NHL Players

Best NHL Defenseman: 20 All-Time Hockey Defenders

By Kapil Sapkota / 21 December 2023 04:38 AM

Source : instagram

Bobby Orr is widely considered the most outstanding NHL defenseman in league history, who won the James Norris Memorial Trophy 8 times straight.

Orr was also awarded the Art Ross Trophy in 1970 and 1975 for leading the NHL in points.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Ray Bourque also established themselves as the greatest NHL defensemen ever. Winning numerous awards, these players dominated the ice during their time.

Cale Maker is arguably the most prominent defenseman in the NHL currently. The Colorado Avalanche blueliner secured the 2022 James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league's best defenseman.

1. Bobby Orr

NHL Career: 1966 to 1987

NHL Teams: Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks

Regular Season Record: 270 goals, 915 points, 657 games

Playoffs Record: 26 goals, 92 points, 74 games

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Orr consecutively won eight Norris Trophies as the NHL's best defenceman, an NHL record. He was also awarded three Hart Memorial Trophies in straight.

The Canadian became the Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks in 1970 and 1972.

Leading the NHL in assists five times, the defenseman led the league in points twice and won the Art Ross Trophy in 1970 and 1975. The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Orr in 1979.

2. Nicklas Lidstrom

NHL Career: 1991 to 2012

NHL Teams: Detroit Red Wings

Regular Season Record: 264 goals, 1,142 points, 1,564 games

Playoffs Record: 54 goals, 129 points, 263 games

Source : facebook

Lidstrom was named the captain of the Red Wings in 2006 as a successor of the legendary Steve Yzerman. He won seven Norris Trophies as the NHL's best defenseman and four Stanley Cups between 1997 and 2011.

Nicklas was selected to the NHL's First All-Star Team ten times. The Detroit Red Wings retired his #5 jersey in 2015. He received an induction into the HHoF the following year.

3. Ray Bourque

Playing Career: 1979 - 2001

NHL Teams: Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche

Regular Season Record: 410 goals, 1,579 points, 1,612 games

Playoffs Record: 41 goals, 180 points, 214 games

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A five-time James Norris Trophy winner, Ray Bourque became Stanley Cup champion with the Avalanche in 2001. He was selected for 13 NHL's First All-Star Team 13 times between 1980 and 2001.

The Bruins and the Avalanche have honored Bourque, retiring his #77 jersey. The Canadian player was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.

4. Doug Harvey

NHL Career: 1947 - 1969

NHL Teams: Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues

Regular Season Record:  88 goals, 540 points, 1,113 games

Playoff Record: 8 goals, 72 points, 137 games

Source : boxscorenews

Harvey won seven James Norris Memorial Trophies between 1955 and 1962 as the league's top defenseman. He was named to the NHL All-Star Game in each year from 1951 to 1962 and again in 1969.

He won his first Stanley Cup in 1953 and then from 1956 to 1960 in straight, all with the Canadiens.

5. Denis Potvin

NHL Career: 1973 - 1988

NHL Team: New York Islanders

Regular Season Record: 310 goals, 1,052 points, 1,060 games

Playoff Record: 56 goals, 164 points, 185 games

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Potvin was awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman in  1976, 1978, and 1979. He won four Stanley Cups with the Islanders franchise.

Denis became the first NHL defenseman to score 300 regular-season goals and 1000 career points.

Potvin was enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. The New York Islanders retired Potvin's #5 jersey in the next year.

6. Paul Coffey

NHL Career: 1980 - 2000

NHL Teams: 9, including Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Detroit Red Wings

Regular Season Record: 396 goals, 1,531 points, 1,409 games

Playoffs Record: 59 Goals, 196 Points, 194 games

Source : facebook

Coffey received 3 James Norris Memorial Trophies between 1985 and 1995 as the league's best defenseman. He won 3 Stanley Cups with the Oilers and one with the Penguins.

The player was selected for 14  NHL All-Star Games. Coffey became a Hockey Hall of Fame member in 2004.

7. Eddie Shore

NHL Career: 1926 - 1940

NHL Team: Boston Bruins, New York Americans

Regular Season Record: 105 goals, 284 points, 551games

Playoff Record: 7 goals, 20 points, 55 games

Source : canadaehx

Most of Shore's NHL career was spent with the Bruins franchise. The defenseman won two Stanley Cups with Boston in 1929 and 1939.

The player was awarded the prestigious Hart Memorial Trophy 4 times as the league's MVP. The Bruins retired his #2 jersey in 1947 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the same year.

8. Larry Robinson

NHL Career: 1972 - 1992

NHL Team: Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings

Regular Season Record: 207 goals, 958 points, 1,384 games

Playoff Record: 28 goals, 144 points, 227 games

Source : thehockeybeast

Robinson captured the James Norris Trophy as the league's best blueliner in 1977 and 1980. He won the prestigious Stanley Cup six times with the Canadiens.

Larry was named to the league's first teams three times. The defenseman clinched the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 1978 playoffs. He received the Hockey Hall of Fame honor in 1995.

9. Chris Chelios

NHL Career: 1984 - 2010

NHL Team: Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Atlanta Thrashers

Regular Season Record: 185 goals, 948 points, 1,651 games

Playoff Record: 31 goals, 144 points, 266 games

Source : imdb

Chelios received the James Norris Memorial Trophy, becoming the league's top defenseman in 1989, 1993, and 1996. He earned his first Stanley Cup with the Canadiens and the next two with the Red Wings.

The American defenseman received an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. The Blackhawks have announced that his #7 would be retired on February 25, 2024.

