With the NHL’s 2023-24 common season mere days away, THN.com is evaluating the depth (or lack thereof) of NHL group rosters.
On Wednesday, we analyzed the NHL’s high 5 groups by way of their top-six ahead teams. Thursday, we recognized the 5 groups with the weakest top-six ahead teams.
Right this moment, we’re score the 5 finest protection corps within the league. In reverse order, listed here are this author’s selections for the 5 groups with the highest teams of blueliners.
Honorable mentions: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues
5. (tie) Vegas Golden Knights and New York Rangers
Prime six Golden Knights defensemen: Alec Martinez, Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, Nic Hague, Kaeden Korczak
Prime six Rangers defensemen: Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Ok’Andre Miller, Ryan Lindgren, Braden Schneider, Erik Gustafsson
It was fairly troublesome to separate the highest 10 protection teams – the Blues, Sabres, Bruins and Flames all have beneficial parts – however even getting the checklist down to 5 groups was very robust. In the long run, we’ve determined we just like the Golden Knights and Rangers blueliners an equal quantity for the fifth-best spot on this checklist.
Each groups have true elite two-way gamers. Vegas received the Stanley Cup final yr largely resulting from its massive, punishing group of D-men. In the meantime, the Blueshirts have a perennial Norris Trophy contender in Fox, a vicious defender in Trouba and a teen together with his prime nonetheless forward in Miller.
The Golden Knights’ and Rangers’ defensemen will play an enormous half within the success or failure of their season, and you need to give Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon and Rangers counterpart Chris Drury credit score for assembling a well-above-average group of blueliners.
4. Dallas Stars
Prime six defensemen: Miro Heiskanen, Ryan Suter, Esa Lindell, Jani Hakanpaa, Thomas Harley, Nils Lundkvist
The Stars are this author’s choose to win the Cup this yr, and one of many key explanation why is the depth and total caliber of their protection corps.
In Heiskanen, they’ve a participant who can be a front-runner for the Norris for the foreseeable future. In Suter, they’ve a veteran presence with some snarl. In Lindell, they’ve an underrated pressure who reads performs effectively and makes changes simply. In Hakanpaa, Harley and Lundkvist, they’ve stable depth of their bottom-three protection group.
All in all, the Stars’ protection has a excessive panic threshold, a capability to get the puck out of their zone shortly and a very good No. 1 goalie in Jake Oettinger who can ship them out of any errors they may make. Dallas’ offense is harmful, however as a result of the protection greater than carries its personal weight, the Stars don’t want to attain boatloads of targets each recreation. The ‘D’ maintain their very own zone far most of the time, and that’s as essential to their total recreation plan as anything.
3. New Jersey Devils
Prime six defensemen: Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, Jonas Siegenthaler, Colin Miller, Luke Hughes, Kevin Bahl
We pegged the Devils’ high six forwards because the third-best within the NHL, and we see their protection corps because the third-best within the league as effectively. With veteran star Hamiltion, sturdy Marino and Miller, and up-and-comers Hughes and Siegenthaler, they’re dynamic and deep. Their time on the high of the occupation is simply starting.
Three of the top-six protection corps on this checklist reside within the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division, and New Jersey’s is about pretty much as good because it will get. The Devils are the horny choose to win the Metro and a Cup this yr, and in the event that they do climb that hill, will probably be partly as a result of their defensemen pushed them to hockey’s final heights.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
Prime six defensemen: Dmitry Orlov, Jaccob Slavin, Brent Burns, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo
In the event that they hadn’t made any additions this summer time, the Hurricanes’ protection corps nonetheless would’ve been within the high 5 of any ‘D’ rating. However bringing in UFA veteran Orlov made them the clear-cut finest protection group within the Jap Convention and the second-best within the NHL.
Together with fellow Canes newcomer DeAngelo, Orlov and each one in all Carolina’s high six D-men averaged a minimum of 21:49 of ice time per recreation final season, and 5 of their high six averaged a minimum of 22:00 of ice time. That’s some phenomenal stability.
Ought to the damage bug chew into the Hurricanes’ again finish, they’ve greater than sufficient depth to choose up the slack and preserve Carolina within the high tier of the standings. And in the event that they do keep wholesome, look out – this might very effectively show to be the protection corps that earns the hoisting of a Cup subsequent spring.
1. Colorado Avalanche
Prime six defensemen: Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Samuel Girard, Josh Manson, Bowen Byram, Jack Johnson
Many consider Makar is one of the best defenseman on Earth, and we’re not right here to inform you they’re unsuitable. Nevertheless it’s everything of the Avalanche’s protection corps that makes the general group one of the best within the recreation.
Toews has matured into an elite pressure at each ends of the ice, whereas Girard continues to be solely 25 and has his finest days forward of him. Pulling up the rear are Byram (who had 10 targets in solely 42 video games final season), Manson (nonetheless a bodily contributor at age 31), and Johnson (who averaged 19:09 of ice time final season).
There actually aren’t any holes in Colorado’s protection. They’ve all-world abilities, a terrific mixture of youth and expertise, and a latest Cup to their credit score. They’re the gold customary of NHL bluelines, and so they’ll nearly assuredly proceed to prepared the ground for all protection corps this season.
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