The Best NHL Players of All Time

Over 25.3K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best NHL Players of All Time
Voting Rules
NHL players only.

The best NHL players of all time are undoubtably the most talented and most decorated hockey players ever to take the ice in the National Hockey League. These NHL greats hold countless spots in the NHL record books, a fan favorites and if they haven't already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, they surely will be when they are eligible. Plain and simple, these are hockey gods.

Easily earning the title as "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky is arguably among the very elite hockey players ever. Holding NHL records for everything from lifetime goals to the most goals in a season to the most career assists, points and even short-handed goals, there was little Gretzky didn't dominate during his 20 seasons in the National Hockey League.

While Gretzky is "The Great One," he's far from the only great one. Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, is right up there with Gretzky with an impressive hockey career that lasted until he was 52 years of age. Along with other NHL legends like Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Mark Messier and Maurice Richard, these hockey greats dominated the league during their time.

Many will follow in the footsteps, or skate strides, of these all-time best NHL players but few will ever reach the level of greatness that these talented men have. Who is your all-time favorite NHL star? How would you rank these top NHL players of all time? Tell us by voting for your favorites below, adding any that are missed or even re-ranking this list of the best NHL players of all time below. Looking for more detailed rankings by position? Check out the best NHL defensemen of all time and the best hockey goaltenders of all time rankings too!

Most divisive: Peter Šťastný
Ranked by
  • Wayne Gretzky
    11,344 votes

    Undeniably one of the most iconic figures in NHL history, Wayne Gretzky earned the nickname "The Great One" due to his unparalleled skill, vision, and hockey sense. His ability to read the game, anticipate plays, and execute them with precision made him a generational talent that changed the way hockey is played and inspired countless players who followed in his footsteps. Despite official retirement, Gretzky's legacy endures as he remains the gold standard for greatness in the sport, and his impact on the game will be felt for generations to come.

  • Mario Lemieux
    9,978 votes

    Few players have possessed the combination of size, skill, and finesse that defined Mario Lemieux's illustrious career. Standing at 6'4", Lemieux had the uncanny ability to weave through defenders with ease, using his long reach and silky hands to leave opponents in the dust. It's no wonder he was dubbed "Le Magnifique" - his seamless blend of power and grace revolutionized the game and showed the world just how beautiful hockey could be.

  • Bobby Orr
    9,821 votes

    Bobby Orr's name is synonymous with offensive prowess from a defenseman, and his style of play forever altered the way blue-liners approach the game. By shattering traditional expectations of his position, Orr consistently leaped into the play, displaying a dazzling mix of speed, agility, and offensive intuition. His impact on the sport cannot be overstated, as he carved out a new blueprint for defensemen and paved the way for generations of offensively minded rearguards.

  • Jaromír Jágr
    6,953 votes
    Right wing

    Arguably one of the most tenacious and durable players ever to grace the ice, Jaromír Jágr combined sheer physical strength with a never-ending drive to improve. His trademark mullet and relentless work ethic made him a fan favorite, and his seemingly ageless performance kept him competing at a high level well into his 40s. Jágr's longevity and dedication to the game remain a testament to his passion for hockey and his incredible ability to adapt and overcome challenges.

  • Gordie Howe
    8,758 votes
    Right wing

    Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe embodied the grit, toughness, and skill that have come to define the quintessential hockey player. His ability to score, dish out punishing hits, and drop the gloves with equal ferocity made him one of the most versatile and feared players of his time. Howe's fierce competitiveness and indomitable spirit set a standard for what it meant to be a true all-around hockey player and solidified his place among the sport's all-time legends.

  • Steve Yzerman
    5,127 votes

    Known as "The Captain" for his exemplary leadership and unwavering loyalty to the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman was a consummate team player who prioritized success over individual accolades. His unmatched determination and commitment to excellence galvanized teammates and transformed the Red Wings into a perennial powerhouse. Yzerman's selfless approach to the game and keen understanding of what it takes to win have earned him enduring admiration from fans and fellow players alike.