The NHL features a long list of talented blue-liners in 2010-11 that are all fighting to win the elusive Norris Trophy. I've ranked who I think are the Top 50 Defensemen according to offensive and defensive skills, plus/minus, potential and toughness. From power play quarterbacks to penalty kill specialists this list has it all!
Dan Girardi is a rock solid defensive defenseman who will see lots of action on the New York Rangers penalty kill. In 2008 Girardi was a key component on the number one penalty kill in the NHL alongside line mate Marc Staal. Girardi has been an "ironman" on the Rangers blue-line for the last 3 seasons having played every game injury free despite playing hard knock hockey every night.
After a disappointing 2009 sophomore season where he had a dismal plus/minus of -18 the Atlanta Thrashers are hoping that Zach Bogosian will bounce back in 2010. In 2007-08 while playing junior for the Peterborough Petes Bogosian scored 61 points in 60 games with a plus/minus of 8. It's obvious that the potential is there and 2010-11 could be the year to shine.
The Edmonton Oilers acquired Ryan Whitney on March 3, 2010 in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky and immediately had an impact. In 62 games with the Anaheim Ducks, Whitney tallied 28 points and a -6. He turned things around once he arrived in Edmonton scoring three goals and adding 8 assists with a plus/minus of 7.
James Wisniewski is looking forward to playing with Mark Streit on the Islanders power-play unit. Last season with the Ducks Wisniewski was a first team penalty killer. The extra time spent on the power-play combined with partnering up with Streit should help Wisniewski's numbers improve from last season.
In 2003-04 as a member of the Plymouth Whalers Wisniewski was named Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been nothing short of amazing the last three seasons but doesn't receive the attention that his teammate Dan Boyle does. He is excellent in the defensive zone and adequate in the offensive zone. He eats up minutes and can play any role asked of him. Of course playing beside Dan Boyle can only make him improve.
The Tampa Bay Lightning saw something in Victor Hedman when they drafted him second overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft. After a promising rookie season in which he scored four goals and 20 points look for Hedman to continue to develop during his sophomore season.
Jordan Leopold scored a career high 11 goals in 2009-10 as a member of the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Leopold signed a three year contract with the Buffalo Sabres in the off-season. In 2002 he won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA's most outstanding player.
Brian Campbell will start the 2010-11 season on the disabled list after spraining his ankle during a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is expected to miss four to six weeks and will be greatly missed on the Blackhawks blue line. Last season Campbell had 38 points in 68 games with a plus/minus of 18.
Newly appointed alternate captain Tim Gleason led the Carolina Hurricanes defensemen last season in hits (149) and blocked shots (115). He was also a member of the 2010 U.S.A. Olympic Team. In the first game of the 2010-11 season he was a +2 rating with an assist on the game winning goal by Brandon Sutter.
It will be interesting to see if Niklas Kronwall can stay healthy in 2010-11 after missing 34 games to a knee injury last season. In 2008-09 he recorded a career high in assists (45), points (51), power-play goals (4) and shots blocked (121) while playing in 80 regular season games for the Red Wings.
Kimmo Timonen finished second on the Philadelphia Flyers last season in assists with 33 helpers. He also tore up the 2009-10 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a goal and 10 assists in 23 games while posting a plus/minus of +6. He's small but mighty and will log around 25 minutes per game on average.
Veteran Chris Phillips NHL career has been full of ups and downs but with the addition of Sergei Gonchar look for Phillips to vastly improve this season. Only twice in his entire career has he finished a season with a minus in the plus/minus column.
6'3" Minnesota Wild defenseman Cam Barker has potential but never lived up to the hype as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps the change of scenery will get Barker back to his old form when he won Gold for Team Canada at the 2005 and 2006 World Junior Championships.
Alexander Edler is a strong offensive defenseman with a wicked slap shot. His stats have been improving every year. He finished the 2009-10 campaign with a career high 42 points in 76 games. Edler is strong on the puck in the defensive zone and is confident in his passing skills. Look for Edler to improve on his 42 points from last year.
Florida Panthers captain Bryan McCabe will quarterback the Panthers power-play in 2010 and his stats will reflect that if he can stay healthy. He managed to play injury free last year for the first time since 2006-07 when he recorded 57 points in 82 games. He's always been rock solid on offense and would rank higher if his defensive abilities were better than they are.
