NHL’s Top 10 Defencemen for 2022-23

Midway through the 2021-22 season, I put lists together on the top 10 players for each position, as well as coaches. It goes without saying that it is a very tough list to do given how subjective it is, but nevertheless I am here to do it once again.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120

As you will see, there are names on this list that have changed due to some defensemen playing exceptional this past season, while others struggled. With that said, here are the top 10 defensemen in the NHL as we get set to enter the 2022-23 season.

10. Quinn Hughes

At just 22 years old, Quinn Hughes has recorded 165 points in 205 career games. From an offensive standpoint, he is amongst the best in the entire league, and is coming off of a season in which he had a career-high 68 points in just 76 games. Despite those numbers, however, he often gets overlooked when it comes to discussing the game’s elite blue liners. (from ‘Harman Dayal: Unlocking Quinn Hughes’ superstar potential: Inside the blueprint that could fix his defensive game’ , The Athletic 10/08/21).

Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The reason for this is the fact that his defensive play can be quite underwhelming at times. That said, it seems that some tend to focus on that too much, rather than what he is able to do with the puck on his stick. The Vancouver Canucks are hoping to find their way into the playoffs this year in the Pacific Division, and in order to do so will need the 2018 seventh overall pick to be at his absolute best. Given how his first three seasons in the league have gone, there is no reason to expect anything other than just that.

9. Jaccob Slavin

As mentioned, Hughes is a defenseman who sometimes doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves due to his below-average defensive zone play. That tends to be the case for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin as well, though in the complete opposite fashion.

Related: NHL’s Top 10 Goalies for 2022-23

Slavin is undoubtedly one of the best defensemen in the game, and perhaps the most underrated. The reason being that he isn’t flashy, and won’t ever wow anyone with his offensive totals. His defensive play, however, is simply phenomenal, and perhaps the most impressive of it all is that he is able to play so well in his own end despite almost never taking penalties.

8. Miro Heiskanen

There are few defensemen in the NHL who are as smooth and effortless as Miro Heiskanen. The 2017 third overall pick has quickly become one of the best blue liners in the business, and still has plenty of ways to go before reaching his true potential. In 70 games last season, he managed five goals and 36 points. Solid numbers for a guy who played on the team’s second power-play unit in 2021-22.

Given how much skill Heiskanen has, it feels like only a matter of time before he truly blows up offensively. That could be as soon as this coming season, as he is set to take over on the top power play with the departure of John Klingberg. Even if his offense doesn’t explode like most think, his great skating ability and defensive work will allow him to remain a top ten defenseman throughout the entire league.

7. Kris Letang

At 35 years old, there is a chance that Kris Letang’s play does begin to dip, but to this point, we haven’t seen it. In fact, the long-time Pittsburgh Penguins anchor is coming off of a 68-point season, the best of his illustrious career. Thanks to that great play he was able to earn himself a six-year, $36.6 million extension this offseason.

Kris Letang Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Assuming Letang and the rest of the Penguins are able to stay healthy in 2022-23, we should see a similar season statistically from him. While he hasn’t always received the credit he deserves, very few have been as consistently productive from the back end as he has over the past decade.

6. Aaron Ekblad

When in the lineup, Aaron Ekblad has proven that he is an elite defenseman. The issue with him has been his health, as he has sustained serious injuries in each of the past two seasons. As mentioned, however, when he is in the lineup, he is simply outstanding. In 61 games this past season, the 26-year-old recorded 15 goals and 57 points. Had he stayed healthy, he had a strong chance at being a Norris Trophy finalist.

The 2022-23 season will be a massive one for Ekblad. Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy this past season, many are questioning how good this Panthers team will be moving forward given their extremely underwhelming blue line. If Ekblad is able to play in similar fashion to what we saw in 2021-22, he should help mask a ton of their problems.

5. Charlie McAvoy

Heading into 2021-22, most thought of Charlie McAvoy as a very good all-around defenseman, though not one that would blow you away with offensive productivity. That narrative has changed, however, as the 24-year-old went on to put up a career high 56-points in 78 outings. Those totals still fall short of some of the other game’s top blueliners, but very few are as solid defensively.

Unfortunately for the Boston Bruins, McAvoy isn’t expected to return to the lineup until late November as a result of shoulder surgery. When that time does come for him to return, you can expect him to instantly be leaned on by new head coach Jim Montgomery. He will be relied upon for large minutes, and will have no problem in doing so.

4. Adam Fox

There are few defensemen throughout the history of the game that have been as dominant at as young of an age as Adam Fox. The now 24-year-old is an offensive catalyst from the back end, proven by the fact he is coming off of a regular season in which he recorded 11 goals and 74 points in 78 games. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he upped that production even more in the playoffs with five goals and 23 points in 20 outings.

Adam Fox New York Rangers
Adam Fox, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite only being in the league for three years, Fox has already won himself a Norris Trophy after a phenomenal 2020-21 season. This kid had a ton of hype years before making the NHL, and fans throughout the entire league have found out why. He will continue to be a major threat for years to come.

3. Victor Hedman

For years, Victor Hedman was undoubtedly the best defenseman on the planet. That is no longer the case, but make no mistake; he is still amongst the top, and could very well add one or two more Norris Trophies to his name by the time his career is said and done. Playing on a dominant team like the Tampa Bay Lightning should help him out in that regard.

To give you an idea of just how dominant Hedman has been over the years, he has finished top three for the Norris in each of the past six seasons, including the 2017-18 campaign in which he was the winner. His 20-goal, 85-point campaign in 2021-22 proves that his slight fall from the game’s best has less to do with his play, and more to do with the sheer brilliance of the two above him.

2. Roman Josi

There will be some that aren’t happy to see Roman Josi ahead of Hedman on this list, and they have plenty of reason to. In terms of careers, few would argue that Josi’s has been better. At this point in time, however, he does appear to have surpassed the Swedish blue liner, though that could once again change after this season.

Josi was simply outstanding in 2021-22, and narrowly lost out on a Norris Trophy many believe he should have won. His 96 points not only led all blue liners throughout the NHL, but also led the Nashville Predators in scoring, with Matt Duchene’s 86 placing second. On top of that, he also found the back of the net 23 times. He is simply outstanding, and despite being 32-years-old has shown zero signs of slowing down.

1. Cale Makar

Was there ever any doubt? The Colorado Avalanche were somehow able to land Cale Makar at fourth overall in the 2017 draft, and have reaped the rewards. The 23-year-old sits with 48 goals and 180 points in just 178 career games, and already has already won a Stanley Cup. Not only has he been a part of a Cup-winning team, but he led the way, and as a result was rewarded with the Conn Smythe earlier this year. On top of his Conn Smythe, he also has a Norris and Calder Trophy to his name.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While it may still be too early to predict, there have been some suggesting that he will go on to surpass Bobby Orr as the best defenseman of all time once his career is said and done. There is certainly a lot to live up to with that, but there is no denying that he possesses the most skill the NHL has ever seen from someone on the back end. Aside from Connor McDavid, he is the best player in the world, and some may even argue that he has or soon will surpass the Edmonton Oilers captain in that regard.

Sign up for our 'DAILY BEST Newsletter' for the latest & greatest hockey news & analysis.

Latest News & Highlights