It was 33 years ago today that New York Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin set a then-unprecedented level of production for his position; 1,000 points.
At the start of the 1986-87 season, New York Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin was already the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history. He achieved that on December 20th, 1985 thanks to a wicked slap shot from Mike Bossy that beat New York Rangers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. Potvin got the assist on Bossy’s goal to pass Bobby Orr with 916 career points.
But entering the 1986-87 season, Potvin, then 33 years old, could hit a new height for defensemen. He could hit 1,000 points. By the start of the 1986-87 season, 20 forwards in NHL history had hit 1,000 or more points, but not a single defenseman had yet to achieve it.
Potvin only needed 41 points to hit 1,000 career points. Potvin had never scored fewer than 41 points in a season and even then, that 41 point “season” was in 1979-80 when he missed 49 games due to injury.
Heading into the Islanders 79th game of the 1986-87 season against the Buffalo Sabres Potvin sat at 998 points. He needed just two points to hit 1,000.
Two minutes into the third period, with the Islanders down 4-2, Potvin scored his eleventh goal of the season on the power play with assists courtesy of Pat LaFontaine and Bryan Trottier. That was career point 999. He just needed one more to hit 1,000.
The Isles fought back to level things at 5-5 before former Islanders forward Clark Gillies made it 6-5 for Buffalo at 18:35 of the third period. And then, 17 seconds before the end of regulation, Denis Potvin would net his 12th goal of the season with assists from Mikko Makela and Bryan Trottier. With that goal, Denis Potvin would be the first defenseman to hit 1,000 points in the NHL.
He’d get one more point on the final game of the 86-87 season; a secondary assist on a Richard Kromm goal in a 9-5 win over Philadelphia. With 1,001 career points at the end of 86-87, Potvin ranked 21st all-time in NHL scoring and was the pinnacle for defensemen by 86 points.
Since Potvin hit1,000 in 1987, six other defensemen have been able to join the prestigious club: Ray Bourque (1,579), Paul Coffey (1,531), Al MacInnis (1,274), Phil Housley (1,232), Larry Murphy (1,217), Nicklas Lidstrom (1,142), and Brian Leetch (1,028).
But the first to do it was New York Islanders captain Denis Potvin.