Ranking NHL Teams By Defencemen


Ranking a defence core is difficult especially after a season has been completed. Some teams have underachieved despite having star defencemen on their roster and some have gone a long way because of the depth throughout their lineup. So I have endeavored to look at how a team’s overall core has performed rather than looking at the glamour of the names.

In the second of a four-part series ranking the NHL teams by position, here is how they stack up on defence — counting down from No. 31 to No. 1.

31) Detroit Red Wings

Danny DeKeyser-Filip Hronek

Patrik Nemeth-Trevor Daley

Dennis Cholowski-Madison Bowey

Jonathan Ericsson-Alex Biega

Cody Goloubef-Joe Hicketts

Moritz Seider/Vili Saarijarvi/Gustav Lindstrom/Brian Lashoff/Dylan McIlrath

ANALYSIS: The Red Wings are clearly rebuilding in all areas. They have a couple of promising pieces on defence in Cholowski, Hronek, and Seider but they are not proven top-four defencemen yet. Hronek had a great sophomore season with 9 goals and 31 points in 65 games, but was a minus-38, while Cholowksi had two goals and eight points in 36 games along with a minus-26. DeKeyser only played eight games in 2019-20 and Mike Green was traded at the deadline, so the young core was forced into way more minutes and it showed. Unfortunately, this unit is still ranked last in the NHL.

Filip Hronek Detroit Red Wings
Filip Hronek, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

30) Ottawa Senators

Thomas Chabot-Nikita Zaitsev

Ron Hainsey-Erik Brannstrom

Mike Reilly-Christian Jaros

Mark Borowiecki/Max Lajoie/Andreas Englund/Nick Ebert/Christian Wolanin

ANALYSIS: Similar to the Red Wings, the Senators are rebuilding their defence at the moment. Chabot regressed a bit after his career season in 2018-19 but still posted a 39-point campaign. He is still the clear-cut number one defenceman, but he’s going to need a bit more help next season from his young cohort. Brannstrom got into 31 games and has loads of potential, so look for him to have an impact in his first full season in 2020-21. Their defence is clearly a work in progress, but with the pieces they could add in the draft this year (cue Jamie Drysdale), the future should be bright on the backend for the Sens.

Thomas Chabot Ottawa Senators
Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

29) Los Angeles Kings

Drew Doughty-Sean Walker

Ben Hutton-Matt Roy

Kurtis MacDermid-Joakim Ryan

Tobias Bjornfot-Kale Clague

Paul LaDue/Mikey Anderson/Sean Durzi/Markus Phillips//Austin Strand/Chaz Reddekopp

ANALYSIS: The Kings still have Drew Doughty — one of the league’s elite — but the rest of L.A.’s defence leaves a lot to be desired in this rebuilding state. Hutton, who came from the Canucks in the offseason, had a good season defensively finishing with a plus-five in the plus/minus column, which surprisingly was his first plus-season in his career. Youngsters Walker and Roy had solid seasons with 24 and 18 points respectively and Roy was a team-leading plus-16 as well, so the future looks good. Additionally, they could be in line to add a stud defenceman at the draft in October. The defence may not be sexy right now, but trust me, it’s coming.

Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

28) New Jersey Devils

P.K. Subban-Damon Severson

Will Butcher-Mirco Mueller

Connor Carrick-Matt Tennyson

Ty Smith/Josh Jacobs/Colton White/Dakota Mermis/Brian Strait

ANALYSIS: To say that the Devils’ defence core was a disappointment in 2019-20 would be a massive understatement. First of all, Subban, their prized offseason acquisition, had his worst season in the NHL with a career-low 18 points in 68 games after nine straight seasons of 30 or more points. He was supposed to be the leader on defence but never seemed to get comfortable in the swamp. If the Devils hope to turn a corner, he has to get going, especially with the money he’s being paid right now. Severson and Butcher are good defencemen but are not proven top-four fixtures yet, so the Devils’ defence is a work in progress once again.

P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes New Jersey Devils
P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

27) Anaheim Ducks

Cam Fowler-Hampus Lindholm

Josh Manson-Jacob Larsson

Erik Gudbranson-Brendan Guhle

Michael Del Zotto-Matt Irwin

Josh Mahura-Christian Djoos

Jani Hakanpaa-Simon Benoit

ANALYSIS: The Ducks aren’t as deep as they once were, having traded away Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore, but Fowler, Lindholm, and Manson are still in their prime. Those three, on paper, are still a very solid group going forward, but Anaheim is no longer icing a top-10 defence in the present. Larsson and Guhle have top-four potential, but they are definitely not in that realm yet. Djoos, Gudbranson, and Mahura provided depth this past season, but they still need some help in the future to become a deep blue line again.

