Its the oldest cliche in the books in all of sports that defense wins championships. In the NHL they live by that motto every season. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, and Anaheim Ducks have been fortunate over the past 10 seasons to be equipped with a defensive corp that carried them all the way and capture Lord Stanley’s Cup.
For George McPhee building that defensive group capable of accomplishing such a task will take some time but given that in years Expansion Draft he’ll be able to put together a much more competitive group of NHL defenseman than the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild did back in the 2000 when league had such an event.
Here we will take a look at some of the available defenseman that Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee will have to choose when the Expansion Draft.
Given that the Sharks will most likely protect Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, and Paul Martin leaves Brendon Dillon the unfortunate odd man out on San Jose’s roster is Brenden Dillon.
Currently in his 2nd season with the San Jose Sharks Brenden Dillon since being traded back in November 2014 in exchange for fan favorite Jason Demers.
This season the 7 year NHL veteran defenseman has been paired up with several of the Sharks blueliners from Paul Martin, Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Dylan DeMelo, and David Schlemko.
His primary defensive partner on the team is David Schlemko. With his partner Schlemko this season they have a GA of 12 and GF of 16 at 1.69 GF60 and 1.37 GA60. He has become very important part of Sharks line defense. Thru 66 games Dillon has scored 2 goals and pitched in with 8 assists and his +/- is at Even.
Dillon has improved his overall game with his mobility skill set thru hard work and dedication which has given him more confidence out on the ice. He’s also helped the San Jose Sharks to their first ever trip in franchise history to the Stanley Cup Finals.
His increased speed game has also been something that he has worked on and is paying off with the ability of being more involved in the rush and enables him play in all three zones on the ice much better.
The game is getting much faster and having a player that instills the commitment level and dedication like Dillon is something that McPhee should like at when the Expansion Draft comes.
The 4 year NHL veteran defenseman is currently in his 3rd season with the Los Angeles Kings. McNabb was originally drafted by Buffalo back in 2009 in the 3rd round at 66 overall.
This season with the Kings McNabb has had the opportunity in playing with the 2016 Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty, Alex Martinez, and Kevin Gravel.
Darryl Sutter has had the luxury of spreading out McNabb’s playing time with his three pairing partners throughout the course of this season. However his most success has come from being paired up with Doughty. Their GF of 6 and GA of 2 at 1.98 GF60 and 0.66 GA60 is impressive given Sutter’s defense first approach.
On October 30, 2016 McNabb suffered an arm injury that kept off the ice for 27 games. In 37 games played this season McNabb has scored 2 goals and registered 2 assists with a +/- of +4.
He uses his size as an asset something that his defensive partner Doughty also employs. McNabb plays with an edge in the and can log big minutes when needed in key situations. He also has one
McPhee when selecting a member of the Los Angeles Kings McNabb should be player of interest in forming the Golden Knights defense.
A familiar blueliner would be something George McPhee should consider when constructing his group for the Golden Knights this upcoming season at the Expansion Draft.
Drafted by McPhee back in 2007 in the 5rd round Alzner has become a mainstay in the Washington Capitals line of defense for the past 10 seasons.
Alzner has been the franchises Iron Man since the 2010-2011 season when he started his 546 consecutive game streak passing former Capital Bob Carpenter. When McPhee was the GM in Washington has was able witness this from Alzner.
In 576 games with the Capitals he has scored 19 goals and 98 assists. This season Head Coach Barry Trotz has paired up Alzner with John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik. His +/- rating this season is a +24 thru 67 games.
He had more success this season with both Carlson and Niskanen with a combined GF of 44 and GA of 45 at an average of 2.22 GF60 and an average of 2.33 GA60 respectively.
Like McNabb he has the capability of logging big minutes when needed and is good puck handling defenseman. Alzner like Dillon uses his mobility as an asset on the ice.
This makes Alzner a prime target at the Expansion Draft in June for McPhee if he decides to select a defenseman rather than a forward from Washington.
When he was the General Manager of Washington George McPhee had the opportunity to witness NHL defenseman from fellow rival teams in the Metropolitan Division in particular where Philadelphia and New York Islanders where Andrew MacDonald has spent his career playing for.
