*this archive was originally written by Eugene Helfrick
Unlike goaltenders, who are indeed the last line of defense, the players who usually clear out the front of the crease and block the most shots are a netminder’s best friends, defensemen. As one of the most demanding positions in the game, defenders are tasked with logging a ton of minutes a night while playing a physical game and quarterback their team’s powerplay.
Ultimately, everyone who plays defense brings something different to the table, whether it’s scoring points (Erik Karlsson), taking a lot of shots (Dougie Hamilton), or blocking pucks (Alec Martinez). Additionally, defensemen come in various sizes, and some can skate end to end without breaking a sweat, while others prefer to stay home and shut down superstars. However, all these skaters are chasing the Norris Trophy, hoping to share the same honors once bestowed upon Bobby Orr, Doug Harvey, and Nicklas Lidström.
How These Rankings Came Together
Considering that nobody has played a game yet in 2023-24, we had to use statistics from 2022-23 and rank these skaters based on their age, points, and plus/minus rating, which indicates their abilities to keep the puck out of their net. Of course, several teams employ some older players, which hurt their average age, while younger groups haven’t had a chance to rack up the points, hurting their final rankings.
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Instead of ranking players based on their salaries as we did with the goaltenders, we used projected lineups available at DailyFaceoff.com as a guideline. Ultimately, many players changed teams during the offseason, so their statistics from 2022-23 apply to their new club’s totals, even though they were not part of the group last year. So, for example, when discussing the Pittsburgh Penguins, their combined point totals jumped up with the addition of Karlsson.
Considering these are just projections, there is no right or wrong answer, so if you disagree with our rankings, please let us know in the comments. Enjoy.
32 – San Jose Sharks
|1||Mario Ferraro||24||11||-31||Jan Rutta||33||9||3|
|2||Marc-Edouard Vlasic||36||18||-14||Matt Benning||29||24||-18|
|3||Jacob MacDonald||30||8||-14||Radim Simek||30||3||-13|
|R||Nikolai Knyzhov||25||1||-13||Kyle Burroughs||28||5||-4|
Average age: 29.3 – Total Points: 79 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-104
After the San Jose Sharks dealt away reigning Norris Trophy winner Karlsson to the Penguins, current general manager Mike Grier will roll into 2023-24 with these eight skaters on the back end. Currently, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is one of the longest-tenured players in the league, and because he’s 36, he’s bumped up the Sharks’ overall age, which is the 28th oldest. Considering only one player had a positive plus/minus rating last season, the 31st-ranked team in that category has difficulty keeping the puck out of the net. Ultimately, these statistics indicate it will be another long season in the Bay Area with the NHL’s second-lowest scoring defenders.
31 – St. Louis Blues
|1||Nick Leddy||32||23||4||Colton Parayko||30||27||-19|
|2||Torey Krug||32||32||-26||Justin Faulk||31||50||-4|
|3||Marco Scandella||33||2||2||Robert Bortuzzo||34||5||9|
|R||Tyler Tucker||23||4||-9||Calle Rosén||29||18||19|
Average age: 30.5 – Total Points: 161 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-24
Surprisingly, the St. Louis Blues employ the oldest defensemen in the league, with an average age of 30.5. Interestingly, the only two skaters under 30 are outside the top six, with Tyler Tucker the youngest at 23. Since the Blues didn’t qualify for the playoffs last year, they traded away a handful of core players at the deadline. Realistically, if the team has a bad start in this campaign, some players could find themselves in other cities before next March’s deadline. Ultimately, players like Torey Krug and Colton Parayko must have bounceback years or netminder Jordan Binnington will have some challenging nights ahead.
