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Top 25 Defensemen: Perennial Norris contenders stand apart from the pack

Count on a number of the rearguards at the top of this list finding themselves in the running for end of season hardware.

1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
The best blueliner on the best team, Hedman already has one Norris and his blend of size, speed and skill means more are coming.

2. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
His offensive skills are elite, and no one’s better at keeping the puck in the zone. Plus, his size makes him imposing in the defensive end.

3. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
Big, smart and talented, Jones has everything you want in a No. 1 D-man. Columbus needs him to be key, and he can make it happen.

4. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks
The transition to San Jose is complete. Karlsson is a premier puck-mover who has a crucial impact on a game. He piles up assists.

5. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
An excellent all-around defenseman and captain of the Preds, Josi will get more spotlight with P.K. Subban moving on to New Jersey.

6. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Coming off his first Norris, Giordano thumbed his nose at Father Time. Can he push the party in Calgary, where playoff success is needed?

7. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
In reaching the 70-point plateau for the first time, Carlson displayed a great all-around game as the Caps’ most important blueliner.

8. Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Hit a career-high 72 points and can also take on the other team’s top lines. Would be fun to see what he could do with increased minutes.

9. P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils
His big shot and offensive instincts will goose New Jersey’s power play, while his brawn will make enemies uneasy in the Devils’ zone.

10. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
No longer just Chara’s partner, McAvoy is a star in his own right. Skating, skill and a penchant for hard hits make him one to watch.

11. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
The captain of the Cup champs is a rather unassuming star, but ‘Petro’ munches minutes and brings size and skill to the back end.

12. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Has grown into a very solid No. 1 without having a lot of support over the years. Logs a ton of ice time in all situations for the Dogs.

13. Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators
When it comes to defending, Ekholm is one of the best in the business. That doesn’t win you a Norris anymore, but we think it’s special.

14. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
Still extremely underrated, Slavin led the Canes in ice time. He’s a solid possession player despite taking on top enemy forwards.

15. Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
The other young lion on Columbus’ back end with Jones, Werenski is an athletic two-way threat who is just entering his prime.

16. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
The contract is scary and his best years are gone, but he’s still got some ‘Dewey’ magic in him. Second only to Ryan Suter in ice time.

17. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
He just keeps playing monster minutes, leading the NHL with an average of 26:42. Suter is 34, but he’s good for at least 40 points.

18. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Played nearly 26 minutes a game and had his best stats since 2015-16. Injuries remain a big issue, but he’s by far the best ‘D’ in Pittsburgh.

19. Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators
One of Ottawa’s leading lights as the Sens rebuild, Chabot is a fantastic puck-mover who can take over a game. Just getting started.

20. Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers
Coming off a breakout 50-point campaign, Trouba takes his act to Broadway where he gives the Rangers a tough two-way threat.

21. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Undersized but not undervalued, Krug was a playoff monster who made things happen offensively and kept opponents on their toes.

22. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
The top dog in Dallas – though Heiskanen is knocking – Klingberg is excellent offensively and his defense has steadily improved.

23. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
A possession beast, Hamilton has size, smarts and skill. Plus, of course, the big shot. Really seems to have found his place in Carolina.

24. Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Florida’s ice-time leader has been quiet in recent years, but Ekblad has the size you can’t teach and the two-way game coaches love.

25. Keith Yandle, Florida Panthers
Another Panther of distinction, Yandle is a savvy vet who ended last season as one of the league’s top-scoring blueliners.

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