The Top 5 Fighters in the NHL and What Makes Them Fierce

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2013

The Top 5 Fighters in the NHL and What Makes Them Fierce

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    It's one thing to have the willingness to compete and a high enough battle level for a player to drop his gloves and fight in the NHL.

    It's quite another thing to be good at it.

    When players square off, there's always a chance for real damage to be done. Superb athletes who are in the prime of their athletic careers bring strength and anger to the battle. That combination makes for a dangerous fighter.

    But when the fighter also has skill and knowledge, that's when he can conduct himself comfortably in a hockey fight.

    The other guy may be just as big and strong, but when a hockey player has skills in the fistic arts, he becomes a very dangerous customer.

    Here's our look at the top fighters in the game.

    (Fight stats are courtesy of HockeyFights.com.)

5. Kevin Westgarth, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Kevin Westgarth of the Carolina Hurricanes can handle himself when it's time to drop the gloves

    Westgarth has had four fights this season, according to HockeyFights.com, and he has won three of them. Three of his fights have been against other top heavyweight "contenders." Westgarth is unafraid to drop the gloves and regularly demonstrates his skills.

    In the video above, he takes on Colton Orr, one of the most willing and dangerous fighters in the league. Westgarth, 6'4" and 235 pounds, keeps Orr at bay with his long arms. He holds Orr with his left, and keeps the Toronto tough guy from landing dangerous punches. At the same time, Westgarth also uses his left to jab Orr.

    As both players angle for a shot, Westgarth refuses to let himself become an easy target. He moves as he uses his fists. His right hand is cocked as he looks for an opportunity to throw a powerful punch.

    Westgarth uses his left for both defensive and offensive purposes and he does it with skill. His right is a dangerous punch that can finish opponents.

4. Shawn Thornton, Boston Bruins

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    Shawn Thornton has been a solid NHL policeman since he became a fixture in the NHL in 2006-07.

    Thornton does not have the size of some of the top heavyweights in the league, but he more than makes up with fighting skill.

    Thornton, 6'1" and 202 pounds, has many of the same skills that boxers work on in the gym. Watch Thornton's technique the next time he fights. His left is up, ready to attack and throw a stiff jab. His right hand protects his jaw and is also ready to exploit any defensive weakness in his opponent.

    Like a good boxer, Thornton does not stand still when he fights. He circles to his left, searching for the opening. He has quick hands and explosive power.

    Additionally, Thornton's head movement makes him a more difficult target to hit.

    He has won four of six fights this season, according to HockeyFights.com.

3. Frazer McLaren, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Frazer McLaren has become one of the most dangerous fighters in the league.

    He gives the Toronto Maple Leafs one of the most dangerous 1-2 fighting combinations alongside Colton Orr. McLaren has tremendous power in his legs, and that's where he gets the power in his punches and his ability to overpower opponents.

    McLaren, 6'4" and 222 pounds, used his leg strength to push David Dziurzynski of the Ottawa Senators all over the ice in their fight last month (video above). McLaren then set himself and leveled a perfect right cross on Dziurzynski's jaw, sending him down for the count.

    McLaren also combines quickness with his explosive punching, making him a very difficult opponent to defeat. 

2. Colton Orr, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Colton Orr is one of the most willing fighters in the league and he is quite good at it.

    When the 6'3" and 222-pound Orr is on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is willing to take on all comers. That includes the humongous John Scott (6'8" and 255 pounds) of the Buffalo Sabres. In the video above, Orr scraps hard with Scott, but it looks like Scott's size is going to be the decisive factor.

    However, Orr finds a way to get his right hand loose, lands a big bomb and drops Scott to his knees.

    Orr's right-hand power, his ability to take a punch and his willingness to engage make him one of the NHL's foremost warriors.

1. Patrick Bordeleau, Colorado Avalanche

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    Patrick Bordeleau of the Colorado Avalanche is the top fighter in the league this year.

    He has reeled off a 5-0-1 record. Give credit to Brian McGrattan of the Calgary Flames (video above), who not only engaged Bordeleau last month, but took his best punches and held him to a draw.

    That's not the way it usually goes when Bordeleau drops the gloves. He is a huge man at 6'6" and 225 pounds, and he uses his size to intimidate opponents.

    When Bordeleau squares off, you get the feeling that his long arms are going to prevent any of his opponents' punches from landing.

    That defensive ability is just part of it. For a big man, Bordeleau throws his punches with eye-catching speed. He can throw superior combinations with great rapidity.

    Dropping the gloves with Bordeleau is often a regrettable decision.