30 – Chicago Blackhawks
|1||Filiop Roos||24||3||-5||Seth Jones||28||37||-38|
|2||Jarred Tinordi||31||8||-17||Connor Murphy||30||13||-10|
|3||Wyatt Kaiser||21||3||-4||Nikita Zaitsev||31||8||-9|
Average age: 26.6 – Total Points: 77 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-93
The Chicago Blackhawks employ the lowest-scoring defensemen in the league, with only two skaters reaching double digits. Statistically, Seth Jones almost outscored all his teammates, coming within three points of their combined 40-point total. Interestingly, the Blackhawks earned this ranking because they have a handful of players under 25 in the lineup, making them the 10th youngest group in the league. Although the team will continue to rebuild even with Connor Bedard in the lineup, they are closer to winning another draft lottery than clinching a playoff spot.
29 – Washington Capitals
|1||Martin Fehérváry||23||16||-11||John Carlson||33||29||-7|
|2||Rasmus Sandin||23||35||3||Nick Jensen||32||29||-1|
|3||Joel Edmundson||30||13||-29||Trevor van Riemsdyk||32||23||10|
Average age: 28 – Total Points: 149 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-37
The Washington Capitals missed the playoffs last season, achieving the feat for just the fourth time in Alex Ovechkin’s career, which started in 2005. Despite employing a new goalie, former Stanley Cup winner Darcy Kuemper, the defense let him down nightly, with only Trevor van Riemsdyk finishing the year with a plus-10 rating.
After trading away Erik Gustafsson at the deadline, the team acquired Rasmus Sandin and, in 19 games, destroyed his positive plus/minus rating (minus-seven), meaning that the problems on the back end are not just about one player but the entire system. Unfortunately, the team will now employ their third coach since winning the Stanley Cup 2018, so it’s a fresh start for everyone (again), including John Carlson, who just had the lowest point total in a decade.
28 – Minnesota Wild
|1||Jacob Middleton||27||15||15||Jared Spurgeon||33||34||32|
|2||Jonas Brodin||30||14||13||Calen Addison||23||29||-17|
|3||Alex Goligoski||38||6||-9||Brock Faber||21||0||2|
Average age: 28.8 – Total Points: 110 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-34
Since their inception in 2000, the Minnesota Wild have been known as a defense-first franchise, which has led to 13 playoff appearances. Even though they rank among the top 15 regarding plus/minus totals (13th), the group is one of the oldest (25th) and lowest-scoring (28th) in the NHL. Ultimately, those rankings force their netminders to work hard every game to preserve wins. Considering the Wild employs talented forwards led by Kirill Kaprizov, this defensive group could do more to keep the team in contention in a stacked Western Conference.
27 – Arizona Coyotes
|1||J.J. Moser||23||31||-12||Mathew Dumba||29||14||-8|
|2||Juuso Välimäki||24||34||-10||Troy Stecher||29||14||-6|
|3||Sean Durzi||24||38||-12||Victor Söderström||22||9||-3|
|R||Joshua Brown||29||7||-18||Juuso Välimäki||24||34||-10|
Average age: 26.2 – Total Points: 139 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-70
Last year, the Arizona Coyotes spent a good portion of the season in the headlines because they were on the verge of trading Jakob Chychurn. Eventually, they sent him to the Ottawa Senators, ending his seven-year stint on the blueline in the desert. During the offseason, they signed veteran Mathew Dumba to shore up the backend. However, the entire defensive unit finished the year with a negative plus/minus rating, but thanks to a young core (no one is 30 yet) and some skaters who can score, they escaped the basement in these rankings.
26 – Philadelphia Flyers
|1||Travis Sanheim||27||23||-5||Rasmus Ristolanien||28||20||-4|
|2||Marc Staal||36||15||10||Cameron York||22||20||-1|
|3||Nick Seeler||30||14||1||Sean Walker||28||13||-3|
Average age: 27.7 – Total Points: 109 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-2
Despite deploying the 29th lowest-scoring defensive skaters in the NHL, the team moves up a few spots in the rankings because of their young core. Outside of recently acquired Marc Staal (36) and Nick Seeler (30), everyone else on the payroll is under 30, so there’s still time to develop as a group and get the Flyers to a playoff spot in the coming years. Interestingly, most of these skaters reached double digits in points, with four surpassing 20, which means they can contribute offensively while handling their responsibilities on their end.
