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The Big Man's League

By Matt Carey, Contributor, 07/01/23, 4:00PM CDT


2023 NHL Draft and Las Vegas Knights

The 2023 NHL Draft just concluded, and the players selected indicate physical size is an important consideration for NHL teams. There are many attributes needed to play hockey at its highest level. Skating with edge control, speed, puck handling, and a great shot are among the many skills needed. But the winning formula is a team filled primarily with players that are big, strong, and tough in addition to having skill and speed. Vegas Knights fit that description and they are the blueprint for a Stanley Cup Championship. In fact, the past five Stanley Cup Championship teams fit that description. Physically small players are in the NHL, like Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield, and many of the small players are elite, but little guys are the exception not the norm.

Info regarding the size of players in the 2023 NHL Draft

  • 224 players drafted.
  • 26 Goalies, 69 Defense and 129 Forwards.
  • 51 of the 224 players, 23%, are less than 6’ tall. Even if we presume a couple of the players listed as 6’ tall are actually 5’11”, only approximately 25% of the players selected in the 2023 NHL Draft are less than 6’.
  • 21 of the 51 players below 6’ tall are 5’11. Framed another way, only 13% of the players taken in the 2023 NHL Draft are shorter than 5’11”.
  • 59 of the 224 players, 26%, are 6’3 or taller.

To summarize the 2023 NHL Draft, 25% of the players drafted are 6’3 or taller, 50% are 6’ but less than 6’3”, and 25% are less than 6’-but most are approximately 5’11”, and a very small percentage of the players are 5’9” or shorter. Unlike the NFL where the average age of a player drafted is almost 22, NHL players drafted are teenagers, therefore it is reasonable to believe some players will continue to grow in height and even more will add significant muscle and weight. Even if goalies are removed from the equations, the number of small players remains the same, and the percentage of small players in relation to the group only changes slightly.

2023 Stanley Cup Champion Las Vegas Knights Players Size

  • Goalie
    • 6’4 215
  • Defense
    • 6’1 210 6’3 215
    • 6’4 215 6’2 197
    • 6’6 230 6’2 207
  • Forward
    • 6’2 212 6’2 210 5’9 183
    • 6’2 203 6’ 209 6’3 217
    • 6’1 194 6’ 190 6’1 204
    • 6’2 218 6’4 205 6’2 219

Las Vegas Knights 2023 Stanley Cup Championship team was big, strong, tough in addition to skilled with speed. Please note, only one Las Vegas Knights player, Jonathan Marchessault, on the 2023 Stanley Cup Championship team is below 6’. Marchessault played a pivotal role leading the team in post season goals, and second in overall points. Many will highlight Marchessault’s lack of size as evidence a small player can excel in the NHL. No doubt a small player can excel in the NHL. However, the odds are against small players, at least in comparison to the number of big players that receive a spot on a roster.

If big is defined as at least 6’ and over 200lbs, the NHL is a big man’s league.

Article written by Matt Carey with research assistance by Tim Haycraft.

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