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 the team’s overall core 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 going into the 2021-22 season — counting down from No. 32 to No. 1.

32) Arizona Coyotes

Jakob Chychrun – Conor Timmins

Shayne Gostisbehere – Ilya Lyubushkin

Anton Stralman – Victor Soderstrom

Vladislav Provolnev

ANALYSIS: The Arizona Coyotes will have a new-look defence this season with 23-year-old Jakob Chychrun leading the charge. Following the trade of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, he is now their number-one defenceman and will be counted upon to fill the shoes of the veteran Swede. Unfortunately for him, the supporting cast around him is full of unknowns.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Gostisbehere had a relatively strong 2020-21 campaign with nine goals and 20 points in 41 games, but he’s not usually that strong defensively. The big x-factor on this defence core is 35-year-old Anton Stralman. If he can provide a stabilizing presence as he did with the Tampa Bay Lightning, they might turn into a very underrated core.

31) Buffalo Sabres

Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju

Will Butcher – Colin Miller

Robert Hagg – Mark Pysyk

Jacob Bryson

ANALYSIS: After recording his second straight 40-point campaign, Rasmus Dahlin had another strong season with five goals and 23 points in 56 games. If the season had been its normal 82 games, he likely would have hit 40 points again. If the Sabres ever get their house in order, he and 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power will lead this team on the backend for the next decade.

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

The rest of the core was just average, just like their team overall. If they want to take the next step, Dahlin needs some help, preferably before Power turns pro. That could come in the form of Butcher who once was a rising star with the New Jersey Devils. If he can rebound from his worst season in the NHL, the Sabres will be better for it. If anything, he will become a great piece to deal at the trade deadline when they are inevitably out of the playoff race.

30) Columbus Blue Jackets

Zach Werenski – Adam Boqvist

Vladislav Gavrikov – Dean Kukan

Jake Bean – Andrew Peeke

Scott Harrington

ANALYSIS: Without the towering presence of workhorse Seth Jones and the underrated defence of David Savard, the Columbus Blue Jackets are not the same team defensively. Zach Werenski is still a massive stud, but beyond him, the core is a work in progress. Boqvist and Bean join the fight from the Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes respectively, but they definitely won’t fill the shoes of Jones and Savard right away.

Zach Werenski Columbus Blue Jackets
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Gavrikov, Peeke, and Kukan will all be pressed into more minutes which could prove costly depending on how much they’ve developed over the offseason. All in all, the 2021-22 season will be a long and frustrating one for the boys in union blue.

29) Los Angeles Kings

Mikey Anderson – Drew Doughty

Alex Edler – Sean Walker

Tobias Bjornfot – Matt Roy

Olli Maatta

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. Youngsters Walker and Roy had solid seasons with 18 and 10 points respectively, so the future looks good. Anderson also looked very good in his first full campaign in the NHL recording a goal and 11 points in 54 games. He regularly played over 20 minutes and will most likely be playing the entire season beside Doughty in 2021-22.

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

Alex Edler also joins the fray from the Vancouver Canucks and will be minute muncher 5-on-5 and the penalty kill after leading the league in shorthanded ice time last season. If all the young guys hit their stride and Doughty and Edler stay healthy, the Kings might be darkhorse in the Pacific. Though, that’s a big if.

28) Ottawa Senators

Thomas Chabot – Nikita Zaitsev

Michael Del Zotto – Artem Zub

Nick Holden – Erik Brannstrom

Josh Brown – Victor Mete

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 31-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 30 games and has loads of potential, so look for him to keep progressing this season.

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

The addition of Nick Holden from the Golden Knights might turn out to be the best move general manager Pierre Dorion made this offseason. Since coming over from the Boston Bruins in 2018, he has become a very reliable two-way defenceman in the NHL. Even though he’s projected to be on the bottom-pairing with Brannstrom, it probably won’t be too long before he’s lined up beside Chabot.

27) Chicago Blackhawks

Calvin de Haan – Seth Jones

Jake McCabe – Connor Murphy

Riley Stillman – Ian Mitchell

Caleb Jones

ANALYSIS: Replacing Duncan Keith with Seth Jones is a definite upgrade, but the rest of the defence will have to step up big time if they hope to make any noise this season. The top four is okay with de Haan, McCabe and Murphy, but they are no Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith. Jones will have to be the same workhorse he was in Columbus, but without the added benefit of another two-way force in Werenski. As good as he is, that may be too much to ask from the 26-year-old stud.

