Name: Wayne Gretzky
Born: 1/26/61 in Brantford, Ontario
Nickname: "The Great One"
The Finesse Game
Almost everything is misdirection when Gretzky has the puck. If he's skating to his left, his pass will go to the right. If he's taking the puck deep in the zone, driving the defense back, the late man, trailing the play, is going to get a delicious pass for a dangerous shot. Gretzky loves to create plays that go back against the grain, which is why he uses the backhand pass so extensively. Going against the grain also is a trademark of his shot selection, because it is easier for most goalies to step into a shot than reach back for one. If he comes down the centre of the zone and veers to his left, he almost always will shoot back to the extreme right (top corner, mostly), just in case the goalie overplays the angle and leaves a window open. Getting the puck to the front of the net as quickly as possible is always Gretzky's priority. Be it by forehand or backhand--even if he has to kick the puck--he wants it in front before defensive positions can be established. Gretzky will come out from behind the net with the puck and hold it while someone else gets open. He will try the stuff shot occasionally. He also will not hesitate to use the rounded bottom of the goal frame to actually pass to himself; he will throw the puck off the net from the corner or the endboards, then try to step around the defenseman and reclaim the carom. Particularly on the power play, Gretzky continues to operate from his "office" behind the net, which is positively the toughest play to defend for the goalie. But Gretzky also operates from the right-wing circle, setting up one-timers from the point or the far circle, or working the puck deep and then cutting to the net.
The Physical Game
Let's face it: The guy's a weenie. But so what? Do you want him for his body or his mind? You need his genius for all 82 games, and he isn't built to withstand physical punishment. That said, he will sneak up behind a guy, lift his stick and steal the puck. He will, at times, intentionally get in an opponent's way. And he does, once in a great while, backcheck.
In spite of all the records, all the points, all the rude remarks about his whippet-thin body--and in spite of all the accolades--Gretzky never gets enough credit for his competitiveness or his desire to win. This is an effort player, even if he doesn't scrunch up his face when he's skating. Many nights, Gretzky's best moments come in the closing minutes, when he turns potential losses into ties, or potential ties into victories.
How long can Gretzky keep this up? He was not only the best player on a mediocre Rangers team, but continued to be one of the game's great players, still a thrill to watch. He leads the Rangers' fast break, powers their transition game and distributes offensive chances in a style that would stir pride in any point guard. Yes, he's slower. Yes, he's getting hit more. But he plays a lot every game and he's going to get points. He's still worth a high pick in your pool.
SOURCE: HOCKEY SCOUTING REPORT