Al MacInnis names the most skilled player he ever faced; spoiler, it’s NOT Wayne Gretzky

Al MacInnis was selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft in 1981, and he’s undoubtedly one of the best picks in Calgary Flames’ franchise history. Al MacInnis was always known for his amazing slapper, but he could do more than just shoot the puck really hard.

MacInnis is one of the best defensemen in league history, and during 23 years in the NHL, he was a 12-time NHL All-Star. MacInnis was also a Conn Smythe Trophy winner and a Norris Trophy winner, and when he retired, he was third all-time in goals, assists, and points by a D-man.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – CIRCA 1991: Al MacInnis #2 of the Calgary Flames skates against the New Jersey Devils during an NHL Hockey game circa 1991 at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. MacInnis playing career went from 1981-2004. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

During his many years in the NHL, MacInnis played with and against some of the best players in hockey history. In the book ”The Toughest I Ever Faced,” MacInnis gets the opportunity to name the most skilled player he ever faced, and many perhaps believe that Wayne Gretzky is the obvious answer.

But to the surprise of many, MacInnis named Kenta Nilsson the most skilled he played against.

The Swede scored his 300th NHL point in just his 215th game. At that time, he was the sixth-fastest in NHL history to reach the milestone. Nilsson even played with Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton, but the Swede is most remembered for his years in Calgary. It’s not often Nilsson is mentioned when talking about the greatest players of his generation, and in the book Calgary Flames: The Fire Inside, he explains why.

“Talent is stick-handling or playmaking but you also have the talent of ‘drive’ too,” he said, adding, “and maybe that was the talent I didn’t have.”

Source: Bildbyran

Kent Nilsson’s lineman Ken Houston also believed that the Swede, when in the right mindset, was just as good as The Great One.

”In my opinion Kenta was as good as the guy 200 miles north [ Wayne Gretzy]… when he wanted to play,” he said.