One Timers

Six rookie NHL defensemen to keep an eye on

13 OCT 2016: Dallas Stars Defenceman Stephen Johns (28) scores a goal during the NHL game between the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire)
Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

Last year, Shayne Gostisbehere took the NHL by storm. He played his first game of the season on Nov. 14, and almost instantly changed the fortunes of Philadelphia from that point on. By April, he had led the Flyers to the playoffs and cemented his own spot as a Calder Trophy finalist.

It’s not exactly common to see a young blueliner step right in and deliver an impact that has ripple effects across the entire league like that. So we probably shouldn’t expect to just see that again right away — at least not to the same extent. But there are some new defensemen with intriguing upside breaking in right now, and their clubs are hopeful they can make a big difference at one of the most pivotal positions on the ice as well.

Here’s a look at six of them…

Ivan Provorov, PHI (No. 7 overall, in 2015)

If Provorov goes off that would be two straight years that the league’s breakout defender has emerged in Philadelphia. On the one hand, that seems a little excessive. On the other though, this is exactly where the Flyers have needed to improve their roster.

Joining Gostisbehere on Philly’s back end, Provorov is one of the most highly touted blue line prospects in hockey right now. He was the second D-man off the board in the 2015 draft, and his impressive offensive prowess was a major reason why. He can already skate, shoot and set up teammates at a high level — and he only figures to get better with regular ice time.

Zach Werenski, CBJ (No. 8, 2015)

It feels like the Blue Jackets have been waiting forever to insert Werenski into the lineup — even though they only drafted him last summer. That’s because he’s a mature player who looked almost ready to go last year, at age 18.

Columbus opted to give him another year to develop at the the University of Michigan though, and Werenski proceeded to dominate college hockey over the course of the season. He’s in the NHL now though, playing on the Jackets’ top pairing and scoring a goal in his first NHL game.

26 September 2016: Boston Bruins right defenseman Brandon Carlo (73) picks up a loose puck. The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 (SO) in a pre-season NHL game at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Brandon Carlo, BOS (No. 37, 2015)

Taken in the second round last year, Carlo didn’t enter the league with as much hype as many of the guys on this list. But he’s quickly carving out a role on Boston’s blue line, averaging 21:35 of ice time over his first three contests.

Carlo also has a goal and an assist to show for his work so far, though. At 6’5″ and 203-pounds, his main strengths will likely show through a s a physical, defensively-minded rearguard.

Mikhail Sergachev, MTL (No. 9, 2016)

Generally speaking, it’s tougher for a young defenseman to make the jump directly to the NHL right after he’s drafted than it is for a young forward. And it’s not exactly easy for a forward to do it.

Sergachev is looking to pull off the feat though, earning a spot with Montreal out of camp. It’s possible Michel Therrien is just giving him a quick look, then reevaluating him after nine games. But it’s also possible the young Russian is here to stay. After all, he was deemed by many scouts to be the most NHL-ready blueliner in the draft back in June.

7 October, 2016: Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun (6) waits for the puck during the preseason NHL hockey game between the San Jose Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

Jakob Chychrun, ARI (No. 16, 2016)

Much like Sergachev, Chychrun is making the leap directly to the big league less than four months after getting drafted. How young is he? When he made his debut on Saturday, he became the youngest Arizona Coyote in team history.

The Desert Dogs made it a point of emphasis to add depth to the back end this summer, and they certainly did that. As a result, they weren’t necessarily expecting Chychrun to make the roster this quickly. He made quite the impression with his maturity at camp though, forcing the coaching staff into a tough decision and making some other, more established guys expendable.

Stephen Johns, DAL (No. 60, 2010)

Johns is the oldest prospect on this list, and he actually logged 14 NHL games prior to the 2016-17 campaign. He also might be stepping into a situation where his club is leaning on him right away — moreso than any of these other guys.

That’s because Johns is sliding into the second pairing for a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Stars have a ton of offense, but they need the defense to catch up. And while the former Chicago draft pick won’t be held responsible for singlehandedly revitalizing the blue line, they could certainly use a jolt from him.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pete Gaeta

    October 19, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    The Blackhawks rookie defensemen, Gustav Forsling and Michael Kempny, looked better than Provorov last night by a mile. You may have to redo your list soon.

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