25 – Columbus Blue Jackets
|1||Zach Werenski||26||8||-6||Damon Severson||29||33||9|
|2||Ivan Provorov||26||27||-17||Andrew Peeke||25||13||-41|
|3||Erik Gubranson||31||13||-24||Adam Boqvist||23||24||-12|
|R||Nick Blankenburg||25||14||-16||Tim Berni||23||3||-26|
Average age: 25.8 – Total Points: 141 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-135
Despite acquiring superstar Johnny Gaudreau, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a rough season in 2022-23. As soon as Zach Werenski went down with a season-ending injury after 13 games, the team just imploded and settled for the second overall pick in the NHL draft. Although they come into the new season with the worst plus/minus rankings of all 32 teams, there is only one place to go from here, and that is up. Overall, if everyone is healthy and new head coach Mike Babcock implements a winning system, the Blue Jackets could see significant positive changes this year.
24 – Anaheim Ducks
|1||Cam Fowler||31||48||-23||Jamie Drysdale||21||0||-3|
|2||Jackson LaCombe||22||0||-1||Radko Gudas||33||17||14|
|3||Robert Hägg||28||7||-5||Drew Helleson||22||1||0|
|R||Ilya Lyubushkin||29||14||-2||Colton White||26||6||-17|
Average age: 26.2 – Total Points: 102 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-23
The Anaheim Ducks are building an offensively gifted team led by Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, and Mason McTavish. However, the team’s defensemen are a mix of young and old, with little offensive output. Outside of Cam Fowler, only Ilya Lyubushkin reached double digits in points, with newly acquired Radko Gudas bringing 17 points to the mix. Statistically, he is the only skater with a plus rating, meaning he will help some of the younger skaters find the next level in their game, improving the team as a whole.
23 – Nashville Predators
|1||Roman Josi||33||59||5||Luke Schenn||33||22||8|
|2||Ryan McDonagh||34||20||12||Tyson Barrie||32||55||-7|
|3||Dante Fabbro||25||11||-4||Alexandre Carrier||26||9||0|
Average age: 29.8 – Total Points: 188 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-3
In 2022-23, many felt the Nashville Predators had one of the best defensive units in the league, but once they dealt away Mattias Ekholm, the team acquired Tyson Barrie to replace him. Although captain Roman Josi still leads the team, he’s the only offensively gifted skater on the blue line and is a former Norris Trophy winner. Currently, the team doesn’t have a single defenseman under the age of 26, so one day, the team needs to focus on the future, with Josi, Luke Schenn, and Ryan McDonagh heading toward the back end of their careers.
22 – Detroit Red Wings
|1||Jake Walman||27||18||10||Moritz Seider||22||42||-11|
|2||Ben Chiarot||32||19||-31||Jeff Petry||35||31||2|
|3||Shayne Gostisbehere||30||41||-5||Justin Holl||31||18||15|
|R||Olli Määttä||29||23||-9||Jared McIsaac||23||0||0|
Average age: 28.6 – Total Points: 192 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-29
Interestingly, the Detroit Red Wings employ one of the most recent Calder Trophy winners, Moritz Seider (2021), meaning the team drafted a future superstar to build around on the blue line. However, he’s the youngest full-time skater at 22, five years younger than Jake Walman.
Furthermore, the team has a solid mix of youngsters and veterans; they recently added Jeff Petry, who should contribute more than he did with the Penguins last year. Even though the team is playing in a tough Atlantic Division, they are among the league’s top ten highest-scoring defensive units, which bodes well for the franchise moving forward.
21 – Montreal Canadiens
|1||Michael Matheson||29||34||7||David Savard||32||20||-14|
|2||Jordan Harris||23||17||-3||Johnathan Kovacevic||26||15||3|
|3||Arber Xhekaj||22||13||-9||Kaiden Guhle||21||18||-19|
|R||David Reinbacher||18||0||0||Gustav Lindström||24||8||-16|
Average age: 24.9 – Total Points: 146 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-59
Despite all the struggles the Montreal Canadiens have endured since losing in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, they come into the 2023-24 season with the youngest defensive players in the league, sporting an average age of 24.9. Considering the only full-time skater over 26 is David Savard (32), the future in Montreal is quite promising, especially with recent draft pick David Reinbacher potentially joining the mix. Although the Canadiens will remain without franchise icon Carey Price between the pipes, management has built a team of young players led by Cole Caufield, who will assist them in becoming a contender sooner rather than later.
