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.
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?
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Everybody talks about the strength of the Atlantic Division.
But maybe we were all sleeping on the Metro Division headed into this season as the Maple Leafs and Lightning struggle in the opening weeks. The Washington Capitals have won four games in a row to push them to the top of the Metro, and John Carlson is off to the best start of his career while putting together a Norris Trophy-worth season. Alex Ovechkin has 11 goals in 16 games to lead the Caps and they are back to having a big, strong and skilled team.
The Isles have won an amazing 10 in a row and are proving that last season’s run to the second round was no fluke, and similarly, the Hurricanes are again in the top 10 of the power rankings after running all the way to the Eastern Conference Final last spring.
Maybe we should have expected all of those teams to be high caliber this season given last spring's playoffs and now they are showing it more than a month in the new hockey year.