The current state of the NHL is catered towards shutdown defensemen now more than ever. The value of a two-way, stud defenseman is arguably at its highest now with the way that forwards in the league are progressing into point-producing machines.
The top 10 NHL defensemen are an excellent mix of speed, power, hockey IQ, leadership, and clutch. Without further ado, let’s look at the top 10 NHL defensemen in today’s game.
10. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
While Suter got his name recognized for his play in Nashville when he was younger, Suter has matured into one of the league’s finest defensemen in Minnesota, without the help of Shea Weber. Suter is a throwback in every sense.
Often playing over 28 minutes a night, Suter doesn’t let that get in the way of his tireless work ethic. Suter blocks shots with the best of them, isn’t afraid to get physical when he has to, and has timely offensive production.
Suter is worth every penny of his $7.5 million cap hit. He is a leader for the young Wild, and will be instrumental there for a long time.
9. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
Roman Josi has improved by leaps and bounds every year in which he’s been in the NHL. He had the privilege of breaking in with veterans like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter by his side, but Josi now leads the Predators as the number 1 defenseman.
Josi has fantastic puck control. He usually scores 15 goals and 55-60 points each year, which are tremendous totals for a defenseman. But Josi is also more than competent in his own end. He often renders the opposition useless with his active stick and hockey sense.
Josi, only 26, has a very bright future ahead of him.
8. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
One of 4 consecutive defensemen on this list with Nashville Predators ties, Subban was shockingly traded to the Preds in exchange for their ex-captain, Shea Weber, in a deal that took the hockey world by storm.
Subban is a markedly different player from the more physically imposing Weber. Subban will beat you with his silky-smooth skating, pretty puck handling, and clutch cannon. Subban is also 4 years younger than Weber, which is a win for Nashville.
Subban, a renaissance man if there ever was one, will fit right in in Nashville.
7. Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
P.K. Subban is a heck of a player, but there’s no doubt in my mind that right now, I’d rather have Shea Weber in my lineup than Subban. Weber has a world of experience that Subban just doesn’t have yet.
Weber has the hardest shot in the game, which sends opposing defenses cowering in fear. He scored 21 goals and 56 points last season, so his offense is certainly not slowing down. His defense remains as solid as ever.
The debate of Subban vs. Weber is really a toss-up. Over time, they’ll both make their new teams very satisfied.
6. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
The leader of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup-winning defense, Letang had himself an outstanding playoff for Pittsburgh. In addition to his clutch scoring, he made many plays happen while also limiting the Sharks’ offensive attack.
Letang hasn’t played a full season since 2011, which definitely hurts his ranking. Still, when he’s healthy, few can match the game of Letang. He is one of the game’s best skaters and a sneaky hard hitter.
And he has another Stanley Cup ring on his mantle.
5. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman’s rise into NHL supremacy has been a long one, but at 25, the hulking Swede seems to have finally figured it all out. The 6’6″, 223-lb. d-man is obviously a physical specimen, but his offensive game has become much more refined over the years as well.
Hedman has scored at least 10 goals and 45 points in his last 3 seasons, including some power play howitzers. He is a fearless checker, and he’ll always lay his body on the line to block a shot.
A Norris Trophy could be in the cards for Hedman in the near future.
4. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Burns is the P.K. Subban of the West in more than a couple of ways. He is certainly a character off the ice, has an offensive edge to his game, and is a player you hate to play against but secretly want on your team.
But Burns is even more dominant offensively than Subban, which is saying something. Burns tallied 27 goals and a ridiculous 75 points as a full-time defenseman! And in the playoffs, Burns added 7 more goals and averaged a point per game.
The 6’5″, 230-lb. defenseman is a free agent to be following this season.
3. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Duncan Keith is the old guard of this list at 33 years old, but he has got many prime years still ahead of him. Through his 12-year NHL career, Keith has stayed remarkably consistent as the Blackhawks’ number 1 defenseman.
Keith is a power play wizard, a hard worker, a leader, and always clutch for the Blackhawks. He routinely scores 10 goals and 45 points a year, and always raises his game in the playoffs. Keith has won 2 Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman and 1 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Keith is as dependable a player as there is in this league.
2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson is a player unlike any other in the NHL. An offensive defenseman in the mold of Bobby Orr, Karlsson is also one of the game’s smartest players. His defensive game is often overshadowed by his offense, but he has improved over the years.
But Karlsson’s offense is his calling card. He has scored over 65 points four times in his NHL career, including last year’s 82-point effort. He is always good for about 20 goals and 75 points, which is more than some teams’ top forwards can produce. Amazingly, he only had one power play goal all year, which asserts his even-strength dominance.
Karlsson is a flashy player, but there is just one better.
1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
There’s no doubt about it, Drew Doughty is the top defenseman in the entire NHL. Nobody blends offense, defense, leadership, clutch, and hockey sense into a better package than the former second overall pick.
Doughty has won 2 Stanley Cups, but he also has an impressive regular season list of accomplishments. He usually scores around 10 goals and 50 points, never misses a game, and won the Norris Trophy this year as the league’s top d-man.
Doughty isn’t the best at any one thing, but he is collectively the best at everything.