Although size matters in the NHL, not everyone one of the tallest players in the league has translated into a great player.
In the NHL pre-lockout, size would have been more effective because a player was able to grab and hold opponents as they rushed into the offensive zone, but in today’s game, speed is more important. The taller the player is, the more effective he should be defensively by poke checking players and beating them physically, but that hasn’t converted the way that most thought it would.
As the NHL progresses, players have continued to get larger. However, there are only a few players that have actually become steady players in the NHL. When it comes to larger players, it is more awkward for them to be natural skaters because their size makes it tough for them to be fast and efficient hockey players. The best tall hockey players usually end up being steady stay at home defenseman because naturally they are not able to keep up with fast forwards and defend throughout the natural zone. To be clear, we're not taking about a 6'3" power forward here, but the Zdeno Chara's of the world.
Height and hockey do not usually match because height isn't as important as other sports. When an athlete gets to around 6’6”, basketball and football seem like easier sports to transition into because size is much more important there. However, even though there haven’t been a lot of tall athletes that have decided to take a career in hockey, those who have made it should be incredibly respected.
Here is a list of he top 15 tallest NHL players to ever live.
The most decorated hockey player to ever come out of Kazakhstan, Antropov has had quite a successful career. He’s not a flashy player, but his consistency allowed him to play in the NHL for roughly 15 years. With his most successful days coming with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Antropov’s career high in goals came when he scored 26 goals in the 2008-09 season. He also played for the New York Ranges, Atlanta Thrashers, and Winnipeg Jets, and is currently playing over in the KHL.
If there's one player on this list who used his height to his advantage, it was Chris Pronger. In the conversation as one the dirtiest player to ever play in the NHL, Pronger was known for his cheap shots and excessive brutality. Pronger’s career spanned 19 years, where he won the Hart Memorial Trophy and Norris Trophy, along with one Stanley Cup and two Olympic Gold Medals with Team Canada. Although Pronger was somewhat of a goon when he played the game, he deserves our respect for being able to be dominant for so many years.
Some sites list him at 6'5" while others list him at 6'6," but we'll choose to go with the larger number. Only compiling 91 career NHL games, Steve MacIntyre isn’t the most skillful player. Using his size more for physicality, MacIntyre once recorded 279 penalty minutes in only 54 games in a season with the Muskegon Fury of the UHL. In his 91 games in the NHL, he's only recorded 2 goals and 2 assists, while earning 175 penalty minutes in the process. Continuing to bounce around leagues, MacIntyre is currently playing in the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies.
Drafted 30th overall in the first round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, there were high hopes for Vladimir Mihalik. Unfortunately for the Tampa Bay Lightning, height was the only thing that he really ever had going for him. Mihalik played mostly in the AHL and only played in 15 career NHL games before heading back overseas. The Presov, Slovakia native took his game to the KHL in 2011, where he’s been playing ever since. In his 15 careers games, he had three assists and was a -7.
Bishop hasn't been in the league for a long time, but he's been pretty successful so far. Standing tall at 6’7”, players fear facing Bishop because he covers so much of the net and his length makes it nearly impossible for players to score. Compiling a 26-8-3 record so far this season, Bishop is a major reason why the Tampa Bay Lightning are having a great year. If Bishop didn't get injured last season, the Lightning may have had quite the playoff run. The Lightning will hope that it won’t happen again this year.
Boyle is one of the few large forwards that has been able to use his height to do more than just be bruiser, though he isn't afraid to throw down when he has to. Hailing from Hingham, Massachusetts, Boyle has been an effective player with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, after struggling to start his career with the Los Angeles Kings. He is a beast in front of the net and has the ability to score dirty goals, though he shouldn’t be expected to lead an offense.
Gill has been able to have a long career in the NHL as a steady stay-at-home defenseman. His height is definitely a plus for him because he can use his reach to deflect pucks and disrupt offensive maneuvers. It’s almost near impossible to move him in front of the net, so his ability to clear forwards from the front of the net has made him an asset in the NHL. Gill’s bounced around the NHL playing for the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, and Philadelphia Flyers. However, his most memorable year came in the 2008-2009 season when he was able to win the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Another highly touted tall prospect is Jamie Oleksiak, who was drafted 14th overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Oleksiak is finally coming into his own this season with the Dallas Stars after spending most of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 season with the Stars AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. In 32 games this season, Oleksiak has compiled one goal and seven assists for 8 points. Oleksiak has shown that he can score from the point in the past, recording six goals and 27 assists for 33 points with the Texas Stars two years ago.
The 25-year-old left-handed defenseman from Uxbridge, Ontario is not one to put up many points and at only 225 pounds is quite skinny for his height. After going undrafted, Breen played five AHL seasons before finally getting called up in the 2013-14 season with the Calgary Flames. In his nine career NHL games, Breen has recorded two assists and got into a pretty decent fight against Lane MacDermid:
Boogaard was one of the best fighters to ever play the game. Sadly, on May 13th, 2011, Boogaard tragically died after overdosing on illegal substances and alcohol. Boogaard’s death sparked the discussion of concussions and fighters in the NHL and has truly changed the way people look at the role. Although Boogaard was a ‘goon’, he was loved by his peers and was a fan favorite with the Minnesota Wild, and even in New York, where he only played a season with the Rangers..
John Scott is the perfect example of a player who is only in the NHL based on his size. Watching Scott skate is unbearable, as Pee Wee teams could skate circles around him. However, he knows his role and sticks to it. Scott is a 4th line fighter and is still valuable because of the work he gets done with his fists. At 32-years-old, it's almost amazing how he is still in the NHL to this day and he has scored three goals in 255 career games played.
When Myers came into the NHL, he looked like he would be an all-star defenseman for the next 20 years. However, his game has slowed down since his stellar rookie season and the 24-year-old from Houston, Texas has been rumored to be on the move. As a young, tall, and physical defenseman in the NHL, Myers should be able to reinvent his game again, but for the meantime he is stuck in a disaster known as the Buffalo Sabres.
The Tampa Bay Lightning seem to love tall players, as this is their fourth entry on this list. Sustr has been a steady defenseman with the team this season. Playing in 49 games, Sustr hasn’t recorded a goal but has seven assists and is a plus-7. Sustr probably won’t be one to score a lot of points, but his steadiness at the back has proved to be very important for Tampa Bay thus far. Currently on a team that has a lot of firepower and is one of the best in the Eastern Conference, Sustr has been an important piece of the puzzle for the Lightning this year.
Drafted in the first round, 27th overall to the Washington Capitals in 2005, Joe Finley was an exciting young talent who was a physical specimen during his days at the University of North Dakota. Unfortunately for the Capitals and for Finley, his career never skyrocketed to glory, as he has only been able to play in 21 career NHL games, with his last stint coming in the 2012-13 season with the New York Islanders. Compiling only one assist and 32 penalty minutes in his NHL career, Finley is more of an enforcer than point producer, as he continues to play in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
After the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara has taken over the role of best veteran D-man tonight. Chara has won one Norris Trophy and one Stanley Cup, while playing in seven All-Star Games. As the tallest NHL player to ever play the game, his career has been quite decorated. His huge shot from the point makes forwards and goaltenders cringe when they have to get in front of it, as it is close to impossible to stop. Chara’s size is so important to the Boston Bruins team that he sometimes even finds himself in front of the net during power plays, as Chara’s large frame easily screens the opposing goaltender.