Welcome back to the third of five midseason rankings we are doing here at The Win Column. Today we will be looking at defensive depth around the NHL. We did the same thing before the season started, so we can see which teams have moved up, down, or stayed the same as our preseason ranking.
If you missed our previous two midseason rankings, you can catch up with the links provided below.
2022-23 midseason NHL centre depth rankings
2022-23 midseason NHL winger depth rankings
We will be following the defence rankings with our goaltending rankings, followed by our consolidated rankings of all four major positions.
Let’s start it off with the best defence in the league, once again, the Colorado Avalanche.
#1: Colorado Avalanche (-)
Bowen Byram (injured) – Josh Manson (injured)
Pretty hard to beat a defence with this many weapons. Makar is an absolute stud, we all know how good he is. Toews is an incredible complementary piece. This group has been dealing with injuries, but it’s very hard to compete with them when they’re healthy. Byram continues to get better and better. Toews – Makar has been one of the best defence pairings in the league again this season. Not surprising.
#2: Vegas Golden Knights (-)
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore (injured)
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Pietrangelo has had a resurgent season, with 28 points in 35 games. Theodore has been a solid two-way presence in the games he’s played this season, with 22 points in 29 games. After that, there’s a bunch of solid defensive veterans, and Whitecloud, who doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is. This group is very close to Colorado for first place.
#3: Carolina Hurricanes (+2)
Calvin de Haan – Jalen Chatfield
The addition of Burns has been fantastic for the Hurricanes. Slavin – Burns has been the best pairing in the NHL in the first half. Right now, all of their defence pairings have an expected goals percentage above 58%, with over 650 minutes of ice time. There are only a few other pairings leaguewide that are close.
#4: New York Rangers (+5)
Zachary Jones – Braden Schneider
The Rangers jump up a bit, as this group is much improved. Fox is one of if not the best defenceman in the league this season. It still hurts, Flames fans. Miller has taken massive steps. This group is young, improving, and already has a mega star in Fox.
#5: Nashville Predators (-2)
Mattias Ekholm – Alexandre Carrier
The Predators are always known for their defence. Josi has taken a bit of a step back from his career year in 2021-22, but still has 34 points in 42 games. Not bad. This defence boasts a lot of solid defensive guys, and a couple of young players making a push. Ekholm – Carrier has been among the best pairings in the league in the 350 minutes they’ve spent together.
#6: Calgary Flames (-2)
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
MacKenzie Weegar – Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov – Michael Stone
The Hanifin – Andersson pairing struggled out of the gate but have rebounded since. Andersson has taken a major step in becoming a number one defenceman. Weegar has fit in perfectly, as he is one of the best defencemen in the league so far this season. The Flames could definitely use another third pairing defenceman.
#7: Boston Bruins (+5)
Hampus Lindholm – Charlie McAvoy
Derek Forbort – Connor Clifton
Another thing going extremely well for the Bruins. McAvoy has returned to the lineup and been the effective two-way defenceman we all love, with 23 points in 29 games. Lindholm seems to be playing his best hockey, with 28 points in 42 games. This group is deep, it has top end talent, and Reilly sitting in the wings if needed. Crazy.
#8: New Jersey Devils (-)
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Brendan Smith – Damon Severson
The Devils had the most underrated defence in the league going into the season, and it has shown quite well in the first half. Siegenthaler, one of my favourite defencemen, has formed one of the best pairings in the league alongside Hamilton. Marino has come over from Pittsburgh and has been a great addition to this defence corps.
#9: New York Islanders (-2)
Alexander Romanov – Noah Dobson
Sebastian Aho – Scott Mayfield
One of the best ‘defensive’ defences in hockey. Pelech – Pulock hasn’t been as effective this season, but the addition of Romanov next to Dobson has turned out nicely. A lot of good defensive names, and a young second pairing that will likely get even better.
#10: Dallas Stars (-)
I’ll call this the most underrated defence in the league. The acquisition of Lundkvist for the 2023 1st was an eyebrow raiser, but he’s been solid. The offence will come. Heiskanen is one of the best two-way defencemen in the league, and doesn’t get talked about enough. Add in a great defensive pairing of Lindell – Hakanpaa playing on your third pairing, and you’ve got a great defence corps.
