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THROWBACK THURSDAY: No lack in numbers

EdmontonOilers.com looks at the different rarities, common sights and unique facts behind the variety in digits worn by Oilers players over the club's 40-year history

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

During the Oilers 40th Anniversary Season, EdmontonOilers.com is looking back at the history of the franchise weekly with Throwback Thursdays

EDMONTON, AB - What's in a number?

You'd have to ask the Oilers players who've made up the 654 different number combinations in franchise history on what led them to go with their choice.

If it's not the name on the back or the crest on the front, numbers are a big identifier for fans and players alike. 97 has become synonymous with Connor McDavid, and 34 always comes to mind when thinking of another Oilers favourite like Fernando Pisani.

It could've been their birth year like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' 93, a special familial connection to 45 for Joe Gambardella, or just the one they were assigned when they were younger like Mikko Koskinen's unorthodox number 19 as a goalie, but numbers can say a lot about a player and the style of hockey they play.

From 1 to 99, only 10 numbers (53, 61, 63, 66, 69, 72, 90, 92, 95, 96) have never been worn during the regular season in Edmonton's history as an NHL club.

A further 21 numbers have only been worn on one occasion. Three of those numbers and names in Al Hamilton (3), Mark Messier (11) and Wayne Gretzky (99) hang in the rafters of Rogers Place as the one and only players who will ever don those digits for the club.

Jesse Puljujarvi became the first Oiler to wear number 98 for the franchise in 2017, and the first player since former Minnesota North Stars centre Brian Lawton in 1985 to wear the number during an NHL regular season game. Evan Bouchard became the first number 75 for the Oilers when he made his NHL debut earlier this season in October.

The most popular number in Oilers history? That mantle goes to 15 with a total of 28 players pulling on the jersey, most recently Alex Petrovic after being acquired from the Florida Panthers in December. The biggest vacancy outside of the club's retired numbers belongs to 60, which has been unclaimed since defenceman Sebastien Bisaillon played two games for the club with the number during the 2006-07 season.

Some like defenceman Oscar Klefbom (84 to 77) and Marc Pouliot (36 to 78) decided to switch their numbers in between seasons and make a new number their own. Kyle Brodziak (15, 23, 51, and 28) is the only Oilers player who's worn four different digit combinations during the regular season in his tenure with the club.

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