10. Erik Karlsson

NHL Career: 2009 - present

NHL Team: Pittsburgh Penguins (Played for Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks)

Regular Season Record: 178 goals, 761 points, 920 games

Playoff Record: 8 goals, 53 points, 67 games

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Karlsson has been awarded 3 James Norris Trophies as the NHL's best defense. The player has also received three Viking Awards as the best Swedish player in the NHL.

Erik was named to the NHL All-Star Games seven times to date. The defenseman posted his career-high 101 points in the 2022-23 season with the Sharks franchise.

11. Scott Stevens

NHL Career: 1982 - 2004

NHL Team: Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils

Regular Season Record: 196 goals, 908 points, 1,635 games

Playoff Record: 26 goals, 118 points, 233 games

Source : facebook

Stevens never won a James Norris Trophy as the best defenseman, but he was a finalist for the 1987-88 season award. He became the Stanley Cup champion three times, all with the NJ Devils.

In 2000, Stevens was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MPV of his team. The defenseman was selected for 13 NHL All-Star Games during his NHL tenure. He became an HHoF member in 2007.

12. Tim Horton

NHL Career: 1951 - 1974

NHL Team: Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres

Regular Season Record: 185 goals, 948 points, 1,651 games

Playoff Record: 31 goals, 144 points, 266 games

Source : twitter

Tim became the Stanley Cup champion four times with the Maple Leafs franchise between 1962 and 1967. Horton was selected for the league's first All-Star team between 1964 and 1969.

The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Horton in 1997. The Buffalo Sabres and the Maple Leafs have retired his numbers, #2 and #7, respectively.

13. Brian Leetch

NHL Career: 1987 - 2006

NHL Team: New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins

Regular Season Record: 247 goals, 1,028 points, 1,205 games

Playoff Record: 28 goals, 97 points, 95 games

Source : facebook

Leetch mostly played for the Bruins, with whom he won two James Norris Trophy (in 1992 and 1997). In 1994, he became the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy award.

The American blueliner picked up the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the Rangers. He was named to 11 NHL All-Star Games between 1990 and 2003. The Hockey Hall of Fame honored him in 2009.

14. Brad Park

NHL Career: 1968 - 1985

NHL Team: New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings

Regular Season Record: 213 goals, 896 points, 1,113 games

Playoff Record: 35 goals, 125 points, 161 games

Source : nypost

Park didn't win a James Norris Trophy as the best defenseman throughout his career. However, he was runner-up for the trophy six times, more than any defenseman in league history.

The Canadian defenseman was selected for the NHL's first All-Star team five times. The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Park in 1988, in his first year of eligibility.

15. Chris Pronger

NHL Career: 1993 - 2011

NHL Team: Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers

Regular Season Record: 157 goals, 698 points, 1,167 games

Playoff Record: 26 goals, 121 points, 173 games

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Pronger's James Norris Memorial Trophy as the best defenseman came in 2000 while playing for the Blues. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.

In 2000, Chris also received the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player. Played in six NHL All-Star Games, Pronger was inducted into the HHoF in 2015.

16. Scott Niedermayer

NHL Career: 1991 - 2010

NHL Team: New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks

Regular Season Record: 172 goals, 740 points, 1,263 games

Playoff Record: 25 goals, 98 points, 202 games

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The 2004 James Norris Memorial Trophy-winning player, Niedermayer, spent most of his NHL career with the Devils. He secured 3 Stanley Cups with the Devils and one more with the Ducks.

In 2007, Niedermayer received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the team's MVP. The defenseman was selected for the league's First All-Star Team thrice between 2004 and 2007. He became an HHoF member in 2013.

17. Pierre Pilote

NHL Career: 1955 - 1969

NHL Team: Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs

Regular Season Record: 80 goals, 498 points, 890 games

Playoff Record: 8 goals, 61 points, 86 games

Source : facebook

Winning three consecutive James Norris Memorial Trophy from 1963 to 1965, Pilote was one of the toughest defensemen in NHL history.

He spent most of his NHL stint with the Hawks and won the Stanley Cup in 1961.

Throughout his career, Pilote was named to the NHL First All-Star team from 1963 through 1967 in straight. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.

18. Larry Murphy

NHL Career: 1980 - 2001

NHL Teams: 6, including Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings

Regular Season Record: 288 goals, 1,217 points, 1,615 games

Playoff Record: 37 goals, 152 points, 215 games

Source : facebook

Murphy won 4 Stanley Cups in his NHL career, 2/2 with the Penguins and the Red Wings, respectively. He was named to three NHL All-Star Games.

The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Larry in his first year of eligibility in 2004.

19. Rod Langway

NHL Career: 1978 - 1993

NHL Teams: Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals

Regular Season Record:  51 goals, 329 points, 994 games

Playoff Record: 5 goals, 27 points, 104 games

Source : imdb

Langway clinched two James Norris Memorial Trophies in straight in 1983 and 1984. The American defenseman became the Stanley Cup champion in 1979 with the Canadiens franchise.

The Washington Capitals retired Langway's #5 jersey in 1997. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999. Rod was enshrined into the HHoF in 2002.

20. Zdeno Chara

NHL Career: 1996 - 2022

NHL Team: New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals

Regular Season Record: 209 goals, 680 points, 1,680 games

Playoff Record: 18 goals, 70 points, 200 games

Source : instagram

The tallest NHL player ever in NHL history, Zdeno Chara won the 2009 James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league's best defenseman. He notched the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.

Chara captained the Bruins for all 14 seasons with the franchise from 2006 through 2020. He appeared in six NHL All-Star Games during his NHL career.

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