#11: Winnipeg Jets (+4)
The Jets jump up the rankings, due to the surge of Morrissey. ‘Norrissey’ has 47 points in 43 games, which has already surpassed his previous career high by ten points. Totally nuts, and that’s why he’s in the Norris conversation. DeMelo and Dillon are extremely solid defensive guys. Samberg – Schmidt is a very great third pairing.
#12: Pittsburgh Penguins (-6)
Marcus Pettersson – Jeff Petry (injured)
Pierre-Olivier Joseph – Chad Ruhwedel
This group has definitely taken a step back from our preseason rankings. A lot of that probably has to do with injury. Whatever the case, some of the Penguins defence hasn’t been what is expected. Dumoulin has had a particularly rough season. They are missing Marino. &amp;nbsp;
#13: Toronto Maple Leafs (-2)
Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie (injured)
Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren
Jake Muzzin (injured) – Conor Timmins
This blueline has faced an exorbitant number of injuries this season but has still been effective. Sandin – Liljegren has some of the best results in their 300 minutes together; it is the perfect third pairing. Timmins has been a great addition with 10 points in 14 games. The one problem has been Rielly, who only has 19 assists in 29 games.
#14: Minnesota Wild (-1)
Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonathon Merrill – Calen Addison
The Wild defence has been very solid, with all three pairings ranking from 52.4% to 53.3% in terms of expected goals this season. Addison has been a solid addition to the Wild blueline and powerplay. A lot of solid two-way guys here.
#15: Tampa Bay Lightning (+2)
Mikhail Sergachev – Nicklaus Perbix
The Lightning love to grab a guy out of thin air and turn him into an effective NHLer. This year, it’s Nick Perbix. Raise your hand if you knew that name before the season started. Exactly! He’s been really good though. Hedman hasn’t had the best season, but Sergachev has taken a bit step, with 31 points in 39 games. Cernak is one of the best defensive defencemen in the NHL.
#16: Washington Capitals (-2)
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson (injured)
Erik Gustafsson – Trevor van Riemsdyk
It’s been a tough year for the Capitals defence in terms of injuries. Carlson is out long-term with a serious injury and we wish him the best. Gustafsson has taken up the offensive mantle in Carlson’s absence, with 15 points in his last 17 games. Orlov and Jensen are two underrated defencemen, and Fehervary continues to improve.
#17: Los Angeles Kings (+2)
Michael Anderson – Drew Doughty
The Anderson – Doughty pairing has played the most minutes together in the entire league, with 778 minutes so far. Even in all those minutes, they are still one of the best pairings in the league. Doughty is resurgent, and this group has a lot of young pieces and depth beyond him. Durzi – Roy is also a very effective pairing, so don’t slouch on them either.
#18: Buffalo Sabres (+5)
Mattias Samuelsson – Rasmus Dahlin
Jacob Bryson – Ilya Lyubushkin
Dahlin is just such a special player. Currently, he has 48 points in 40 games. He has earned his praise of Norris talk. Samuelsson is a very effective defensive player, and looks like a stud next to Dahlin. Power is coming into his own, and there’s some solid depth beyond that. This group will only get better as their young players develop.
#19: St Louis Blues (-3)
Torey Krug (injured) – Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo
The Blues have some decent names on their backend, but they just haven’t played very well this season. The Leddy contract looks worse by the day. This group is incredibly mediocre, and their entire top four is locked up for a number of years. Will they figure it out?
#20: Florida Panthers (+4)
Gustav Forsling – Aaron Ekblad
The Panthers are risers for two reasons. First, they have a solid top pairing with Forsling – Ekblad, although it has been a step back without Weegar. Second, Mahura has come out of nowhere, and has formed a very nice pairing alongside Gudas. It seems like the Panthers always pluck a guy off waivers and turn him into something. This year, Mahura is your guy.
#21: Seattle Kraken (+6)
Jamie Oleksiak – Justin Schultz
The Kraken are huge risers, as they have played very solid defence this season. Dunn has really turned into form recently. Oleksiak, Larsson, and Soucy are very solid defensive guys. The star power isn’t here, but it’s a very solid group.
