Most hockey fans and experts believe hockey players need to be excellent skaters to succeed in the NHL. But that’s not always the case. It may depend on what era they competed in, but there have been dozens of players who enjoyed fine careers even though skating was the weakest aspect of their games. Some of them even went on to become Hall of Famers while others may end up there someday. Not all skaters have great NHL careers though as some of them end up being nothing more than enforcers.
This list of the top 15 slowest/worst NHL skaters of all time consists of all types of players from goalscorers, to playmakers, to reliable defenders to enforcers. Some of them were undoubtedly subpar players who made it to the NHL because of their fighting abilities, but the majority of them were good, underrated players. Some of them may even have become superstars if their skating matched the rest of their hockey skills. Everybody here managed to get from point A to point B, albeit it a bit slower or more awkwardly than most of their teammates and opponents.
There’s not really any trend here since the list consists of defensemen and forwards. However, it is interesting to note that eight of these 15 players were members of the Toronto Maple Leafs at one point during their careers. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the club hasn’t won the Stanley Cup or even made it to the finals since the 1966-67 campaign. Also, just because a few of the players may be on this list due to their lack of speed, that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad skater, just a slow one.
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15 Phil Esposito
Hall of famer Phil Esposito was never mistaken for a speedster during his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers between 1963 and 1981. In fact, he didn’t learn how to skate until he was a teenager. Esposito got from point A to point B though and managed to score 717 goals and 873 assists for 1,590 regular-season points in 1,282 games. He added another 61 goals and 73 assists for 137 points in 130 postseason matches. Esposito proved you didn't have to be a graceful skater to rack up well over a point per game during an NHL career. Esposito parked himself in front of the net, knowing that's where he would get his goals. Just imagine what his numbers would have been like if he could have glided around the ice like his buddy Bobby Orr.
14 Dave Andreychuk
Big winger Dave Andreychuk was regarded as a poor skater by many, but this guy should really be in the Hall of Fame. Once he got to the front of the net, Andreychuk planted himself there and was close to impossible to move. He holds the NHL’s all-time record for power play goals with 274 while lacking speed, but making up for it in strength and balance. He captained the Tampa Bay Lightning to their one and only Stanley Cup and also played with the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins ad Colorado Avalanche. Andreychuk retired with 640 goals and 698 assists to his name for 1,338 points in 1,639 games and added another 97 points in 162 postseason contests.
13 Tiger Williams
Tiger Williams, the former Toronto Maple Leaf, Vancouver Canuck, Los Angeles King and Detroit Red Wing will forever be known as one of hockey’s toughest players and greatest characters. He’s the all-time NHL leader in penalty minutes with 3,966 and perhaps he was caught hooking and holding opponents so often because he was quite a poor skater. Still, Williams had a pretty good scoring touch for an enforcer and finished his NHL career with a respectable 241 goals and 272 assists for 513 points in 962 regular-season encounters. He made the most of his limited abilities and enjoyed his best season in 1980-81 as a Canuck with 35 goals and 27 assists.
12 Paul Gardner
Like Phil Esposito, fellow centre Paul Gardner was another slow skater who didn’t suffer from his lack of speed. Gardner suited up with the Colorado Rockies, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres during his NHL career from 1976 to 1986. His specialty was hanging around in front of the net while deflecting pucks and shoveling in rebounds at a steady rate.
He was selected 11th overall by the Kansas City Scouts in 1976 and netted 59 points in 60 games as a rookie with the Rockies. Gardner finished his NHL career with 201 goals and 201 assists in 447 regular season games and added six points in 16 playoff outings. He reached the 30 goal mark four times and the 20 goal plateau on six occasions and led the AHL in scoring twice.
11 Jack Valiquette
It always looked like Jack Valiquette struggled while skating for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Rockies during his career between 1974 and 1981. The Maple Leafs drafted him 13th overall back in 1974 as he scored 135 points in his last year of junior even though he had a well-deserved reputation as being a poor and slow skater. Valiquette carved out a decent, but short career though despite his lack of speed.
He retired after just 350 regular season NHL games with 84 goals and 134 assists for 218 points under his belt. The centre scored at least 23 goals on two occasions and also cracked the 50-point mark twice. Once Valiquette showed up in Colorado, coach Don Cherry suggested he change his skates. He did, and Valiquette then proceeded to rack up 107 points over the next two seasons.
10 Nik Antropov
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted lanky centre Nikolai Antropov of Kazakhstan with the 10th overall pick back in 1998. He was 6-foot-6 and weighed 240 pounds and his size made him hard to knock off the puck. Antropov carved out a pretty good NHL career even though his skating was his weakness. He also played with the New York Rangers, Atlanta Thrashers and Winnipeg Jets during his NHL career up until 2013. The 35-year-old spent the last two seasons in Russia’s KHL.
Antropov left the NHL after 788 regular season contests and had 193 goals and 272 assists for 465 points. His best year consisted of 23 goals and 43 assists for 67 points as a Thrasher in 2009-10. His skating ability had something to do with the criticism the Leafs took for making him a first-round pick.