20 – Toronto Maple Leafs
|1||Morgan Rielly||29||41||-9||T.J. Brodie||33||14||10|
|2||Jake McCabe||29||25||19||John Klingberg||31||33||-25|
|3||Mark Giordano||39||24||27||Timothy Liljegren||24||18||24|
Average age: 30.3 – Total Points: 173 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-46
When anyone discusses the Toronto Maple Leafs, the talk usually centers around their talented forwards, which include Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares. Despite employing veteran skaters like Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and John Klingberg on the back end, this group is the second oldest in the league. Interestingly, as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, head coach Sheldon Keefe doesn’t need to worry about these players contributing points, as most of these skaters can easily reach 20 points.
19 – Calgary Flames
|1||Noah Hanifin||26||38||2||Rasmus Andersson||26||49||5|
|2||MacKenzie Weegar||29||31||15||Chris Tanev||33||13||7|
|3||Oliver Kylington||26||0||0||Nikita Zadorov||28||21||10|
|R||Jordan Oesterle||31||11||-9||Dennis Gilbert||26||4||0|
Average age: 28.1 – Total Points: 167 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-30
The Calgary Flames went from division winners to failing to qualify for the playoffs in less than 12 months. Collectively, the entire team struggled under former head coach Darryl Sutter, so with a new voice, Ryan Huska, leading the group, things should be better in Southern Alberta this season. Ultimately, the team missed Oliver Kylington more than expected, so if he is healthy and back in the lineup, he immediately improves the defense. Moreover, MacKenzie Weegar will be in his second season with the club and could be considered for the vacant captaincy. Interestingly, a handful of these skaters are on the verge of free agency, meaning they will want to play purposefully in 2023-24.
18 – Tampa Bay Lightning
|1||Victor Hedman||32||49||10||Nicklaus Perbix||25||20||11|
|2||Mikhail Sergachev||25||64||13||Erik Černák||26||16||8|
|3||Calvin de Haan||32||12||7||Zach Bogosian||33||5||-4|
|R||Haydn Fleury||27||1||-10||Darren Raddysh||27||3||-4|
Average age: 28.1 – Total Points: 170 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-31
The Tampa Bay Lightning are only two seasons removed from being back-to-back champions. Although many players from those title years have gone on to play in different cities, the Lightning’s defense is still run by Mikhail Sergachev. and former Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman.
Ultimately, Tampa Bay remains one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. However, the core is only getting older, and the extra hockey they play yearly will eventually wear them down quicker than usual. Considering they still employ one of the best netminders (Andrei Vasilevskiy) in the league and one of this generation’s premier snipers (Steven Stamkos), the Lightning win by committee, which means they are not going anywhere just yet.
17 – Vancouver Canucks
|1||Quinn Hughes||23||76||15||Carson Soucy||29||16||18|
|2||Ian Cole||34||17||13||Filip Hronek||25||39||7|
|3||Christian Wolanin||28||3||5||Tyler Myers||33||17||-16|
|R||Jack Rathbone||24||2||-1||Guillaume Brisebois||26||3||-2|
Average age: 28.7 – Total Points: 179 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-32
Interestingly, whenever anyone talks about how subpar the Vancouver Canucks have been over the years, they forget that those mediocre results landed them Quinn Hughes, one of the game’s most exciting young defenders. However, outside of his remarkable offensive contributions (76 points), the numbers significantly dropped off, with no one else putting up more than 17 points. Statistically, Filip Hronek had 38 points last season but just one in four games after a trade to the Canucks in March. Now, everyone in Vancouver will have a chance to play an entire season under Rick Tocchet, so there’s a lot of optimism regarding this group in Western Canada.