Michael Del Zotto is entering his sophomore season in the NHL. After a successful rookie season in which he scored 37 points in 80 games, Del Zotto was named to the 2010 NHL All-Rookie Team. The only concern for Del Zotto may be his defensive abilities. He had a plus/minus of -20. Del Zotto is all offense and if his junior numbers are any indication he has the potential to be a point per game blue liner.
Originally drafted in 2003 Kyle Quincey has finally proved himself as a top notch NHL defender over the past two seasons. Quincey also led all Avalanche players in minutes played accumulating an average of 23:36 minutes per game.
Ian White is a slick skating defensive defenseman who plays bigger than his 5'10" frame. As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008-09 White played eight games as a forward registering three goals and four assists before being moved back to defense. He was eventually part of a deal that brought Dion Phaneuf to Toronto.
Henrik Tallinder signed a four year 13.5 million dollar deal with the New Jersey Devils during the off-season. Tallinder joins an already strong Devils defense and will adjust nicely to the teams defensive style of play.
Ryan Suter ranked 20th among NHL defenseman in assists last season with 33 helpers. In 2009-10 Suter improved the defensive aspect of his game and finished with a +4 plus/minus, 18 points better than 2008-09 when he was -14.
Marek Zidlicky is always an offensive threat whenever the Minnesota Wild go on the power-play. He ranks 21st among active defensemen in goals, 13th in games played and points, 12th in power-play points (148) and 11th in power-play goals (39)
In 2009-10 Matt Carle tied the NHL record for most assists from a defenseman in a single period with four. Carle and Pronger have become a very dangerous duo for the Flyers power-play unit. Carle also finished second on the Flyers in plus/minus last season.
After a career season in 2008-09 in which he was a +32 with 50 points, Dennis Wideman suffered a set back in 2009-10 in almost every category. He later rebounded in the playoffs and was one of only two defenseman to lead their team in playoff points. His 11 points in the playoffs were the most by any Bruins defenseman since Ray Bourque scored 25 points in the 1991 playoffs.
2009-10 was a huge year for Jack Johnson who set career records for himself in every category. He also led all NHL defensemen in shootout goals (6). Jack Johnson has finally developed into a top NHL defender that everyone thought he'd be when he was drafted 3rd overall in 2005 by the Carolina Hurricanes
In 2003 Brent Burns was converted to defense by Head Coach Jacques Lemaire after playing the majority of his career as a right winger. One concern with Burns is that he's already had 2 concussions. If he can stay concussion free, he'll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come!
Joni Pitkanen logged more minutes of ice time in 2009 than any other player in the NHL (27:22 average minutes per game). Pitkanen is your proto-typical offensive defenseman and his plus/minus has reflected that in the past.
Montreal rookie P.K. Subban is ready to tear up the NHL after tearing up the AHL and OHL. Some people may think that I rated him a little high but I've seen him play and I know what kind of physical presence he brings to a team. Look for a huge year from P.K. on route to a possible rookie of the year honor.
Andy Greene had a career year in 2009-10 with 37 points in 78 games. Don't expect those numbers to change this season unless they change for the better. Greene will be counted on to provide offense on a very weak offensive blue line.
Marc Staal established himself as a defenseman in 2009-10 by setting career-highs in all categories. In 2007, while playing in the OHL for the Sudbury Wolves, Staal won the Max Kaminsky trophy as the OHL's most outstanding defenseman.
Brent Seabrook led all Chicago Blackhawks defenders in blocked shots in 2009-10 with a total of 153. He also had a great plus/minus rating of +20 last season. Seabrook is a team player who isn't afraid of mixing it up in the corners.
Jeff Schultz led all NHL players last season in plus/minus with a +50 becoming the first ever Washington Capital to accomplish that feat. Standing 6'6" Schultz was nicknamed "Mr. Nasty" by Pierre McGuire in early 2010.
Veteran Brian Rafalski has been one of the most consistent defensemen in the NHL over the last five years. Rafalski was also named top defenseman at the 2010 Winter Olympic games.
