Hockey is a physical, gritty, beastly sport.
Those who play it, especially at the highest level, regularly display traits of toughness, perseverance, confidence, and an innate drive to compete.
One of the best aspects of the NHL, and really hockey at any level but particularly the NHL, are the impact players that can dominate the opponent by elevating their play up to a ‘beast-mode’ gear.
Basic ‘beast’ traits include a height of at least 6’2″ and a weight of at least 200-lbs. The player must be impactful on the game in more than a just brute, enforcer-type, presence. They must exhibit skill and precision, while still engaging in the physical aspect of the game.
These guys are both feared and respected. Their mental game is stronger than any of their physical muscle. Their discipline to the craft is regimented and dedicated. They embody what the essence of hockey is, and in the big moments they elevate themselves above the rest.
These guys are beasts.
The NHL’s Five Biggest Beasts
5. Carey Price
If there was going to be a goalie on this list, it had to be Price. The guy is an absolute beast.
He plays a ton of minutes (ranking in the top ten goalies for minutes played every season since 2010-2011), he’s never fazed, and he has the capability to stymie the best snipers on the planet.
He’s won a World Junior Gold Medal, a Calder Cup, he helped backstop Canada to Olympic Gold, and he’s the biggest reason why Montreal is an habitual contender. His international stats representing Canada are jaw-dropping, and his list of personal awards and accolades is both lengthy and impressive.
Carey Price is cool, calm, and collected. He’s a generous person away from the ice, and you can find multiple instances of his philanthropic spirit. He’s a likeable and relatable guy, who has been described as “a country-boy at heart”.
There’s no bigger beast among the NHL goalie fraternity than Carey Price.
4. Jonathan Toews
A Broadmoor Cup champion with the University of North Dakota, a two-time World Junior Gold Medalist, a World Hockey Championship, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and a two-time Stanley Cup Champion.
At age 20 he was named the third-youngest captain in NHL history, and after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, Toews became the youngest player of the esteemed Triple Gold Club. Jonathan Toews is a game changer and a franchise stud.
At 6’2″, 201-lbs, Toews is right on the edge of the physical requirements for a ‘beast’, but don’t let his ‘smaller’ stature fool you. He plays a big, tough game, competes through all three zones, and doesn’t shy away from the physical aspect of the game.
While he’s commonly and affectionately referred to as ‘Captain Serious’, Toews has (on occasion) shared his lighter side with the fans.
It’s not exactly his forte, but every-so-often Toews will drop the gloves. He’s had three career fights at the NHL level.
In each one, Jonathan Toews showed toughness and an element of grit. His most recent scrap was in 2013, when he gave up three-inches and more than 20-pounds, to Joe Thorton in a very spirited fight.
3. Jaromir Jagr
There’s nothing about Jagr that isn’t beastly. He’s timeless, his training regiment has been described by teammates as “insane”, and his early-90’s hair ranks among the all time best.
He’s incredibly gritty and versatile. His longevity is remarkable (he’s currently tied for 11th in most career NHL games played), and his ability to produce year-in-and-year-out is nothing short of impressive.
His career numbers are Hall Of Fame worthy, ranking 5th all-time in NHL career points scored with 1802 points in 1550 NHL games played. He’s also complied over 1000 career penalty-minutes.
Let’s also not forget that Jagr spent three seasons between 2008-2011 with Omsk Avangard in the KHL.
Had those years been spent in the NHL, Jagr could have already surpassed Gordie Howe (1850) and Mark Messier (1887) for second in all-time NHL points scoring.
With 21 NHL season under his belt, its laughable to think that some question his longevity. Folks have been calling Jagr “over-the-hill” and “washed-up” for years, but Jagr just continues to prove them all wrong.
2. Corey Perry
Peterborough, Ontario is a blue-collar town where folks grow up learning a certain element of toughness. With that in mind, it really shouldn’t be a surprise to watch the venom and nastiness in which Corey Perry, a Peterborough native, plays the game of hockey.
He’s one of only nine active players to have scored more than 250 goals, while also racking up over 800 penalty-minutes. Perry is one tough, mean, SOB. Alongside Ryan Getzlaf, the duo form one of the most punishing, daunting, and impactful punches in the NHL.
Perry elevated his legend status recently in the Ducks series clinching win over the Calgary Flames. Late in the second period, Perry was skating across centre ice as the Ducks led a rush. Matt Stajan cuts across the path of Perry (and while it doesn’t seem to be malicious) Stajan isn’t able to avoid contact, crashing into Perry’s right-hip/knee area.
In the moment, it looked really bad. Perry hobbled to the bench, unable to put any weight on the leg. Met at the bench by trainers and medical staff, Perry was led down the hall, but only for a brief minute.
Astonishingly Perry made a near instant return to the game. He barely missed a shift. The guy is made of nails. For most players, that type of hit would keep them out of a game, if not an extended period of time.
The game tied and two and now in overtime, Perry was back to his standard self. He provided a presence around the net and in front of Karri Ramo, and at the 2:26 mark of overtime, Corey Perry got his the chance to be a hero for Anaheim.
Corey Perry’s career trophy cases is filled with some very impressive accolades: a Memorial Cup championship and MVP trophy, a World Junior Gold Medal, two Olympic Gold medals, a Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and a Hart Trophy, and one Stanley Cup championship.
Corey Perry grew up from humble beginnings, forging his way through junior while continually gaining muscle and confidence, eventually growing into one of the most dominant beasts playing in the NHL.
1. Zdeno Chara
He’s the tallest player in NHL history, measuring in at a towering 6’9″. With a seemingly lean 255-lbs frame, Chara is unlike any other player in the NHL.
He is a beast in every sense of the word.
On the ice, Chara is mean and gritty. He plays with an edge and a toughness that’s rarely equaled. He’s a physically imposing defender armed with a booming snapshot that strikes fear into opposing goalies.
Chara thrives on throwing big hits, blocking shots, and being an immoveable force. He’s tallied at least 100 hits in every season since 2008-2009, including a bruising 101 hits during the 48-game lockout shortened season of 2012. At least three times in his career, the ‘Big Z’ has registered more than 200 hits in a single season.
Chara has played in 1195 NHL games over 17 NHL seasons, amassing 538 points and 1649 penalty-minutes during that time.
A two-time Silver Medalist with Slovakia at the World Championships, he captained the Boston Bruins during their Stanley Cup winning run in 2011. He’s won the Hardest Shot competition at the NHL All-Star Game SuperSkills Competition five times, breaking his own record in 2012 with a 108.8-MPH blast.
Zdeno Chara is a BEAST.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Byfuglien, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thorton
Nicco Cardarelli writes about all things Toronto Maple Leafs for TheHockeyWriters.com. Nicco has PxP & Color commentary experience calling IIHF, Hockey Canada, OHL and CWHL games. Follow Nicco on Instagram and Twitter @BroBehindTheMic.