The NHL draft often headlines the offensive playmakers, and the early picks favor those players as well.
Defensemen tend to have a steeper learning curve, making them riskier picks in the top half of the first round. Of course, special talents such as Victor Hedman and Drew Doughty were slam-dunk picks in the top 10 of their respective drafts.
The 2011 NHL draft has its fair share of stud blue-liners. Adam Larsson, Ryan Murphy and Dougie Hamilton all could be on a top defensive pairing within five years. Jamieson Oleksiak, Nathan Beaulieu and Jonas Brodin all possess that upside as well.
However, the recent disappointments of Erik Johnson and Thomas Hickey in the top-five picks will continue to scare teams into drafting centers and wingers early rather than grabbing a defenseman.
For those bold teams willing to take the plunge into this talented group of defensive prospects, here are the best 15 the 2011 NHL draft has to offer.
The first thing that jumps off of the page when it comes to Karl Johansson is his lack of size. At just 5'9'' and 167 pounds, Johansson clearly was not blessed with ideal size for an NHL defenseman.
However, what he lacks in size Johansson makes up for in skill and speed. Johnansson plays with a surprising chip on his shoulder given his size and actually gets a fair amount of penalty minutes.
The young Swede is more of a developmental pick, but is a definite sleeper amongst this group.
Where He Will Go: Vancouver Canucks (Second Round)
Some may be surprised to see Joel Edmundson this high, but he has shot up draft boards this season.
Edmundson is a monster on the blue line at 6'4''. He plays as physically as any player in this draft class, and is willing and able to go toe-to-toe with any player on the ice.
His stick skills and skating ability may not be his greatest assets, but Edmondson's talent is underrated.
Where He Will Go: Chicago Blackhawks (Second Round)
Zakhar Arzamestov is a talented two-way defenseman with a solid all-around game. He tends to be decent in many aspects of his game, but does not excel in anyone particular area.
If there was an area that is Arzamestov's strength, it is his awareness in all areas of the ice. He is an instinctive player who will not make many costly mistakes.
The Russian defender lacks a physical mean streak. He often relies on his stick-checking ability rather than throwing his body around, which will have to change in the NHL.
Where He Will Go: Montreal Canadiens (Second Round)
Oscar Klefbom could continue to rise up these rankings on draft day and find a spot in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft.
The Swedish defenseman was outstanding at the U-18 tournament. He captained the team to a silver medal and earned high praise from Sweden's coach.
Klefbom is a smooth skater with a high hockey-I.Q. and has all of the physical tools to succeed at the next level.
Where He Will Go: Carolina Hurricanes (Second Round)
Bengtsson is one of many talented Swedish defensemen in this draft class. He has the ability to read a play, dissect a defense, and deliver excellent passes.
Bengtsson gets the nod over Klefbom due to his experience and poise on the blue line.
Where He Will Go: Minnesota Wild (Second Round)
Scott Mayfield is an impressive talent with ideal size for the blue line.
Mayfield has elite hockey instincts, a phenomenal reach and is a very strong skater. He needs to become more physical and make less mistakes when pinching in on the offensive rush.
He will attend the University of Denver next year, which will provide him a great opportunity to refine his skills and hopefully add some muscle to his lanky frame.
Where He Will Go: Dallas Stars (Second Round)
David Musil's greatest assets are his size and picture-perfect positioning. He is a smart kid who moves the puck effectively and will rarely make mental errors.
However, Musil's skating is a huge concern. Most scouts wonder if he has the foot speed to keep up in the transition game.
Widely considered the third-best draft eligible defenseman in the WHL, Musil should be able to impress a team enough to land in the second round.
Where He Will Go: San Jose Sharks
Adding to the list of talented Swedish defensemen in the 2011 NHL draft is Farjestand's Jonas Brodin.
Brodin plays well on both ends of the ice and is a decent skater, but his greatest strength is his poise. The young Swede rarely loses his composure on the ice and never seems rattled by anything an opposing forecheck throws his way.
Jonas Brodin could definitely stand to add some muscle to his frame, but overall he looks like a solid prospect.
Where He Will Go: Anaheim Ducks
Joseph Morrow is arguably the best blue line prospect in the WHL this season. While Duncan Siemens would beg to differ, many scouts tend to think the gap between the two is not as wide as it once was.
Of course, the two are completely different players. Morrow's game is centered around skill and anticipation, while Siemens focuses on physicality and intimidation.
Morrow will likely continue to rise on draft day due to his offensive upside, and looks like a potential first round pick at this point.
Where He Will Go: Washington Capitals
Duncan Siemens is the total package on the blue line. The kid has strong skating ability, a hard shot and is as tough as any CHL player right now.
His speed is underrated, as he will rarely get burnt. Siemens is also capable of dropping the gloves with anybody.
It appears as though Duncan Siemens will make an excellent leader at the next level.
Where He Will Go: Calgary Flames
Another defenseman who could work his way into the top half of the first round of June's NHL entry draft is Saint John's Nathan Beaulieu.
Beaulieu is the total package. He is smart, offensively gifted and solid in his own zone. What gives Beaulieu a significant edge over Duncan Siemens is his ability to make plays in transition and create offense.
Where He Will Go: Boston Bruins
What's not to like about a 6' 7", 240-pound defenseman who can skate and make plays on offense?
Jamieson Oleksiak will provide just that for whichever team elects to spend a first-round pick on the Husky standout.
Personally, I don't see the risk in drafting Oleksiak. If he disappoints and does not develop into an elite blue liner, his floor is nothing lower than a third pairing type of player. His combination of size and skating ability will bring him success at the NHL level.
Where He Will Go: Colorado Avalanche
For teams drafting in the top 10 eyeing a defenseman, Dougie Hamilton is likely a target.
Hamilton has made the jump into the top 10 thanks to his ability to play the body and physically dominate some of his opponents.
His game leaves something to be desired on the offensive end, but his size and skating ability will make him dangerous at the next level.
Where He Will Go: Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murphy has surpassed Dougie Hamilton largely because of his offensive prowess for Kitchner this season.
Murphy lacks Hamilton's size but makes up for it with his tremendous passing skills and awareness in the offensive zone.
Drafting offensively gifted defensemen in the top five is risky business to be certain, but Murphy possesses enough ability in his own end to be valuable without scoring.
He should hear his name called within the top five picks of the 2011 NHL draft.
Where He Will Go: New York Islanders
Adam Larsson is not only the best defenseman in the 2011 NHL draft, he is the best player period.
Larsson is the smoothest skater in the draft and has tons of offensive ability. His experience in the Swedish Elite league puts him leaps and bounds ahead of some other players in this draft class.
His experience is present in his tremendous poise. Larsson sees the game so well and seems to be a step ahead of everybody else on the ice at all times. His positioning is sound and his size is ideal.
There is no reason to believe Larsson cannot be a No. 1 defenseman for 10-15 years in the NHL.
Where He Will Go: Edmonton Oilers