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Top 15 BIG Players in NHL History

When I was growing up playing hockey in Canada, there came a certain point where players start talking amongst themselves about the next level. Whether the next level was Junior, Major Junior, or if t

When I was growing up playing hockey in Canada, there came a certain point where players start talking amongst themselves about the next level. Whether the next level was Junior, Major Junior, or if things really starting getting out of hand, Pro.

Back then (15 years ago), a player’s size was always part of the conversation. I’m sure it still is, but with an emphasis on speed and skill, hockey players don’t have to big and huge just to get a look. It used to be scouts and coaches wanted nothing to do with you if you weren’t of a certain height or a certain weight. A player’s size was a deal breaker.

The saying was, “You can teach a big how to skate, but you can’t teach a little guy how to grow.” In the last 25 years or so, NHLers have gotten way bigger. Granted, some of those big players don’t necessarily have the skills to go along with their size (Hey, John Scott), there are some guys who made an impact at the NHL level, and it wasn’t always just because of their size. Although, I’m sure being freaking huge did help.

Here are the top 15 BIG NHL players of all-time.

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15 Andy Sutton (6’6, 245)

via nhlpa.com

Not exactly known for his high end skill, the 6 foot 6, 245 pound (all heights and weights are taken from hockey-reference.com) defenseman utilized his size to shutdown opposing forwards, block shots and drive traffic away from his net. While with the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders, Sutton’s coaches trusted him enough to give him over 20 minutes of ice time per game, even though he only scored more than 20 points three times in his career. His style of play limited him though, as he only played in over 70 games twice during a 13 year career.

14 Brian Boyle (6’7, 244)

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Listed at 6 foot 7, 244 pounds, Boyle is one of the league’s most dependable checking line centres. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Boyle didn’t really make an impact until he moved to the New York Rangers. In his second season with the Rangers, he scored 21 goals and 35 points. Last season, he went to the Tampa Bay Lightning and he’s been a steady force defensively while still being able to chip in offensively.

13 Georges Laraque (6’3, 253)

via georgeslaraque.com

He’s remembered primarily as an enforcer, but there were a couple of years with the Edmonton Oilers where Laraque would take over and dominate an entire shift. He scored more than 20 points in a season only twice, but at 6 for 3 and 253 pounds, Laraque was almost impossible to move from the front of the net, or to knock off the puck if he activated in the cycle. After the NHL cracked down on obstruction after the 2004 lockout, Laraque’s lack of speed affected his ability to impact the game, and the Oilers eventually let him leave as a free agent.

12 Hal Gill (6’7, 243)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, in the intro I talked about some of these bigger players and their skill set. Hal Gill wasn’t the most skilled defenseman in the NHL, something he even admits himself. His Twitter handle is @Skillsy75, which is a joke about his skills. Considering he averaged 0.16 points per game, it’s a testament to his abilities he was able to play in over 1100 regular season games. At 6 foot 7 and 243 pounds, Gill was able to use his size to keep forwards and traffic away from the front of his net, albeit a little slowly.

11 Uwe Krupp (6’6, 235)

via sport1.de

Another guy who maybe doesn’t fit the “big but skilled’ mold, Krupp benefited a bit from the dead puck era. At 6 foot 6 and 235 pounds, he was the tallest player in the NHL for a while and he was able to use the NHL’s tolerance for obstruction to his advantage. Even yet, his mobility and ability to make the first pass out of the zone was impressive. He did manage to score a Stanley Cup Winning goal though. His only playoff overtime goal won the Colorado Avalanche their first Cup in 1996. He played in 729 regular season games and only scored 281 lifetime points, but his size allowed him to maintain a fairly lengthy career.

10 Nik Antropov (6’6, 245)

via cbc.ca

Antropov was supposed to be next big thing for the Maple Leafs, he was supposed to finally take some of the burden away from Mats Sundin. The Leafs thought that at 6 foot 6 and 245 pounds, Antropov (along with Alexei Ponikarovky) would be impossible to handle down low and he would grind out opposing teams. Unfortunately, Antropov was never able to stay healthy. He never played all 82 games in his career, and his best year came as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.

9 Dustin Penner (6’4, 242)

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll just get it out of the way… Penner at one point in his career tweaked his back eating his wife’s pancakes, or at least that is what was reported. At 6 foot 4, 242 pounds, Penner made a living in front of the other team’s goaltender. Because of his size, he was difficult to move push away from the top of the crease, and as such, he was able to bang a lot of loose pucks into the net. In his rookie season with the Ducks, he scored 29 goals and 45 points, and even got some Calder Trophy consideration. As a member of the Oilers, he was constantly criticized by coaches, fans and media for being out of shape, even though he managed to score 186 points in 304 regular season games.

