More and more, teams are placing emphasis on quality defensemen. Whether its puck movers or stay at home/shut down players, it seems clear top NHL teams have at least one of each.
Every team guns for the big splash – Jay Bouwmeester, Zdeno Chara, Nick Lidstrom kind of guys. These guys are usually the first defenseman picked in fantasy drafts and the names we frequently discuss. I want to talk about the less heralded players today. The defenseman who’ve quietly had a great start to the 09-10 NHL season and helped their teams to solid records so far.
Kyle Quincey – Colorado Avalanche
One of this summer’s best trades was definitely the Colorado Avalanche trading Ryan Smyth to the Los Angeles Kings for Tom Preissing and Kyle Quincey. I think Quincey has flown under the radar, initially as another good defenseman of the Detroit Red Wings and then for the lesser known Kings. Quincey is a solid powerplay quarter back and a great first pass/puck moving defenseman. The Avalanche’s surprise start has a lot to do with goaltender Craig Anderson and Kyle Quincey.
Stephane Robidas – Dallas Stars
Many were surprised at Stephane Robodias inclusion to the summer Canadian Olympic Orientation camp with other stud defensemen like Shea Weber, Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, Scott Neidermayer and more. Robidas flies under the radar in Dallas but is as good as they come. He’s got a very small chance at making the Olympic team (basically, Canada’s top 10 defenseman have to be injured), but there’s no way the Dallas Stars are anywhere near the same team without him, nor would they still be undefeated (3-0-2). He’s tied for 2nd in league (among defense) plus-minus (+8) and is a great offensive player that doesn’t let defense suffer. Also strong on the powerplay, Robidas doesn’t miss many games (has played atleast 72 games in each of his last 4 seasons) and averages around 22 minutes of playing time per game.
Denis Grebeshkov – Edmonton Oilers
A very underrated player, in my opinion. The Edmonton Oilers have the big names like Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky, but Dennis Grebeshkov is a solid top 4 defenseman with a cannon for a slap shot. 6 points to start the year, I think Pat Quinn will use Grebseshkov more and more on the top powerplay unit – especially with Souray’s concussion suffered last week with Jarome Iginla.
Tyler Myers – Buffalo Sabres
I don’t think the Buffalo Sabres have enjoyed the kind of defensive mobility they have with Tyler Myers since Brian Campbell left for Chicago. I can’t think of a defenseman that big who moves that well. He’s a great skater and will continue to get stronger (he’s only 19 after all). He’s a +4 and averages 20 minutes of ice time per game. I think he’s played a huge role in how Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres have allowed a ridiculous 5 goals against in 4 games and remain undefeated, with the Stars (3-0-1). Also, Myers’ reach with that 6 foot long stick is sick. Just sick. Myers is only getting better and Sabres fans have to love it. What a steal landing Tyler Myers 12th overall two drafts ago.
Matt Carle – Philadelphia Flyers
Easily lost under the defensive depth in Philadelphia with the likes of Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Cobourn, but get this: Matt Carle – who the San Jose Sharks couldn’t get rid of, once – leads the Flyers in points (8 points in 5 games) and plus/minus (+4). He’s averaging big minutes in Philly and its nice to see a player rebound after a few rough years. Carle is the kind of depth that will pay huge dividends should either of the three defensemen above suffer any injuries.
Alexandre Picard – Ottawa Senators
Finally. Coming to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Andrej Mezsaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning trade, Picard has been heavily rumored in trade talks for months now. It’s been reported Bryan Murray likes Picard a lot and we’re starting to see why. Picard hasn’t turned over pucks nearly as much as in previous years and it shows in his +5 rating. Picard has looked solid for the Senators and has contributed to their good start.
Of course, there are a number of other under the radar players I could of included here… who’s your underrated defensemen so far?
Stay classy, underrated defensemen.