Ranking the 10 Hardest Slap Shots in NHL History

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistDecember 1, 2016

Ranking the 10 Hardest Slap Shots in NHL History

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    Zdeno Chara makes grown men get out of the way of his legendary slapper
    Zdeno Chara makes grown men get out of the way of his legendary slapperPhillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    Goalies are so good in the NHL today that rare is the occasion when they are ever beaten cleanly on an unobstructed slap shot.

    Gone, mostly, are the days when wingers would come down the wall, wind up with a big slap shot and see it go in. If that happens today, a goalie is more likely to be chastised for letting in a "bad goal" rather than the shooter getting much credit for a great shot.

    The advent of lighter graphite sticks has also contributed to the decrease of the slap shot. A hard wrist shot from a graphite stick can have as much or more speed than slap shots of old from the all-wooden sticks of yesteryear.

    But the slap shot is still a widely used tool in the game. While forwards don't attempt them much off the rush anymore, they do on one-timers on the power play. Getting "pucks through" on the power play still is most effectively accomplished with the slap shot, as it's often the only time in a game the shooter has any real time and space with the puck.

    The following slideshow lists my picks as the 10 best slap shot artists in NHL history. For inclusion on the list, it took more than just pure speed from a shot. How accurate are they? How intimidating are they to potential shot-blockers? How much do coaches use them as tangible additions to their game plan?

    A few longtime hockey people were consulted as part of this list, including Scotty Bowman, who started coaching in 1967.

    Without further ado, here is the list. Any disagreements? Let me hear it.

10. Jarome Iginla

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    At 39 and on another mediocre Colorado Avalanche team, Jarome Iginla's career is fading fast. But even now, he still makes defenders and goalies flinch when he rears back to fire one of his one-timers from the left side on the power play or coming down the wall off the rush.

    Although he entered Wednesday with only three goals in his first 21 games with Colorado, he could still have value to a potential contender by the trade deadline. His deadly one-timers on the power play are why. People forget that he averaged 25.5 goals per year the last two seasons, the most of anyone on the Avs. Plenty of those goals came off big slap shots.

    Iginla is a big, powerful guy, so having a big slap shot shouldn't be a surprise. But his mechanics set him apart from other big, powerful guys. He gets his shooting hand low to the ice and gets a huge amount of torque with his follow-through. With 614 career goals, many from his overwhelming right-handed slap shot, Iginla deserves inclusion in the top 10.

9. Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion

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    Associated Press

    While it remains a subject in dispute to this day, Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion is generally credited as the father of the slap shot. In early days of hockey, before the 1950s, slap shots were just not very common. Nobody seems to know exactly why not, but the fact that goalies did not wear masks probably bought them some sympathy from shooters in those days.

    Geoffrion played in the era when most goalies did not wear masks, but he had no sympathy. He made the slap shot a staple of his game, especially on the Montreal Canadiens' power play. Geoffrion became one of the first forwards to play one of the two points on the power play, usually alongside defenseman Doug Harvey.

    He scored so many goals from slappers on the power play that the NHL altered the game partially because of it. In 1956, the league mandated that a two-minute power play would end should a goal be scored. Prior to that, teams could score as many goals as they wanted in the two minutes, and the powerful Habs teams of that era often scored two, three or four, with Geoffrion's slappers doing much of the damage.

    The speed of Geoffrion's slappers were never officially recorded, but any time a player helps change the rules, he deserves mention on a list like this. And plus, the guy's nickname was Boom Boom.

8. Ray Bourque

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    ERIC GAY/Associated Press

    All you need to know about how good Ray Bourque's slapper was is to play the YouTube video of the last slap shot goal of his career (it's at the 10:30 mark). In a 1-1 game, in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against New Jersey, Bourque took a puck at the point off a faceoff, walked in from the blue line a few feet to his left and blasted a heat-seeking missile that kept rising all the way until hitting the back of the net behind Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

    That game-winning goal gave the Avalanche a 2-1 series lead, and we all know how the series finished, with Bourque raising his first Stanley Cup in the last game of his 22-year career.

    Mind you, Bourque was a 40-year-old man when he took that shot. But right to the very end, his slap shot was one of the best offensive weapons in the game.

    Bourque always got plenty of speed on his shot, but what really set him apart was his tremendous accuracy. For instance, Bourque would often blast slap shots from deep in his own end at the other net. He was not trying to score but help give his team a chance to make a line change from a shorter distance to the bench. Most coaches wouldn't want their players taking any shot from beyond the red line, for fear of incurring an icing violation.

    But Bourque was just uncanny in his ability to get the puck on goal from great distances, so none of his coaches minded.

7. Brett Hull

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    BILL JANSCHA/Associated Press

    Not only did Brett Hull have a cannon, but he had bull's-eye accuracy.

    Hull arguably had the most accurate shot in league history. He had a 15.2 shooting percentage in his long NHL career, finishing with 741 goals. While his wrist shot from the slot was deadly, he had a fearsome slapper that found the slimmest of openings.

    He didn't fire a lot of long slappers—mostly just one-timers from the slot area. And, man, did they find the net quick.

