NHL.com released its Top 20 wingers list on August 22, with the league’s website officially declaring Alexander Ovechkin as the top winger in the league. That’s not exactly a bold assertion considering Ovechkin’s goal scoring capabilities – he scored 50 NHL goals again last season and now has 780 in his career – but he will be 37 years old when the 2022-23 season begins, so it’s not unreasonable to think he won’t be the best winger in the league by the end of the season.
Nikita Kucherov, Kirill Kaprizov, Mitch Marner, and Jonathan Huberdeau rounded out the NHL’s top five wingers. No real crazy debate there, but what about other positions? With some debate, we have a pretty good idea who is the league’s best center (Connor McDavid) and goaltender (Igor Shesterkin). Defense is probably the most contentious.
Let’s take a look at the best three blueliners in the league.
The reigning Norris Trophy winner has some competition as the league’s top defenseman, but he’s just a step ahead of the others based on his unmatched combination of creativity, skating, and defensive positioning. Makar’s offensive instincts are impressive and eye-popping at times, but it’s his ability to impact the play at both ends that makes him a generational talent.
Makar’s stick work was on display throughout the playoffs, especially with regard to how he defended top forwards like McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Kucherov, and Stamkos. The offense definitely doesn’t hurt, though.
Makar was the NHL Conn Smythe Trophy winner after recording 29 points, including a few highlight-reel goals, in 20 playoff games. He registered 86 points in 77 regular season games and is now over a point-per-game in his career with 180 in 178.
There’s nothing wrong with second-best, although there’s definitely a case to be made for Hedman still being the best blueliner in the league. The 6-foot-6 Swede is just as effective as ever at limiting opposition chances and is somehow becoming even better offensively?
Hedman finished this season with a career-high 20 goals and 85 points in 82 regular season games. Sure, his stats are padded slightly from being on an elite offensive team like the Lightning, but he’s typically driving offensive production, evidenced by his 20 goals.
Hedman is still just 31 years old and has been pretty durable throughout his career. It’s hard to see him not still being in this discussion for the considerable future.
Roman Josi recorded a ridiculous 96 points last season and he’s the third-best defenseman in the league? I know, it sounds absurd, but that only highlights how good Makar and Hedman are. And sure, there’s recency bias there too with both players having played in the Stanley Cup Final while Josi played just four playoff games.
The 32-year-old Swiss blueliner will likely have another great season next year, but won’t receive the attention he’s due because of playing in Nashville.
Other players in contention who could take one of the top three spots by next season include Charlie McAvoy, Aaron Ekblad, and Adam Fox.
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