Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr are probably the closest we will ever come to seeing a perfect NHL player. But even these legends of the sport had minor flaws that kept them from being perfect.
To be the most complete player possible, you have to thrive at both ends of the ice, lead your team through any type of adversity and excel in any style of play.
Let's look at the qualities and skills needed to build the perfect hockey player using the skills of former and current NHL stars.
Mike Bossy's Goal-Scoring Ability and Consistency
We could debate who is the best pure goal scorer in NHL history for quite some time, but even though Gretzky's record of 92 goals is one that will probably never be broken, the perfect hockey player would have the goal-scoring ability of former New York Islanders forward Mike Bossy.
Although he retired at age earlier than most, Bossy scored less than 50 goals in a season just once throughout his 10-year NHL career. He finished with 553 goals for an average of 55.3 goals per season. Bossy also scored 60 or more goals five times, despite playing on some very talented Islanders teams that won four Stanley Cup championships.
Bossy's work ethic and dedication to his offensive skills were what made him one of the best goal scorers and snipers that hockey has ever seen.
His combination of shot power and accuracy was simply amazing, and whether he tried to score with a snapshot, slap shot, wrist shot or back hand, there was a great chance that the goalie was going to be beaten.
His offensive awareness was amazing, and once he had the puck on his stick, Bossy has the speed and quickness to put himself in a position to score.
Bossy's consistency was also legendary. Nine straight seasons of 50-plus goals is just extraordinary, especially when you consider the physical abuse he took each night from the opposing team. Injuries prevented Bossy from scoring 50 goals for 10 straight seasons, and following his retirement in 1987, many considered him to be the best natural goal scorer ever.
If you were building the perfect hockey player, Bossy's goal-scoring ability would have to be included.
Wayne Gretzky's Hands, Vision and Play-Making Skills
Wayne Gretzky's vision, awareness and passing skills were on a level far beyond that of his opponents. He could see the play before it happened, and he was always thinking one or two steps ahead of everyone else.
What helped him become a such a talented playmaker was his soft hands, which helped him stickhandle around opponents and deliver perfect passes that few players in the history of the game have ever been able to make. Very few players could control the puck as well as Gretzky, and it was so difficult to steal it from him.
Gretzky's play behind the net, an area of the ice that became known as "Gretzky's office," was something that teams tried so hard to stop, but all the strategies designed to limit his effectiveness behind the net failed.
Gretzky has so many records, and one of those is for the most assists in a single career with 1,962, which is 791 more than Mark Messier in second place.
If you were to build the perfect hockey player, he/she would need the play-making, vision and hands that Gretzky had throughout his remarkable career.
Wayne Gretzky's Playoff Brilliance
He hasn't won the most Stanley Cups of any player in NHL history, but if you needed one player to lead your team on a championship run, that player would be Wayne Gretzky.
His 1.873 points-per-game average is the best in playoff history, and he also holds the records for most playoff points, goals and assists. In addition, he's tied for the most shorthanded goals in playoff history.
Gretzky was at his best when his team needed him the most, and because he played at a high level during the playoffs on a consistent basis, his Oilers teams won four Stanley Cups from 1983-84 through 1987-88.
If you were building the perfect hockey player, he would need to be able to dominate in the Stanley Cup playoffs like Gretzky.
Cam Neely's Toughness
Toughness is shown in many different ways on the ice, whether it's displayed by playing a physical game, fighting often, playing well while taking a lot of physical abuse on the ice (like Bossy) or being able to fight through injury and still play at a high level.
As one of the most notable power forwards in NHL history, former Boston Bruins forward Cam Neely played with the level of toughness that a perfect hockey player would play with.
When Neely played angry, he was an absolute nightmare for anyone who shared the ice with him. He was one of the hardest hitters of his day, and he would also fight anyone he needed to.
Neely's physical style of play impacted his health quite a bit, and injuries would ultimately lead to his retirement. But they didn't prevent the Bruins star from scoring a ton of goals.
During the 1993-94 season, it was tough for Neely to play in consecutive games because his knees were in bad shape. But he fought through the pain to score 50 goals in just 49 games. That's the kind of toughness that the perfect hockey player would bring to the ice each night.
Scott Stevens' Body Checking
Former New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens is arguably the hardest hitter in NHL history. And he was also one of the toughest players of his generation.
When you are building the perfect hockey player, you have to add Stevens' ability to crush opponents with enormous hits.
Yanic Perreault's Faceoff Ability
Faceoffs are an important part of any hockey game, and they can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.
Yanic Perreault, who played in the NHL for many different teams before retiring after the 2007-08 season, is arguably the best faceoff man in NHL history. Faceoff percentage hasn't been recorded as a stat for very long, but Perreault led the league in this category in each of his final seven seasons as a pro.
To be a complete player, winning faceoffs needs to be a strength of your game.
Mark Messier's Leadership
Being a leader of men often separates the good players from the great ones, and in the history of hockey, there hasn't been a better leader than former Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers captain Mark Messier.
Whether you wear the "C' on your sweater or not, motivating your team, mentoring young players and playing well in the most important games are all important skills that leaders provide their teams with.
Messier's leadership played a major role in the success of his teams, and many fans will never forget his impact on the 1994 New York Rangers, who won the Stanley Cup for the first time in over five decades thanks in large part to Messier's performance as a leader on and off the ice.
His victory guarantee before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, followed by his hat trick to send the series to a decisive Game 7, was one example of his fine leadership. Messier had complete control of his teams and made sure that his teammates were focused on what they needed to do to win that night.
As the only player to ever captain two different NHL teams to Stanley Cup championships, the perfect hockey player would need to have Messier's leadership. It's no surprise that the NHL's leadership award is named after Messier.
Bobby Orr's Two-Way Game
Not many players in any sport can say that they were the best offensive and defensive performers in a single season, but during Bobby Orr's legendary career, he was the best player at both ends of the ice multiple times.
Orr could take over games with his ability to take the puck from his own end, skate up the ice and dominate anyone who stood in his way with his skating ability. It was unusual for defensemen to score goals and rack up as many points as Orr did, and his sensational offensive skills changed his position forever.
One of Orr's greatest strengths was his ability to keep the puck from his opponent. This was evident on the penalty kill when he would prevent teams from scoring simply because his opponents couldn't get the puck from him.
Orr's goal scoring, playmaking skills, skating, toughness and defensive ability made him the best two-way player of all time.
To be a perfect hockey player, you must excel at both ends of the ice, and no one in NHL history did that better than Orr.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.
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