I got the need. The need for speed.
While that famous saying comes from Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, it can be applied to hockey as well.
The NHL has been home to some of the fastest skaters that the world has seen. It’s impressive enough being able to balance and play the game on ice, but certain players take it to the extreme, flying up and down the ice with the puck.
Here are some of the fastest players to ever play in the NHL.
It’s one thing to have incredible speed. It’s another to have the ability to handle the puck while using that speed.
That’s what fans got to experience watching Pavel Bure, aka the “Russian Rocket,” during the 1990s. The winger led the league in goals three times in his career, finishing with a total of 779 points in 702 NHL games. He likely would have scored even more had he not played in a time where neutral zone traps ruled supreme.
There may not have been a smoother skater in the NHL than Paul Coffey, especially not among defensemen. Arguably the best offensive defenseman in the game, Coffey's ability to rush the puck up the ice is what separated him from everyone else. He was able to blow by defenders using his pace and skill, and his precision passing helped him record 1,135 assists in his career, the sixth-most in NHL history and second-most among blueliners.
His accolades include four Stanley Cups, three Norris Trophies, 14 All-Star Games and is second all-time among defensemen in goals, assists and points. He owns the record for most goals by a defensemen in a season (48), the only defenseman to score at least 40 goals in more than one season and one of just two defensemen to record 100 points in a season more than once.
Yvan Cournoyer was a part of the Montreal Canadiens’ dynasty that ruled in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Despite his smaller stature, the Canadian right winger was known for his incredible speed. That speed earned him the nickname the “Roadrunner”, after the Looney Tunes character.
During his 16-season NHL career, Cournoyer was a part of 10 Stanley Cup winning squads. He took home the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP in 1973, scoring 25 points in 17 games. Cournoyer was a two-time Hart Trophy winner as league MVP and goes down as one of the greatest Canadiens in the franchise’s history.
One of the first Russians to make their way to the NHL, Sergei Fedorov was about as complete of a player as you’ll find. He had physicality, he could defend, he could shoot and he had the speed to beat you. When Fedorov wanted to turn it on, he could and would go end-to-end, flying by everybody and putting the puck in the back of the net.
Fedorov played 18 seasons in the NHL, where he won three Stanley Cups, a Hart Trophy, two Selkes as best defensive forward and was selected to six All-Star games. He is the all-time leader in points and assists among Russian players.
While Mike Gartner’s patented mustache may have been his best physical feature, his speed is what made him one of the greatest hockey players. At the beginning of his career, Gartner had an uncanny ability to streak to the outside and fire slapshots past goaltenders. As the league started to figure out Garnter’s tendencies, he adapted and would use his speed to get to the net, either to beat goalies with a deke, or find rebounds and second-chance opportunities.
Gartner ended his career without a Stanley Cup win, but was a Selke winner and an eight-time All-Star. He is eighth all-time in career goals with 708, one of just eight players to hit 700 career goals.
Maybe it was Bobby Hull’s blonde head of hair that flowed up and down the ice that made him look faster, but Hull could fly around a rink. Known as the “Golden Jet”, Hull made his mark in the NHL with his speed and his rocket of a slap shot.
He’s another forward who loved to use his skating ability and take the puck from his own defensive zone and bring it all the way to the other end by himself. A three-time Art Ross as the league’s top point scorer and a two-time Hart winner, Hull had an immaculate 16-year career in the NHL, along with seven more seasons in the WHA.
The best player in the NHL right now is also the fastest. Connor McDavid’s ability to breeze by defenders while maintaining control of the puck and finding teammates is unmatched. There is no one like him in today’s NHL.
At just 24 years old, he’s already a two-time Hart winner, three-time Art Ross recipient, four-time All-Star and three-time Ted Lindsay winner. This season, nothing has slowed down McDavid with 15 points in just six games. In 413 NHL games so far in his young career, he already has 589 points. McDavid is absolutely unstoppable and may compete with Wayne Gretzky as the greatest player ever in the NHL.
When Scott Niedermayer started his career in the NHL, he was an offense-first kind of defensemen. But he adapted and became one of the premier two-way defenders in the league. His speed had a great deal to do with that. Niedermayer could carry and possess the puck up the ice and find his way to the net. But he also could sprint back and break up plays in his own zone.
Niedermayer won four Stanley Cups in his 18-year career in the NHL, and was honored with the Conn Smythe in 2007. He won the Norris Trophy in 2004 and was a five-time All-Star.
No. 4, Bobby Orr. One of the greatest defensemen in NHL history had blazing speed and an uncanny ability to get up and down the ice without losing the puck. At the time, defensemen weren’t supposed to have an amazing offensive ability, but Orr revolutionized the position.
Orr won eight consecutive Norris Trophies from 1968 to 1975, the Calder Trophy as a rookie, twice took the Art Ross, was awarded the Hart three times and won two Stanley Cups. A truly fantastic career for one of the greatest to lace the skates.
Maurice Richard was a terror on the ice in the ‘40s and ‘50s with the Montreal Canadiens. Given the nickname “Rocket”, Richard’s speed wasn't even his best quality. He had a temper on him and wasn’t afraid to use it, throwing his body around often.
An eight-time Stanley Cup champion, Richard amassed 966 points in 978 games during his 18 seasons in the NHL. He led the league in goals five times in his career, a reason why the trophy given to the league’s top goal scorer is now the Rocket Richard Trophy.