16 – Pittsburgh Penguins
|1||Ryan Graves||28||26||34||Kris Letang||36||41||-13|
|2||Marcus Pettersson||27||24||4||Erik Karlsson||33||101||-26|
|3||Pierre-Oliver Joseph||24||21||8||Chad Ruhwedel||33||5||-4|
Average age: 28.8 – Total Points: 245 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-1
Whether anyone likes or dislikes the Penguins’ acquisition of Karlsson in the offseason, there is no denying he immediately improves the team and pushes them back into playoff contention after missing out last season. Of course, the doubters will point out his minus-26 rating last year and say he spent too much time padding his stats to play defense, resulting in the Sharks earning one of the worst records in the league.
However, this is going to change in Pittsburgh. As one of his generation’s most productive defensemen, Karlsson will fit in just fine with the Penguins, who are loaded with future Hall of Famers. Additionally, his partners, except for Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel, are under 30 years old, so the team had a good balance of young and old to kickstart a new playoff streak.
Related: 7 Cool Things About Erik Karlsson
15 – Vegas Golden Knights
|1||Alec Martinez||36||14||30||Alex Pietrangelo||33||54||13|
|2||Brayden McNabb||32||17||17||Shea Theodore||28||41||16|
|3||Nicolas Hague||24||17||7||Zach Whitecloud||26||12||10|
|R||Ben Hutton||30||8||1||Brayden Pachal||24||2||2|
Average age: 29.1 – Total Points: 165 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-96
The Vegas Golden Knights may have become one of the fastest expansion teams to win the Stanley Cup, but their defensive players are all over the map regarding their statistics. Before opening night, they will boast the 27th oldest defenders in the league, who only score in the middle of the pack with the 18th-best offensive numbers. Ultimately, their saving grace is their ability to outscore their opponents, leading to the fourth-best plus/minus ratings. Eventually, players like Martinez, Alex Pietrangelo, and Brayden McNabb will slow down, so hopefully, the franchise is preparing to substitute these core players in the future before losing their spot at the top of the league.
14 – Ottawa Senators
|1||Thomas Chabot||26||41||-11||Jakob Chychrun||25||33||7|
|2||Jake Sanderson||21||32||-6||Artem Zub||27||10||2|
|3||Erik Brännström||24||18||5||Travis Hamonic||33||21||-5|
Average age: 25.5 – Total Points: 156 – Combined Plus/Minus: minus-10
There is a lot to be excited about regarding the Ottawa Senators. Whether fans enjoy watching Brady Tkachuk score goals and play a physical game while Thomas Chabot dazzles with the puck, there are a lot of entertaining players to watch in Canada’s capital city. Furthermore, this team should be even better this year after adding Chychrun before the trade deadline and signing free-agent netminder Joonas Korpisalo. As they enter the 2023-24 season, the Senators employ the fourth youngest defensive unit in the league, which continues the narrative that they are an up-and-coming team.
13 – Winnipeg Jets
|1||Josh Morrissey||28||76||2||Dylan DeMelo||30||27||10|
|2||Brenden Dillon||32||23||2||Neal Pionk||28||33||-12|
|3||Dylan Samberg||24||8||10||Nate Schmidt||32||19||15|
|R||Logan Stanley||25||3||-1||Kyle Capobianco||26||2||1|
Average age: 28.1 – Total Points: 191 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-27
The Winnipeg Jets are in a cozy spot just outside the top ten and above league average. As the ninth-highest scoring unit in the league, the Jets have a handful of players who can collect points, led by Josh Morrissey, who had 76 and finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting. Collectively, they all play in front of Connor Hellebuyck, one of the league’s workhorses between the pipes. Considering Winnipeg employs one of the best in the business, it is surprising that two defensemen finished with a negative plus/minus rating, which also speaks to the team’s below-average offense.