Cam Fowler Anaheim Ducks
Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

26) San Jose Sharks

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Erik Karlsson

Radim Simek-Brent Burns

Mario Ferraro-Jacob Middleton

Dalton Prout-Brandon Davidson

Nick DeSimone-Jeremy Roy

Trevor Carrick-Ryan Merkley 

ANALYSIS: Despite having three of the best defencemen in the NHL with Vlasic, Karlsson, and Burns, the Sharks allowed the fourth-most goals and generally underachieved in their own end during the 2019-20 campaign. With a top-three like that, you really shouldn’t be missing the playoffs. They lost depth in Dhillon at the trade deadline, so if the Sharks want to return to glory soon, the big-ticket men have to be better defensively.

Karlsson and Burns both turned in good seasons offensively but were adventures in their own zone. For two guys that eat up over $19 million in cap space, they have to be the leaders on the blue line, not only in production but in defensive play too. With the Sharks going through a transition period, they have to be the motor that pushes the team forward, not the anchor that drags them down.

Brent Burns - Sharks
Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

25) Buffalo Sabres

Rasmus Dahlin-Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe-Brandon Montour

Colin Miller-Henri Jokiharju

John Gilmour-Casey Nelson

ANALYSIS: After recording a gaudy 44 points in 82 games during his rookie season, Dahlin did it again in his sophomore campaign with another 40 points in 59 games. If the season had continued, he likely would have eclipsed those totals and set a new career-high in points. If the Sabres ever get their house in order, he will lead this team on the backend for the next decade. The rest of the core was just average, just like their team overall. If they want to take the next step, Dahlin and Ristolainen need some help. That could come in the form of Miller who once was a core piece of the Vegas Golden Knights. If he can rebound from his worst season in the NHL, the Sabres will be better for it.

Rasmus Dahlin Buffalo Sabres
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

24) Edmonton Oilers

Oscar Klefbom-Darnell Nurse

Adam Larsson-Kris Russell

Ethan Bear-Matt Benning

Caleb Jones-Evan Bouchard

Brandon Manning/William Lagesson/Dmitri Samorukov/Keegan Lowe/Logan Day

ANALYSIS: The Oilers have two of the best forwards in the game today with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but their defence still leaves a lot to be desired. Nurse, Klefbom, and Larsson are legitimate top-four defencemen, but they still need a clear cut number one to lead the core. Bouchard definitely has the potential to do that, but he’s not here yet. He had a great first professional season with the Bakersfield Condors, so the hope is that he can take a full-time job in 2020-21. The bottom line is, the Oilers will not go anywhere without a defence core that can defend and move the puck up to their superstar forwards.

Darnell Nurse Edmonton Oilers
Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

23) Montreal Canadiens

Shea Weber-Jeff Petry

Victor Mete-Ben Chiarot

Brett Kulak-Cale Fleury

Christian Folin-Noah Juulsen

Xavier Ouellet/Karl Alzner/Gustav Olofsson/Josh Brook/Otto Leskinen

ANALYSIS: The Canadiens defence is a work in progress, but showed some great potential in the postseason by helping to knock off the Penguins and giving the Flyers all they could handle in the actual playoffs. Weber and Petry proved they were a legitimate top-pairing, while Chiarot had a great debut season after joining the team in the offseason from the Jets. Fleury, Folin, Kulak and Ouellet were also impressive at times too. Suffice it to say, the blue line is less of a worry now than it was before the NHL-induced pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shea Weber Montreal Canadiens
Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

22) Chicago Blackhawks

Duncan Keith-Connor Murphy

Olli Maatta-Calvin de Haan

Slater Koekkoek-Adam Boqvist

Nick Seeler/Dennis Gilbert/Chad Krys/Brent Seabrook

ANALYSIS: Keith is clearly on the downturn, but he showed that he still had some fire in his belly during the qualifying round and subsequent playoffs. Despite only finishing with 27 points in the regular season, he put together an impressive five points in six games in the postseason and looked like he drank from the fountain of youth as well. Maatta and Koekkoek were solid in their first seasons in the Windy City and Boqvist appears to be a future star in the NHL, so it may not be all doom and gloom going into 2020-21.

