders for one game during the 1978-79 season before making an impact on the Islanders' first Cup season (1979-80). Despite departing for the Colorado Rockies in 1980-81, Steve looked fondly upon his years with the Islanders. "My dad loved playing here," said Jeff.


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