The NHL Network is passing the final weeks before training camps begin with their #NHLTopPlayers countdowns. Sunday, the network released its Top 20 defensemen list, and it should be little surprise that Kris Letang made the list. Where he placed showed the respect which Letang earned with a remarkable bounceback last season.
Letang placed 10th on the list, behind Drew Doughty and ahead of notables Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues (11th) and P.K. Subban now of the New Jersey Devils (13th).
Last season, Letang quickly erased his disappointing 2017-18 season and again established himself as a premier defenseman. No longer encumbered by injury or lingering effects, Letang garnered serious Norris Trophy consideration by Christmas. A late-season injury robbed him of final consideration, though he did receive some third-place votes.
The Penguins top defenseman tied his career-high with 16 goals last season and totaled 56 points in just 65 games. The network noted that Letang’s 262 points since 2014-15 rank sixth among defensemen in that span. Earlier, NHL analyst Mike Rupp placed Letang fourth on his list.
The NHL network tabbed San Jose Sharks grizzly-looking defenseman Brent Burns as their top d-man. Burns had 83 points (16g, 67a) last season. Tampa Bay rearguard Victor Hedman and the Calgary Flames Mark Giordano, who won the 2019 Norris Trophy were the top three.
Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets was the top Metro Division defenseman at No. 5. John Carlson of the Washington Capitals was No. 6. Count us a little–or a lot–surprised that Carlson ranked so far ahead of Letang. Same with Morgan Reilly who was seventh.
For those playing the salary cap game, five defensemen in the Top-10 make more money than Letang, and four make less. Another strong season from Letang should vault him solidly into that coveted Norris Trophy conversation.
The 20 best defensemen in the league 👊
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 18, 2019
*Editor’s Note: an earlier version of the story incorrectly cited Brent Bruns as the 2019 Norris Trophy winner. Burns was nominated but Mark Giordano was the winner. The story has been corrected.