12 – Los Angeles Kings
|1||Michael Anderson||24||20||20||Drew Doughty||33||52||12|
|2||Vladislav Gavrikov||27||19||4||Matt Roy||28||26||8|
|3||Tobias Björnfot||22||1||1||Brandt Clarke||20||2||-1|
Average age: 25.8 – Total Points: 124 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-43
The 2023-24 season will mark ten years since the Los Angeles Kings last won the Stanley Cup. Even though some skaters remain from those championship years, the Kings always seem on the cusp of repeating past glory, only to come up short. Ultimately, the team went all in at the trade deadline to bring in Vladislav Gavrikov, who shined in limited action down the stretch and in the playoffs. Fortunately, he agreed to stay with the team, signing an extension this past summer. Interestingly, the Kings have the sixth youngest defensive players in the league, and their inexperience explains why they are only the 27th-highest-scoring unit in the league. If Los Angeles is serious about contending again, they need this one statistic to change to get through the intense playoff battles.
11 – Dallas Stars
|1||Ryan Suter||38||25||0||Miro Heiskanen||24||73||12|
|2||Thomas Harley||22||2||5||Jani Hakanpää||31||16||18|
|3||Esa Lindell||29||24||29||Nils Lundqvist||23||16||-5|
|R||Joel Hanley||32||2||5||Gavin Bayreuther||29||14||-18|
Average age: 28.5- Total Points: 172 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-48
Outside of Miro Heiskanen, one of the game’s best young defenders, the Dallas Stars appear to scrap by on a nightly basis, primarily thanks to the brilliant goaltending from Jake Oettinger. Statistically, it seems the team gets contributions from almost everyone on the blueline, but only two players collected over 20 points. Of course, most of the fan base wonders how the team still employs Ryan Suter, although he scored the second most points. Realistically, there’s some young talent mixed with some veteran players who give questionable performances. Either way, the Stars are a threat in the Western Conference, and their defensemen play a considerable part in that role.
10 – Carolina Hurricanes
|1||Jaccob Slavin||29||27||18||Brent Burns||38||61||19|
|2||Brady Skjei||29||38||7||Brett Pesce||28||30||11|
|3||Dmitry Orlov||32||36||12||Tony DeAngelo||27||42||-27|
|R||Caleb Jones||26||16||-19||Jalen Chatfield||27||14||23|
Average age: 29.5 – Total Points: 264 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-44
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes have not won a game in the Eastern Conference Final in their three appearances since, going 0-12. Considering they are the favorites to win the division (again) and conference in 2023-24, the team spent most of the summer attached to every available defenseman, including Karlsson. Ultimately, the Hurricanes added Dmitry Orlov and brought back Tony DeAngelo, meaning they feel these two players will make a difference in the third round, a place Carolina can’t seem to pass through.
9 – Florida Panthers
|1||Gustav Forsling||27||41||19||Josh Mahura||25||16||17|
|2||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||32||22||-24||Dmitry Kulikov||32||16||-13|
|3||Niko Mikkola||27||6||6||Mike Reilly||30||1||0|
|R||Lucas Carlsson||26||0||-1||Matt Kiersted||25||4||4|
|LTIR||Aaron Ekblad||27||38||-14||Brandon Montour||28||73||9|
Average age: 28 – Total Points: 217 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-3
Surprisingly, the reigning Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers employs one of the league’s best defensive units, with stars like Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour, and Gustav Forsling patrolling the blueline. Although the team had a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final because of Sergei Bobrovsky and Matthew Tkachuk leading the charge, they ultimately wouldn’t have made it out of the conference without shutting down opponents.
Despite scoring the fourth most points, the average age of a Panthers’ defenseman is 28, which ranks 16th in the league. Even though these skaters finished with a plus-three rating, they make up for any shortcomings on the defensive side of the game by outscoring opponents and relying on their netminders to shut the door. Considering Ekblad and Montour will miss significant time with injuries, Florida will be able to weather the storm after the additions of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dmitry Kulikov.
