Jeremy Roenick sparked some controversy on Twitter last Thursday night, tweeting out his list of top 10 defensemen in the league right now. Let’s just say there were some questionable choices on that list and some defensemen that were left off that shouldn’t have been. Now to be fair, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when it’s wrong.
The NHL Network followed up Roenick with their own Top 20 list. It didn’t nearly create the controversy as Roenick’s did, but some would still debate some spots.
In all honesty, all of these lists are subjective. So, without further adieu, and after a lot of thinking and shuffling, here’s my top 10 defensemen in the NHL right now.
1. Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
It’s not even a question who’s number one. Erik Karlsson is the most gifted defenseman in the NHL right now, and his play year after year is the epitome of consistency. I’ll argue that no one is better on the break out than Karlsson. Legendary D-man Paul Coffey even praises Karlsson for his ability in transition. He’s an elite threat offensively, and his actual defensive play has matured over the years. Everything he does on the ice is flawless and he rarely makes significant mistakes. There’s a reason he’s a two-time Norris Trophy winner.
2. Brent Burns – San Jose Sharks
If anybody can rival Karlsson as the top defensemen right now, it’s Brent Burns. He led all defensemen in points this past season, so there’s no need to go down that road. He’s so dangerous driving the offense from the back end for his team, which in today’s NHL, where goals are at a premium, that is very valuable. Its also helps that he hasn’t missed a game during the past three seasons. While Burns can match Karlsson blow for blow in terms of point production, Burns’ game isn’t quite as complete as Karlsson’s.
3. Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
This may be an unpopular pick. While some consider him to be overrated, I’m a fan of consistency. Duncan Keith exemplifies consistency. While some may discredit the plus/minus stat, Keith has been a plus player in nine of his twelve NHL seasons, his worst being a -11 in his rookie season. The other two were even and a -1. This past season, he was a +22, while still being fifth among all defensemen in points.
4. Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay Lightning
I would argue that Victor Hedman is the most well-rounded defensemen in all of hockey. His game in all 200 feet of the ice is solid. He can put up points with any other defenseman (2nd in the league among defensemen, with the most assists), while his play in the defensive zone is rock solid. Along with Duncan Keith, he’s consistent, but isn’t a mega-talent like Karlsson or Burns.
5. Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins
In all honesty, the only reason it could be controversial to put Kris Letang in the top five is because of his absence last season. He missed 41 regular season games, along with the entire Penguins’ Cup run. I’d argue with anyone that these particular health issues are outside of his control, therefore shouldn’t be held against him. He also can put up points with any defenseman (4th among qualifying defensemen in points-per-game), along with playing a solid, physical defensive game. He was very reckless with the puck earlier in his career, but has turned into one of the elite break out defensemen in the league.
6. Roman Josi – Nashville Predators
Roman Josi is one of the more under-appreciated defensemen in the NHL. He’s been overlooked because of being next to guys like Shea Weber, and now P.K. Subban. I’d argue there isn’t a better skating defenseman in the league, and he’s another very well-rounded player. He doesn’t quite have the production of a Karlsson or Hedman, but he’s still a major threat in the offensive zone. His skating ability and great passing make him a great asset when Nashville needs to get the puck out of the zone.
7. Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings
I have a feeling I could get a lot of heat for leaving Drew Doughty outside of the top five, much less, all the way down to seventh. I love his game. I’d put him right up there behind Hedman in being well-rounded and having a great two-way game, but I just don’t see the hype behind him being so elite. I love that he’s on the ice more than any other defenseman in hockey, but I don’t think he’s the best at anything. Listen, he’s still an elite defenseman. Any team would be lucky to have him and you could argue him into the top five, but not for me. I just don’t see reason to put him ahead of the other six.
8. Shea Weber – Montréal Canadiens
Weber is a great two-way defensemen and he’s a great asset for any team. He’s getting up there in age and he’s not the point producer he needs to be to be top five, but his defensive game is outstanding. His shot from the point rivals anyone else’s in hockey. He had a solid first year in Montréal and showed he continues to be among the elite blue-liners in hockey.
9. Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
There isn’t a question that Ryan Suter is the best defensive defenseman on this list. He led all defensemen with a +34 last season. His point production is a bit lacking, which keeps him a little lower on this list. This is, however, a list of defensemen, so leaving off one of the most sound defensive players in hockey seems wrong.
10. P.K. Subban – Nashville Predators
There’s a lot of hype around Subban. He plays with a lot of confidence and energy. He’s a great leader and really took Nashville on his back to the Cup Final last season. I still believe he’s a top ten defenseman, but he rounds out the list. He’s a bit over-aggressive defensively and his 40 points last year doesn’t help make a case for him to be the elite among the elite. He’s still a major threat at both ends of the ice, so he still deserves to be top ten.