This picture has nothing to do with the post, outside of being commentary on genetics.

This picture has basically nothing to do with the post, outside being commentary on genetics. John Scott/Nathan Gerbe

honda copy

Some humans are just built for athletic competition, which is sort of unfair for the rest of us. But the same way some people win the money lottery, some people happen to win the genetic one. Lebron James runs like a gazelle, jumps like an Olympian, and, y’know…

lebron ripped

…he happens to be 6’8″ of chiseled muscle. If he was only allowed to touch the ball with the back of his hands he’d probably still be in the NBA.

The NHL is not without its share of Lebron-esque mutants – the people who were born with all the tools to succeed at the sport of their choice. They almost couldn’t mess it up. Similar to what I said about Lebron, they could use a wrong-handed stick and NHL teams would still consider taking them on board. This isn’t to minimize their accomplishments, but man, they were given some head start in the race to riches.

This isn’t a list of the 10 best players in the league, it’s a list of the 10 current players who started the race farthest ahead of everyone else. Eric Lindros is example 1A. Mario Lemieux might be 1B.

Is size an advantage? Here’s some of that. Skill helps? Here’s a big heaping helping. Speed’s good? Take all you like.


Honorary mentions: Valeri Nichushkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Chris Kreider, and Phil Kessel, just because he’s good at freaking everything.

Victor Hedman

f victor hedman

Info: 6’6″, 233, 23 years old. 2nd overall draft pick in 2009, 30 points in 54 games from the back-end.

Commentary: This is pretty easily the best picture in this entire post. The man looks like an ogre compared to the Hobbitses (proper Gollum-style spelling) around him. Might be the games best defenseman in like, an hour. Current most underrated player in the league. Freak of nature.

Ilya Kovalchuk

f ilya kovalchuk

Info: 6’3″, 230, 816 points in 816 NHL games (hey that’s cool).

Commentary: Skated like he was shot out of a cannon in his prime, has an Ovechkin-like bomb. Can play 1000 minutes per game without breaking a sweat. Only useful on the powerplay, penalty kill, and at even strength. Unnatural, all of it. Yes, I know he’s not in the NHL anymore – still had to mention him.

Jaromir Jagr

f jaromir jagr

Info: 6’3″ 230, *checks stats* … *checks again* … 1741 points, I guess. Holy applesauce. 7th in NHL points all-time, just ahead of Mario Lemieux, a dozen or so behind Steve Yzerman.

Commentary: (Nice Jagr-face in that pic.) He’s the original puck possession wizard. You simply can’t take it off him. He’s too big, and his reach is too long. He backs in defenders like a basketball player, only the best basketball analogy for him is just picturing him playing on a Fisher-Price hoop and rejecting six-year olds. That’s basically NHL hockey for him.

Rick Nash

f rick nash

Info: 6’4″ 213, all-star teams, Olympic golds, professional team-carrier.

Commentary: People always equate Michael Grabner to my Dad (Bob Bourne), because hey, fast and Islanders gear. It’s a nice comparison, but I tend to think about the way my Dad skated as similar to the way Nash does, with that pretty long stride that just eats up the neutral zone.

Jamie Benn

f jamie benn

Info: 6’2″ 210. Olympian, NHL captain, manchild.

Commentary: I’m not having “6’2″ 210″ for a second. This guy is a monster. And fine, if those are his dimensions, it’s crazy how big he plays. He’s a human snowplow, and opponents are light, fluffy flakes. He goes where he wants, when he wants. And what a bomb of a shot, too.

Evgeni Malkin

f evgeni malkin

Info: 6’3″ 195, Stanley Cup, Art Ross, Hart, Calder, Conn Smythe, Ted Linday, hahah oh man everything.

Commentary: Mario Lemieux reincarnate…if the Lemieux were, y’know, dead. The puck control at his size is baffling, his silky stride and shiftiness are surprising, and his ability to take over games is unparalleled. You can easily make the argument that the best player on earth is Malkin when he’s “on,” including his teammate Crosby.

Zdeno Chara

Zdeno chara

Info: 6’9″(!), 255. Stanley Cup champ, Bruins captain, Norris winner, hardest shot on earth, biggest guy in hockey, frequent NHL all-star.

Commentary: (Best picture contender.) I should note – Chara’s the only guy on this list I hesitated about, because while he was given a lot of gifts, he worked his ass off to become what he is. It isn’t easy to harness his size into someone as efficient as he is, but he managed to do it. I decided to keep him on though because he really was afforded the raw tools to be special. From there, it’s to his credit that he managed to use them so effectively.

Brent Burns

f brent burns

Info: 6’5″, 230, forward, defense, point-getter, human killer, animal lover.

Commentary: The only thing Burns was given the ability to do is play D, create offense, hunt people on the forecheck, and dominate the crease. If he had to play with a broom he’d still be a useful player.

The Staals

f staals

Info: Eric: 6’4″ 205, Jordan: 6’4″ 220, Marc: 6’4″, 207, Jared: 6’4″, 210.

Commentary: Do you need commentary on the numbers above? You don’t. Good. Multiple Cups between them, all 6’4″, all absolute beasts. I feel like if your family goes 4-for-4 in getting your kids to the show (well, still waiting on Jared to be full-time), you’ve pretty much solidified “genes” as a major contributor to their success.

Alex Ovechkin

f alex ovechkin

Info: 6’3″, 230, all the trophies. Hart, Lindsay, Art Ross…all that stuff.

Commentary: Isn’t it weird that three names on this list, all pure offensive forces, happen to be 6’3″ 230? Is that like, optimal size for creating a hockey beast, maybe? Anyway, you know what Ovi can do. You’ve seen him skate, and shoot, and hit. I’m sure he worked hard to get to the NHL – yada yada yada – but he was physically created for the job, which is a nice leg-up.