What makes an NHL player intimidating? Is it physical play? Fighting? Size? A skill that is so good that even when you know it is coming you still cannot stop it? Pure domination? It can be any of those attributes but is probably a healthy combination of all of the above. We take all of that into consideration here as we look at the most intimidating player for every NHL team.
Gibson is a top-shelf goalie in the NHL and one who can steal any game on any night. That alone makes him intimidating in the Ducks' goal crease. He also has a bit of a temper and protects his area as viciously as any goalie in the league.
The Coyotes don't really have anyone who fits any true definition of "intimidating" at this point. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel are big name offensive players, but Kessel has rapidly regressed and Hall isn't quite at the MVP level he was a couple of years ago. Neither one is putting the fear of God into opposing teams at this point. They also have no overly physical players or heavyweights. But they do have one of the league's best all-around defenseman in Ekman-Larsson, who blends goal-scoring and top-pairing defense play into a complete package on their blue line.
A late edition to the roster at the trade deadline, Simmonds going to the Sabres raised some eyebrows, as they were acquiring a rental player when the playoffs were an extreme long shot. But they wanted to give their players a sense of playing meaningful games while also adding toughness. Few players in the league are tougher than Simmonds. He doesn't drop the gloves a ton, but when he does, look out, because there are few players in the league who can take him. He may not be the impact player he was earlier in his career with the Flyers, but he can still inflict some pain on people.
Since the NHL introduced the Department of Player Safety at the start of the 2011-12 season, no player in the league has had more incidents result in a fine or a suspension than Marchand. That does not include all of the borderline incidents (and there are a lot) that escaped supplemental discipline. In other words, be aware when he is on the ice. But the physical stuff is far from the only reason you need keep tabs on him. He is also one of the league's best offensive players and has blossomed into an MVP-level scorer the past five seasons. He will beat you in every possible way.
Unless you play for the Calgary Flames or are a fan of the Calgary Flames there is a close to 100 percent chance that you loathe this guy. He is going to play a chippy game, he is going to rattle a few cages, he is going to be a pest, and when he is not doing that he is going to beat you on the scoreboard because he is a bona fide first-line NHL talent. He is the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand.
There needs to be a little projection and a little imagination with this one, but Svechnikov is quickly blossoming into a superstar and has a chance to be a special player in the NHL. He already kind of is. He still has not turned 20 years old, can score from literally anywhere in the offensive zone (he has two lacrosse-style goals this year) and is an advanced player defensively for his age. With all apologies to Sebastian Aho, Dougie Hamilton, Teuvo Teravainen, and Jaccob Slavin, this is the guy who is going to be the Hurricanes' best player for the long haul.
You could argue that Patrick Kane would take this spot because of his offensive ability, but I always thought Keith was the underrated superstar and more important core piece of the Blackhawks dynasty. Given his workload, fantastic all-around play and extensive trophy case (multiple Norris Trophies, multiple Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy), he has a Hall of Fame resume at one of the league's most important positions — with a lot of those peak years coming on one of the league's best teams.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2013, MacKinnon took a few years to become a true impact player. Once he did, he became one of the league's most unstoppable forces. You can count the number of players in the league who are faster than him on one hand (and still have fingers left over) while he has become a yearly MVP front-runner. He is the type of player you are immediately aware of every time he steps on the ice.
When Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky left as free agents this past summer, it made Jones the new face of the franchise in Columbus. It is a title he is more than worthy of carrying. It seems like he has been around forever (already in his seventh NHL season) but he is still only 25 years old and seems to get better every year. There is no aspect of the game he does not excel in. Defenders like him are hard to come by and when he is on his game he can take over from the back end.
I feel that if you are one of the best goalies in the league — and Bishop has clearly established himself as such — then that is a pretty intimidating presence to have on the ice. The Stars are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league but have a chance every night because of their two outstanding goalies, including one — Bishop — who has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy three different times in his career.
Because he is stuck on a rebuilding team that was on track for one of the worst seasons in NHL history, it is easy to overlook Mantha. But you shouldn't. He is an absolutely tank of a human being (6-foot-5, 234 pounds) with skill on top of that. The only thing that has held him back the past couple of years is injury. When he is healthy, he is a 30-goal scorer and a legit top-line power forward.
McDavid is, quite simply, a monster of a hockey player. His vision, playmaking and goal-scoring make him an absolute force offensively, but by far his most intimidating attribute is his blinding speed. There is not a player in the league who can explode through the neutral zone with the puck the way McDavid can, and at least one time per game he is going to make NHL players look like they are skating in slow motion.
There is nothing about Barkov that is not great for the Panthers. He is their most talented overall player, he is dominant offensively, is a fantastic defensive player who never takes penalties despite drawing the toughest assignments, and at 6-foot-3, 215 points he is huge physically. As an added bonus, he is a steal against the salary cap. His overall talent and two-way play makes him the one player on the Panthers you never want to see on the ice.
