Article written by: Federico Camponovo
Today we want to talk about those who, in our opinion, are the best defensemen currently playing in the NHL.
We picked those players who can do everything. That is, those who are rock solid in defense but are also effective offensive defensemen.
Seth Jones is the youngest one among the defensemen we picked. He was born in October 1994 in Arlington, Texas and was drafted in 4th overall position by the Nashville Predators during the 2013 NHL draft. The Predators knew that this guy has an impressive potential and is well-sized (193cm, 95kg).
During his season as a rookie he tallied 25 points and earned the call to represent the United States at the World Ice Hockey Championship. That’s not bad considering that he was only 19 back then. But that’s not all… during that “Worlds” in fact, he was named the best defenseman of the tournament, also thank to the fact the he was the one who scored the most points. To sum up, he even ended up in the All Star Team.
Seth Jones though, was not able to really take a step up the following season. Moreover, the Nashville needed a first line center… and exchanged Seth Jones with Ryan Johansen with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
When Seth Jones joined the Jackets, it’s safe to say that he blossomed and that earned him a 6 years contract worth 5.4 million dollar a season. After that, he kept on getting better and better and became one of the best defensemen in the world.
Last season he was a pillar of the Blue Jackets and played on average 25.49 minutes per game. He played a key role in the team who made it to the playoffs for the second year narrow and got rid of the Tampa Bay Lightings.
Finally, Seth Jones already won a lot… he won the gold medal at the U18 Worlds twice, he won a gold medal at the U20 worlds and he won also the bronze medal with the United States at the Worlds. Moreover, he won the WHL and played in all three the last NHL All Star Games!
Erik was born in Sweden on May 1990, and he’s one of those players you can call an impressive offensive defenseman. He was drafted in 15th position overall by Ottawa during the 2008 NHL draft and he was one of the best NHL defensemen when it comes to points scored. It’s safe to say that, even though he plays a decent defensive game, Erik Karlsson isn’t the best defensive defenseman of the world… but when it comes to offensive game, he’s surely among the 5 best players in the world.
One of his former coach, Guy Boucher (former SC Bern…), once said about Erik Karlsson “This is a guy you’re going to look at for the next 50 years and go ‘wow’. This is going to be one of the greatest”.
Starting from next season, Erik Karlsson will be the NHL defenseman with the highest salary as he signed a 7 years contract worth 11.5 million dollars a season for the San José Sharks. In fact, after he’d spent all his career in the Ottawa Senators, he joined the Sharks during the summer of 2018 after what you can call a controversial trade.
So far, Erik has tallied 0.83 points on average per game in the NHL and his best season is the 2015-16 when he was able to score 82 points! That season, moreover, he was the player with the highest time on ice (28.58 minutes) per game.
The 29 years old won so many trophies and awards during his career (not the NHL Stanley Cup though…) that it would be almost impossible to mention all of them.
We mention only the main ones… he won the Norris Trophy as best NHL defenseman of the season in 2015, he played 7 NHL All Star Games, he was named “Swedish player of the year” three times… and so on.
It’s time for our Roman Josi. The 29 years old player who played in the youth organization of Bern was drafted in 38th position overall during the 2008 NHL draft. He deserves a place in our top 5. That’s because Roman is an impressive “two-way defenseman”. He’s rock-solid in defense but he is also impressive in the offensive zone. The Predators’ captain can play in all situations, his stamina is crazy (the highest TOI for the Predators since years) and his mental strength makes him a player capable of doing a terrific job at critical moments. Last season he had a 25.10 TOI and was the fifth most used player of the NHL.
He earns 4 million a season and that’s a bargain for the Predators. Even if only because Roman scored 0.62 points a game in his NHL career and set a personal best (61 points) four years ago.
This season will be the last one for Roman Josi with the Predators… and he’s considered a top free agent in view of next season. Our feeling, however, is that the Swiss defenseman will extend his contract with the team based in the Tennesee… it’s even more likely also because P.K. Subban left the Nashville Predators.
The Canadian born in 1985 is impressive when it comes to his size (195cm, 104kg) … in fact, he’s one of the toughest men you need to deal with in the NHL. He was drafted in 20th position overall at the 2003 NHL draft by Minnesota.
As you can imagine, he’s likely to be the one of the most solid defensemen of the world, even though at times some people say he’s slow. But that’s not it… because the Sharks’ defenseman in fact, is also a great offensive defenseman. Suffice it to say that last season he tallied 83 points in 82 games.
The former forward, who then became a defenseman, stepped up to the plate especially during the last four seasons. Three years ago, he was able to score 29 goals. And that’s impressive, considering the fact, that even any decent forward struggles to score so many goals.
Brent Burns’ contract is worth 8 million a season and will expire in 2025. The Sharks’ hope is, that he can keep it up… that’s because Brent Burns is currently 34 years old, and by 2025 he’ll be 40. We mean, it can become a problem with the salary cup.
Last season, Burns’ hit the 1’000 NHL appearances and currently collected overall 1’043. Moreover, to date, he scored 198 goals… it means that he’s only 2 goals away from quote 200 which is impressive for a defenseman.
Brent played 6 times at the NHL All Star Game, he won a gold medal at the Worlds, a gold medal at the U20 Worlds and several silver medals with the Canadian national team. Finally, he even won a Norris Trophy…
Victor Hedman is our last pick in the top five. Victor was born in 1990 and was drafted in 2nd position overall by the Tampa Bay Lighting back during the 2009 NHL draft. He is well sized (198cm, 101kg) and yet he’s considered a very fast and agile defenseman. He plays an aggressive game, but he plays it fair.
He’s known because of the fact, that he’s always in the right place at the right time. It’s safe to say that he’s the best one when it comes to defensive play, while it’s true that players like Burns and Karlsson are more effective in the offensive zone.
Victor’s contract will expire in 2025 and he’s making “only” 7.875 million dollars a season. That’s not so much, considering that he’s already 29… and considering that Karlsson is making 11.5!
Victor’s record of points per season is 72… to note, however, that he never scored more than 20 goals per season. Two years ago, he’s scored 17… and that was his personal best.
During his career, Victor Hedman won a gold medal with Sweden at the Worlds, two silver medals with Sweden at the U20 Worlds… and a Norris Trophy. Moreover, he played 2 NHL All Star Games.
The excluded ones
As a fun fact, none of the players we picked for our TOP 5 ever won the Stanley Cup. Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Burns and Karlsson (Sharks) are the ones who can have some hopes to win it anytime soon.
It’s never easy to make such a TOP 5, anyway. Each year in fact, things can change. That is why we tried to include in this list those players who are performing well consistently.
About the players we didn’t include in the list, there is for example Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames, who lately won the Norris Trophy. We mean, we didn’t include him because his performances prior to this season weren’t as good as the ones of the last one. He’s certainly a great defenseman, but in our opinion not at the level of top 5.
Then again, there are other players who could flirt with the TOP 5… we name, for example, Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues), John Klingberg (Dallas Stars) and John Carlson (Washington Capitals).