26) Anaheim Ducks

Cam Fowler – Jacob Larsson

Hampus Lindholm – Kevin Shattenkirk

Jamie Drysdale – Josh Manson

Josh Mahura

ANALYSIS: The Ducks aren’t as deep as they once were, having traded away Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore in recent seasons, 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 Drysdale have top-four potential, but they are definitely not in that realm yet. They need some help in the future to become a deep blue line again.

25) Detroit Red Wings

Nick Leddy – Filip Hronek

Danny DeKeyser – Moritz Seider

Marc Staal – Troy Stecher

Jordin Oesterle – Gustav Lindstrom

ANALYSIS: The Red Wings have some sexier names on defence in Leddy, Staal, and Stecher, but they are still a lower-ranked defence core overall. Two-way stud Moritz Seider will be joining the team this season, so that could change when these rankings are released again at the beginning of the 2022-23 campaign. They are no longer a last-place core though, especially with the additions of Leddy and Seider.

24) San Jose Sharks

Mario Ferraro – Brent Burns

Nikolai Knyzhov – Erik Karlsson

Radim Simek – Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Brinson Pasichnuk

ANALYSIS:

Despite having three of the best defencemen in the NHL with Vlasic, Karlsson, and Burns, the Sharks allowed the third-most goals and generally underachieved in their own end during the 2020-21 campaign. With a top-three like that, you really shouldn’t be missing the playoffs.

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

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. Now with a new goaltender in the young and inexperienced Adin Hill, they have to be better or he’s going to be in for a long and frustrating season in the crease.

23) Calgary Flames

Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev

Juuso Valimaki – Rasmus Andersson

Connor Mackey – Nikita Zadorov

Oliver Kylington

ANALYSIS: The Calgary Flames added Chris Tanev in free agency last offseason, but his presence on the blueline couldn’t lead them to the playoffs. As a unit, they were okay defensively but had to be bailed out by the brilliant goaltending of Jakob Markstrom way too often.

Chris Tanev Calgary Flames
Chris Tanev, Calgary Flames (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Hanifin, Valimaki and Andersson had good seasons statistically, but this unit is far from the Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester led core of the past. Now without the veteran leadership of Giordano, who was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, they will have to shoulder more responsibility as GM Brad Treliving only added Nikita Zadorov to replace him.

22) Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson – John Marino

Michael Matheson – Chad Ruhwedel

Juuso Riikola

ANALYSIS: The Penguins’ defence core was led once again by Letang, who just finished his 15th season in the NHL. He is also closing in on the 600-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. The rest of the defence lacks name recognition, but overall they are a pretty good mix of mobility, physicality and two-way play.

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

21) Vancouver Canucks

Quinn Hughes – Tyler Myers

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Travis Hamonic

Olli Juolevi – Tucker Poolman

Luke Schenn – Jack Rathbone

ANALYSIS: The Canucks lost a huge piece of their defence when Edler signed with the Kings. Without him, they will have to lean on a committee of defencemen to replace his shotblocking and shorthanded minutes. Not to mention his veteran leadership. Ekman-Larsson will help their transition game and Poolman will help with the defensive minutes, but there’s not one defenceman that will replace Edler and his long-time service with the team. Hughes is still the leader of this core, and will have to clean up his defensive game if he wants to step into the realm of Cale Makar and become a true number-one defenceman in this league.

20) Edmonton Oilers

Darnell Nurse – Tyson Barrie

Duncan Keith – Cody Ceci

Kris Russell – Evan Bouchard

Slater Koekkoek

ANALYSIS: The Oilers have two of the best forwards in the game today with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but their defence, unfortunately, is still a sore spot. Nurse has developed into a bonified top-pairing defenceman, but he still needs some help. If this was five years ago, Keith would definitely help with that, but at 38-years-old they might be asking too much of the three-time Norris Trophy winner at this point in his career.

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

Ceci will attempt to fill the skates of the recently departed Adam Larsson, but again like Keith, could be overmatched in that role. Remember, he has not been the most consistent defensive presence over the last few seasons. Their only saving grace could be Bouchard and the hopeful strides he made during the offseason. If he starts playing to his potential in 2021-22, the Oilers might finally have a somewhat formidable core to get them past the first round of the playoffs.

