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In 86 years of New York Rangers hockey, nearly 1,000 players have worn the red, white, and blue sweaters at Madison Square Garden. In a new series here on Blueshirt Banter, we will look at the best Rangers to play for the organization based on their jersey number. Without further ado, here is Part Two of this series, as we look at the best players who have worn numbers 11-20 for the Rangers.
#11 – Mark Messier (Center, 1991-97; 2000-04)
If ranking among the Blueshirts’ top ten in goals, assists, and points wasn’t enough to make this list, then Mark Messier’s role in the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup triumph made him a "guarantee" to be selected as the best #11 in team history. The Rangers acquired Messier in 1991, and he responded by winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1991-92. Known as ‘The Captain’, Messier’s ten-year Rangers career is defined by two games. The first is Game Six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, when he backed up his famous guarantee by scoring a natural hat trick in the third period. The other is Game Seven of that year’s Stanley Cup Finals, when Messier scored the game-winning goal to lead the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup since 1940. The second all-time leading scorer in NHL history, Messier’s #11 was raised to the Garden rafters in 2006.
Honorable mentions: Vic Hadfield, Walter "Babe" Pratt
#12 – Bryan Hextall Sr. (Right Wing, 1937-44; 1945-48)
Many Rangers fans don’t realize this, but Bryan Hextall scored one of the most memorable goals in franchise history. In Game Six of the 1940 Stanley Cup Finals, it was Hextall who scored the Cup-clinching goal 2:07 into the first overtime session. But Hextall’s legacy was hardly defined by one goal. The Hall of Famer played all 11 of his NHL seasons with the Blueshirts, and was selected for the NHL’s First All-Star Team three times. Hextall is only one of two Rangers to lead the NHL in scoring in a season, which he did in 1941-42 by totaling 24 goals, 32 assists, and 56 points in just 48 games.
Honorable mentions: Don Maloney, Andy Hebenton
#13 – Sergei Nemchinov (Center, 1991-97)
One of the many unsung heroes of the 1994 Stanley Cup Champions, Sergei Nemchinov was the perfect role player. Although he never duplicated the goal-scoring prowess of his rookie season as a Blueshirt, "Sarge" was a valuable presence on the Rangers’ second and third line in his six seasons in New York. Nemchinov scored at least 20 goals in each of his first three seasons as a Ranger, and along with Alexander Karpovtsev, Alexei Kovalev, and Sergei Zubov, became the first Russian to win the Stanley Cup.
Honorable mentions: Bob Brooke, Valeri Kamensky
#14 – Don Murdoch (Right Wing, 1976-1980)
While he only played parts of four seasons with the Rangers, Don Murdoch is one of the Rangers most remembered from the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979. The sixth overall pick in the 1976 Draft, Murdoch showed promise in his rookie season, as he scored 32 goals in 59 games and finished second in the voting for Calder Trophy. Murdoch’s best moment as a Blueshirt game in the 1978 playoffs, when he scored the overtime-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres in Game Two at Madison Square Garden.
Honorable mentions: Mike Allison, Theoren Fleury
#15 – Jim Neilson (Defenseman, 1962-74)
"The Chief" was one of the most underrated Rangers in team history. Neilson didn’t have the offensive prowess of his contemporary Brad Park, or his successor Ron Greschner, but few were better in their own zone. That’s not to say the two-time all-star couldn’t score; his finest offensive season came in 1968-69, when he set career-highs with 10 goals, 34 assists, and 44 points. Neilson is eighth on the Rangers’ all-time list for games played with 810, and is fifth on the team’s all-time plus-minus list with a career plus-145.
Honorable mentions: Anders Hedberg, Ab DeMarco Sr.
#16 – Rod Seiling (Defenseman, 1964-1974)
Although trading Andy Bathgate to the Toronto Maple Leafs was a dark day in franchise history, acquiring Rod Seiling as part of the package made the trade more bearable. Like Neilson, Seiling wasn’t a offensive threat from the blueline, but his play in his own end made the Rangers one of the league’s best teams defensively. "Sod" played parts of 12 years with the Blueshirts, and was selected to represent the Rangers in the 1972 All-Star Game.
Honorable mentions: Pat Hickey, Mark Pavelich
#17 – Dean Prentice (Left Wing, 1952-1963)
In a period when the Rangers struggled, Dean Prentice was one of the Blueshirts’ most formidable offensive threats. Prentice played parts of 11 seasons with the Rangers, and was selected as an all-star three times. Ironically, his best year as a Ranger didn’t come in one of his three all-star seasons. In 1959-60, set career highs with 32 goals and 66 points, and was chosen as the Rangers’ team MVP. After leaving the Rangers, Prentice played for another 11 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Minnesota North Stars.
Honorable mentions: Eddie Johnstone, Brandon Dubinsky
#18 – Walt Tkaczuk (Center, 1968-81)
A career Ranger, Walt Tkaczuk helped the Rangers improve from a solid team to a Stanley Cup contender. Signed by the Blueshirts as a 16-year-old, Tkaczuk came into his own in his second full season, 1969-70, when he led the Rangers in assists and points. Tkaczuk was the center on the "Bulldog Line", with Dave Balon on the left wing (later replaced by Steve Vickers) and Bill Fairbairn on the right side. Tkaczuk scored at least 20 goals and recorded at least 60 points for five straight seasons, but was forced to retire due to an eye injury in 1981 at age 33. Despite being forced into early retirement, the Blueshirts’ 18th captain is fifth on the team’s all-time games played list with 945.
Honorable mentions: Tony Granato, Marc Staal
#19 – Jean Ratelle (Center, 1960-75)
If there is one number still in circulation that deserves to be retired, it is number 19 for Jean Ratelle. With boyhood friend Rod Gilbert on his right wing, and Vic Hadfield on his left side, Ratelle centered the "G-A-G Line", the most successful offensive trio in Blueshirts history. Ratelle was selected to the All-Star Game four times as a Ranger, but his best season undoubtedly was in 1971-72. That year, Jean recorded 109 points in just 63 games, which was a Rangers’ single-season record until Jaromir Jagr recorded 123 points in 2005-06. The Hall of Famer played in parts of 16 seasons for the Rangers, and is near the top of many categories in team history, including games played (6th), goals (2nd), assists (3rd), and points (3rd).
Honorable mentions: Brian Mullen, Mark Osborne
#20 – Phil Goyette (Center, 1963-69; 1971-72)
After winning the Stanley Cup in each of his first four seasons of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, Phil Goyette joined the Rangers as a 30-year-old in 1963. Goyette’s impact on the young Rangers squad was immediate, as he led the team in points in 1963-64 with 65 in 67 games. Although Goyette wasn’t a prolific goal scorer, he was a fantastic playmaker. In three of his six full seasons in New York, Goyette reached the 60-point plateau, and never recorded fewer than 30 assists in any year.
Honorable mentions: Jan Erixon, Luc Robitaille