15 Best Pure Skaters in the NHL Today
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Explosive skating speed is always going to get a prospect noticed as he prepares for a career in the NHL.
That speed often equals potential in the eyes of the scouts. When combined with excellent puck handling skills, a great shot or passing ability, that speed can be the difference between a good and great player.
However, while speed will get a player noticed and often lead to opportunities, it doesn't mean that greatness will follow. Players need to develop all of their skills for the speed factor to become a difference-maker.
Here's a look at 15 of the best pure skaters in the NHL.
Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers
Here he is, and there he goes. Carl Hagelin is a certified speedster who came away as the winner in the 2012 skills competition at the NHL All-Star game last year.
While that’s not the be-all and end-all, Hagelin regularly puts his explosive speed to great use as he beats the defense up the ice to cause problems. He scored 14 goals and 24 assists as a rookie last season, and those numbers should go up as he gets more experience and more comfortable in the league.
Colin Greening, Ottawa Senators
While he may have been edged by Hagelin in the fastest skater competition at the NHL All-Star game, Colin Greening appears to be a player on the rise for the Senators.
He skates decisively and moves into the open areas ahead of the defense—and that creates scoring opportunities. After playing 24 games in 2010-11, Greening played all 82 games last year and scored 17 goals with 20 assists.
Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
Another player who got certified at the fastest skater competition, Michael Grabner has explosive speed that he showed off during the 2011 All-Star weekend.
Grabner combines power and quickness to break away from the defense. Despite his speed, Grabner slumped in 2011-12, going from 34 goals the year before to 20 goals. He needs to improve his defensive work, as he was minus-18 last season.
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
However, it would be wrong to say that the Maple Leafs got hammered in that deal, because Kessel has consistently been a productive player, scoring 37 goals last year and 30 or more goals each of the last four seasons.
Kessel has a lot of weapons, including his eye-catching speed that he uses to swoop past the defense to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself.
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson had a brilliant 2011-12 season on the Ottawa blue line last year. He was a big reason why the Senators were able to go from being one of the most sad-sack franchises in the league to a playoff team.
Karlsson won the Norris Trophy, beating out Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. Karlsson scored 19 goals and 59 assists last year, and he uses his speed to move into the open spaces. He is not shy about getting off his shot. He fired 261 shots on net last season.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
We’ll admit that Martin St. Louis, 37, has lost a step from his peak seasons. However, he still belongs on this list because he combines his quickness with the ability to skate past defenders with speed and power.
St. Louis has a first step like few other skaters in the league. And what has made him such an outstanding player is that he knows what to do with the puck when he gets in the open. He scored 25 goals and 49 assists last year for the Lightning and is still a valuable contributor.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have built a solid core, and it’s hard to believe that the team won’t soon jell and become a factor in the Western Conference this season.
Taylor Hall should be one of the team’s best players, as he should feel much more comfortable in his third season in the league.
Hall has flashed his talent—49 goals in 126 games—and put his speed on display in his first two seasons. If he can stay away from injuries and assert himself early, he has a chance to become one of the most explosive players in the league.
Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins
Selected by the Boston Bruins one spot after the Oilers selected Hall in 2010, Tyler Seguin has become one of the fastest skaters in the league.
He came along slowly in his rookie season in 2010-11, but announced his presence with a magical performance in a playoff game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He scored 29 goals and 38 assists last year to lead the Bruins.
He is a clever shooter who uses his eye-catching speed to break into an opening to create scoring opportunities.
Daniel Paille, Boston Bruins
Daniel Paille is a role player for the Bruins who will skate on the third and fourth lines for head coach Claude Julien.
A decade ago, Paille was the 20th pick in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres because of his brilliant speed. While he still is one of the fastest skaters in the league, Paille has not lived up to the potential.
When the puck is on his stick, he often reacts as if it is a hand grenade. His passes almost always miss their mark, and when he uses his speed to create breakaway opportunities, he rarely handles the puck cleanly.
Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers
Head coach John Tortorella may not always be happy with Marian Gaborik’s consistency, but he knows that when he is sharp and focused, Gaborik is one of the most dangerous players in the league.
Gaborik is a brilliant skater with speed and balance. When he gets into open ice with the puck on his stick, he simply cannot get caught from behind unless an opponent uses his stick to hook him. Gaborik scored 41 goals last year and has exceeded the 40-goal mark three times in his career.
While he will miss the early part of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, he will play a key role for the Rangers again this season.
Viktor Stalberg, Chicago Blackhawks
If Viktor Stalberg could ever put it all together and earn a spot in the All-Star game, he might be the odds-on favorite to win the league’s fastest skater competition because of his incredible speed.
Stalberg had his best season last year with 22 goals and 21 assists. But he has not been able to harness his talent on a consistent basis. Throughout the first three years of his career, Stalberg has had more missed opportunities than anything else, but he can fly up and down the ice.
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau has been a mainstay with the Sharks since the 1997-98 season. He’s got a great shot and the ability to put the puck in the net, but the most noticeable thing about his game is his speed as he barrels down the ice.
Once Marleau has a step, he is not going to get caught.
He scored 30 goals last year and has scored 30 or more in six of the last seven seasons.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog was the No. 2 pick of the 2011 draft, and he paid immediate dividends for the Colorado Avalanche. He scored 22 goals and 30 assists and won the league’s Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year.
Landeskog has nearly a complete and well-rounded game even though he has not reached his 20th birthday. He has excellent speed, but he plays so hard on defense that it is not always on display. However, when he needs a burst, he can break into the open and make a play.
Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers
Brian Campbell is not the most physically or defensively dominant defenseman, but he is one of the best skaters in the game.
When he has a chance to accelerate and get himself involved in the play, Campbell has the kind of quickness that will give him an excellent chance to score. He had 53 points for the Panthers last year, and his offensive productivity was a key to their rise to the Southeast Division championship.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens struggled badly last year and finished in dead last in the Eastern Conference. As such, many of their players were overlooked. However, Tomas Plekanec is a solid all-around player who can do it at both ends of the ice.
Plekanec has underrated speed and can break away from the defense and make a play. After scoring 20 or more goals for five straight seasons, Plekanec scored 17 last year.
While he does not always get the recognition for his all-around play or speed, he is clearly one of the most effective and fastest players in the league.