Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Niklas Hjalmarrsson is a Top 50 Defenseman

By Sean Fitzgerald

May 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman

Niklas Hjalmarsson

(4) skates with the puck against the Detroit Red Wings in game four of the second round for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The East Coast network released its top 50 defenseman. It did not come as a shock that Duncan Keith was number 4 on the list. Keith is premiere defenseman and deserves a top 5 ranking. His line mate Brent Seabrook was ranked number 12 which seems about right in my mind. The name that I scanned the list for several times was Niklas Hjalmarsson.  I was shocked to find that Hjalmarsson was not on the list.

The experts ranked these players on a scale of 1-10 based on their quality of play.  The poll also listed out there stats for last season.  Hjalmarsson’s numbers for last season were 46 games, 2 Goals, 8 assists, 10 pts, +15, PIM 22, and an ATOI of 20:54 per game.  If the poll was based on numbers alone, Hjalmarsson would be on the list. His +15 ranking is better than their #1 ranked defenseman Zdeno Chara. I’m not saying that Hjalmarsson is not better than Chara. I’m merely saying that Hjalmarsson deserves to be on this list based on the numbers.

Hjalmarsson has two things factoring against him. He is not a sexy name like Dustin Byfuglien or Jake Muzzin but he is a better player than both of those guys. Hjalmarsson also has to play in the shadow of Keith and Seabrook which would not help him in the eyes of the experts.

The experts ranked the players on the list based on their quality of play. Byfuglien by all accounts had a terrible season last year. He was overweight and out of shape. Jake Muzzin was a +16 but played only 17:54 per game. Brian Campbell number 17 on the list but was -22 last season. The list was not solely based on fact, it was based on opinion.

My opinion is that the list is flawed. One of the biggest flaws is Hjalmarsson is not on in their top 50. Hjalmarsson might not get the media coverage of former post season hero Dustin Byfuglien or play on the top defensive pairing for a bad team like Brian Campbell. He however is a better player than both of these players. Hjalmarsson doesn’t do the flashy things like others listed.

He is not a goal scorer or a great power-play player. He does the dirty work, he blocks shots, and plays big minutes on the penalty kill. He also steps up on the biggest stage. He scored the game winning goal against the Red Wings in Game 7 of Western Conference Semifinals. The goal was waived off on terrible officiating call.

He stepped up again in the next round. Hjalmarsson was the best defenseman in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. He was brilliant when Keith was suspended. That should have influenced the experts on their evaluation of Hjalmarsson. They however felt his play was not worthy of the top 50 defenseman in the NHL.

With all of that being said, Hjalmarsson is a top 50 defender in my book despite what the East Coast Network says. That is just my opinion and I’m not an “expert”.

Do you agree with their opinion or mine?