The NHL’s best defensemen: Players, coaches, execs vote for the top 10
What makes a great NHL defenseman?
This is a question that fans, pundits, executives and the players themselves have been debating for decades.
“The problem with defenders is that you can go one of two ways. You can go with the guy who scores on the board, or you can go with the guy who is in charge of defense,” one NHL coach told Sportzshala. “I appreciate those [defensive] guys are a lot better than a guy who scores 80 points a year and isn’t that good defensively.”
Others may argue that the value of dominant scoring blueliners cannot be overestimated and that the best defense can be a good offense.
Finding a defenseman who offers elite play across all three zones separates franchise players from the stars, and in some cases the top players in our expert defenseman rankings, from the rest of the roster.
Sportzshala’s 2023 NHL Position Rankings compiled 20 polls that feature those on the ice and behind the scenes.
Here’s how it worked: Polls were conducted over the past two months. Respondents were asked to rank their current top 10 players in center, forward, defenseman and goaltender based on a pre-defined list of 25 to 35 top players in each position. The top 10 players on each ballot were given a numerical score: No. 1 earned 10 points, No. 2 earned nine points, and so on.
10 NHL players were interviewed – six from the Eastern Conference, four from the Western Conference. They range from NHL award nominees to seasoned role players. To balance this view, we interviewed 10 people from NHL hockey operations teams, including three coaches and three general managers.
Collectively, their findings have led to rankings that go beyond fan and media speculation to bring out the best of the best—at least according to those who work in the NHL.
Here are the top 10 defenders according to our polls, with additional reports from yours truly Kristen Shilton and Ryan S. Clark to add context to the selection. Statistics are collected from sites such as Trick with natural characteristics, Ice Hockey Directory And Evolving hockey.