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The job of a defender in the NHL is not just about only defending. Rather, outstanding defensive players also have to intervene in their own attack, stimulate the development game, and, at the right moment, ignite the turbo on the offensive. With all the urge to attack, however, the control of the defensive zone must not be neglected. A challenging combination that the following top ten defenders have mastered almost perfectly.
1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman was one of the deciding factors in winning the Tampa Bay Lightning title twice in a row. The 30-year-old defender has a very rare combination of strength and speed. He combines offensive penetration with defensive stability. By the way, Hedman also brings with him the irrepressible will to win that distinguished the Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hedman was not the MVP of the playoffs in 2020 for nothing. The Swede has shown outstanding performances for years, in 2017/18 he was awarded the Norris Trophy as best defender and was always able to convince in the years that followed. In the NHL he has never stayed below 50 points since 2016/17 and always kept a positive plus-minus balance. Outstanding values for an outstanding defender.
2. Novel Josi, Nashville Predators
In second place among the currently best defenders is Roman Josi from the Nashville Predators, the first and only German-speaking defender. As captain, Josi is one of the most important leading players in the Predators. He regularly gets most of the Ice Age and is on the ice in crucial situations. With his offensive strength, he not only invigorates the attacking game in Nashville in excess. In 2019/20 he was voted the best defender of the regular season and thus recognized for his best NHL season (65 points, 16 goals, 49 assists, +22).
3. Adam Fox, New York Rangers
Like Hedman and Josi, Adam Fox is one of the winners of the Norris Trophy. In 2020/21, the New York Rangers defender was honored with the coveted award and, at just 23, was one of the youngest award winners in a long time, since 2011/12, when Erik Karlsson was voted best defender at the age of 22. Fox left Hedman and Cale Makar behind in his choice and was particularly convincing due to his versatility. Both outnumbered, he received most of the Ice Age with the Rangers.
4. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar narrowly had to admit defeat in the election for the best defender in 2020/21. In the playoffs, too, things didn’t go as expected. The Colorado Avalanche started as the top favorite but failed in the second round at the Vegas Golden Knights. Despite the two setbacks, Makar’s performances were remarkable. 44 points (8 goals, 36 assists) in 44 games are an outstanding value for a defender. Whenever Makar is on the ice, he manages to serve his teammates in an exemplary manner.
It is therefore not surprising that the 22-year-old Blueliner has signed a long-term contract in Colorado and is to lead Avalanche’s defense for the next six years.
5. Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights
Alex Pietrangelo brings a lot of experience and leadership qualities to the Vegas Golden Knights. In 2020/21 he signed with the Nevada team and immediately became one of the assistant captains after wearing the ‘C’ on his chest with the St. Louis Blues four years earlier.
With St. Louis, Pietrangelo has already won a Stanley Cup, with Vegas he failed against the Montreal Canadiens in 2021. In 2021/22 it will again be the goal of the Golden Knights to win the first title in the still short franchise history. Pietrangelo will be a key factor in this as the leader of the defense.
6. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
With John Carlson in sixth place is one of the most complete defenders in the NHL. In a defensive role, he can be just as effective due to his running strength and game intelligence as in an offensive role. Good body play, a strong shot, and the understanding not to always go for the hard-hit, but to judge the game correctly, make Carlson a decisive guarantee of success for the Washington Capitals.
7. Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
In July, Seth Jones was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blackhawks paid a lot for the new defender and had the risk that Jones could switch again after a year because he would have become UFA.
Just four days later, the Blackhawks agreed to an eight-year, $ 76 million contract with Jones. Jones became one of the highest-paid defenders in the NHL in Chicago, with the aim of taking defense to a new level and, according to manager Stan Bowman, will take the team to a new level.
8. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang is the key player in defense. At 34 years of age, he has the necessary experience, but can still call up top performance. At only 1.83 meters, it is rather small for a Defender but knows how to hide this disadvantage with fast legs and excellent puck handling. In body play, too, Letang seems bigger than he actually is.
Letang still has a contract with the Penguins for one year and he will be motivated to do his best in the coming season to continue playing for Pittsburgh, as he has not yet played for any other team in the NHL.
9. Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils
In the free-agent phase, Dougie Hamilton was the most coveted target among defenders. After three successful years in the dress of the Carolina Hurricanes, the New Jersey Devils struck and tied the 1.97-meter giant for seven years. With the big, powerful right-handed shooter, the Devils will massively upgrade their defense in the coming season.
10. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
One of the NHL’s greatest defensive talents will wear the Dallas Stars jersey through 2028/29. Miro Heiskanen extended his contract and is said to be the Texans’ figurehead. The Finn has all the characteristics to become an exceptional player in the league. Since his draft in third place in 2017, Heiskanen has continued to develop and combine game intelligence, puck control, speed, and a physical style of play.
Heiskanen particularly impresses with his calm and inconspicuous style of play. He rarely makes the wrong decision and thus ensures calm in his own third and a controlled build-up of the game. If Heiskanen continues to develop like this in the coming season, he will climb to the top of the list.