In 2009, Victor Hedman was picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and many of us in Dallas envied them tremendously. A franchise defenseman who was ready to jump into the NHL? Yes, please, sign us up. Today, Hedman is anchoring a Tampa defense that is holding strong in preparation for a (hopefully) long playoff run.
in 2013, Seth Jones slipped down a couple spots in the first round, and the Nashville Predators grabbed the Texan at 4th overall while their neighbors to the west looked on with a sigh before nabbing Valeri Nichushkin themselves. Jones has the benefit of plying his (still-young) trade alongside Ryan Ellis and Shea Weber. A privilege indeed to have such a large, mobile defenseman learning from guys like that.
Aaron Ekblad has, of course, wowed us all this year with his exceptional season for the Florida Panthers. Everyone always talks about how he reminds them of a much more mature, veteran player; indeed, Ekblad's scoring this year has been prodigious and unprecendented for such a young player fresh out of the draft.
Allan Muir gives all these young defensemen their due. (I might put Hedman ahead of Jones, but that's my not-in-SI opinion.) Muir, however, also ranks all the aforementioned defensemen behind the player that you already know is named John Klingberg, best under-23 defenseman in the NHL:
"[Klingberg's] got ice in his veins. There's no panic in his game," one scout told SI.com. "His ability to maintain his composure under intense pressure is what makes him so effective."
A late arrival this season—he made his debut in early November—Klingberg has quickly developed into a top-pairing defender for the Stars. A smooth skater, he uses his speed to drive the team in transition and zoom back to handle defensive zone issues.
But his greatest strength is his ability to get the puck to the net. "It's a rare talent these days because everyone is so good at getting sticks and bodies into the shooting lanes," said a scout. "Klingberg has great mobility and vision—he knows when and where to release his shot and he gets it to the net in a hurry."
His top ranking on this list will surprise some, but one scout we spoke to was quick to back up the selection. "He's the type of player every team wants these days. He defends by making plays. He makes everybody around him better. And he's always trying to make himself better. He could be a Norris contender in a few years."
(Special thanks to my new buddy, Sherman McCoy for pointing this piece out yesterday.)
Last night was not the best example of Klingberg's skill, as both he and his defense partner Alex Goligoski missed nets that are just about as open as you are going to see behind Varlamov. Thankfully, I suppose, that game was not really as critical as it might have been, and so I will forgive them both and move on. Klingberg is young, but he is promising, and I can't wait to hear what other promises he makes as his career progresses.
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Talk about following the script last night. If this is the Stars' version of improv, they are coming off as way too rehearsed.
Mike Heika says that basically every problem the Stars have had this year, they had last night. [DMN]
It's time we started reading recaps from the side that wins these third period collapses. [Denver Post]
The Spezza quotes from last night are particularly revealing. The Stars are frustrated, and they know exactly what they are doing wrong, if not exactly how to fix it. [DMN]
What are ten of the best contracts in the NHL? You could probably guess two of them (including #1). [The Score]
This episode of Trading Places is brought to you by:
Kimmo Timonen, whose long road back to the NHL sees him being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks before he ever got back into the lineup with Philly. The 40-year-old defenseman had been battling blood clots all season, and this looks like a chance for him to win a cup in the twilight of his career. [Chicago Tribune]
Apparently David Clarkson was actually desired by Ottawa. No, seriously, they talked about trading for him before the Horton deal came to life. What on earth, Ottawa. [ESPN]
So, the Kings are back in a playoff spot, and everyone is loving them again, and then they give up four goals in the third period to the Ducks and lose. Way to make everyone doubt "all the analytics," Kings. [NHL]
Logan Couture was fined a pretty penny for an ugly slew foot. [Puck Daddy]
Pascal Dupuis penned a nice piece about his struggle to come back after another blood clot in his lung. Give this a read. [Players Tribune]
How would you like to score your first NHL goal in overtime during a stretch playoff hunt? Ryan Spooner would like that, presumably, because he did. [NESN]
Josh Tweeted out a link to these passing metrics yesterday, and I found them pretty interesting. Seems like there could be some good information here for deeper evaluation of goal creation. [In Lou We Trust]
Ken Campbell thinks people in the NHL officers were "apoplectic" at the Clarkson/Horton trade. [THN]
Greg Ostertag grew up playing rec hockey in Dallas. Then he played in the NBA for a few years. He is 7'2". He is also playing hockey again in Arizona. [Puck Daddy]
Finally, here's a nice piece on Mike Sillinger, the most-traded player in NHL history, and how he and his family handled the constant transitions. [BR]