With less than a month to go until opening night of the 2023/24 NHL season, we take a look at the best defencemen in the league.
From physical presences at the back to intelligent playmakers, hockey in the 21st century has all sorts of different types of defencemen, so check out our list of the top five ahead of the upcoming NHL season.
The former first overall draft pick from 2018 took a big step forward in 2022/23. Rasmus Dahlin had 73 points in 78 games played last season which was improved from 53 points in 80 games the year before.
At age 23, Dahlin already has 355 NHL games under his belt. He has largely managed to stay healthy and is entering his prime.
On what projects to be a very good Buffalo Sabres team this upcoming season, Dahlin is the team’s top defensemen.
He is difficult to play against in his own zone, is mobile and can move the puck through the neutral zone, and is extremely creative in the offensive zone.
Dahlin scored 73 points from 15 goals and 58 assists, 20 more points than his previous career high of 53 points in 2021/22. He also was third in the league among skaters in average time on the ice per game at 25 minutes and 48 seconds.
We will see a ton of Rasmus Dahlin in the 2023/24 NHL season. He is +1100 to win the Norris Trophy for best defenceman and the Sabres are +3300 to win the Stanley Cup.
There are so many good defensemen worthy of high rankings in the league which makes compiling a list difficult. But the 32 year old reigning Norris Trophy winner deserves at least a mention.
During Erik Karlsson’s tenure as a San Jose Shark, he did not play or produce at the levels to which we had grown accustomed. That changed in 2022-23 as he reverted to the Ottawa Senators version of himself.
Last season with the Sharks, Karlsson played all 82 games and racked up 101 points on a bad team with little support, as shown by his -26 plus/minus. Karlsson now has new life on a perennially contending Pittsburgh Penguins team.
If Karlsson plays similar to even a portion of his now 3-time Norris winning self, he will be a top defenseman in the NHL once again and his Penguins team is +2800 to take the Stanley Cup.
In 2021, just his second year in the NHL, Adam Fox won the Norris Trophy and last season finished runner-up to Karlsson.
Fox played all 82 games last season while racking up 72 points and a +28 rating in 24:23 of average ice time per game. He is only getting better.
It is not just the regular season where Fox excels either. He has 31 points in 30 playoff games. On what is expected to be a top team in the NHL, Fox is the clear-cut leader of the defence. He is dangerous in all 3 zones as well as all special teams.
We will continue to see Fox perform at an elite level in this league for a long time.
Although Miro Heiskanen already had 4 NHL seasons under his belt, he really came into his own last season.
The rest of the league and fans found out what folks in Dallas already knew: Heiskanen is an elite NHL defenseman. He is extremely difficult to play against and was extremely steady and reliable to a very good Stars team last year.
Heiskanen had 73 points in 79 games played last year while averaging 25:29 minutes of ice time per game, the sixth-highest tally among skaters.
Heiskanen will lead Dallas’ defensive core once again and be a force as he enters his prime. He is +850 to win the James Norris Memorial Trophy this season, while Dallas is +1700 to win the Stanley Cup.
This guy has proven to be a cheat code. He’s just unbelievable. Cale Makar has 246 points in 238 career games played.
Over a point per game average is extremely difficult for defensemen to sustain in the NHL. Not only has Makar done it for most of his young career, he is getting better.
Makar is only 24 years old and already has a Norris Tropy win, runner up, 3rd place vote, and a Conn Smythe Trophy win. Plus, he led Colorado to a Stanley Cup win in 2021/22.
His elite skating and vision bring together the rest of his game which culminates into a level of talent that just is not fair.
Makar is going to be a problem for opponents in this league for a long time.
He is +2200 to win the Hart Memorial Trophy and has the shortest odds to win the Norris Trophy at +175. The Avalanche have the second-shortest odds to win the Stanley Cup at +850.