8 – Edmonton Oilers
|1||Darnell Nurse||28||43||26||Cody Ceci||29||15||11|
|2||Mattias Ekholm||33||32||28||Evan Bouchard||23||40||6|
|3||Brett Kulak||29||20||11||Vincent Desharnais||27||5||15|
Average age: 27.7 – Total Points: 155 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-100
Statistically, the Edmonton Oilers have the two best players in the world, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Furthermore, those two skaters run the league’s best powerplay, which ranks amongst the greatest of all time. However, there’s more to the team than those two players, and the powerplay is only as good as the defensemen on the point, like Evan Bouchard, who netted a career-high 40 points last year. Despite the love/hate relationship among the fanbase, Darnell Nurse led the rearguards in points and beat out Ekholm for the team lead in plus/minus since the latter only came over at the trade deadline. Collectively, they could be better at limiting chances, but statistically speaking, they are significant contributors to one of the league’s most potent offenses.
7 – New Jersey Devils
|1||Jonas Siegenthaler||26||21||27||Dougie Hamilton||30||74||23|
|2||Luke Hughes||19||2||0||John Marino||26||18||21|
|3||Kevin Bahl||23||8||4||Brendan Smith||34||5||3|
Average age: 26.8 – Total Points: 149 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-101
Last season, the New Jersey Devils proved they were contenders on the rise, challenging the Hurricanes for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and advancing to the second round for the first time in a decade. Although it seems like Hamilton has been around for ages, he’s only 30 and one of the elder statesmen in the lineup, which will soon feature 19-year-old Luke Hughes. Of course, there’s a significant gap between the top scorer and the skater who finished in second. Still, with a young core and contributions from everyone, the future is looking good for a team that is a player or two away from hoisting another Stanley Cup.
6 – Seattle Kraken
|1||Vince Dunn||26||64||28||Adam Larsson||30||33||27|
|2||Jamie Oleksiak||30||25||13||William Borgen||26||20||11|
|3||Brian Dumoulin||31||24||-4||Justin Schultz||33||34||4|
|R||Cale Fleury||24||1||0||Jaycob Megna||30||12||3|
Average age: 28.7 – Total Points: 214 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-82
Realistically, the Seattle Kraken were one category away from ranking in the top five, and that is they employ the 23rd oldest defensive lineup in the league. Outside of that number, the Kraken is the fifth-highest scoring unit and has the sixth-best plus/minus rating. Ultimately, only one player finished with a negative rating, a critical statistic that led to Seattle obtaining their first playoff berth and advancing to the second round.
Although Vince Dunn is the offensive leader of the group, it goes without saying that Adam Larsson is a front-runner to be named the team’s second captain. Considering he’s been with the Kraken since the first day and hasn’t missed a game in two years, he’s become part of the fabric that has produced a winning culture in the Emerald City. Even though they may have some questions surrounding their goaltending, based on the numbers, the Kraken has one of the best defensive units in the league, and as the saying goes, defense wins championships.
5 – Buffalo Sabres
|1||Mattias Samuelsson||23||10||14||Rasmus Dahlin||23||73||12|
|2||Owen Power||20||35||10||Connor Clifton||28||23||20|
|3||Henri Jokiharju||24||13||-12||Erik Johnson||35||8||8|
|R||Jacob Bryson||25||9||-24||Riley Stillman||25||8||-13|
Average age: 25.3 – Total Points: 179 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-15
Unfortunately, the Buffalo Sabres haven’t played in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 12 seasons, acquiring a couple of first-overall draft picks in the past decade. Interestingly, the team turned both selections into defensemen, with Rasmus Dahlin (2018) and Owen Power (2021) becoming building blocks for the franchise’s future. Besides Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton, no one is over 25, so they are the fourth youngest unit in the NHL. Despite pushing and failing to make the playoffs last season, the Sabes defenders scored points and had a respectable plus/minus rating, although the team got outscored by four goals overall.
