Who is the shortest NHL player? Hockey is regarded as one of the most physically demanding sports in the world, but smaller players are still able to find success.
From elite snipers to crafty playmakers, short NHL players rely on key attributes to help overcome their lack of size.
The NHL has seen some incredible players of short stature achieve success in their league, including Martin St. Louis (5’8″) and Marcel Dionne (5’8″). But who are the shortest active NHL players still playing in 2023?
In this article, we take a look at the shortest NHL players in 2023 and explore how they’ve achieved success in spite of their size.
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (5’7″)
At a listed height of 5’7″, Montreal Canadiens forward Cole Caufield is believed to be the shortest active NHL player. Caulfield shares the same listed height as Ottawa Senators’ forward Alex DeBrincat, but a side-by-side photo of the two has led many to believe DeBrincat is slightly taller. Regardless of whether or not Caufield owns the title of shortest NHL player, he’s sure to inspire many smaller hockey players with his story.
Caufield is regarded as one of the best goalscorers in the NHL and hasn’t let his size deter his career path. The Wisconsin native had a phenomenal junior career, which included setting the NTDP single-season record for most goals in a season in 2018-19. During that magical year, Caufield netted 72 goals in 64 games. It’s no surprise he was named to the Team USA World Junior team, where he helped lead the Americans to a Gold Medal in 2019.
Caufield was drafted 15th overall by Montreal in the 2019 draft, where his lack of size unquestionably played a role in him not being selected in the top-10. Caufield has proved countless doubters wrong by tallying 53 goals in his first 123 games in the NHL. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut Cauflied’s 2022-23 campaign short. Short NHL players are facing an uphill battle to make the NHL, but Caufield is proof that not only it can be done, but he’s shown small NHL players can become stars.
Alex DeBrincat, Ottawa Senators (5’7″)
At 5’7″, Ottawa Senators forward Alex DeBrincat is one of the shortest NHL players in 2023. Despite his small stature, DeBrincat has blossomed into one of the NHL’s top goalscorers. The small sniper netted 41 goals in the 2021-22 season as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Although his production has since taken a dip following a trade to Ottawa, DeBrincat is still considered an elite NHL sniper.
The Blackhawks drafted DeBrincat 39th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. There’s no doubt that size played a role in his draft position, as DeBrincat recorded two consecutive 51-goal seasons in junior before becoming draft eligible. If DeBrincat had a taller frame to match his stellar goal-scoring ability, there’s no doubt he would have been a first-round draft pick coming out of junior.
DeBrincat is able to thrive in the NHL due to his excellent shooting ability. While he won’t necessarily overpower another player physically, he will overpower goaltenders with his booming shot. DeBrincat owns a solid 14.3% career shooting percentage, which means he is very accurate. The Michigan native is particularly dangerous on the power play, where he’s netted 61 of his 439 career NHL goals.
Mats Zuccarello, Minnesota Wild (5’8″)
With a height of 5″8″, Minnesota Wild forward Mats Zuccarello is among the shortest active NHL players. Although his size might not intimidate the opposition, Zuccarello possesses other attributes that make him a dangerous NHL forward. “Zucc” has tremendous stickhandling skills that have transformed him into one of the NHL’s top shootout players. The Norwegian forward is also an excellent playmaker with remarkable passing skills.
Similar to the incredible story of Tampa Bay legend Martin. St. Louis, Zuccarello was never drafted by an NHL team. Although the 5’8″ forward clearly passed some skills, NHL teams just couldn’t look past his small size. Zuccarello started his professional career in his home country of Norway before his impressive play caught the eye of one of the NHL’s most historic franchises. “Zuc” spent five years in New York, becoming a fan favorite and helping lead the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013-14.
Zuccarello is currently playing for the Minnesota Wild, where he’s regarded as one of the team’s most consistent players. During the 2022-23 season, Zuccarello has recorded 22 goals and 65 points in 72 games while skating in a top-six role. Zuccarello has developed excellent chemistry with superstar Kirill Kaprizov, and the two linemates are one of the NHL’s top dynamic duos. Not only is Zuccarello the most successful NHL player from Norway, but he’s arguably the most successful “short” active NHL player. With 570 points in 759 career NHL games, Zuccarello’s story is truly inspirational.