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Number fun: The best players wearing certain numbers in the NHL

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Sweater numbers for individual players have a lot of stories, but how does the competition level stack up when you compare NHL players sharing the same number?

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

After the announcement that Jonathan Marchessault was changing numbers from #42 to #81, I got to thinking about the numbers players wear. Sometimes, they have significance to the player and sometimes its happenstance. Victor Hedman wanted to wear #41, the number he and his brothers had always used while playing in Sweden. Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith was already using 41 at the time of Hedman's arrival to the organization in 2009 and Hedman moved to #77. Tyler Johnson began his career with the training camp number of #63, but once he made the Bolts full-time he changed to #9, a number he had worn through much of his junior career.

While the stories why players wear certain numbers have are all different, it did get me to looking at other players around the league wearing the same numbers and then made me wonder, did the Lightning have the best player wearing that number? Well, let's look at some of them and see.


  • Current Bolt:Jason Garrison
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Mattias Ohlund,Jassen Cullimore
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:10
  • Number of Current NHLers:19
  • Best NHLer:Mark Giordano, Defenseman,Calgary Flames

This one is a bit of a tossup and Garrison wasn't in the equation. Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers was the other candidate and while long term he may end up being a better player that Giordano, right now Gio has the edge.


  • Current Bolt:Anton Stralman
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Stralman
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:16
  • Number of Current NHLers:16
  • Best NHLer:Shea Weber, Defenseman,Nashville Predators

Forward Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators also has a pretty impressive point-production this season, but Weber is a Norris caliber defenseman that you build a team around. It's hard to go wrong with him.


  • Current Bolt:Tyler Johnson
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Tyler Johnson,Steve Downie
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:12
  • Number of Current NHLers:15
  • Best NHLer:Matt Duchene, Forward,Colorado Avalanche

A fully healthy and productive Johnson probably wins this award, but with Duchene's current performance out in the West, he's the clear leader. Mikko Koivu and Filip Forsberg were also close behind.


  • Current Bolt:Brian Boyle
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Chris Dingman
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:11
  • Number of Current NHLers:16
  • Best NHLer:Anze Kopitar, Forward,Los Angeles Kings

This is an easy pick with the franchise center for the Kings leading the way among #11s. It's Interesting to note too that Brian Boyle was in the Kings system early in his career.


  • Current Bolt:Cedric Paquette
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Pavel Kubina
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:4
  • Number of Current NHLers:10
  • Best NHLer:Johnny Gaudreau, Forward, Calgary Flames

This is another easy selection that clearly leads the pack. Paquette, on the other hand, is down at the bottom along with Alexander Semin who has left the NHL to play in the KHL.


  • Current Bolt:Alex Killorn
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Ruslan Fedotenko
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:14
  • Number of Current NHLers:19
  • Best NHLer:Wayne Simmonds, Forward,Philadelphia Flyers

Milan Lucic and Brandon Dubinsky are also up there in the overall NHL ranks of players who wear the number. Most likely it's my dislike of Lucic that keeps me from an honest opinion of him and he probably is the best of the three.


  • Current Bolt:Ondrej Palat
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Ondrej Palat
  • Number of Bolts:9
  • Number of NHLers:18
  • Best NHLer:Bryan Little, Forward,Winnipeg Jets

I had another bit of internal debate over this one. While Little is the clear leader from a points perspective, Reilly Smith and James Neal are both good players having solid seasons as well. Like with the already-cited Tyler Johnson, injuries and early ineffectiveness keep Ondrej Palat out of prime position.


  • Current Bolt:Erik Condra
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Dan Boyle
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:11
  • Number of Current NHLers:16
  • Best NHLer:Daniel Sedin, Forward,Vancouver Canucks

This one is a harder debate; you have Sedin, a future Hall of Famer still having a good season on a bad team as a forward as you'd expect versus Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is a good, top four defenseman who also adds offense to his team. But give the twin the nod on this one.


  • Current Bolt:J.T. Brown
  • Most Well Known Bolt:J.T. Brown
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:10
  • Number of Current NHLers:20
  • Best NHLer:Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Defenseman,Arizona Coyotes

Ekman-Larsson leads all players who wear #23 in points while being a defenseman. Though it sure would have been fun if we could have picked Dustin Brown but even Sean Monahan and Sam Reinhart have more points than him this season.


  • Current Bolt:Ryan Callahan
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Ryan Callahan
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:11
  • Number of Current NHLers:16
  • Best NHLer:Jiri Hudler, Forward, Calgary Flames

Not a spectacular number in the NHL with Hudler leading the crop. It's interesting to note that only 2 of the 16 players have a positive plus/minus with 2 players even/neutral (0). Two players have a minus-10 rating and collectively, they are minus-47. There must be something in the number...


  • Current Bolt:Matt Carle
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Dave Andreychuk
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:7
  • Number of Current NHLers:20
  • Best NHLer:Jason Chimera, Forward,Washington Capitals

Chimera is having a good year for the Caps and former Cap Mike Green now with Detroit is his only real competition for the honor. Matt Carle is nowhere close, joining three other players with no points...except those players have combined for 11 total games played this season.