19) Florida Panthers

MacKenzie Weegar – Aaron Ekblad

Brandon Montour – Markus Nutivaara

Gustav Forsling – Radko Gudas

Kevin Connauton

ANALYSIS: 2014 first-overall pick Aaron Ekblad will once again lead the Florida Panthers’ defence this season. After pacing all blueliners in average icetime with 25:05 a game and helping his team to the playoffs, he will have mostly the same core in 2021-22. Weegar, Nutivaara and Forsling are three of the most underrated two-way defencemen in the league and Montour has been great since coming over from the Ducks. Overall, a very solid group for a team that will be expected to take the next step in the playoffs this season.

18) New York Rangers

Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox

K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba

Patrik Nemeth – Nils Lundqvist

Jarred Tinordi

ANALYSIS: The Rangers have a formidable top-two with Trouba and Fox anchoring the defence. Fox eclipsed 40 points for the second-straight season and won the Norris Trophy and Trouba was a physical force and shot-blocking machine posting 111 hits and 84 blocked shots. Lindgren and Miller are ready to take the next step in their development after solid campaigns and they are getting a future star this season in Nils Lundqvist. Needless to say, the future is bright on Broadway.

17) Washington Capitals

Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson

Michal Kempny – Justin Schultz

Trevor van Riemsdyk – Nick Jensen

Matt Irwin

ANALYSIS: John Carlson is still one of the NHL’s best all-around defenceman and will continue to lead the Washington Capitals’ defence this season. Without Brenden Dillon, they will take a step back defensively and on the penalty kill, but should see a boost with the return of Michal Kempny. After sitting out the entire 2020-21 season due to an achilles injury, he will be a welcome sight back on the blue line. Before he was injured, he was one of the Capitals’ best two-way defencemen.

16) Nashville Predators

Roman Josi – Alexandre Carrier

Mattias Ekholm – Dante Fabbro

Matt Benning – Philippe Myers

Mark Borowiecki

ANALYSIS: Even without Ryan Ellis, the Predators still boast a formidable top-three of Josi, Ekholm, and Fabbro. The latter in particular had a solid season in an increased role. He has loads of potential at 23-years-old and could have a breakout season in 2021-22, especially with Ellis gone from the top four.

Roman Josi Nashville Predators
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Josi had another strong season, leading the entire team in scoring with 33 points while Ekholm continued to produce as well. The defence was definitely not the reason for the Predators’ first-round exit, that’s for sure.

15) Montreal Canadiens

Joel Edmundson -Jeff Petry

Ben Chiarot – David Savard

Brett Kulak – Alexander Romanov

Chris Wideman

LTIR: Shea Weber

ANALYSIS: Unfortunately, the Canadiens will be without Shea Weber for the foreseeable future. The last game of the Stanley Cup Final might have been his last appearance in the NHL, that’s how bad his injuries are. Fortunately, they still have a solid enough defence core without him. Savard, fresh off a Stanley Cup championship with the Lightning will help fill the void, and Romanov is already the real deal. Petry is coming off a career-high 42 points in 55 games and Edmundson and Chiarot proved to be amazing pickups from the Blues and Winnipeg Jets last offseason. All in all, a great core moving forward. That’s not saying they won’t miss Weber though.

14) Winnipeg Jets

Josh Morrissey – Nate Schmidt

Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk

Logan Stanley – Dylan DeMelo

Nathan Beaulieu – Sami Niku

ANALYSIS: The Jets really struggled to defend, as Hellebuyck again 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 another great season with 32 points. Dillon and Schmidt were added in the offseason to try and seal some of those defensive holes, so if they play to their strengths, Hellebuyck might be spared some hurt for the first time in a long time.

13) New Jersey Devils

Ty Smith – Dougie Hamilton

Ryan Graves – P.K. Subban

Jonas Siegenthaler – Damon Severson

Christian Jaros

ANALYSIS: After another disappointing season in the Meadow City, the New Jersey Devils added two significant pieces to their defence core this offseason in Hamilton and Ryan Graves. Hamilton takes over as their number-one defenceman and will hopefully fulfil the excitement that was promised when P.K. Subban was traded there a couple of seasons ago. He has been a Norris-calibre defenceman with the Hurricanes and will probably lead the team in ice time and points when all is said and done.

