NHL99: A project ranking the greatest players in modern NHL history

Who is the greatest NHL player of all time?

Easy, right? Wayne Gretzky.

Who else but the player who, over the course of a 20-year NHL career, scored the most goals, assists and points in league history? At the time Gretzky retired, he held 61 NHL records and most still stand today.

Gretzky’s place atop the charts hardly seems debatable, so we’re not going to debate it. Instead, it’s the other 99 spots that follow No. 99 we need to sort out.

Welcome to NHL99, a project that aims to put a fresh spin on a familiar idea: Who are the top 100 players in post-1967 expansion NHL history? Let’s face it, there’ve been multiple previous attempts to name the best players of all time, so that’s our starting point and the primary tweak.

We didn’t want to go over the same old ground again. Instead, we wanted to try something new, and the post-1967 NHL seemed like a good starting point. Why? Because that’s when the game, and the business of hockey, fundamentally changed. Instead of six teams, there were suddenly 12. Instead of a league dominated almost exclusively by Canadians, a trickle and eventually a flood of players arrived from every corner of the world.

Today begins the countdown. We’re calling it NHL99 because there are 99 spots up for debate on our Top 100 list and the number 99 resonates for hockey fans everywhere.

So, spoiler alert, Wayne Gretzky is No. 1 on our list. One could argue Gretzky actually belongs in the Hall of Fame in two categories – as a player and as a builder. Arguably, no single individual did more to grow the NHL game, on and off the ice, than Gretzky.

But it gets interesting, and controversial, after Gretzky. Nine writers from The Athletic were given votes in this project: Eric Duhatschek, Dom Luszczyszyn, Shayna Goldman, Ian Mendes, Scott Wheeler, Sean Gentille, Michael Russo, Sean McIndoe and James Mirtle.


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