Red Wings’ Elmer Soderblom has some competition: Meet all NHL teams’ tallest players

Detroit Free Press

Forget the memes of “Hot Girl Summer” — it’s time for “Tall Guy Fall.”

*No, we are not actually rooting for tall guys to fall.

Instead, as baseball season, dominated the past few weeks by the 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge’s chase of the American League home run record, turns to hockey season, we’re reminded that the tallest NHL player of all time, 6-9 Zdeno Chara retired this summer, leaving a lanky opening at the, ahem, top.

Here in Detroit, the Red Wings have featured Swedish forward Elmer Soderblom, who stands 6-8 without skates, in their first three preseason games to test his NHL potential. But he’s not the only stretched-out skater vying for Chara’s neck-bending torch, with five teams sporting players on their preseason roster at 6-8 or taller, and every team having at least one player at 6-5.

CARLOS MONARREZ:I tried to watch the Detroit Red Wings’ defense but couldn’t take my eyes off this player

And so, here is the tallest player on every NHL preseason roster (as of Sept. 30):

Anaheim Ducks: G Anthony Stolarz, 6-6

Does it seem like cheating to go with a guy who spends all game crouching? Probably, but the New Jersey native still has 2 inches on the next tallest veteran Duck (which seems like an oxymoron), forward Pavol Regenda. Wings fans who hold a grudge may remember Stolarz, a Nebraska-Omaha alumnus, from a December 2016 overtime shutout in which he stopped all 28 Red Wings shots with the Flyers. (He’ll be fighting for his roster spot with another towering goalie — another oxymoron! — as the Ducks claimed 6-7 netminder Jonas Johansson off waivers from Colorado on Friday.)

Arizona Coyotes: F Nick Bjugstad, 6-6

The 2010 first-round pick (No. 19 overall) spent his first seven seasons with the Florida Panthers before short stints with the Penguins and Wild; hopefully, the free-agent signee won’t bump his head on the roof of the Coyotes’ new home, which seats a cozy 5,000 on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe.

Boston Bruins: D Brandon Carlo, 6-6

Led to Chara for so many seasons, the Bruins are now topped by this 2015 second-rounder (No. 37 overall), whose six points (1G, 5A) against the Wings are his most against any franchise.

Buffalo Sabres: F Tage Thompson, 6-7

Thompson beats out former Wolverine wunderkind (and former No. 1 overall pick) Owen Power by a single inch; also a former first-rounder (No. 26 overall by St. Louis in 2016), he had a breakout season in 2021-22 with 38 goals and 30 assists.

Calgary Flames: F Adam Klapka, 6-8

Signed out of Czechia’s top league, Klapka is probably a year or two from a full-time job in Calgary (though he impressed at rookie camp); the Flames have a tie for the next tallest between defenseman Nikita Zadorov and goalie Jacob Markstrom, both 6-6. (Though only one stands tall for the whole game.)

Carolina Hurricanes: D Brent Burns, 6-5

There’s a new No. 88 in NASCAR Country; sorry, Dale Jr., but your number is now being worn by the impressively bearded Burns in his first year with the Canes after 11 seasons in San Jose. Burns did more than turn left in his final season with the Sharks, though; the former Norris Trophy winner posted 10 goals and 44 assists in 82 games in 2021-22.

Chicago Blackhawks: F Buddy Robinson & D Alex Vlasic, 6-6

Will either make the tanking rebuilding Blackhawks’ opening-night roster? Robinson, a 31-year-old Lake Superior State product has 53 games of NHL experience, with 32 coming last season in Anaheim, while the 21-year-old Vlasic (a cousin to the Sharks’ Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but no relation to the pickles) played 15 games with Chicago last season.

Colorado Avalanche: D Kurtis MacDermid, 6-5

The 28-year-old logged 58 games in the regular season but none in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup champs — but he still got to host a beach party with the Cup north of the border).

Columbus Blue Jackets: F Patrik Laine, D Erik Gudbranson & G Daniil Tarasov, 6-5

Laine’s second year in Ohio was down by his standards — 26 goals and 30 assists for the 2016 No. 2 overall pick; that’s one fewer goal than Gudbranson has over his entire 11-year career. Tarasov, meanwhile, allowed just seven goals in 175 minutes in the crease last season.

Dallas Stars: F Riley Tufte & D Jani Hakanpaa, 6-6

Tufte, a 2016 first-rounder, had one goal in his 10-game stint with the Stars last season, while Hakanpaa put up four (with eight assists) in 80 games in his fifth NHL season.

Detroit Red Wings: F Elmer Soderblom, 6-8

The big Swede had 21 goals and 12 assists for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League last season. Even more importantly for family gatherings, he picked up an assist against his 6-3 brother Arvid, in net for the Blackhawks in Wednesday’s game at Little Caesars Arena.

Edmonton Oilers: D Vincent Desharnais & D Markus Niemelainen, 6-6

What a blue-line pairing this would be, but, alas, it’s unlikely as this pair of 2016 draftees (seventh and third round, respectively) seems destined for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, California, this season.

Florida Panthers: G Mack Guzda, 6-5

The rare prospect from Knoxville, Tennessee, he went undrafted in juniors but his .915 save percentage and 2.52 GAA in the OHL last season earned him a shot at a spot on the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners’ AHL squad in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Los Angeles Kings: F Quinton Byfield, 6-5

The Kings have, ahem, high hopes for their 2020 No. 2 overall pick (two spots ahead of the Wings’ Lucas Raymond) though he won’t turn 21 until well after this season; he had five goals and five assists in 40 games last season.

