We continue our journey around the Metropolitan Division by looking at the top-15 defense personnel in the division going into the 2022-23 season. We saw the forwards a week ago, and you can see them here,
Next week: Goalkeeper.
The Penguins have two players in my top-15, including a big offseason addition to them.
1. Adam Fox, New York Rangers. Other than Igor Shesterkin, I think Fox is the best player at Rangers (and that includes the forward) and he’s definitely one of the best overall defenders in the league. He already has a Norris Trophy and at his age, production and ability I would not rule out another trophy in his career. He can do all this in all three areas and in any situation. A stud all around.
2. Chris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins. Speaking of great all-round players, Letang still has them. And I’m honestly not even sure he’s lost a step yet. If he has, it may only be a fraction of a move. If that. Even in his mid-30s he is an elite player and is still a top-10 vote-getter in the race for the Norris Trophy almost every year. He is indeed coming off one of the best seasons of his career at age 34 and remains a core player at Pittsburgh.
3. Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils. This may be my own personal bias, but I have always been a big fan of Hamilton’s game. He is one of the best possession drivers in the league, can score, and is better at his end than he sometimes gets credit for being. When he is healthy he is one of the best Blueliners in the league.
4. John Carlson, Washington Capitals. His defensive game has advanced a lot over the years, but he can still make it to the elite level offensively in both par-power and power play.
5. Jacob Slavin, Carolina Hurricane. An excellent defender who has a more aggressive punch in his game than you might realize. Perhaps not in terms of goal scoring, but in terms of moving the puck and helping to clear the team’s offense. He is like a modern day Paul Martin.
6. Zach Verensky, Columbus Blue Jacket. The Blue Jacket probably overpaid him a bit, but honestly I’m fine with that. They signed him at the time where they needed to show they could have a star, he’s still in his prime, and he’s a really good player. If you’re going to give someone a little extra money, make it the top of your roster.
7. Noah Dobson, New York Islanders. Am I getting ahead of this? Perhaps. But man did he look good last year, and I think he’s headed for big things now and in the future. A real bright spot on an otherwise dwindling team.
8. Adam Pelek, New York Islanders. Classic New York Islander: He’ll do nothing to stand out aggressively, but as solid a defender as you’ll find in the NHL.
9. Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers expected him to be a top-pairing defender, they use him as a top-pairing defender, but he hasn’t really become a top-pairing defender. This doesn’t make him a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. He just isn’t the player he should have been.
10. Jeff Petrie, Pittsburgh Penguins. Petrie has been one of the most underrated players in the league going back to his days in Edmonton. It’s only in the last few years that he’s starting to get recognition for his game, and he’s going to be a big upgrade this season when he defends the Penguins.
11. Dmitry Orlov, Capitals of Washington. Not someone who is going to defend you, but a really solid number 2 defender who can impact aggressively. He gets a bit lost in the shuffle in Washington, given he has star power throughout the lineup.
12. Ryan Pulak, New York Islanders. Pelech and Pulak are so good on their own, they’re awesome together as a pair. For all their flaws, the islanders have a really good defense to build.
13. Brett Pace, Carolina Hurricane. He’s not going to give you much in the way of offense, but he’s an excellent defender and has quietly been a key part of the storm’s rise in the Eastern Conference. He is their Brian Dumoulin.
14. Brent Burns, Carolina Hurricane. Burns can still score, but he’s not a good defender at this point in his career (and that was never really his strength). I think he’s going to be a great addition to the storm, though. A better version of what he had in Tony DiAngelo.
15. Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers. Too physical, almost to a fault. His contract sucks, and I thought Rangers should have tried to dump it, but that’s easier said than done. Having said all that, he brings some value to his field both as a defender and on the offensive.