Defensemen are the backbone of every NHL team. They are the last line of defense between the league’s elite shooters who find themselves alone against the goaltender. Defensively, players are expected to be physically fit and limit the opposing team’s scoring chances. On the other hand, they are looked upon as a powerhouse quarterback and sometimes as a lethal offensive scorer.
And now more than ever, NHL defensemen are expected to produce offensively. In the 2021-22 season, eight NHL defensemen scored at least 60 points.
Since defensemen are such an integral part of the sport, I have compiled a list of the top 10 players in the league. Career, their current career and how they might work in the future were factors that were taken into account:
10. Moritz Seider, Red Wings
It may be crazy to list Zyder as one of the league’s best defensemen already, but the Red Wings blue liner has accomplished so much in just one season. He proved to be an asset on both ends of the ice and cemented that fact by winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. At 21, he provides a physical presence and has laid down his fair share of big hits throughout his rookie campaign. And then there’s his ability to handle the puck, which allows Zayder to make those sensational passes that we saw a few times last season. The sky is the limit for Seider.
9. Miro Heiskanen, Stars
He may not always be bright, but Heiskanen has developed into one of the great defenders. He broke the 30-point mark in three of his first four professional seasons, including a career-high 36 points in the 2021-22 campaign. During the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Heiskanen set a Stars playoff record with 26 points (6 goals and 20 assists) and also recorded the fourth-best postseason defenseman in NHL history. He’s not the type of blue liner to score 20 goals in a season, but he’s a very smart defender. His vision in the attack zone is one of the best, but he still wields a very deadly shot when he has a chance to uncork one. Heiskanen is as stable as they are.
8. John Carlson, Capitals
Carlson is one of the blue liner’s most gifted attackers. After all, he has scored at least 70 points in three of his last four seasons. In addition, the Washington Capitals defenseman scored a career-high 17 goals in 2021-22, including seven powerplays. Carlson is also a terrific passer who has a knack for finding gifted teammates like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a high percentage of scoring chances. The 32-year-old continues to be a stabilizing force in attack, especially in terms of personal advantage.
7. Aaron Ekblad, Panthers
The Panthers became a topic of discussion in the league after winning the President’s Trophy in the 2021–2022 regular season. The main reason was the reliable presence on the blue line of veteran defender Aaron Ekblad. Despite only playing 61 games, Ekblad still managed to score a career-best 57 points. The 26-year-old’s previous career high was 41 points in 67 games in 2019/20. He never had a problem hitting the net, having scored in double figures in seven of his eight professional seasons. However, in the transmission department, Ekblad saw a big spike (42). Ekblad has certainly entered the league’s top tier of defensemen.
6. Chris Letang, Penguins
It seems almost criminal to place a future Hall of Famer like Letang outside the top five of this list. But that only speaks for the current level…