The NHL is constantly seeing younger and newer talents at all positions. The archetype of quality defensemen has certainly seen its changes throughout the eras. Nowadays, the standard for a great defenseman is based on puck movement, intelligence, positioning, and vision instead of size and strength. With that being said, here’s who the top defensemen could be in 5 years.
Great Players Worth Noting
With all the talented defensemen that are or will be in the league, it’s hard to narrow it down to just 5. Even before I cover the honorable mentions it’s worth noting players like Thomas Chabot, Zach Werenski, Charlie McAvoy, Quinn Hughes, and others, who are the honorable mentions to the honorable mentions. All of those players will be top defensemen on their respective teams and do great things, but I don’t believe they will be top 5 or honorable mention-worthy. Having said that, let’s move on to the honorable mentions.
Evan Bouchard, Rasmus Dahlin, Luke Hughes, and Jamie Drysdale are my honorable mentions. Bouchard has incredible offensive instincts and is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league right now. With Woodcroft giving him top minutes now in Edmonton, people will start to see how good he is. With 32 points in his first 65 NHL games, Bouchard shows excellent promise.
Former first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin has seen some time in the NHL. 4 years into his career, he’s faced some struggles. However, this year he has shown massive strides and is emerging as the face of the Buffalo Sabres. His career path so far is comparable to that of Aaron Ekblad, who is now a top 5 d-man. Look for him to take that same jump as him and Owen Power becomes one of the best defensive duos in the country.
Brother of Quinn and Jack Hughes, Luke looks to be the third star to come out of that family. A point per game player at the University of Michigan, Luke could potentially be a greater defenseman than Quinn. Hughes has incredible flair and star power, and he creates offense like no other. Not to mention his size matched with his skillset is unfair. His goal-scoring ability gives flashes of Cale Makar, as he recently broke the freshman scoring record for Michigan. He and Jack are going to light it up as major pieces in the New Jersey Devils rebuild.
The last honorable mention is Jamie Drysdale. While Trevor Zegras basks in the spotlight, Drysdale has been very quietly one of the best players under 20 years old. Drafted 6th overall in 2020, Drysdale has played NHL minutes almost instantly. After putting up decent numbers in 24 games his rookie season, he’s taken his first steps to become a top d-man this year. 22 points in 52 games for a 19-year-old speaks for itself, and it’ll only get better for the young star.
5. Owen Power
Now for the official rankings, and at number 5 here’s a hot take. In the past, people have criticized Buffalo for selecting Power 1st overall in 2021. However, the defenseman from the University of Michigan is far from overhyped. Firstly, it’s impossible not to mention his height. There just aren’t many players who are 6’6″ and skate the way he does. He has incredible poise, limits mistakes, and makes great passes from anywhere on the ice. Where Luke Hughes specializes in scoring, Power can quarterback an offense with his puck movement, and play lockdown defense on the other end. He also has an underrated shot that can threaten goalies from the blue line. And it’s worth mentioning twice, a 6’6″ defenseman with skating ability is a problem anywhere on the ice.
23 assists and 26 points in 24 games at Michigan isn’t too shabby. In the 2 WJC games he had, he had 3 goals and 5 assists and recorded a point at the Olympics this year too. He and Dahlin will be excellent in Buffalo as they try to break their playoff drought. If they can get it together, they could have something special on the blueline.
The Calder favorite through 52 games finally makes his appearance on this list. One of many excellent moves made by Steve Yzerman, Seider is lighting it up at an NHL level. At every level, Seider has dominated the competition, and it’s continued into the NHL.
Seider’s biggest strength is undoubtedly his hockey sense. His IQ is incredible and he shows poise and maturity in his rookie year that makes him look like a veteran. As the trend has shown, he also has great puck movement, which is why he has 30 assists for 35 points in 51 games. As a rookie, his defensive ability can be faulty at times, but as he matures his defensive game will be great. Even with a great rookie class around him, he deserves the Calder vote through 51 games this year.
Mortiz Seider and Lucas Raymond will be leaders on this Detroit team for years to come. Not only do I expect one of them to get the C in a few years, but I expect Seider to compete for the Norris a couple of seasons from now.
3. Aaron Ekblad
Ekblad has had a weird career in the NHL. After being drafted 1st overall in 2014, he was a Calder finalist with 39 points in 81 games. Throughout the mid to late 2010s, Ekblad never struggled but performed extremely average for the 1st overall pick. This all changed during the 2019 season, where Ekblad had 41 points in 67 games, the highest point per game % in his career. Since then, he’s been a top 5 defenseman every year. If he doesn’t get injured before the playoffs last year, Florida could’ve potentially beaten Tampa Bay.
Ekblad is an all-around excellent defenseman. Even in his down years, he played an excellent two-way game, along with the ability to QB a powerplay. Ekblad is the heart and soul of Florida’s defense without question. One of the best defensemen in the league, and a Norris candidate for years to come, Ekblad is something special.
2. Cale Makar
Yes, Cale Makar is 2nd. And yes, there is one defenseman better than him, and any hockey fan knows who I’m talking about. Now before the pitchforks come out, let me explain.
Cale Makar is an absolute star. He is absolutely electric night in and night out. After winning the Calder his rookie year, he was a top 3 Norris candidate the very next season. He might have even won the Norris if he had played more games. And this year, he’s on pace to win the trophy. Makar has everything a defenseman needs and more. He skates well, has exceptional stickhandling, hockey IQ, and scoring ability. His big-play ability and star power make him one of if not the best defensemen in the league.
Cale Makar can do it all and will be in Norris conversations throughout his entire career. It’s not a stretch even now to say that his name will be in the rafters of Ball Arena one day. However, there is one defenseman that challenges him for the right to number 1. And he needs no introduction.
1. Adam Fox
Adam Fox is the number 1 defenseman in 5 years, as well as now. Now I know this seems biased, but let me explain.
Fox is the ideal modern NHL defenseman. He is the best powerplay QB in the NHL and is an amazing playmaker. He is the best puck-moving defenseman in the league. It feels like Fox is always making the right decision on the ice. The difference between him and Cale Makar is simple. Fox’s true defensive ability is better than Makar’s. Fox moves the puck better in his own zone and is able to start breakouts and relieve pressure much more efficiently than Makar. As previously mentioned, he’s a better powerplay QB too. Makar might be more flashy and score more, but Fox has a better two-way game and for that, he is number 1. And as an added detail, Makar’s linemate (Devon Toews) is better than Fox’s (Ryan Lindgren) which makes Fox’s feats that much more impressive.
After winning the Norris last year, Fox is back and trying to defend his title. Even if he isn’t able to repeat, he will be a top 3 candidate for a long time. And if he keeps it up, he’ll see his name in the rafters at MSG one day too.