    Here is a YouTube clip of what we're talking about.

6. Alex Ovechkin

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Washington Capitals' perennial All-Star has never won the NHL's hardest slap shot competition, though he did finish second to Shea Weber at the 2015 All-Star festivities in Columbus, Ohio.

    Ovechkin has occasionally surpassed the 100 mph mark, which puts him in elite company. But, as has been described previously on this list, Ovechkin warrants inclusion because of his tremendous accuracy. He is so well-known for it that they made a commercial about it.

    He has scored on countless one-timers from the left circle on the power play, along with many coming down the right side. He is one of the few NHL players who still finds the back of the net occasionally on big windup slappers down the wall.

    Ovechkin gets such great torque on his shots. His slappers start low to the ice and just keep rising. He's an expert at putting pucks past a goalie's glove hand, where there is more room to shoot at. Here is a montage of some of Ovechkin's best slappers.

5. Al Iafrate

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    B Bennett/Getty Images

    He was known as The Wild Thing, mostly for his eccentric ways, but also because of his otherworldly slap shot.

    At 6'3", 240 pounds, Iafrate had a lot of muscle to throw into his booming lefty slappers. At the 1993 All-Star Skills Competition in Montreal, Iafrate set a new record with a 105.2 mph slapper, a mark that stood for 16 years until Zdeno Chara broke it with a 105.4 mph slapper.

    Iafrate had so much faith in his slap shot that he would go with it on the occasional breakaway. Why waste time with complicated deke moves when you can just blast one before things go that far? As this YouTube video attests, it was the right choice for Iafrate.

4. Bobby Hull

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Like Bernie Geoffrion before him, the NHL had to change the game because of Bobby Hull.

    It's too bad none of his slap shots were ever officially measured, but legend has it he once uncorked a shot that exceeded 118 mph, per NHL.com's John Kreiser. Keep in mind: Hull played exclusively with wooden sticks in his career.

    But the reason the NHL had to change the rules because of Hull? Starting in 1965, when he and Chicago Blackhawks teammate Stan Mikita started experimenting with larger curvatures of their stick blades, Hull had such a "banana shape" to his that goalies felt it gave him an unfair advantage after pucks left his stick.

    Pucks would exit Hull's blade with more force after barreling around the blade, and his slap shot already had been hard enough with a flatter blade. By the late '60s, the NHL would limit the curvature of a blade to one-half to three-quarters of an inch. In 1970, it was limited to no greater than one-half an inch.

    Hull was the undisputed slap shot king of his era. His brother, Dennis, had a big slapper, too. And as we've already seen, his son wasn't bad at it either.

3. Shea Weber

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    He currently holds the record for the second-hardest slap shot ever recorded in history. At the 2015 All-Star festivities in Columbus, former Predator Shea Weber won the competition with a blast of 108.5 mph. He won the competition again in 2016 with a best of 108.1. The all-time record belongs to Zdeno Chara, at 108.8.

    He has shown this season that he still possesses a cannon, having scored on several big slappers for the Montreal Canadiens.

    Weber truly induces worry of physical safety from NHL opponents. Weber's slapper has so much force that a shot of his once went through the net, at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

    How many guys can say they actually smoked a shot through the netting?

2. Zdeno Chara

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Big Zed is a five-time winner of the NHL's hardest shot competition, and his blast of 108.8 mph, accomplished in 2012 at the All-Star Skills Competition in Ottawa, remains the all-time record.

    There isn't a lot of mystery as to how Chara can get such force on his shot. At 6'9", 256 pounds, Chara is just a beast of a man. He's not just tall and gangly; his arms are massive, and he trains at a high level.

    He doesn't possess the goal-scoring presence of his younger days. He's got just one goal in 19 games for Boston so far this season, and he hasn't surpassed 10 goals in a season since 2013-14. But he still commands a lot of respect with his slapper from the point. It creates extra time and space for himself, as nobody relishes getting in front of one of his shots when he tees it up.

1. Al MacInnis

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The stories of the fear Al MacInnis put into those who got in the way of one of his slap shots are legion, and not just from opponents.

    Teammates of the former Flames and Blues star appreciated that MacInnis would, you know, lighten up a little at practice, per Joe Sexton of the New York Times. He cracked more than a few bones with his howitzer of a shot, and even broke a couple of goalie masks.

    He holds the record for the most victories (seven) of the NHL's hardest shot competition. Yet MacInnis' fastest shot in any of them was just 100.4 mph, not very close to today's record. There is a big "but" here, though: MacInnis used a wooden stick throughout his career. He could have achieved faster numbers with a composite graphite stick, but he believed his accuracy suffered after trying them.

    MacInnis' shot was so hard that he once delayed the start of a Blues game after putting a puck through the boards behind the net in warm-ups.

    MacInnis had a huge windup to his slappers, but his half- to three-quarters rotation still produced frighteningly powerful shots. Ask players who played against MacInnis, and the words "flamingo legs" come up a lot.

    Guys would try to get a lot skinnier when MacInnis reared back to fire that puck.