Quick may not be one of the league's top goalies anymore, but he is the modern-day Ron Hextall or Billy Smith in the sense that he is not going to take any nonsense from anyone. He will fight back, he will hit you and he will be in your face. It is a minor miracle he has not been involved in more goalie fights given how intense of a competitor he is.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and close to 230 pounds, Foligno is one of the Wild's biggest players and is by far their most physical. If he is on the ice, you are probably going to get hit by him at some point. But he is not just some random body out there throwing checks for the sake of hitting people. He is also a strong defensive player and can chip in enough offense to be an outstanding depth player.
He may be getting older and injuries may be starting to catch up to him, but when Weber is healthy he is still an absolute force on the blue line. He owns one of the league's most devastating slap shots, is still as physical as any player in the league and is always determined to try and play through anything. His contract is going to be a problem in the future, but he can remain an impact player in the short term.
One of the league's best overall defenseman, Josi is everything you want in a top-pairing blue-liner. He will play physical, he can score, he can defend and he is always going to be on the ice. The Predators have been a factory for top defensemen over the past 15 years, and Josi is one of their best homegrown players.
With Taylor Hall, Blake Coleman and Wayne Simmonds all traded away, there are not a lot options left in New Jersey for this category. But Wood is a solid choice given his combination of size, speed and physical play to go with with the fact he can also be a 15-20 goal scorer in the league. He is also a willing fighter who has been involved in some pretty intense scraps during his brief career.
He may not be the Islanders' best player, or even their most physical, but he is an ideal combination of talent and physicality to be the perfect net-front presence. He will take a beating around the goal crease and is going to cause havoc for opposing goalies every night.
Panarin has proved to be worth every penny the Rangers paid him in free agency. What makes him so intimidating? Simply put, he is one of the biggest game-changing players in the league and is almost single-handedly keeping the team in the playoff race this season. He will be the key piece of this rebuild.
He might be more of a pest than intimidating, but there is an argument to be made that he is both. He will do everything he can to get under your skin while also play a top-line level. He and his brother (Matthew in Calgary) are going to be tormenting teams around the league for years to come.
The days of the "Broad Street Bullies" are long gone. Intimidating in Philadelphia right now is about just being darn good at what you do. When Couturier first entered the league, he was known for his defensive play as a shutdown center. He still is that and is actually one of the best in the league as a defensive forward. But his game has also evolved to include top-line offensive production, making him one of the NHL's fiercest two-way centers.
I mean, come on. Who else is it going to be? Crosby is one of the game's legends and still on the (very) short list of the league's best players. He may not be a 120-point player like he was earlier in his career, but he is a force all over the ice and at any moment on any shift he can make the best defenders in the league look ridiculous.
Burns is a defenseman who scores like a top-line forward and can completely run you over. Then there is the whole appearance element that emerges when he lets the beard and hair grow. How could you NOT be intimidated by him flying at you or winding up to blast a slap shot that no one in the league wants to jump in front of?
One of the best two-way players in the league, O'Reilly plays huge minutes — shutdown minutes — against some of the leagues best players, plays them physically and does so without taking penalties. He is the reigning Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) and Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) winner and was the missing piece in the Blues' championship puzzle.
Could have gone a lot of different directions here. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are among the league's elite offensively. Once you get through their insane forward and defense depth you have to deal with one of the league's best goalies in Andrei Vasilevskiy. But I went with Hedman because he is the total package as a defenseman with the size, strength, skating and complete all-around game that allows him to excel in all three zones. Truly one of the league's best and complete players.
He is already one of the league's most dominant goal scorers and is well on his way to being one of the most prolific goalscorers in Maple Leafs history. The only thing that has stopped him from scoring 40 goals every year of his career is injury. The only thing that can keep him from 50 goals now is the suspension of the NHL season.
In terms of physical play Pettersson is probably the least intimidating player on this list because, well, that is just simply not his game. If anything he probably takes too much of a beating. But again, intimidating to play against isn't just about physical play. It is also about skill, and Pettersson is capable of making even the NHL's best and toughest players look absolutely helpless when they try to slow him down.
There are not many fighters remaining in the NHL these days, but Reaves is at the top of the list. He is not just an enforcer either. He can play a little and has been a big part of the Golden Knights' fourth-line since arriving in Vegas two years ago.
The greatest sign of dominance in sports is when the other team knows exactly what you are going to do, and it still cannot stop you. That is Ovechkin on the Capitals power play when he takes up residence in his offense on the left circle and buries one-timer after one-timer into the back of the net. Oh, and when he is not doing that? He is going to crush you physically.
In previous years this answer would have easily been Dustin Byfuglien, a combination of physical strength and offensive dominance. But with his time with the team all but finished, it shifts over to Laine, the team's most dangerous goalscorer with the most dangerous shot. He is still only 21 years old and is closing in on 150 career goals. When he scores *only* 30 in a season, we view it as a down year.
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