Dougie Hamilton

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

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USA TODAY Sports photo

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

Being an NHL defenseman is not an easy task. There are the obvious responsibilities at the defensive end where these players must block shots, win battles, break pucks out cleanly and efficiently and keep the puck out of their net at all costs. 

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Then there are the requirements for the truly special D-man that also impacts the game at the offensive end. That's what separates John Carlson, Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo from the run-of-the-mill NHL defensemen. The top four or five names on this list should be the names you see on the Norris Trophy ballots as they check off just about every box and that makes them the league's best defensemen right now.

NHL Positional Rankings: Ranking the league's top 10 defensemen

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Positional Rankings: Ranking the league's top 10 defensemen

Look at the NHL's top five scorers this season and you'll see that it includes two pairs of teammates — Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, along with the Bruins' Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

All of those players are also forwards, but the player occupying the No. 5 spot is a defenseman: Washington's John Carlson.

The Massachusetts native has racked up 36 points so far this season, and he's already more than halfway to last year's career-high total of 70.

While the offensive numbers are eye-popping, do they add up to him being the top blueliner in the league?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's ranking of the Top 10 defensemen in the NHL right now.>>>>>

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Dougie Hamilton's heel turn has been pretty weak in Bruins series

Dougie Hamilton's heel turn has been pretty weak in Bruins series

BOSTON – It’s nothing short of amazing to see how former Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton has turned heel for the Carolina Hurricanes in their conference final series against Boston and is probably playing the role of the main Canes villain in the conference final.

Hamilton has at least turned wannabe heel anyway as he’s tried to whatever he can to bother the Bruins while failing spectacularly in a best-of-seven series where the Hurricanes have fallen down 2-0 with the games headed to North Carolina for Game 3 on Tuesday night.

First, it was Hamilton trying to get under the skin of Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, and in the process taking a couple of key penalties in the third period as the B’s scored a pair of power play goals to tie and then win Game 1. Then it was Hamilton again in Game 2 turning pucks over, fanning on shots and falling into the boards and then opting to take a massive cheap shot slamming Danton Heinen into the end boards long after the Bruins winger scored a goal on the rush.

Hamilton was then caught in the scrum afterward with Torey Krug throwing the 6-foot-6 D-man down the ice. All the while the TD Garden fans were mockingly chanting “Doug-ie, Doug-ie, Doug-ie” with the ultra-sensitive Hamilton afterward trying to brush it off like it was no big deal.

“I mean, I don’t really care. I’ve been chanted, they’ve chanted my name before, so for me, it is what it is,” said Hamilton, who has zero points, four PIMs and a minus-1 to show for it in two games against the Bruins thus far in this series. “Obviously, unfortunate that I was in the box and taking those penalties, and I mean, it’s playoff hockey. That’s what you expect.”

Certainly, it’s what you expect from Bruins fans when Hamilton was seemingly allergic to physical play or being hard to play against when he suited up for the Bruins. Now the 6-foot-6 defenseman runs the fake tough guy act where he hits guys after they score goals and tries to throw the body on Bruins players already engaged with one of the Hurricanes skaters.

Carolina head coach Rod Brind’amour said Dougie was “playing on the edge” when he was whistled for the two damaging penalties in the third period of Game 1, but it was one of several stark examples of Hurricanes players showing they’re not ready to match up with an experienced, playoff-savvy Bruins group. 

The 25-year-old is pretty much the poster boy for everything that's gone wrong for Carolina in these conference final where they never even expected to be in the first place. 

Hamilton is trying to be something he’s not by stirring things up physically and joining the fray, and it’s been reflected in the results thus far for the former Bruins first-round pick.

“[Dougie Hamilton] is playing on the edge, we all were. Not me but the guys were. He was trying to be engaged and maybe took it too far,” said Brind’amour. “I haven’t even looked at them, I’m as frustrated as everybody on some of the calls but again I think we got to kill them. We take a penalty, we have to kill them and we didn’t do that.”

It was interesting to hear Zdeno Chara shut down questions before they were even fully asked after Game 1 when the inquiries came around to Hamilton possibly getting under the skin of the Bruins captain, and Hamilton’s former defensive partner for a couple of years.

“He isn’t getting under my skin,” said Chara, who then repeated the refrain with incredulity. “He isn’t getting under my skin.”

It’s no secret that Chara and Hamilton were never best buddies during their days playing together in Boston with the young D-man never willing to fully embrace the tougher, sometimes-painful defensive parts of being a top pairing defenseman. It’s also no secret that the Bruins are much happier now with Charlie McAvoy as their No. 1 defenseman of the future than they were when Hamilton was thought to be that guy a couple of years ago.

It’s probably why Hamilton is on the third NHL team in his still-young NHL career and is having a playoff meltdown before our eyes playing against a team, and a fan base, that is less than impressed with his attempts at playing “the Dougie version” of a gritty game in this Eastern Conference Final.

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