Islanders: Best Player To Wear Number 16
By Matt O'Leary
Continuing our best of series, today we will look at the best player to wear number 15 for the New York Islanders in their history.
23 players have worn the number 16 for the New York Islanders, and none better than Andrew Ladd. In all seriousness, the Isles have had some elite players wear this number so it was difficult to come up with a winner today.
The first one to ever wear it was Ralph Stewart who played with the team from 1973-1976. Some other notables to wear it were Steve Tambellini, Ziggy Palffy, Mike York, Marty Reasoner, Steve Bernier, and obviously Andrew Ladd.
Of this group, the obvious answer for honorable mention is Ziggy Palffy. Palfy was a second-round selection by the Islanders in 1991 and he made his NHL debut two-year later. During his first 38 games in the league, he wore number 68 before switching to 16 for the 95 season. That’s when he took off.
He put up 87 points (43 goals, 44 assists) in 81 games that year. His best year came in 1997 when he had 90 points and 48 goals to go along with it. For three straight years, he had 87 or more points and 40 or more goals, truly impressive stuff.
In his final year with the Islanders, 1999 he played just 50 games but he had 50 points to go along with it. He finished his Islanders career with 331 games played and exactly 331 points scored before he was traded to the Kings.
That brings us to our winner today, Pat LaFontaine. The New York Islanders drafted Pat LaFontaine third overall in 1983, and if you’re wondering how they got the third overall pick after winning the Stanley Cup, well they traded Dave Cameron and Bob Lorimer to the Colorado Rockies in 1981 that yielded them a first-rounder two years later.
LaFontaine played in 15 games in his rookie with 19 points. The Isles went to the Stanley Cup before bowing out to the Oilers in five games. LaFontaine became a regular in the lineup after that and remained with the team through the 1991 season.
His best year with the Islanders came in 1989-1990 when he had 105 points and 54 goals which was good enough for fifth in Hart Voting. In 530 career games with the Isles, LaFontaine had 566 points (287 goals, 279 assists).
LaFontaine went on to finish his career with 1013 points in 865 games over 15-year career. Injuries cut his career short, but there’s no denying how important he was to this team and the league.
LaFontaine served as a special advisor to the owner but left on the day Neil Smith was fired, six weeks after he took the job. He has since been around the team but with the trade and Neil Smith situation, things weren’t always great between the Islanders and LaFontaine.