from Dan Robson of The Athletic,
Since October, we’ve been counting down the top 100 NHL players of the post-expansion era. We called it NHL99 because we all knew the list would stop at No. 99. So here is the final installment of The Athletic’s best 100 players in modern NHL history....
It was never a secret.
Not here, on The Athletic’s list of the 100 greatest players of the NHL’s modern era — a series titled NHL99, because the top spot was so apparent.
It hasn’t been a secret since he was a boy filling hockey rinks across Ontario. Famous by the time he was 10 and scoring 378 goals as an 11-year-old peewee with the Nadrofsky Steelers in Brantford. From the start, Gretzky was on course to be the greatest to have played.
At the core, Gretzky’s appeal was the magic conjured. He traveled through time each game, knowing where each player would be and where the puck was heading. His vision made opponents appear stuck in the past.
Gretzky wasn’t entirely alone in his rare genius. Mario Lemieux and Orr both wielded similar superpowers and their enthusiasts, Gretzky included, will argue they ought to hold an equal status on the pantheon.
But Gretzky’s greatness is measured in the staggering magnitude of his record. It’s in his 2,857 NHL points — with, famously, enough assists that if he’d never scored a goal he would still be the league’s all-time points leader with 1,963.
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