#22: Edmonton Oilers (-4)
Philip Broberg – Evan Bouchard
Ryan Murray (injured)
The Oilers have great centres, and very decent wingers. Defence is not their friend. Barrie has 32 points in 45 points thanks to the powerplay. Other than that, this group consists of a bunch of guys who don’t play well in their own end, and contribute little to the movement of the puck into the offensive end. I do like the Broberg – Bouchard pairing.
#23: Detroit Red Wings (+3)
The Red Wings rise a couple spots in our rankings, due to the outstanding season Hronek is having. Currently he has 30 points in 41 games. The right side is extremely well built with Hronek and Seider, who we all know is a young stud. The focus needs to shift on fixing the left side. Walman is fun, but can we please stop putting Chiarot anywhere near a top four pairing?
#24: Philadelphia Flyers (-4)
Cameron York – Rasmus Ristolainen
Nick Seeler – Ryan Ellis (injured)
The Flyers have some solid pieces on the left side. Ellis is still injured, which absolutely sucks. On the right side, the Flyers are left with DeAngelo and Ristolainen who has 2 points in 36 games. Yikes. This group is a lot higher than they should, because of Sanheim. I really like Sanheim, and he deserves so much better than the Flyers.
#25: Ottawa Senators (-)
Jake Sanderson – Travis Hamonic
This defence in one word; whelming. This group should be a lot better than it is, they aren’t getting the point totals or the defensive results they should be getting. It has potential to improve as Sanderson continues to develop.
#26: Arizona Coyotes (+3)
Jakob Chychrun – Shayne Gostisbehere
Chychrun and Gostisbehere are solid pieces. Chychrun has returned from injury with 21 points in 26 games. Any doubts about him as a trade piece are gone. Valimaki was scooped up on waivers from the Flames, and looks like a solid two-way guy. Nothing but the best for Juice.
#27: Columbus Blue Jackets (-5)
Zach Werenski (injured) – Andrew Peeke
Vladislav Gavrikov – Erik Gudbranson
Losing Werenski for the season really hurts. Young players like Boqvist and Bean haven’t taken the steps they need to. Veterans like Gudbranson are getting absolutely caved in every time they touch the ice.
#28: San Jose Sharks (+2)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Radim Simek
Markus Nutivaara (injured) – Nick Cicek
The Sharks are risers on this list, due to the resurgent season that Erik Karlsson is having. Currently, he has 56 points in 44 games, as a defenceman! That is currently seventh in the entire league in terms of points. Crazy stuff. Beyond that, there’s lots of work that needs to be done, though.
#29: Vancouver Canucks (-1)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers
Travis Dermott (injured) – Tucker Poolman (injured)
Hughes has a lot of good qualities, and I really liked the addition of Bear. Schenn is a very serviceable defenceman and would be perfect on the third pairing for the Flames. The ‘second pairing’ is where the problems stem. Both Ekman-Larsson and Myers aren’t NHL caliber defencemen anymore. And they make a combined $13.6M. This blueline is a work in progress.
#30: Chicago Blackhawks (+1)
Jarred Tinordi (injured)
There’s some solid pieces here. Jones isn’t worth the $9.5M he’s paid every year, but him, McCabe, and Murphy are at least 4/5 defencemen on playoff teams. Johnson in the top-four is funny.
#31: Montreal Canadiens (+1)
Arber Xhekaj – Johnathan Kovacevic
Mike Matheson (injured) – Kaiden Guhle (injured)
This group has a great story in Xhekaj, and a bunch of mediocre veterans. If you asked who Kovacevic is, you probably aren’t alone. Matheson has been hurt for large parts of this season.
#32: Anaheim Ducks (-11)
Nathan Beaulieu – Kevin Shattenkirk
Jamie Drysdale (injured)
Another blunder from me, ranking this Ducks group way too high in preseason rankings. Losing Drysdale for this season hasn’t been fun. This group is just bad. No one plays defence. Fowler is really the only redeeming quality here. Klingberg will be gone at the deadline if they can a partner. The tank is on.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire