Main menu


NHL99: A project to rank the greatest players in modern NHL history

Who are the greatest NHL players of all time?

It’s easy? Wayne Gretzky.

Who but the most goals, assists and points in league history over a 20-year NHL career? Gretzky held the NHL record of 61 when he retired. Most of them are still preserved.

I’m not going to argue Gretzky’s top of the charts as it seems almost incontrovertible. Instead, what needs to be sorted out are his other 99 spots following number 99.

Welcome to NHL99. A project that aims to put a new twist on a familiar idea. Who are the top 100 players in expanded NHL history since 1967? A starting point and a major adjustment.

We didn’t want to go to the same old ground again. Instead, I wanted to try something new, and the post-1967 NHL seemed like a good starting point. why? Because that’s when the game and business of hockey changed radically. Instead of 6 teams, we suddenly have 12 teams. Instead of a league dominated almost exclusively by Canadians, players from all corners of the world arrived in a trickle and eventual flood.

Countdown starts today. We call it NHL99 because it has 99 spots on the top 100 list, and the number 99 resonates with his hockey fans around the world.

So, spoiler alert, Wayne Gretzky is number one on our list. Arguably, no one has grown his NHL game on and off the ice quite like Gretzky.

But after Gretzky it is interesting and controversial.9 authors from athletic Voted for this project were Eric Duhatschek, Dom Luszczyszyn, Shayna Goldman, Ian Mendes, Scott Wheeler, Sean Gentille, Michael Russo, Sean McIndoe, and James Mirtle. Voters each submitted a list of his 100 players for his Spring 2022 season before the playoffs began, and were awarded points based on their standings. 100 points for his 1st place on the list, 1 point for 100th place, etc. Gretzky scored his 900 points perfect. At the end of the project, we will announce everyone’s votes and total points. If this sounds familiar, athletic We have similar projects in the NBA, NFL and MLB.

Now that the top 100 list is set, the countdown begins. But this is more than just a countdown.From now through February, he’ll be announcing one player a day, six days a week, and hopefully fills you with stories, angles, and anecdotes about these players you’ve never read before. Over 40 authors from athletic newsroom contributed to this project.

A few important notes about this process here, I’ll begin by acknowledging that lists discussing the best of all time are subjective and may include recency bias. but strictly focused on the NHL from 1967 to the present.

We can’t find Gordie Howe on our list, so that has to be made very clear. Is it blasphemy to have a list of the greatest players of all time without Mr. Hockey? Maybe, but Howe played only 369 NHL games from 1967-68 and spent six seasons with the WHA. Also, you won’t find Bobby Hull, Maurice Richard, or Howie Morenz.

Some of our most difficult and complex choices involved players across both ends of the spectrum. Some slipped through the cracks as the greatest impact occurred before 1967. I did.

Our benchmark was 400 games at the end of the 2021-22 regular season. This is the game count criteria for NHL pension eligibility. So Ouston Matthews (407 career games) just barely made it. Cale Makar did not. He has only played 173 NHL regular season games. It’s hard for him to draw the line, but he has to draw the line somewhere.

Our overall goal was simple. Telling 100 compelling stories about 100 influential NHL players and ultimately creating conversations about who was on the list and overlooked.

However, there is one caveat. If you want to add a favorite player or dispute one of his selected players, you should also remove someone from the list.

What you’ll eventually discover may be easier said than done as the list counts down.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett, Gregory Shamus, Mike Powell, Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)