Victor Hedman

Victor HedmanAndrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 10: Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres

It has taken a few years, but Rasmus Dahlin has officially arrived as one of the top defensemen in the NHL. As the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, he came with massive hype, but a terrible roster around him, constant coaching changes and different systems played havoc on his early development.

But the Sabres seem to have found the right formula for Dahlin (and the roster as a whole) with coach Don Granato, and better days finally seem to be on the horizon. Dahlin cracked the top 10 of the Norris voting this past season and is just entering what should be the prime years of his career. His ability to drive the offense and Buffalo’s resurgence should get him significantly higher on the Norris list in years to come.

No. 9: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

It seems wrong to have Victor Hedman this far down the list given how great his career has been, but we are looking ahead here. Not back. While Hedman has been one of the best players of his era and one of the best defenders of this era, his game has shown some signs of slowing down a little bit.

He is still outstanding. He is still a top-10 player at the position. But his days of being a lock for a top-three spot in the Norris voting are probably in the past. He might still get there on occasion—just do not expect it every season. The next wave of talent has started to pass him.

No. 8: Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars

From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Miro Heiskanen was getting high praise from teammates and opponents alike, and he just manages to keep getting better. He has always been a strong defender and transition player, but during the 2022-23 season he really saw his offensive game start to hit a new level as he recorded a career-best 73 points, shattering his previous high. The Stars have All-Star level players all over the roster, and Heiskanen is the type of big-minute, all-situations defender who every team needs to win a Stanley Cup.

No. 7: Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks

Critics will argue that Quinn Hughes has too many flaws defensively, but those flaws are greatly overstated. He is far from a liability on that side of the puck, while there are only a handful of blueliners better offensively. Hughes is an elite playmaker from the back end and has topped the 60-assist mark in each of the past two seasons. Those are big numbers for a defender. He has been one of the few constant positives on a consistently mediocre Vancouver team.

No. 6: Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils

There might not be a more underappreciated player in the NHL over the past decade than Dougie Hamilton.

Whether it was in Boston, Calgary, Carolina or in New Jersey, there has always seemed to be some kind of ridiculous criticism of his play or him as a teammate (remember when his apparent interest in museums was considered a problem?). But all the guy does is produce and play hockey at an incredibly high level.

He is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league and consistently has some of the NHL’s best underlying numbers.

Over the past three years there have been 238 defenders to log at least 1,000 minutes of five-on-five hockey. Hamilton ranks among the top 18 in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, high-danger scoring chance share and expected goals share, while also scoring 41 goals in 199 games (that is a 16-goal pace per 82 games).

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