Duncan Keith Blackhawks
Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

21) Winnipeg Jets

Josh Morrissey-Neal Pionk

Dmitry Kulikov-Dylan DeMelo

Tucker Poolman-Nathan Beaulieu

Luca Sbisa-Anthony Bitetto

Carl Dahlstrom-Sami Niku

ANALYSIS: The Jets really struggled to defend, as Hellebuyck faced a lot of rubber and high danger chances this past season. Despite that, there were some bright spots with Pionk and Morrissey forming an effective top pairing and Pionk having a career season with 45 points. He seemed to fit in almost immediately as a top-four defenceman on a depleted blue line after losing Byfuglien, Trouba, and Myers in the offseason. Kulikov even had a bounceback season and a strong qualifying round as well. All in all, the Jets have some good young pieces for the future with Niku and Dahlstrom coming soon, but they are definitely not as strong as years past.

Neal Pionk Winnipeg Jets
Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

20) New York Rangers

Jacob Trouba-Adam Fox

Marc Staal-Tony DeAngelo

Libor Hajek-Ryan Lindgren

Yegor Rykov-Tarmo Reunanen

Brendan Smith/Brandon Crawley/Darren Raddysh

ANALYSIS: The Rangers have a formidable top-four with Trouba, Fox, Staal, and DeAngelo anchoring the defence. Fox and DeAngelo eclipsed 40 points and Trouba was a physical force and shot-blocking machine posting 173 hits and 128 blocked shots. Skjei was moved to the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline for a 2020 first-round pick, so that hit their depth a bit. However, Lindgren and Hajek are both 21-years-old and the former was second on the team in plus/minus, so the future appears to be bright on the blue line in the Big Apple.

Jacob Trouba New York Rangers
Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

19) Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang

Jack Johnson-Justin Schultz

Marcus Pettersson-John Marino

Juuso Riikola-Chad Ruhwedel

Pierre-Olivier Joseph/David Warsofsky/Zach Trotman/Kevin Czuczman/Calen Addison

ANALYSIS: The Penguins’ defence core was led once again by Letang, who just finished his 13th season in the NHL. He also eclipsed the 500-point mark in his career, despite battling injuries for the last few seasons. He is still hands down one of the best defencemen in the NHL. Unfortunately, the buck stopped with him, as the rest of the core struggled for most of the season. Schultz continues to regress from his 51-point season in 2016-17, and Johnson does not look like he’s suited for the speed of the game anymore. On the bright side, Pettersson impressed in his sophomore season and appears to be a legitimate top-four defender.

Penguins Defenseman Kris Letang
Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

18) Calgary Flames

Mark Giordano-T.J. Brodie

Noah Hanifin-Travis Hamonic

Erik Gustafsson-Rasmus Andersson

Derek Forbort-Oliver Kylington

Michael Stone/Juuso Valimaki/Alexander Yelesin

ANALYSIS: After posting a career-high in points and winning the Norris Trophy in 2018-19, Giordano dropped off the cliff in 2019-20. He only had 34 points and struggled mightily to produce at the same rate. At 36-years-old, it’s unreasonable to expect a lot more from him in the future. Brodie has regressed too, and that’s two of the Flames’ top defenders. Hanifin, Kylington and Andersson have significant potential, but to be competitive, someone has to step in for Giordano soon.

Calgary Flames Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

17) Florida Panthers

Keith Yandle-Aaron Ekblad

Michael Matheson-Anton Stralman

Mark Pysyk-MacKenzie Weegar

Ian McCoshen-Joshua Brown

Tommy Cross-Ethan Prow

Riley Stillman-Brady Keeper

ANALYSIS: As projected by THW’s own Larry Fisher in the first edition of these rankings, the Panthers’ top-four were excellent in 2019-20. Yandle and Ekblad both eclipsed 40 points and Matheson and Stralman contributed some offence too with 20 and 19 points respectively. Even Pysyk and Weegar were dangerous offensively with nine and seven goals as well. Offence was definitely not a problem with this unit. It was in their own end where it got dicey, as they finished with the fifth-most goals against in the NHL. If they hope to make the playoffs next season, the defence needs to be better in their own end.

Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

16) Toronto Maple Leafs

Morgan Rielly-Cody Ceci

Jake Muzzin-Tyson Barrie

Travis Dermott-Justin Holl

Rasmus Sandin-Martin Marincin

Timothy Liljegren-Calle Rosen

Kevin Gravel/David Warsofsky/Teemu Kivihalme

ANALYSIS: The Maple Leafs took a step back defensively in 2019-20 despite adding Barrie and Ceci and having Muzzin for an entire season. They allowed the seventh-most goals in the NHL and clearly need some sort of a change on the blue line. Muzzin stabilized the core a bit, but Ceci had an off year and Barrie could not replicate the success he had in Colorado. On the bright side, Dermott and Sandin showed great potential in the games they played and should be ready for full-time roles in 2020-21, especially if Barrie is not retained.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

15) Arizona Coyotes

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Jakob Chychrun-Alex Goligoski

Jordan Oesterle-Jason Demers

Kyle Capobianco-Ilya Lyubushkin

Aaron Ness-Robbie Russo

Cam Dineen-Victor Soderstrom

ANALYSIS: The Coyotes were led once again by captain Ekman-Larsson, but not Hjalmarsson, who was limited to only 27 games due to injury. Chychrun had a career season with 12 goals and 26 points and looks to have established himself as a top-four defenceman in the NHL. Goligoski, Demers, and Oesterle all had strong campaigns as well, so the future looks to be pretty set on the blue line for the time being. All of their top-six is signed through 2020-21 and barring any trades should continue to be a strong group going forward.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona Coyotes
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

14) Vancouver Canucks

Quinn Hughes-Chris Tanev

Alex Edler-Tyler Myers

Oscar Fantenberg-Troy Stecher

Jordie Benn/Olli Juolevi/Guillaume Brisebois/Ashton Sautner/Jalen Chatfield/Brogan Rafferty/Josh Teves

ANALYSIS: The Canucks defence core went through a major shift this season with Hughes taking over as the top defenceman from veteran Alex Edler. He not only led all rookie defencemen in scoring with 53 points but also played an average of 21 minutes which is usually unheard of for a rookie defender. Myers and Fantenberg had good first seasons on the West Coast, but with Tanev potentially leaving and Edler approaching retirement, the Canucks will need one of Juolevi, Rafferty, or Jack Rathbone to step in soon to make this unit a top-10 force in the NHL.

Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

13) Colorado Avalanche

Cale Makar-Nikita Zadorov

Samuel Girard-Erik Johnson

Ian Cole-Ryan Graves

Mark Barberio-Conor Timmins

Bowen Byram/Calle Rosen/Kevin Connauton/Anton Lindholm/Jacob MacDonald/Mark Alt

ANALYSIS: Uber rookie Makar had a monster season with 50 points in 57 games and continued his brilliance in the playoffs as well with 4 goals and 15 points after his six-point debut last season. With him taking over as the top defender on the Avs, their defence could be even deeper with another star rookie coming up as soon as next season in Byram. Basically, this unit is strong and it’s only going to get stronger.

Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

12) Minnesota Wild

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Carson Soucy-Brad Hunt

Greg Pateryn/Matt Bartkowski/Louis Belpedio/Brennan Menell

ANALYSIS: Suter continued to be a workhorse for the Wild in 2019-20 while Soucy emerged as a key part of the core in his first full season in the NHL. Spurgeon, Brodin, and Dumba were a force in the top-four and Hunt was a productive part of the offence too with a career-high eight goals. Overall, they were an effective top-six and should not be faulted for ultimately missing the playoffs.

Ryan Suter Wild
Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

11) Washington Capitals

Dmitry Orlov-John Carlson

Michal Kempny-Radko Gudas

Brenden Dillon-Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler/Alexander Alexeyev/Lucas Johansen/Tyler Lewington/Colby Williams/Connor Hobbs

ANALYSIS: Carlson was clearly the driver of the defence core this season for the Capitals. He led all blueliners in scoring with 75 points in 69 games and at one point was projected to eclipse 100 points on the season. That’s how good he was in 2019-20. He struggled a bit defensively in the playoffs finishing with a minus-11, but that should not discount what he did during the regular season. Orlov, Kempny, Gudas, Jensen, and newcomer Dillon were solid too, but Carlson was hands down the centerpiece of the Capitals defence this season.

John Carlson Washington Capitals
John Carlson of the Washington Capitals. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

10) Philadelphia Flyers

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun

Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen

Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers

Robert Hagg-Nate Prosser

Samuel Morin-Andy Welinski

T.J. Brennan/Chris Bigras/Tyler Wotherspoon

ANALYSIS: Led by 23-year-old Ivan Provorov, the Flyers’ defence core had a relatively solid season overall. Newcomers Niskanen and Braun fit in seamlessly and Sanheim continued to develop into the top-four defenceman everyone projected him to be when he was drafted 17th overall in 2014. Myers also had a great sophomore season with 4 goals and 16 points along with a plus-17, which led all defencemen. Gostisbehere is clearly not the offensive force he once was, but he was still good depth along with the steady Hagg who was just behind Myers at plus-14.

