Playoff Predictions using Defensemen Height and Weight

In November I wrote a couple of articles on whether teams with taller and heavier forwards or defensemen see more success in the playoffs. The conclusion was, over the past 5 or so years teams with bigger defensemen (taller and/or heavier) have gone deeper in the playoffs. Teams that have an average defenseman height 0.5″ taller than their opponent won 55.7% of playoff games while teams that had an average defensemen weight of 5lbs heavier than their opponent won 56.8% of the games. This advantage was not seen in the regular season so it is unique to playoff hockey and wouldn’t be reflected in each teams regular season won-loss record. The size of forwards didn’t seem to be connected with playoff success.

So, here is my look at the average defenseman height and weight for the 16 playoff teams. This is an ice time weighted average height and weight of defensemen since the trade deadline.

Average Defenseman Height

Team Height (in)
Edmonton Oilers75.7
Vegas Golden Knights75.2
Tampa Bay Lightning74.8
Dallas Stars74.5
Vancouver Canucks74.5
Carolina Hurricanes74.3
Boston Bruins74.1
Washington Capitals74.1
New York Islanders74.0
Toronto Maple Leafs73.9
Winnipeg Jets73.7
Los Angeles Kings73.5
Florida Panthers73.5
New York Rangers73.3
Nashville Predators72.9
Colorado Avalanche72.3

Average Defenseman Weight

TeamWeight (lbs)
Vegas Golden Knights213.1
Tampa Bay Lightning210.4
Vancouver Canucks209.1
Carolina Hurricanes209.1
Boston Bruins208.6
Edmonton Oilers208.6
New York Islanders206.1
Toronto Maple Leafs205.4
Los Angeles Kings204.7
Nashville Predators204.2
Winnipeg Jets203.3
Dallas Stars202.4
Washington Capitals202.1
Florida Panthers198.7
New York Rangers196.3
Colorado Avalanche195.7

Based on the above two tables, Colorado is at a big disadvantage as they have both the shortest and lightest group of defensemen. The New York Rangers and Florida Panthers are also relatively small ranking bottom 4 in both height and weight. Nashville is short but closer to average weight. Vegas and Tampa are the two heaviest teams and along with Edmonton are among the three tallest teams. Vancouver also ranks top 5 in both height and weight while Dallas has tall defensemen but more average weight.

To put this into perspective, here are the height and weights with rankings among the 16 playoff teams of the past 5 NHL Stanley Cup Champions and Stanley Cup Finalists.

Cup WinnerHeight (in)Weight (lbs)
Vegas Golden Knights75.0 (4th)215.4 (2nd)
Colorado Avalanche73.3 (12th)199.7 (13th)
Tampa Bay Lightning75.2 (3rd)224.5 (1st)
Tampa Bay Lightning75.0 (1st)222.8 (1st)
St. Louis Blues75.7 (1st)213.7 (3rd)
Cup FinalistHeight (in)Weight (lbs)
Florida Panthers73.4 (13th)203.0 (12th)
Tampa Bay Lightning75.6 (1st)224.5 (1st)
Montreal Canadiens75.4 (2nd)216.2 (2nd)
Dallas Stars74.8 (3rd)210.0 (6th)
Boston Bruins73.9 (11th)209.7 (7th)
Four of the five Stanley Cup winning teams had big defensemen ranking among the top teams in height and weight. The cup finalists were not quite as big but generally ranked among the top half of playoff teams in both height and weight. The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup with a relatively small defense and they hope to do it again this season however they are a full inch shorter and 4 pounds lighter this season so they are really looking to be trend breakers.

Here are the playoff matchups and who has the advantage based on defensemen size..

  • Tampa defense is significantly taller (1.4″) and heavier (11.7lbs) than Florida’s so edge to the Lightning.
  • Boston’s defense is 0.2″ taller and 3.2lbs heavier than Toronto’s so not much of an edge here, especially with Joel Edmundson returning to the Leafs lineup.
  • The Capitals defense is 0.8″ taller and 5.9lbs heavier than the Rangers so there is an edge to Washington based on defenseman size, but is it enough to overcome the Rangers having the better team otherwise?
  • The Hurricanes defense is just 0.3″ taller and 3lbs heavier than the New York Islanders so there is no real edge here either way.
  • The Winnipeg Jets who have a very average sized defense still have a sizeable edge over the Avalanche who’s defense is the smallest in the playoffs. Jet defensemen are 1.4″ taller and 7.5lbs heavier than the Avalanche defensemen.
  • Both the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have fairly tall defensemen however the Golden Knights defense are much weightier which give Vegas an edge.
  • Vancouver has a pretty good height and weight advantage over the Nashville Predators.
  • Edmonton had a bit of good luck on the last night of the regular season with the Kings overtaking the Golden Knights who have a much bigger group of defensemen. Instead of being on par or slightly outsized by the Vegas defense the Oilers now have a sizeable advantage over the Kings being 2.2″ taller and 3.9lbs heavier.

To summarize, based on defensemen size, Tampa, Winnipeg and the Oilers have big advantages over Florida, Colorado and Los Angeles respectively with Washington and Vancouver having a bit more modest but still sizeable advantage over the NY Rangers and Nashville. Vegas has a sizeable weight advantage over Dallas but less of a height advantage. The other two series, Carolina-NY Islanders and Boston-Toronto are a wash in this regard.

Based purely on defensemen size, here are my series predictions:

  • Edmonton
  • Winnipeg
  • Vegas
  • Vancouver
  • Tampa
  • Washington
  • Carolina
  • Boston

I am giving the edge to Boston though this one is probably too close to call based in size and weight of defensemen, especially if Edmundson stays healthy for Toronto. This is probably a toss up based on overall team talent too. It should be a tight series no matter who comes out as the winner.

The one team that I do not think can use their defenseman size advantage and take them to a series victory is Washington. I think the Rangers are far superior to them in every other category that I don’t see the defenseman size benefit overcoming that.

I look forward to seeing if the trend of bigger defensemen leading to more playoff success continues for these playoffs and how these playoff predictions based solely on defense size pans out.

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