To be successful in the NHL, players need a combination of speed, strength, power, and agility—not to mention sheer skating and stickhandling skills. Whether they're flying down the ice to stop a breakaway or cutting through defenders to get to the net, hockey players need to be in top physical form to outlast their opponents.
Finding players with that mix of talent helps separate the good teams from the playoff teams—and contenders from Stanley Cup champions.
Here’s a look at are the fittest and most athletic players in the NHL for the 2016-17 season.
The former Men’s Fitness cover star and modern heir to “The Great One” solidified himself as an all-time great with his second Stanley Cup championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 2015-16 season. “Sid the Kid” was the driving force behind the Penguins’ success, helping the team go from a middling start to one of the hottest in the league by the time the playoffs rolled around. At 5’11”, 200 pounds, Crosby has the power to drive through defensemen on his way to the net and the speed to dance his away around opponents to find open shots. Crosby keeps himself in prime shape for the season with single leg workouts, box jumps, deadlifts, squats, balance drills, plyometrics, and stabilization exercises.
The Russian star is like a bulldozer on the ice—at 6’3”, 239 pounds, Ovechkin has the size to outmatch any opponent and his physical ability makes him a dominant offensive player. “Ovie” told Men's Fitness he keeps himself in shape with a number of different workouts and techniques, including strength training, bench press work, shoulder workouts, squats, conditioning, and running. In the first 11 years of his career, “Alexander the Great” led the league in goals six times and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP three times.
The former first overall draft pick is a speedster with a prolific scoring touch—Kane became the first American-born player to win the the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) and the Art Ross Trophy (scoring leader) after his fantastic performance during the 2015-16 season. At 5’10”, 175 pounds, Kane has top-notch agility and fantastic puck-handling skills, which has helped him lead the Hawks to three Stanley Cup titles over his first nine years in the league.
The Swedish goalie has established himself as one of the best netminders in hockey history with his play for the New York Rangers, helping the team become a perennial playoff contender after years of middle-of-the-pack finishes. “King Henrik” trains hard to stay fit, telling Men’s Fitness that he uses squats, core strength work, situps, pushups, tennis, and running to be at the top of his game. Lundqvist is one of the most stylish sports stars in the world—here’s fashion advice he gave Men’s Fitness readers—he’s won a gold medal in the Olympics, and he’s the definition of clutch: Lundqvist has the NHL record for most consecutive wins in playoff Game 7 appearances.
The NHL youngster was the top overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft at the ripe age of 18, and despite dealing with an injury during his first season, he still finished third in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting for rookie of the year. McDavid trains five or six days a week during the offseason and uses squats, deadlifts, cardio training, and agility drills to stay in shape.
McDavid received a lot of hype coming out of the Ontario Hockey League due to his scoring and playmaking ability and some have pegged him “The Next One,” a potential heir to Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky as one of the best hockey players ever. That’s quite a bit of pressure to put on a teenage kid's shoulders, but McDavid proved during his first season that he could skate with the big boys with this defense-splitting goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Mississauga, Ontario native has been an overachiever for his entire career—he was the youngest player ever to be drafted into the Ontario Hockey League and went on to be the first overall pick for the New York Islanders in the NHL Draft. Although Tavares doesn't have elite speed, his 6’1”, 205-pound frame gives the Islanders a physical player with the strength to barrel through defenders. Tavares uses squats, deadlifts, bench press work, medicine ball drills, weighted situps, and rotational exercises in his training, and he’s helped the Isles become contenders after years of building.
The young Toronto Maple Leafs center is on the rise in the NHL after being a top-10 draft pick in 2014. The son of former NHL player Michael Nylander and brother of 2016 Buffalo Sabres draft pick Alexander has bulked up from his draft combine weight of 170 pounds, adding 20 pounds of muscle to his 5’11” frame. Nylander told Men's Fitness he used single-leg workouts, core strength work, deadlifts, squats, and even squash to get in shape for the season. And then there’s his shot: Teammates have raved over Nylander’s skills with his stick—he has deceptive moves that make it very tough on goalies to pick up the puck off his stick. Nylander might be young, but he’s ready to play with the big boys.
The 5’11”, 186-pound winger is one of the fastest skaters in the league—he won the fastest skater competition at the 2012 All-Star game. In 2014 his speed was clocked at 23.053 mph, the fastest in the NHL. That speed allows the long-haired Swedish star to dart past bigger defenders, and his agility allows him to get into scoring position on offense. Hagelin is coming off of a Stanley Cup win with the Penguins, helping the team win a title after being traded to Pittsburgh during the 2015-16 season.
The young center has blazing speed and he put that to good use in his rookie season, recording 23 goals and 22 assists in 80 games for the Red Wings. The fans of Hockeytown love Larkin—he has the size at 6’2”, 190 pounds to shake off defenders and he creates excitement with his agility and speed. Larkin set the NHL speed record at the 2016 All-Star game with a 13.172-second run in the Fastest Skater competition and is on the rise as one of the best young players in the league.
The native of Markham, Ontario has been the leader of the Tampa Bay Lightning since being drafted first overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. Stamkos has the combination of size and speed that executives are looking for in offensive players and his 6’1”, 194-pound frame gives him the power to muscle past defenders when he crashes the net. The prolific scorer helped the Lightning make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015. He trains like a champ, too: Stamkos told Men’s Fitness that he does weighted sled work, sprints, and deadlifts to stay in shape—like this 500-pound trap bar deadlift he pulled off in 2013.
The Toronto native is one of the most physical and skilled defensive players in the league—at 6’0”, 210 pounds, Subban has the size to match up with any opponent, but he also has the stickhandling skills that make him an offensive threat from the blueline. Subban keeps himself in great shape with free weight work, chinups, treadmill work, sprinting, as well as hamstring and glute drills. The former Montreal Canadiens star took home the Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 2013 and helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Bishop is a giant in the net—at 6’7”, he’s the tallest goalie in NHL—and that's helped him develop into one of the best netminders in the league. Bishop uses stability workouts, stretching drills, and hand-eye coordination drills to prepare for the season. He’s been one of the most consistent goaltenders in the league since coming to Tampa Bay for the 2012-13 season. Bishop’s height can sometimes be a disadvantage when matching up against smaller players, but he can stretch it out for a save as well as (and probably better than) anyone, as shown by this amazing stop against the Washington Capitals.