Ivan Provorov Flyers
Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

9) New York Islanders

Ryan Pulock-Nick Leddy

Johnny Boychuk-Scott Mayfield

Adam Pelech-Devon Toews

Andy Greene-Noah Dobson

Thomas Hickey/Sebastian Aho/Parker Wotherspoon/Mitch Vande Sompel/Seth Helgeson/David Quenneville/Bode Wilde

ANALYSIS: The Islanders don’t have an all-star cast on the blue line, but under the tutelage of Barry Trotz, they have become a formidable unit. They all play a strong two-way brand of hockey and their top defenders are young as well. Puloch, Pelech, Toews, and Mayfield are all in their prime, and top prospect Noah Dobson is on the cusp of becoming a full-time player too, which is just icing on the proverbial cake. They have probably been the most surprising defence core in the playoffs, having made quick work of the Capitals and recently knocking off the Flyers as well. They just know how to defend and follow the system their coach has laid out for them. That alone makes them a force to be reckoned with.

Ryan Pulock New York Islanders
Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

8) Dallas Stars

Miro Heiskanen-John Klingberg

Esa Lindell-Stephen Johns

Jamie Oleksiak-Andrej Sekera

Taylor Fedun/Joel Hanley/Dillon Heatherington/Gavin Bayreuther/Ben Gleason/Thomas Harley

ANALYSIS: The Stars defence core is without a doubt led by the dynamic duo of Heiskanen and Klingberg. They play the lion’s share of the minutes and drive the offence from the blue line. Heiskanen had an average season with 35 points but is a monster in the playoffs so far with 5 goals and 21 points in 16 games. Basically it’s where Heiskanen and Klingberg go, the Stars go. Lindell, Johns, Oleksiak, and Sekera provide terrific depth but it’s the top-two that lead this core.

Miro Heiskanen Dallas Stars
Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

7) Columbus Blue Jackets

Zach Werenski-Seth Jones

Ryan Murray-David Savard

Vladislav Gavrikov-Markus Nutivaara

Adam Clendening/Dean Kukan/Gabriel Carlsson/Dillon Simpson

ANALYSIS: Clearly the Blue Jackets’ defence is centered around Werenski and Jones. They performed at a high level throughout the regular season and playoffs and became workhorses by the end of it, as Jones broke records for ice time in the insane five overtime periods against the Lightning and averaged over 30 minutes in the ten games he played. Beyond them, they have a lot of depth from the rugged shot-blocking machine of Savard to the young potential of Murray, Gavrikov, Nutivarra, and Kukan. They all had very effective seasons, helping the Blue Jackets to the second round of the playoffs where they gave the Lightning all they could handle in a tight-checking low scoring series.

Seth Jones #3 of the Columbus Blue Jackets
Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets pulls away from Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

6) Vegas Golden Knights

Shea Theodore-Nick Holden

Alec Martinez-Nate Schmidt

Brayden McNabb-Zach Whitecloud

John Merrill-Nicolas Hague

Jake Bischoff-Deryk Engelland

Jimmy Schuldt-Jaycob Megna

ANALYSIS: The Golden Knights have proven throughout the season and the playoffs that they are one of the toughest teams to play against. One of the reasons for that is the depth, physicality, and speed of their defence. Theodore came into his own in 2019-20 with a career-high 13 goals and 46 points and is a beast in the playoffs right now with 6 goals and 16 points already. He is clearly a star in the making and should actually be considered one of the top defenders in the NHL at this point. After him, Schmidt, Martinez, McNabb, and Holden have formed a formidable entourage behind him and rookie Zach Whitecloud has given them even more depth as he’s become an integral part of their bottom pairing and penalty-killing unit.

Shea Theodore of the Vegas Golden Knights. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

5) Nashville Predators

Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm-Dante Fabbro

Korbinian Holzer-Yannick Weber

Steven Santini/Jeremy Davies/Alex Carrier/Frederic Allard/Matt Donovan/Jarred Tinordi/Ben Harpur

ANALYSIS: Even without Subban, the Predators still boast a formidable top-four of Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Fabbro. The latter in particular had a solid season in an increased role. He has loads of potential at 22-years-old and could have a breakout season in 2020-21, especially if he’s given even more responsibilities. Josi had a Norris Trophy worthy season, leading the entire team in scoring with a career-high 65 points while Ellis and Ekholm continued to produce as well. The defence was definitely not the reason for the Predators’ qualifying round exit, that’s for sure.