Minnesota Wild: D Andrej Sustr, 6-8

A product of the Czech Republic by way of Nebraska-Omaha, Sustr loves to play physical against the Wings; his 15 penalty minutes in 19 games are his most against any franchise in 361 NHL games.

Montreal Canadiens: D Joel Edmundson, 6-5

One of two alternate captains for the Habs, the 2011 second-rounder played in just 24 games (with three goals and three assists) last season. Still, he has 9 inches on his coach, Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis, who had the interim tag removed this offseason.

Nashville Predators: F Jachym Kondelik, 6-7

This 2018 fourth-round pick is one big dog — the German wrapped up a four-year career at UConn as the Huskies’ all-time leader in assists (76) and points (104) and was named the Hockey East Conference’s best defensive forward last season.

New Jersey Devils: D Kevin Bahl & D Dougie Hamilton, 6-6

Don’t expect a pairing of these two, as Bahl is a 22-year-old fighting for the Devils’ seventh D-man spot and Hamilton is in his second season in New Jersey (nine goals, 21 assists) after finishing fourth in Norris voting in 2021.

New York Islanders: F Otto Koivula, 6-5

Goalie Kenneth Appleby, also 6-5, was placed on waivers Thursday, so Koivula, a 34-year-old Finn stands alone in inheriting Chara’s crown as the Longest, er, tallest Islander; still, he isn’t healthy enough to skate right now after two assists in eight NHL games and 47 points in 56 AHL games last season.

New York Rangers: F Adam Edstrom, 6-7

Another big Swede, Edstrom was a sixth-round pick in 2019 and turns 22 in October, meaning he’ll head back to his SHL team, Rogle, where he was teammates last season with Wings prospect William Wallinder. (Another Rogle product: Wings defenseman Moritz Seider.)

Ottawa Senators: G Mads Sogaard, 6-7

Truly a great Dane, the 2019 second-rounder (No. 37 overall, two picks after the Wings took defenseman Antti Tuomisto) made his NHL debut against Detroit last season, stopping 27 of 29 shots in a 5-2 win at Little Caesars Arena.

Philadelphia Flyers: F Isaac Ratcliffe, 6-6

If the Ontario native could only play the Wings all the time, he’d probably have a roster spot locked up; the Flyers’ second-round pick in 2017 had a goal and an assist in two games vs. the Wings, and two assists in his eight other games combined.

Pittsburgh Penguins: D Radim Zohorna, 6-6

Sure, the big Czech had two assists in the Pens’ victory over the Wings on March 27, but, c’mon — in that 11-2 Pittsburgh win, 10 different Pens had at least two points.

San Jose Sharks: D Jaycob Megna, 6-6

The Nebraska-Omaha size connection continues with this Florida native who slots in as the Sharks’ third defenseman despite just thre goals and 10 assists in 87 games; he really impressed new coach David Quinn playing for him and Team USA over the summer at Worlds.

Seattle Kraken: D Jamie Oleksiak, 6-7

He tied a career high with 17 points in his first season with the expansion Kraken, but know this: He’s not even the best athlete in his family, as his sister Penny is a swimmer with a Canadian-record five medals at the Summer Olympics. (She also beat out Sidney Crosby for Canada’s top athletic award in 2016.)

St. Louis Blues: D Colton Parayko, 6-6

Parayko, an alternate captain for the Blues, is a contender for our All-Height team, as he put up six goals and 29 assts in 80 games last season, his seventh in the league. (Though he’ll have to share the crown as the Blues’ tallest player once foward Alexey Toropchenko returns from shoulder surgery in December.)

Tampa Bay Lightning: D Victor Hedman, 6-6

The No. 2 overall pick in 2009 (behind John Tavares) has more than lived up to his lofty billing, with a Norris Trophy in 2018 and four more third-place finishes in the four seasons since. (And, oh yeah, two Stanley Cups and a runner-up finish last season.)

Toronto Maple Leafs: F Curtis Douglas, 6-9

The hulking former Windsor Spitfire finally clicked last season with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, putting up 13 goals, 21 assists and 86 penalty minutes in just 67 games; he’s fighting for the Leafs’ fourth-line center spot.

Vancouver Canucks: D Tyler Myers, 6-8

The 2010 Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s top rookie set career highs that season with 11 goals and 37 assists for the Sabres. Last season, his third with the Canucks, he had just one goal and 17 assists in 82 games.

Vegas Golden Knights: D Nicholas Hague & G Adin Hill, 6-6

Hague, a second-rounder in 2017, was the franchise’s fourth-ever draft pick and has 10 goals (including one against the Wings in November 2021) in 142 games; Hill is competing for the No. 1 spot in net after stopping 90.6% of the shots he faced in 25 games with the Sharks last season.

Washington Capitals: F Anthony Mantha, D Gabriel Carlsson & G Darcy Kuemper, 6-5

Of the trio, only two seem likely to make the opening-night roster: Mantha, who spent his first 5½ seasons in Detroit, was limited by injuries to just nine goals and 14 assists in 37 games last season, while Kuemper won a Stanley Cup with the Avs (despite missing nearly all of the Western Conference finals against the Oilers). Carlsson, meanwhile, had nine points in 38 games with the Blue Jackets in 2021-22

Winnipeg Jets: D Logan Stanley, 6-7

The Jets’ first-round pick in 2016 (No. 18 overall) would have to go through waivers if he doesn’t make the opening-night roster, which seems to give him the edge in a three-way battle for the final spot in Winnipeg’s top six defensemen, despite just 17 points in 95 games over the past two seasons.

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