Birth of the Blue Line: The NHL's Defensemen of Tomorrow

Matthew HoganAnalyst IMay 21, 2010

PITTSBURGH - MAY 8:  PK Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Mellon Arena on May 8, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Canadiens 2-1.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The NHL’s blue line has long been dominated by a core of future hall of famers. Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Niedermayer, and Chris Pronger have been defensive royalty for well over a decade and while their careers are still strong, they are coming to an end.

With the end of a number of impressive careers comes the emergence of several others.

The obvious name to start with on the blue line is Calder Trophy favorite Tyler Myers.

At the beginning of the season, the Buffalo Sabres were uncertain as to whether or not Myers was ready to make the jump to the NHL. The 6’8” Myers quickly proved to everyone that he was ready.

Myers single-handedly took a mediocre Buffalo defense and turned it into a defense that allowed the fourth fewest goals in the league.

The 20-year-old posted 48 points, tied for 11th overall in defensive scoring with Niedermayer. Myers was a plus-13 compared with his predecessor’s minus-nine.

Myers was one of four rookie to play all 82 games and led all first-year players who played at least 20 games in ice-time, averaging 23:44 per game.

The Ottawa Senators appear to have struck gold with their 2008 first-round pick, Erik Karlsson.

It took a little time including a quick stint with the Binghamton Senators in the AHL for Karlsson to get going this season, but once he did, the 19-year-old Swede was almost unstoppable.

Despite having several different linemates this season, Karlsson found a way to gel and posted 26 points, including 12 points in his final 10 games.

Karlsson didn’t play his first 20 minute game until December, and still averaged over 20 minutes on the ice during the regular season.

He averaged an incredible 25:52 in the postseason, and played over 40 minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Sensators game five triple overtime victory during the first round.

Rounding out the trio of future blue line studs is P.K. Subban.

The Montreal Canadiens picked an interesting time to call up their top-rated prospect. Subban played just two games in the NHL during the regular season before being called up for game six against the Washington Capitals in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Subban played just over 10 minutes in his postseason debut, but assisted on Mike Cammalleri’s game-winning goal in the Habs’ 4-1 win. He played just under 11 minutes in Montreal’s stunning game seven win over the Caps.

But as time has progressed in the postseason, the 21-year-old Subban has been entrusted with more ice-time.

In Montreal’s 4-3 game six win over the Penguins in Eastern Conference Semifinals, Subban played over 29 minutes and was a plus-two. So far this postseason he has seven points in 12 games and is a plus-three.

There is no doubt that this trio of talented young defensemen will be tormenting forwards in the NHL for years to come.