The Defenseman. A position in hockey often overlooked in favor of the flashy, highlight reel forward position. Defenseman have the most time on ice (besides goalies) and they perform arguably the most important job in hockey.
Without further ado, here are the top five defenseman in the league today. Also, my picks for the top five defenseman five years down the road, barring any rookie stars in the next few seasons.
Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks
Duncan Keith makes this list because of his incredible two way play. He showed this especially in his fantastic season last year. Not only did he win the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks, he won the Gold Medal with team Canada. He also achieved a personal award in winning the Norris Trophy for best National Hockey League defenseman.
Duncan is one of the better offensive defensemen in the league too. He finished second in the league last year with 69 points.
Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara is both overrated and underrated. Overrated by those who think he's the best defenseman in the league, and underrated by those who think he's only good because of his height. While his height is a big part of his game, it's hard to think Zdeno wouldn't find a way to be great if he was six inches shorter. He contributes offensively and also is a defensive force.
His slap shot is a thing of legend and he regularly wins fastest shot at the All-Star game. He also won his first Norris trophy in 2008-2009.
Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers
Chris Pronger is the meanest player on this list. If you looked at him, you wouldn't think much. Tall, almost gangly body. Not a fast skater and not the best stick handler. But boy is he good. He's been one of the top five players in the game since he was drafted number two overall many years ago.
This culminated in a Hart and Norris trophy season in 1999-2000. He also won the Gold Medal at the Olympics twice and the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.
Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings
The most legendary defender on this list, Lidstrom is one of the best to ever lace em' up. He's played for the Detroit Red Wings his entire career. Detroit have been quite fortunate as they've had one of the best defensemen in history for about 20 years now.
Nick has won the Norris Trophy a total of six times. He also won four Stanley Cups with Detroit and a Gold Medal with Sweden.
Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators
Shea Weber is the youngest guy on this list. He's simply fantastic. On a team like Nashville, you'd have to do a lot to get special attention and that's exactly what Shea does. He's been out of his mind good for this team for a couple years now and was recently named the captain.
Shea is less celebrated than the other members of this list, but he still has a Gold Medal from last year's Olympics.
Now: my picks for who will be the top five defensemen in 2015-2016, five years down the road. (Players who will be under 30)
Zach Bogosian of the Atlanta Thrashers
I believe not trading Bogosian at this years deadline, as was rumored, will be one of Rick Dudley's best decisions. Drafted 3rd overall in 2008, Bogosian already has the Thrashers team record for hits in a season (196). He's a physical defenseman with some upside on his offensive game as well.
With Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom already, the Thrashers look to have quite an intimidating defense in a few years time, perhaps one of the best in the league.
Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers
Erik Gudbranson is another 3rd overall pick, this time from the Florida Panthers. While he doesn't have much experience so far, what he has shown has been rather brilliant. He's been called the next Chris Pronger, which is by no means a small claim.
On a team where there isn't much promise at all, Gudbranson is something to look forward to for Panther fans. Especially since he'll be playing a big role next season due to the departures of Dennis Wideman, Bryan Mccabe and Bryan Allen.
Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman is in his second year in the NHL and is already turning heads. Already eclipsing his point total from last year, Hedman is one of the solid d-men on the new and improved Tampa Bay Lightning. Another player who's getting comparisons to Chris Pronger, Hedman is well on his way to becoming a star defenseman.
Victor looks to be recognized among the names Stamkos and St. Louis within the next few years.
Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche
Erik Johnson is another one of the better defensemen in this league. In a shocking trade, he was moved to the Colorado Avalanche for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. (With Jay McClement and a 1st) Things were getting stale in St. Louis, and the former number one overall pick wasn't progressing like they would've hoped.
With a fresh start, look for Erik Johnson to become one of the best defensemen in the league in the next five years. In fact, I guarantee it.
Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings
This one's obvious. Having had the pleasure of getting to see Doughty live last month, I can honestly say he's something special. While you can still tell he has some growing to do, he is the closest to being "there." The Kid is something else and he's already one of the best in the league today.
Kid's gonna be a legend. Undoubtedly.