4 – New York Islanders
|1||Adam Pelech||29||21||15||Ryan Pulock||28||26||10|
|2||Sebastian Aho||27||23||9||Noah Dobson||23||49||4|
|3||Alexander Romanov||23||22||13||Scott Mayfield||30||24||8|
Average age: 26 – Total Points: 168 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-64
Hockey fans everywhere would be jealous that the New York Islanders employ Ilya Sorokin, one of the best netminders in the game. However, it helps when the team in front of him has one of the league’s best defensive pairings, led by Noah Dobson. Only Scott Mayfield is in his 30s, with all his partners ranking as the league’s seventh youngest units. Statistically, everyone except Samuel Bolduc scored at least 21 points and finished the year with a plus rating. Although many question the construction of the Islanders’ roster, especially the offense, there are not a lot of questions surrounding the team’s goalies and defensemen.
3 – Colorado Avalanche
|1||Devon Toews||29||50||39||Cale Makar||24||66||16|
|2||Bowen Byram||22||24||7||Josh Manson||31||10||13|
|3||Jack Johnson||36||8||-15||Samuel Girard||25||37||-10|
Average age: 28 – Total Points: 201 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-49
Ultimately, the Colorado Avalanche are just a year removed from being Stanley Cup champions; however, Cale Makar is not slowing down. As the game’s premier young defenseman, he’s accomplished enough in just a few seasons that he’s guaranteed a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame upon retirement. Surprisingly, he’s not the only one who is a star in Colorado, as Devon Toews is also a key contributor on the back end. Even though some questionable players are in the bottom part of the lineup, the Avalanche survived a ton of injuries last year to win the Central Division, and when healthy, should contend for the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup once again.
2 – Boston Bruins
|1||Matt Grzelcyk||29||26||46||Charlie McAvoy||25||52||29|
|2||Hampus Lindholm||29||53||49||Brandon Carlo||26||16||44|
|3||Derek Forbort||31||12||12||Kevin Shattenkirk||34||27||-20|
|R||Jakun Zboril||26||4||-1||Ian Mitchell||24||8||-8|
Average age: 28 – Total Points: 197 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-151
Everyone knows by now that the Boston Bruins were the most dominant team in regular season history last year. Considering they destroyed opponents on a nightly basis, outscoring them 305-177, it is no surprise that the top three players regarding plus/minus ratings were all Boston players.
Although the Bruins gave Hampus Lindholm a significant pay increase when they signed him to an extension, he rewarded the team with the best performance of his career, leading the league with a plus-49. Now that former captain Patrice Bergeron is retired, many in the fanbase believe that Charlie McAvoy should assume the captain’s role since he’s one of the faces of the franchise. Even though Boston may take a step back this year and won’t win at the same pace they did last year, this group of defensemen still makes the Bruins one of the most challenging teams to play.
1 – New York Rangers
|1||Ryan Lindgren||25||18||29||Adam Fox||25||72||28|
|2||K’Andre Miller||23||43||12||Jacob Trouba||29||30||7|
|3||Erik Gustafsson||31||42||9||Braden Schneider||21||18||9|
|R||Zachary Jones||22||2||-2||Connor Mackey||26||7||-4|
Average age: 25.2 – Total Points: 232 – Combined Plus/Minus: plus-88
Realistically, if Karlsson didn’t collect 102 points last year, there’s a solid chance that New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox would have claimed his second Norris Trophy. Since joining the team as a 21-year-old, he has become the leader of the Rangers’ backend, with highlight plays at both ends of the ice. Thankfully, he’s joined by Ryan Lindgren, a more stay-at-home defender, like his captain Jacob Trouba, who patrols the ice looking for his next big hit. Meanwhile, K’Andre Miller is another up-and-coming rearguard, which helps New York come into the season with the second-youngest defensive unit in the league. Statistically, for our rankings, they are the only team to rank in the top ten regarding age, points scored, and plus/minus rating.
What Do You Think?
Ultimately, there is no way to please everyone regarding rankings. Whether people think their team is undervalued or their final position provides them with bragging rights, there is rarely any middle ground among the different fanbases. Furthermore, today’s rankings were based solely on what these players achieved last season and how their numbers stack up against one another heading into the new season. Of course, you can disagree and point out flaws in the math, but these rankings are meant to be fun and engage people to get them talking about hockey again. As always, people are entitled to their opinions, making us the greatest fans in professional sports.