8 Pavel Kubina (6’4, 258)

via isport.blesk.cz

Admittedly, I never really realized Kubina was that big. Listed at 6 foot 4 and weighing in at 258 pounds, Kubina was a heavy defenceman. He scored more than 10 goals on five occasions in the NHL, doing most of his damage while on the powerplay. Aided by his weight, Kubina had a hard slapshot which was really effective. Over the course of his career, 158 of his 386 career points came while on the man advantage. Unfortunately, that was never enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs, because during his three year stint in Toronto, trade rumours swirled continuously, and he was eventually shipped off to Atlanta.

7 Al Iafrate (6’3, 235)

via si.com

There are two things that stick out in my mind when I think of Iafrate. The first is his skullet, and the second was when his slapshot won the hardest shot event at the 1993 Skills Competition, recording a 105.2 miles per hour shot. Imagine what he could have done with a composite stick! Listed at 6 foot 3 and 235 pounds, he’s one of the smaller players on this list, but he also played at a time when the players weren’t as big. Drafted by the Leafs, he was rushed into the NHL. His best year came with the Washington Capitals, when he scored 25 goals and 66 points.

6 Todd Bertuzzi (6’3, 229)

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Bertuzzi isn’t as big as some of the other guys on this list, but when he came into the NHL in 1995, he was one of the bigger guys on the ice. He makes this list because he had a lengthy career, appearing in 1159 regular season games, while putting up decent point totals, scoring 770 regular season points. Listed at 6 foot 3 and weighing 229 pounds, he was part of the most effective line in hockey with the Vancouver Canucks. In 2002-03, he scored 46 goals and 97 points, but his legacy will always have the Steve Moore incident tied to him.

5 Dustin Byfuglien (6’5, 265)

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

‘Big Buff’ automatically comes to mind when you think of massive NHLers. He’s listed as 6 foot 5, and 265 pounds. The crazy part about that, is that’s when Byfuglien is in shape. It’s rumoured that in the off-season, he can get up to around 290 pounds. Byfuglien also happens to be a really good hockey player. He’s scored over 50 points three times in his career (could have been 5 times if not for a lockout and injuries), and he’s so versatile, that for a while his coaches couldn’t figure out whether he should play as a forward or a defenceman.

4 Keith Tkachuk (6’2, 235)

gamewornauctions.net

He’s listed at 6 foot 2 and 235 pounds, but those might not be the most accurate numbers. He was once suspended by the St. Louis Blues for failing his team physical, when he reported to the team’s training camp because he was reportedly about 25 pounds overweight. That was in 2011. Several months after his retirement, a photo of him surfaced on Deadspin, where he looked like he had put that 25 pounds back on, but that was after his playing days. Regardless, he ended his career after appear in over 1200 regular season games and scored over 1000 points.

3 Eric Lindros (6’4, 240)

via russianmachineneverbreaks.com

Injuries, and more specifically concussions, are the only things that held Lindros back. Otherwise the 6 foot 4, 240 pound power forward was mostly unstoppable, unless you’re Scott Stevens. Lindros won the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in just his third season. That year, which was shortened because of the lockout, he scored 70 points in just 46 games. The next season, he scored 115 points in 73 games. When it comes to players that people love to hate, he’s near the top of the list, and the debate about whether he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame is evidence of that.

2 Zdeno Chara (6’9, 255)

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Listed at 6 foot 9, Chara is the tallest player to ever make the NHL. His height has certainly helped him make an impact at the NHL, just because he has so much reach. Opposing forwards have a hard time getting around him, because as soon as they’re within 5 feet of him, he can knock the puck off their stick. He can also shoot the puck really hard. At the 2012 All-Star Skill Competition, he set the NHL record at 108.8 miles per hour. He’s now 38 years old, and even though he’s not as fast as he used to be, he’s still really effective and he should have no problem beating his point totals from last season.

1 Alex Ovechkin (6’3, 230)

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Relative to this list, Ovechkin isn’t that big, but relative to others in the NHL, he’s heavy player. He’s listed at 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds, which really makes him just a bit smaller than Iafrate, Lindros and Penner. In 2011, he had to address the size of his stomach following a web interview, in which he looked like he had put on a lot of weight. Let’s be real though, Ovechkin would still be one of the world’s best players even if he wasn’t so big… but his size definitely helps.

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Top 15 BIG Players in NHL History