With the 2015-2016 season officially behind us and new Stanley Cup Champions crowned, now would be a good time to look back at this past season and reflect on all the amazing performances we’ve seen. There have been a lot of spectacular players both in the regular and post-season, but I want to try to narrow it down to a sort of post-Stanley Cup All-Star team, encompassing the truly great players from this season. This will not be an easy task, as picking the best players from this past season must incorporate more than just goals and assists, but each player’s true value to their teams, and to the entire league. These players must have truly made an impact on their team’s success, whilst also acquiring personal glory through the season. And of course, this All-star team will include player performances from both the regular season and playoffs. For the formation of this All-Star team we’re going to pick the top four players at each forward position, and top six defenders and explain why they deserve to be on the team. So let’s take a look at the NHL’s top defensemen.
To start off the list of outstanding defensemen this season I feel the go-to number one pick has to be San Jose’s, Brent Burns. Burns was the rock that held the Sharks defense together through their run for the cup. He finished second in playoff points (24), just behind teammate Logan Couture, which was also first in defensemen. He was also first in goals and assists for defensemen through the playoffs (7) & (17). The Ontario native also shined in the regular season for Sharks, making their deep playoff run possible. He finished first in goals (27), second in points (75) and third in assists (48) among all defensemen in the NHL.
Next, in line has to be Ottawa Senators defenseman, Erik Karlsson. Number 65 for the Senators had an absolutely dominating regular season this year, but the Senators, unfortunately, did not make the playoffs where he would have excelled even more. Still, his regular season numbers are enough to land him this spot. He ended the regular season with 82 points in 82 games, which was tied for fourth in the league and first among defensemen. He also led the entire league in assists (66), which was 15 assists more than the next defensemen on the list. Although only 6’0’’ tall, he showed his dominance all over the ice and in every game he played this season.
Pittsburgh’s star defenseman Kris Letang is another one who had a standout regular and post-season this year. Part of the Stanley Cup winning team, Letang was second in points (15) for defensemen in the playoffs and 12th overall. He was also second in assists (12) for defensemen and eighth overall. In the regular season, Letang had 67 points in 71 games played and racked up 51 assists in those games, which landed him second among all defensemen in assists behind Karlsson.
Roman Josi is next on the list of NHL All-Star defensemen. The Nashville Predators defenseman only played two playoff series and scored nine points, but he really shined in the regular season. He had 61 points with 47 assists and 14 goals and ranked fourth among defensemen in points. The Switzerland native has great puck-moving skills and outstanding skating ability, which allows him to be the versatile assist machine he’s been for the Preds.
For the final defensive line on this team, I’m sticking to the trend of one heavily regular season based star, with a playoff star beside him. And I have to go first with Mark Giordano from the Calgary Flames. The 6’0’’ Toronto native played 82 games this regular season, the most he’s played in his ten-year NHL career. Giordano is a good offensive defenseman, scoring 21 goals in the regular season, and can be an effective weapon on the Calgary powerplay. In fact, nine of his 21 goals came on the powerplay. Giordano is a good skater with good puck movement and is an effective team leader for the Flames thanks to his tenacious style of play.
The final defenseman for this team is San Jose Sharks’, Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Just finishing his tenth season in the NHL, Vlasic was a key part to why the Sharks advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. He finished third among all defensemen in assists (11) in the playoffs, and had 12 total points. The 29-year-old has excellent puck movement, and rarely makes mistakes in the defensive zone. He is a big minute defenseman for the Sharks, right up there with Burns. Vlasic also led all players in blocked shots in the playoffs with 68, two above fellow Sharks defenseman Paul Martin.