Anaheim Ducks’ Midseason Grades: Defensemen

Sami Vatanen

Vatanen has provided the offensive spark from the blueline that the Ducks desperately need. His defensive play remains a work in progress, as does his decision making on the breakout. When carrying the puck through the neutral zone in the offensive zone however, he’s one of the very best in the league, finding the seams in the defense to slip a pass through or skate through. To top it off, he’s dynamite on the power play, possessing an excellent understanding of when to pinch up and when to remain conservative. No other Ducks blueliner has been quite as impactful as Vatanen. Grade: A

Cam Fowler

The heir apparent to Scott Niedermayer’s vacant throne in Anaheim, Fowler has played like a seasoned veteran this season, making it easy to forget that he’s only 23 years old. His play at even strength has been extremely steady. He starts the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, meaning that head coach Bruce Boudreau trusts him with tough assignments. Despite his tougher minutes, he’s managed to accumulate a respectable possession rating. Offensively, he’s been solid as well, chipping in 20 points from the blueline, including this sensational goal. It’s beyond any resonable doubt now that Fowler is a top-pairing NHL defenseman. Grade: A

Hampus Lindholm

There’s a clear trend with Anaheim’s defense: all their best blueliners are smooth-skating puck-movers. Lindholm is no different. He is the type of defenseman that every team needs, but that quite a few don’t. His vision of the ice with the puck on his stick is excellent, rarely making a bad pass when breaking it out. Offensively he hasn’t had the same impact as Vatanen or Fowler, but he more than makes up for it by providing a smooth transition from defense to offense. Grade: B+

Francois Beauchemin

Beauchemin is yet another player on the Ducks’ roster that’s been hampered by illness and injury. In the games that he has played though, he has provided a calming veteran presence alongside the younger core. His offensive numbers haven’t been eye popping, but as an aging defenseman, the most important thing is that he isn’t hurting the team at five on five. The value of a mentor alongside younger players is difficult to quantify, but Beauchemin has provided that on top of remaining a solid contributor. Grade: B

Ben Lovejoy

Limited to 23 games due to injury, Lovejoy has had a positive impact on even strength play, though a lot of that could be tied to his partner Fowler. He’s contributed offensively as well, notching a healthy seven assists, which is a nice bonus for a defenseman not really known for putting up points. It’s tough to give him a high grade considering his lengthy absence and marginal impact. Grade: B-

Josh Manson

His stint in Anaheim was a brief one thanks to all the early season injuries on defense, but Manson left a lasting impression. He displayed an innate ability to make the right play at the right time when breaking the puck out, all while holding his own defensively. His inexperience showed at times, leading to his eventual return to Norfolk where he can develop further. Only a year removed from college hockey, Manson has a high ceiling and should be a regular on the Ducks’ blueline in the coming years. Grade: B-

Clayton Stoner

Brought in to bring size and toughness to Anaheim’s blueline, Stoner has been a negative possession player throughout his Ducks tenure. He can make life difficult for the opposition in front of the Anaheim net and in the corners, but that strength is far outweighed by his inability to exit the defensive zone with control. Too often he settles for chipping the puck out using the glass, which contributes to his mediocre possession rating. He’s easily been Anaheim’s worst defenseman this season. Grade: D+