You hear a lot of broadcasters or fans say a player is "a joy to watch." Usually that's applied to a guy who scores a lot of goals or does things at a high level, without regard to the WAY they do it. Ales Hemsky is a joy to watch aesthetically. If Hemsky never scored a goal - and believe me, there used to be many nights when you thought he was intentionally trying not to - he would still be worth watching. There's a rhythm to his game, a fluidity of motion, that's unlike anyone else in hockey. Nearly every Hemsky goal, even a wrist shot from the slot, is "highlight reel" quality, because of the buildup to it and the grace with which he does it. I'll admit it, I've thought about what his lips would feel like, pressed against mine. Don't judge me.
For all you non-Oiler fans, if I could compare Hemsky to another player it would be Johan Cruijff. You know, the great Dutch footballer of the 1970's? (At this point, Greener is fuming, because not only am I not waxing poetic about him, I'm now talking about football...and not calling it soccer).
Cruijff was the most elegant of athletes, a near perfect blend of speed, quickness, balance and agility, complimented by a limitless footballing I.Q. The great Rudolf Nureyev was fascinated by his movements and loved to watch videos of Cruijff playing. Nureyev's assistant once hypothesized that it was because Nureyev thought Cruijff would be a better dancer than the legend himself. Cruijff and Hemsky share that same balletic quality. They almost look out of place playing a sport.
With Hemsky it's those three crossovers in the neutral zone gearing up to top speed, the shoulder drop to freeze the d-man, the half push-off (in lieu of a full stride) that kicks him clear when turning the corner, and his puck control in traffic while under pressure. Put it all in one package with innate hockey sense, vision, and fearlessness, and you have a very special player.
Others may be better, but no one is better to watch.