  • Current Bolt:Ben Bishop
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Ben Bishop,Dwayne Roloson
  • Number of Bolts: in Team History11
  • Number of Current NHLers:12
  • Best NHLer:Ben Bishop, Goalie, Tampa Bay Lightning

Hey! We finally have a winner! Now, there're probably some New York Rangers fans out there screaming because Henrik Lundqvist wears #30. I admit King Henrik is one of the best goalies in the NHL and the world. Bishop, however, is close to him in most of the major statistical categories yet nicely ahead of him in GAA. Bishop also suffered from a lack of goal support, or his win-loss totals would look better than they do right now.


  • Current Bolt:Kristers Gudlevskis
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Kristers Gudlevskis
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:3
  • Number of Current NHLers:8
  • Best NHLer:Corey Crawford, Goalie,Chicago Blackhawks

The only skater in this group that's alright has been Antoine Vermette who doesn't hold a candle to Corey Crawford. Crawford's been one of the best goalies in the NHL and he's having an incredible year for the defending Stanley Cup Champions.


  • Current Bolt:Valtteri Filppula
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Filppula
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:3
  • Number of Current NHLers:11
  • Best NHLer:Ryan Spooner, Forward,Boston Bruins

Another formidable group with the New York Islanders' Frans Nielsen right behind, but the younger Spooner gets the nod while being ahead in points.


  • Current Bolt:Braydon Coburn
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Darryl Sydor
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:7
  • Number of Current NHLers:13
  • Best NHLer:Rasmus Ristolainen, Defenseman,Buffalo Sabres

There's a couple good, young defensemen in this group. Ristolainen leads in points, but Colton Parayko of St. Louis Blues isn't terribly far behind and has developed rapidly in his first year pro. Forward Mark Scheifele splits the pair in points but is still behind Ristolainen.


  • Current Bolt:Andrej Sustr
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Sustr
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:3
  • Number of Current NHLers:5
  • Best NHLer:Andrej Sustr, Defenseman, Tampa Bay Lightning

Who would have guessed this one? Well, there's not much competition for the giant Czech defenseman. Eric Gryba and Carl Hagelin are his primary competition. Hagelin only has a handful of games under his belt as #62 though as he changed from #26 when he was traded from Anaheim to Pittsburgh. Even with Hagelin's point total for the season, it's not far enough above what Sustr has done to grab the top spot.


  • Current Bolt:Victor Hedman
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Hedman,Chris Gratton
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:2
  • Number of Current NHLers:5
  • Best NHLer:Victor Hedman, Defenseman, Tampa Bay Lightning

This one is a bit difficult as it has a tight top 3: Jeff Carter and T.J. Oshie are also very good representatives for #77 in the NHL. Hedman's status as a clear number one NHL defenseman pushes him over the top in the group of talented players.


  • Current Bolt:Nikita Kucherov
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Kucherov
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:1
  • Number of Current NHLers:6
  • Best NHLer:Nikita Kucherov, Forward, Tampa Bay Lightning

The only Bolt to ever wear #86 is also the very clear leader in the NHL for the number. It is interesting to note that two other Russians have worn #86 in the NHL this season: Nikolai Kulemin and Nikita Nikitin.


  • Current Bolt:Nikita Nesterov
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Cory Conacher, Nesterov
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:2
  • Number of Current NHLers:5
  • Best NHLer:Mikkel Boedker, Forward, Arizona Coyotes

Not even a contest as the other four players point totals added together don't even get to Boedker's total.


  • Current Bolt:Vladislav Namestnikov
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Namestnikov
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:1
  • Number of Current NHLers:5
  • Best NHLer:Ryan O'Reilly, Forward, Buffalo Sabres

It's a pretty strong group overall with competition for the top spot from Jason Spezza of the Dallas Stars. O'Reilly's scoring and his big minutes for Buffalo set him apart. Namestnikov may take over this spot in the future, but he's not there yet.


  • Current Bolt:Steven Stamkos
  • Most Well Known Bolt:Stamkos
  • Number of Bolts in Team History:1
  • Number of Current NHLers:5
  • Best NHLer:Tyler Seguin, Forward, Dallas Stars

I hate not being able to put Stamkos as the best among those wearing the number, but it's actually one of the most talented numbers in the game outside of #19. Stamkos is up against Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko, and John Tavares for supremacy of #91 and he is in fourth place in points.


Now that laid out, let's take each of these best-ofs and making a little bit of an All-Star Roster, here's what you get.

Daniel Sedin - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Seguin

Johnny Gaudreau - Ryan O'Reilly - Nikita Kucherov

Ryan Spooner - Matt Duchene - Jason Chimera

Jiri Hudler - Bryan Little - Wayne Simmonds

Victor Hedman - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Shea Weber - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mark Giordano - Andrej Sustr

Ben Bishop - Corey Crawford