Dougie Hamilton Carolina Hurricanes
Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Graves adds a great two-way presence beside the overpaid Subban and Ty Smith will look to take the next step in his development. Overall, a much-improved group that should help the Devils finally make their way out of the basement.

12) Toronto Maple Leafs

Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie

Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl

Rasmus Sandin – Travis Dermott

Alex Biega

ANALYSIS: Despite the overall strength of this blue line, the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t make it past the first round for the fifth-straight season. They didn’t make any changes in the offseason, so GM Kyle Dubas must feel that the core is still good enough to make a sixth attempt at getting over the hump that is the opening round of the playoffs. Leading the way again will be Morgan Rielly, who is surprisingly starting his ninth season in the NHL.

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

Joining him will be T.J. Brodie, who turned out to be a masterful addition to the roster by Dubas last offseason. He was a stablilizing force all season long and even though he’s not an offensive dynamo anymore, he still provided mobility and a great first pass out of the zone. Overall, this season’s defence will live and die on the backs of Rielly, Brodie and Muzzin. If Holl, Sandin and Dermott can continue to be serviceable defencemen, this group should get them to the playoffs again. Except, getting there hasn’t been a problem, it’s capturing that fourth win and moving onto the second round.

11) Carolina Hurricanes

Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce

Brady Skjei – Ethan Bear

Brendan Smith – Ian Cole

Anthony Deangelo

IR: Jake Gardiner

ANALYSIS: The Hurricanes lost a huge piece of their defence when Hamilton signed with the Devils. Now with Jake Gardiner gone for the entire season, they will need the trio of Slavin, Pesce and Skjei to pick up the slack. Luckily for them, they should be up to the task. Next to Hamilton, Slavin has been their best defenceman over the last few seasons, and Pesce has turned into a very consistent and reliable blueliner as well.

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

Skjei had a good first full season in Carolina in 2020-21 and the new additions of Ethan Bear, Ian Cole and Brendan Smith should be able to offset the loss of Gardiner. However, if the injury bug hits, the Hurricanes might struggle with keeping the high-danger chances to a minimum when they are pressed into higher minutes.

10) Seattle Kraken

Mark Giordano – Adam Larsson

Jamie Oleksiak – Vince Dunn

Carson Soucy – Haydn Fleury

Dennis Cholowski – Connor Carrick

Cale Fleury

ANALYSIS: For a team just starting out in the NHL, the Kraken have a great group of defencemen to start their inaugural season with. Led by the ageless Mark Giordano and the underrated duo of Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn, defence will be the least of their problems going into 2021-22. Add in Soucy and Oleksiak and you have a pretty solid core to build around, even if Giordano moves on or retires next season.

9) Minnesota Wild

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Alex Goligoski – Jared Spurgeon

Dmitry Kulikov – Jon Merrill

Calen Addison

ANALYSIS: For the first time since 2011, the Minnesota Wild will not see Ryan Suter patrolling the blue line. The veteran defenceman was bought out by the team in the offseason and will now be providing his services to the Dallas Stars. He finished his career with 55 goals and 369 points in 656 games, all while averaging a gaudy 27:02 of ice time per game. He was the definition of a workhorse. He also rarely got injured as he played six full seasons and only had two where he played less than 82 games (in a normal 82-game season). Luckily for them, they still have the trio of Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon to fill his enourmous shoes.

Matt Dumba Minnesota Wild
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Wild also added Goligoski, Kulikov and Merrill to offset the losses of Suter and Soucy (who was selected by the Kraken). They all have had their moments in the NHL and should be able to replace at least the presence of Soucy. Suter, on the other hand, will take a collective effort as he did everything for them when he was in the lineup. He was not only their matchup defenceman, but also a high-minute man on both special teams. It will be interesting to see how the core adjusts to not having him around this season.

8) St. Louis Blues

Torey Krug – Justin Faulk

Marco Scandella – Colton Parayko

Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Walman

ANALYSIS: Even without Alex Pietrangelo, the St. Louis Blues were a good defensive team last season. The only player they lost from their core in the offseason was Dunn, who was selected and eventually signed by the Kraken. This season, they will run with a formidable top-four of Krug, Faulk, Scandella and Parayko, which rival some of the best in the league.

7) Dallas Stars

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg

Ryan Suter – Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera – Jani Hakanpaa

Joel Hanley

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. Basically, it’s where Heiskanen and Klingberg go, the Stars go. They will get help in the form of high-minute man Ryan Suter this season though, so maybe with some luck and great goaltending, they can wash the dirty taste of missing the playoffs last season after making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020.