Sophomore and 2009-10 Rookie of the Year Tyler Myers is looking to build on his great rookie season in which he scored 11 goals and tallied 48 points for the Buffalo Sabres. Myers plays as big as his 6'8" frame and is a force to be reckoned with on the Sabres blue line.
Keith Yandle has been improving year by year in the NHL and was the Phoenix Coyotes best offensive defenseman last season. Yandle plays with a ton of confidence considering this is only his fourth season in the league. If he continues to improve don't be surprised if he hits the 50 point mark in 2010-11.
Erik Johnson led all St. Louis Blues defensemen in 2009-10 with a career high 39 points. Johnson was drafted first overall in the 2006 Entry Draft.
Tomas Kaberle has spent his entire career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kaberle was tied for 8th among NHL defensemen in points last season. He is a very skilled play making blue liner who has recently started shooting the puck more.
Tobias Enstrom tallied 50 points for the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009-10 and is only getting better. He is a highly skilled offensive defenseman who was a member of the 2008 NHL All-Rookie Team.
If Andrei Markov could stay healthy he would be a top 10 defenseman in the NHL. In 2009-10 Markov played in only 45 games for the Montreal Canadiens. Markov started the 2010-11 NHL season on the disabled list with a knee injury. Early reports have him returning late October.
Christian Ehrhoff is an offensive defenseman with strong skating and shooting abilities. Ehrhoff has been working on the defensive aspect of his game lately and has spent some time on the Canucks penalty kill.
Veteran blue liner Sergei Gonchar will compliment the Ottawa Senators nicely in 2010-11. During his career he's scored 50 or more points in 8 seasons. Since 1995 only Nicklas Lidstrom has scored more points than Gonchar.
Mark Streit is a versatile defenseman who can play forward when needed. Streit suffered a shoulder injury in an inter-squad game on September 25, 2010 and could be out of the New York Islanders lineup for at least 4 months.
Dion Phaneuf has been rated as one of the top hitters in the NHL today! His bone crushing hits have been heard all around the NHL and he uses his physical skill to create turnovers in the offensive zone. Phaneuf also has one of the hardest slap shots in the league.
Since 1996 Chris Pronger has only finished with a negative plus/minus three times. He is one of the most consistent offensive blue liner in the league today. His veteran leadership and rocket slap shot are two of his greatest attributes. Pronger was also awarded the Bobby Clarke trophy as the Flyers MVP in 2009.
Newly appointed Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber will be seeing loads of time on the power-play in 2010. Since the start of the 2006-07 season, Weber has scored 62 goals which is second only to Mike Green who has 70. Weber will be remembered for that rocket shot in the Olympics that actually went through the net.
Zdeno Chara is the tallest player ever to play in the NHL. Standing at 6'9" he uses his size to his advantage by clearing out traffic in front of his goalie. Chara also holds the NHL All-Star Skills Competition hardest shot record with a shot that registered 105.4 mph
Nicklas Lidstrom has won the James Norris Memorial Trophy a total of six times during his 17 year career. Lidstrom was also named "NHL Player of the Decade" by The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated. He will be seeking out his fifth Stanley Cup of his career in 2010-11.
Dan Boyle owns the Sharks record for assists by a defenseman in a single season with his 43 helpers in 2009-10. Boyle is all offense and was recently named Alternate captain of the San Jose Sharks for 2010. Some consider Boyle to be one of the NHL's premiere offensive defensemen.
Duncan Keith is one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL today. 2009-10 was a huge year for the Chicago Blackhawk defender after winning the Stanley Cup and the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. Keith also played a huge role in Team Canada's Gold Medal victory at the 2010 Winter Olympic games.
20 year old L.A. Kings defender Drew Doughty was a finalist for the Norris trophy last season in only his second full season in the NHL. Doughty also finished the 2009-10 season first among all NHL defensemen in game winning goals. Expect Doughty to win a few Norris trophies before his career is over.
Mike Green has been as big a piece of the Washington Capitals offense as Alex Ovechkin for the past two seasons. Green has been a point per game defenseman for the past two seasons despite running into injury troubles. Perhaps 2010-11 will be the year where Green will play a full 82 games and score 80 plus points. If Green can play an entire season, he will be a lock for the James Norris Memorial Trophy!