9 Terry O’Reilly
Admittedly, Terry O’Reilly concedes he was a bad skater and said there’s no way he could have played in the NHL in today’s era. However, he did fine for himself between 1972 and 1985 when he played his entire career with the Big Bad Bruins. Boston drafted the right-winger with the 14th overall pick in 1971 and he quickly became a favourite with his teammates, coaches and fans alike.
O’Reilly managed to get around the rink on unsteady legs for 891 regular season games and collected 204 goals and 402 assists while taking care of himself and teammates. He was feared by most opponents and many of his 2,095 penalty minutes were for taking on the league’s tough guys. O’Reilly added 67 points in 108 playoff games and was one of the Bruins’ most valuable players during his time with the team.
8 George Parros
George Parros may be best known for his great moustache and resemblance to a 1970s adult film star. However, the former enforcer made it all the way to the NHL despite his poor skating ability. Let’s face it, Parros didn’t really need to know how to skate since his main objective on the ice was to pound his opponents with his fists and body. He did his job with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens between 2005 and 2014.
The 35-year-old hasn’t played since concussion issues surfaced in 2013-14 after fights with Colton Orr and Eric Boulton. His NHL career ended with 36 points in 474 regular season games as well as 1,092 minutes in penalties.
7 Peter Worrell
Left-winger Peter Worrell stood 6-foot-6 and weighed close to 240 pounds and that could have been one of the reasons he was as slow as molasses out on the ice. To put it politely, Worrell was another player who made it to the big leagues because of his enforcing ability. Worrell was active in the NHL between 1997 and 2004 and lumbered around the ice for the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche. Worrell racked up 1,554 minutes in penalties in 391 regular season games and also chipped in with 19 goals and 27 assists.
6 Hal Gill
Slow skating Hal Gill was known as a steady and dependable defenseman from 1997 to 2014, but that’s mainly because he didn’t have the mobility to get out of his own blue line too often. Gill was another large player as he weighed in at over 240 pounds and stood at 6-foot-7. Gill was good enough to play in 1,108 regular-season games before retiring and chipped in with 36 goals and 148 assists. However, had had just six assists in 111 postseason outings.
Gill played with the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers and enjoyed a good career despite being slow of foot. He’s also the owner of a Stanley Cup ring which he won with the Penguins.
5 Georges Laraque
Even though he began skating at the age of five, it was one of Georges Laraque’s weak points as a hockey player. He worked hard and made it to the NHL though as a tough guy, but also showed some glimpses of skill. The left winger played with the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens during an NHL career that began in 1997-98 and ended in 2009-10. Laraque appeared in 696 regular season games with 53 goals and 100 assists to go with his 1,126 minutes in penalties. Ironically, he took up figure skating after leaving the NHL.
4 Guillaume Latendresse
Guillaume Latendresse took a lot of flak from the fans and opposing players due to his weak skating during his NHL career from 2006 to 2013. He suited up for the Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators during that stretch and managed to post a decent 87 goals and 60 assists for 147 points in 341 regular season fixtures.
The Habs drafted him 45th overall in the second round back in 2005 even though he wasn’t a huge scorer in junior. Latendresse had his best year in 2009-10 with the Wild when he scored 25 goals in 55 games and added a dozen helpers.
3 Brad Marsh
Former defenseman Brad Marsh could fly around the rink when he was named one of the game’s three stars. However, he had a hard time skating during the actual contests. Still, Marsh was another dependable defenseman who relied on hard work to make it to the NHL and stay there. He played from 1978 to 1993 with the Atlanta and Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators.
Marsh slowly skated around the rink 1,086 times in regular season outings and picked up 23 goals and 175 assists. He certainly wasn’t a goal scorer as he holds the record for the fewest goals by anyone who’s appeared in 1,000 NHL games. Marsh had a lot of heart though and was well respected around the league.
2 Jason Allison
Jason Allison may very well go down as the slowest player in NHL history. That’s a debatable point, but he’s certainly one of the slowest ever to hit the ice in the world’s best hockey league. Allison often looked like he was skating in quicksand, but was also quite a productive player even though his skating style made it look like he wasn’t trying. In addition, he did have injuries to deal with during his career from 1994 to 2006.
The former 17th overall pick in the 1993 draft by Washington played with the Capitals, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Allison’s hockey skills enabled him to compile 154 goals and 331 assists for 485 points in 552 regular season games with another 25 points in 25 playoff contests. The playmaker had a career year with Boston in 2000-01 with 36 goals and 58 assists.
1 Joe DiPenta
Defenceman Joe ‘Crazy Legs’ DiPenta had a reputation of being a bad skater and had a hard time staying upright. Therefore, his NHL career was hampered quite a bit by it. DiPenta was drafted in the third round in the 1998 Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers but never played a game with the club. In fact, he didn’t make his NHL debut until four years after being drafted (with the Thrashers) and it was seven years before he became a regular with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. DiPenta’s NHL career came to an end after the 2007-08 season and he left the league with six goals and 17 assists in just 174 regular-season games.
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