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

6) Boston Bruins

Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy

Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort – Connor Clifton

Jakub Zboril

ANALYSIS: Without “Big Z”, the Boston Bruins did surprisingly well defensively last season, finishing fourth in goals against. With Forbort being the only addition, they will return with almost the same group this season. Youngsters Carlo and McAvoy continue to be the play drivers on the first and second pairing at 24 and 23 years old respectively, while Grzelcyk has established himself as a very reliable two-way defenceman in the top four. Since he’s entered the league, he’s never finished a season with a minus in the plus/minus column. Reilly and Clifton round out a defence that might have to be even more staunch defensively with a tandem that may not include Tuukka Rask until December.

5) New York Islanders

Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock

Thomas Hickey – Scott Mayfield

Andy Greene – Noah Dobson

Sebastian Aho

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, and Mayfield are all in their prime, and Dobson is on the cusp of becoming a full-time player too, which is just icing on the proverbial cake.

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

They have probably been the most surprising defence core over the past few seasons, leading the Islanders to back-to-back Conference Finals. 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.

4) Vegas Golden Knights

Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Dylan Coghlan

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 is clearly a star in the making and should be considered one of the top defenders in the NHL at this point.

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

After him, Pietrangelo, Martinez, McNabb, and Hague have formed a formidable entourage behind him and sophomore Zach Whitecloud has given them even more depth as he’s become an integral part of their bottom pairing and penalty-killing unit.

3) Philadelphia Flyers

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Keith Yandle – Justin Braun

Samuel Morin

ANALYSIS: After a season that saw his team finish with the most goals against, GM Chuck Fletcher decided to completely revamp his defence core. Joining incumbants Provorov, Braun and Sanheim this season will be former Predator Ryan Ellis, former Sabre Rasmus Ristolainen and former Panther Keith Yandle. All of them aren’t really known for their strong defensive games, but they all know how to transition the puck and get it quickly out of their own zone. Ellis in particular is very adept at doing that.

Ryan Ellis Nashville Predators
Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ristolainen finally gets out of the shadow of Dahlin and Yandle will try to rebound from his first season since 2007-08 where he did not put up at least 30 points. In new surroundings with new defensive partners, may be they can both help bring the Flyers back to respectability in the defensive zone. If nothing else, they will help the Flyers push the offence and execute the style head coach Alain Vigneault likes to play. At their best, his teams are quick through the neutral zone and love to get their defence involved in the play. With the additions Fletcher made to his lineup, he should be able to do at least that.

2) Colorado Avalanche

Devon Toews – Cale Makar

Samuel Girard – Erik Johnson

Bowen Byram – Ryan Murray

Kurtis MacDermid

ANALYSIS: Uber sophomore Makar had another monster season with 44 points in 44 games and continued his brilliance in the playoffs as well with two goals and ten points after his 15-point run last season. With him taking over as the top defender on the Avs, their defence could be even deeper with another star coming up as soon as next season in Byram. Even without the services of Ryan Graves, this unit is strong and it’s only going to get stronger.

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

Victor Hedman – Mikhail Sergachev

Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak

Jan Rutta – Zach Bogosian

Cal Foote

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.

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

Then you have Bogosian, Ruuta, and Cal Foote 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 they are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.


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Recapping Defence Rankings

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

2) Colorado Avalanche

3) Philadelphia Flyers

4) Vegas Golden Knights

5) New York Islanders

6) Boston Bruins

7) Dallas Stars

8) St. Louis Blues

9) Minnesota Wild

10) Seattle Kraken

11) Carolina Hurricanes

12) Toronto Maple Leafs

13) New Jersey Devils

14) Winnipeg Jets

15) Montreal Canadiens

16) Nashville Predators

17) Washington Capitals

18) New York Rangers

19) Florida Panthers

20) Edmonton Oilers

21) Vancouver Canucks

22) Pittsburgh Penguins

23) Calgary Flames

24) San Jose Sharks

25) Detroit Red Wings

26) Anaheim Ducks

27) Chicago Blackhawks

28) Ottawa Senators

29) Los Angeles Kings

30) Columbus Blue Jackets

31) Buffalo Sabres

32) Arizona Coyotes


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

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