NHL Best Skaters of All-Time – 2021 Edition

Skating… it is probably the most important skill in the game of ice hockey.  The ability to skate well can put a player in a position to step up and make a brilliant offensive play or can give a player the ability to not only be in better defensively, but can cause turnovers and transition the play from one end to the other. 

The NHL has seen some great players over the years, but it has always been a challenge to rate the best skaters in the game.  How do you rate a Howie Morenz who used old leather skates with limited ankle support with a Mathew Barzal who used the CCM Super Tacks AS3 Pro high-end skates?  Technology has made good skaters great.  Skating coaches have made great skaters elite skaters.  The times have changed when it comes to a player being able to develop their skating ability, but there is something to be said for players with natural, God-given skating prowess.

Back in the day, growing up in Canada, like many kids I skated on ponds and outdoor rinks and in arenas all over western Canada.  I loved to skate, I loved the sound of the blades as they carved the ice.  It was only in my teen years where I realized that a good skate could actually make a difference in how you skated.  As a kid I always had a cheap pair of Bauer skates (usually Bauer Supreme) and you couldn’t really tell the difference between skates other than if they had sufficient ankle support.  (In my case they often did not).  It was amazing to me that one time in bantam, I tried a teammates CCM tacks that were more properly sized that I seemed to have a second gear when I skated up and down the ice.  I couldn’t believe the improvement in my speed.  Nowadays the technology in skates in years ahead of what we had as kids.

In today’s NHL the players have multiple pairs of skates.  Many use Bauer Supreme 2S Pro or Bauer Vapour 2X Pro, while other use CCM Tacks or TRUE Custom Pro, the technology of the skate has evolved greatly over the past couple of decades.  Today’s NHL skaters have quite an advantage over the players from 100 years ago.

In our rankings below, we attempted to take in consideration of the technology of the skates that players have today.  We used the following five criteria to determine our list of the NHL’s best skaters of all-time:

  1. Mobility – the ability to move on the ice, forward, backward, lateral movement.
  2. Acceleration – factoring in start and stops and the ability to gather speed quickly.
  3. Ability to stink handle – puck movement and ability to stick handle at high speeds.
  4. Overall foot speed – how quick the player moves their feet, factoring the stride of the skater.
  5. Top End Speed – quickness and overall ability to skate at high speeds and generate separation.

We used our own NSI (Nimetz Skating Index) score to grade the players.  We have rated the players out of ten for each metric.  Top score a player could obtain was 50.

NHL’s All-Time Greatest Skaters

Here is a look at the best skaters the NHL has seen over the years.

  1. Connor McDavid

    Edmonton Oilers.  We begin will the most electric skater the NHL has ever seen.  Connor McDavid does things with the puck at high speeds that no one has ever done before.  His edgework is great and his ability to start and stop is unmatched.  He has reached 42 km/hr with his top end speed in live game action.  He possesses it all when it comes to skating.
Metric Rating
Mobility 10
Acceleration 9.8
Ability to Stick Handle 9.7
Foot Speed 9.7
High End Speed 9.8

Total Score: 49/50

  1. Bobby Orr

    – Boston Bruins/Chicago Blackhawks The great number four Bobby Orr was able to control the game with his skating ability. While many of the younger generation will not have seen Orr skate, there are some classic YouTube clips of Bobby Orr dominating entire shifts with his natural skating ability.
Metric Rating
Mobility 8.8
Acceleration 9.6
Ability to Stick Handle 9.7
Foot Speed 9.4
High End Speed 9

Total Score: 46.5/50

Paul Coffey

Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Boston Bruins.

One of the most beautiful strides ever to grace the ice of the National Hockey League.  Paul Coffey was as smooth as skater as there ever was.  He played defence with the ability to move the puck out of his own end and join the rush like no one else.  He’s the only NHL defenseman to challenge the 50 goal in a season plateau having scored 48 in 1985-86.

Metric Rating
Mobility 9
Acceleration 9.1
Ability to Stick Handle 9
Foot Speed 9.2
High End Speed 9.2

Total Score: 45.5/50

Pavel Bure

Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers

The Russian Rocket was aptly named due to his explosive skating and overall skating speed.  This guy brought energy to the game like fans haven’t see before.  Like Bobby Orr, chronic knee injuries would plague the rocket forcing him to retire in 2005.

Metric Rating
Mobility 8
Acceleration 9.5
Ability to Stick Handle 8.5
Foot Speed 9.4
High End Speed 10

Total Score: 45.4/50

Yvon Cournoyer

Montreal Canadiens

When you earn a nickname like “Roadrunner” you most have some quickness to your game.  A right-winger with a left-hand shot, Cournoyer’s skating ability was a result of his muscular legs that he developed as a youngster and teenager.  By the time he entered the NHL, he had to have his pants specially tailored due to the muscularity of his legs.  His smooth and fast skating up the wings for the Montreal Canadiens saw him win ten Stanley Cups.  He played his entire career with the Canadiens and is fourth in all-time goals and sixth in points scored for the Habs.

Metric Rating
Mobility 8.5
Acceleration 8.8
Ability to Stick Handle 8.5
Foot Speed 9
High End Speed 9.2

Total Score: 44/50

Rounding out the top 10 best NHL skaters of all-time:

  1. Guy LaFleur – Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Quebec Nordiques
  2. Mike Gartner – Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes
  3. Gilbert Perreault – Centre – Buffalo Sabres
  4. Scott Niedermayer – Defense – New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks
  5. Andrew Cogliano – Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars

NHL All-Time Best Skaters 11-20

    1. Howie Morenz – Centre – Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers
    2. Bobby Hull – Left Wing – Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers
    3. Peter Bondra – Right Wing – Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Chicago Blackhawks
    4. Maurice Richard – Left Wing – Montreal Canadiens
    5. Sergei Fedorov – Centre – Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals
    6. Erik Karlsson – Defense – Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks
    7. Teemu Selanne – Right Wing – Winnipeg Jets, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche
    8. Dean McAmmond – Centre/Left-Wing – Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils
    9. Mike Modano – Centre – Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings
    10. Jari Kurri – Right Wing – Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche

    Top 10 Best Skaters in the NHL (2021)

    Rk Player Team Position Type of Skate Used
    1 Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Centre CCM JetSpeed
    2 Mathew Barzal New York Islanders Centre CCM Super Tacks AS3 Pro
    3 Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings Centre Bauer Vapour 2X Pro
    4 Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche Centre CCM Ribcor 70K
    5 Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks Defense CCM Ribcor 70K
    6 Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche Defense Bauer Supreme 2S Pro
    7 Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks Right Wing Bauer Vapour 2X Pro
    8 Travis Konecny Philadelphia Flyers Centre Bauer Supreme 2S Pro
    9 Miro Heiskanen Dallas Stars Defense CCM Jetspeed FT2
    10 Josh Anderson Montreal Canadiens Right Wing Bauer Vapour 2X Pro