Who is the fastest NHL skater ever?

One thing that stands out for the NHL over other major sports is its speed. Being on ice and skates over cleats and grass ramps up the speed for everyone. Looking at the history of the league, who is its fastest skater?

Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche
Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche / Doug Pensinger/GettyImages
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The NHL is a league predicated on speed. Some of the biggest players ever were thanks to one player just simply outskating another before shooting the puck past the goalie. There are a ton of skaters who can fly. Stars like Jack Hughes and Nathan MacKinnon get going and they are hard to stop. Grinders like Miles Wood and Andreas Athanasiou could outskate most of the league in a straight-line race.

While other leagues might see a player break 20 miles per hour once or twice in a season on a massive play, the NHL sees that regularly. The NHL recently started tracking this data, so we can see just how fast players are skating. As of this writing, Philadelphia Flyers forward Owen Tippett has the highest top speed of the season, hitting 24.21 MPH on an overtime goal.

Now that we know who had the fastest burst, we want to know who is the fastest skater in the history of the league. Of course, some of the older stars like Maurice Richard will be hard to track because they did not have the data back then. However, it's largely understood that athletes are getting faster and stronger as we learned more about the science of an athlete's body. So, one should assume players in general are much faster today than they were in the 50s and 60s.

The NHL does have a competition every season at the All-Star Game. The Fastest Skater race asks the players to take a lap around the rink. This should be easy to figure out then, right?

The issue is the Fastest Skater competition doesn't always have the fastest skaters. Sometimes, players aren't invited to the All-Star Game, and some that are don't want to compete. Connor McDavid won the competition in three-consecutive years, but he decided against doing the competition last season, opening the door for Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov to win.

The Fastest Skater competition has been around since 1990. This gives us a nice collection of stars to choose from here, thinking the best skaters would have joined the fun at least once. We mentioned McDavid won the competition three years in a row. He's actually the only player to win consecutive competitions in its history. Mike Gartner, Scott Niedermayer, Peter Bondra, Sami Kapanen, and Sergei Federov all won two competitions. Gartner actually won the first one, and he skated at a ridiculous 28.1 miles per hour.

However, none of them hold the fastest skating competition record. Jonathan Drouin finished the competition in 13.1 seconds, but he did it on a set course. Dylan Larkin holds the record for a skate around the rink at 13.172 seconds. It beat Gartner's record that stood for decades.

Of course, hockey isn't played in a straight line. The ice has 10 players and two goalies trying to get in everyone's way. We have to look at the game on the ice to find the fastest skater, and five truly come to mind: McDavid, Niedermayer, Bondra, Pavel Bure, and MacKinnon.

Let's talk about MacKinnon first, because before this season, he might not even be considered. However, this season is beyond ridiculous. He's outskating McDavid by a long shot, and everyone else in the league. He's broken 22 miles per hour 71 times this season. It's ridiculous. McDavid is second on the list, and he's only done it 43 times. When it comes to rushes north of 20 miles per hour, MacKinnon has done it 449 times. It's just ridiculous how often MacKinnon is hitting strides that would get him pulled over in a school zone.

MacKinnon is beating the competition this season, but McDavid has been here for a while. He lead the league in all these speed categories over the past two seasons. He regularly breaks 24 miles per hour on the ice. He's the best player in the league, and his speed is his biggest weapon.

Bondra doesn't have these fancy stats outside of the Fastest Skater competition, but his speed was undeniable. He played on the penalty kill, and he was always going the other way, scoring 32 shorthanded goals with the Washington Capitals (a franchise record). He once scored four goals in 4 minutes.

Niedermayer and Paul Coffey are often considered the fastest defensemen in history, but Niedermayer just has a few more big plays where his speed is obvious. His time with the Devils, it was clear just how good he was. He might not have had the headlines because he played with Scott Stevens and Martin Brodeur, but opponents knew who they needed to gameplan for. Niedermayer could turn a play the other way in the blink of an eye.

It takes a certain level of speed to take the nickname "Rocket," especially in the game of hockey when one of the most famous players ever already had the name. Pavel Bure played in the days of the Neutral Zone Trap, but his speed was still evident on a nightly basis. It made his efforts even more impressive. You had to have historic speed to beat the way of the game in the 90s. The "Russian Rocket" would get behind defenses with ease on way to a Hall of Fame career.

While all these players are deserving, the winner has to be McDavid. We've never seen anyone skate with such grace but look like a Mack Truck at the same time. He literally looks like a train on ice. His skates come over the boards and it looks like they are run on electricity. If there was truly a race between the fastest skaters ever, our money is on McDavid.

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