Roman Josi Predators
Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

4) St. Louis Blues

Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo

Justin Faulk-Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson-Marco Scandella

Robert Bortuzzo-Niko Mikkola

Derrick Pouliot-Mitch Reinke

Jake Walman/Jake Dotchin/Jay Bouwmeester (LTIR)

ANALYSIS: The Blues’ strength on the blue line took a significant hit when Bouwmeester had a cardiac episode during a game and subsequently was placed on long term injury reserve (LTIR). As expected, his future in the NHL is in jeopardy right now. Despite that, the Blues still have a formidable blue line with Pietrangelo leading the way. Faulk and Scandella were seamless additions, while Dunn and Parayko provided their usual strong two-way game from the top of the lineup. If they are able to re-sign their captain to a cap-friendly deal, they should remain a defensive power in the West.

Alex Pietrangelo St. Louis Blues
Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

3) Carolina Hurricanes

Jaccob Slavin-Dougie Hamilton

Brady Skjei-Brett Pesce

Jake Gardiner-Joel Edmundson

Trevor van Riemsdyk-Sami Vatanen

Haydn Fleury/Gustav Forsling/Jake Bean/Roland McKeown/Jesper Sellgren

ANALYSIS: The Hurricanes’ defence took a significant step forward in 2018-19 and continued it in 2019-20. Slavin continued to be a stud for the Canes with a career-high 36 points and Hamilton was dominant again with another 40-point season as well. Before he got injured, he was in the Norris Trophy discussion too. At 27-years-old, he’s in the middle of his prime and should be a significant piece of the core going forward. Newcomer Brady Skjei only played seven games, but he’s also only 26-years-old and should be a huge addition next season too. Overall, this blue line remains a strong group going forward.

Jaccob Slavin Hurricanes
Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

2) Boston Bruins

Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo

John Moore-Matt Grzelcyk

Connor Clifton-Kevan Miller

Jeremy Lauzon-Urho Vaakanainen

Jakub Zboril-Steven Kampfer

ANALYSIS: The Bruins won the President’s Trophy and made it to the second round of the playoffs on the strength of their defence. The top-four of Chara, McAvoy, Krug, and Carlo was among the best in the league, and even though Chara is 43-years-old, he still averaged over 20 minutes of ice time and didn’t look any worse for wear either. McAvoy and Carlo are two of the best young defencemen in the NHL, and Clifton emerged as an offensive threat in the postseason too. I don’t think defence will be a problem for the Bruins any time soon.

Torey Krug
Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman-Mikhail Sergachev

Ryan McDonagh-Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn-Kevin Shattenkirk

Zach Bogosian/Jan Rutta/Luke Schenn/Cal Foote/Luke Witkowski/Cameron Gaunce

ANALYSIS: The Lightning are the envy of the NHL when it comes to their defence core. Hedman is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, Sergachev keeps getting better every season, McDonagh is a number-one defenceman on most teams, and Cernak provides a tremendous two-way game in the number-four spot. Then you have Coburn, Bogosian, and Shattenkirk in the mix for the bottom pairing. Talk about depth and skill in all areas! Basically, they are the toast of the NHL, so it’s really no surprise that they are in the Conference Finals right now.

Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Recapping Defence Rankings

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

2) Boston Bruins

3) Carolina Hurricanes

4) St. Louis Blues

5) Nashville Predators

6) Vegas Golden Knights

7) Columbus Blue Jackets

8) Dallas Stars

9) New York Islanders

10) Philadelphia Flyers

11) Washington Capitals

12) Minnesota Wild

13) Colorado Avalanche

14) Vancouver Canucks

15) Arizona Coyotes

16) Toronto Maple Leafs

17) Florida Panthers

18) Calgary Flames

19) Pittsburgh Penguins

20) New York Rangers

21) Winnipeg Jets

22) Chicago Blackhawks

23) Montreal Canadiens

24) Edmonton Oilers

25) Buffalo Sabres

26) San Jose Sharks

27) Anaheim Ducks

28) New Jersey Devils

29) Los Angeles Kings

30) Ottawa Senators

31) Detroit Red Wings


Feel free to disagree with those rankings and share your own in the comments below.