Originally drafted back in 2006 by rookie Islanders General Manager Garth Snow in the 6th round the 8 year NHL veteran defenseman is in his 4th season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
In 163 games with the Philadelphia Flyers MacDonald has scored 5 goals and pitched in with 34 assists. This season MacDonald thru 58 games has 15 points on the year with +/- of -7. This is in part of the Flyers below than average season. In +/- he’s seen a career high in the 2015-2016 season with +10 in 58 games.
Coach Dave Hackstol has paired up MacDonald for the majority of the season with rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov who was selected by Ron Hextall in the 1st round at 7th overall in 2015. He’s also teamed up MacDonald with rising star Shayne Gostisbehere.
Their combined GF of 23 and GA of 46 was an average of 1.37 at GF60 and a 2.73 at GA60. Not good numbers by any means given the season the Flyers have been having this year. He’s also spent 6 games in the current campaign with a lower body injury.
What MacDonald brings to the table is that his play with the puck is good and has the ability to log heavy minutes in any situation. Does not have a high rate in producing offensive numbers nevertheless when needed can provide support for his teammates.
At the Expansion Draft McPhee may want to look at potentially taking MacDonald. Under a new system and a change in scenery it may help improve his game in all areas.
Being the oldest player on this list of NHL blueliners Dan Hamhuis has spent his 12 years of professional experience playing for Nashville, Vancouver, represent Team Canada in International tournaments on multiple occasions to his current club in the Dallas Stars.
He has 3 gold medals to his credit with the Canadian National Team (2 in World Championships tournaments and 1 in 2014 Sochi Olympics).
Originally drafted by Nashville in 2001 at 12th overall Hamhuis was the star defenseman with the Predators that was until Shea Weber and Ryan Suter came along.
His place in their lineup was reduced and therefore he was traded to both Pennsylvania hockey clubs in 2010 but failed to be signed to either organization.
Hamhuis would however sign on with the Vancouver Canucks where he played under Alain Vigneault. There he played a big part in their 2011 Stanley Cup Final run where he was paired up with Kevin Bieska.
The veteran blueliner moved from Vancouver and signed on with Dallas last year in a 2 year deal at $7.5 million.
With 937 games to his credit Hamhuis has scored 56 goals and tallied 262 assists. The longtime defenseman has been able to be a play in different roles with the Stars this season.
Head Coach Lindy Ruff has paired up Hamhuis with Jordie Benn, Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Julius Honka, Eas Lindell and Jamie Oleksiak. Being an veteran blueliner Hamhuis has provided mentoring with the younger d-corp on the Stars roster.
Before being dealt at the deadline this year Hamhuis spent the good part of the season playing with Jordie Been. Their GF of 14 and GA of 21 was an average of 2.20 at GF60 and a 3.30 at GA60. On the season Hamhuis’s +/- rating thru 65 games is at a +4.
Even though the game has gotten a lot faster over the years the 34 year old still has gas left in the tank. His veteran presence and experience could pay for the Golden Knights if McPhee given that Hamhuis played for a previous expansion team in the modern era with Nashville.
To complete the list is 9 year NHL veteran Jonathan Ericsson of the Detroit Red Wings.
Drafted back in 2002 in 9th round has skated with the original six franchise for his entire career.
Ericsson has had the pleasure with playing with Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Chris Chelios, Niklas Kronwall, Andreas Lijla, Bret Lebda and Brad Stuart in their 2008 Stanley Cup Championship run.
In 529 games played with the Wingwheel Ericsson has scored 21 goals and pitched in with 86 assists. He’s had opportunity in playing for veteran NHL Head Coach Ken Babcock where he was able to have the most success in his game.
This season he playing under 2nd year Head Coach Jeff Blasshill. In the 2016-2017 campaign under Blasshill Ericsson has been paired up with two different players in Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.
Their combined GF of 24 and GA of 24 was an average of 2.4 at GF60 and a 2.4 at GA60. His unfortunate hand injury took him off the shelf for the rest of the season. Thru 51 games Ericsson’s +/- rating is a -2. This is in part due to Detroit’s continue struggles of defending in their zone.
When he is healthy can log those tough minutes that is required of him with a low risk factor. Has the size that makes him attractive to any General Manager and Head Coach around the league that would love to have on their roster.
McPhee would want to take a look at maybe grabbing Ericsson that has a ton of playing experience at the Expansion Draft when he selects a player for the Red Wings current roster.