16 – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Hjalmarsson is the game’s best defensive defenseman. Nobody in the league does a better job of taking out the opposing team’s best forward. He’ll be a great addition in Arizona and should allow Oliver Ekman-Larsson to open up his game.
17 – Cam Fowler
The Ducks have about six or seven defensemen right now that are 26 or younger and are absolute studs. It’s a toss-up between Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, but I’d go Fowler at this point. The 26-year-old took a big step forward last season, emerging as Anaheim’s No. 1 while playing nearly 25 minutes per game. His 39 points were one off the career-high he set as a rookie in 2010-11.
18 – P.K. Subban
He’s in the perfect situation right now in Nashville, making up a perfect tandem alongside Mattias Ekholm. That’s a pairing where you’re able to get the most out of both guys, where they really compliment each other perfectly. Subban is one of the best playmakers from the back end in the league and has an absolute rocket for a shot.
19 – Rasmus Ristolainen
The analytics crowd tends to give low marks to the Buffalo blueliner because of his poor numbers on possession, which I feel is more reflective on how the Sabres have used the Finish defenseman than it is on the type of player Ristolainen is. What I mean by that is Buffalo has preferred Ristolainen give up the blue line in order to use his size as an advantage in the defensive zone. If adopts a more aggressive style of play under Phil Housley, the results could force the 22-year-old right into the Norris discussion, a la Zdeno Chara in Boston with Claude Julien after a season of Dave Lewis. Ristolainen is that talented.
20 – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
A truly gifted offensive defenseman who in the two seasons prior to last season was tied with Brent Burns for the NHL lead with 44 goals. Ekman-Larsson plays big minutes and is one of the league’s top performers on the powerplay, with his 66 powerplay points over the last three seasons fifth in the league.