Ranking the Top 5 Defensive Pairings in the NHL

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The NHL season is underway and there are already some key standouts in the NHL in terms of the league power rankings. But what defensive pairings have started to stand out, and which pairings are at the top of the league? While everyone has their favourites in the league, and there is still plenty of time for some defensive pairings to shift their outlook, but from the outset, these five pairings have stood out, and that we would bet on, even using betting sites not on Gamstop 2022.

5. Devon Toews & Cale MakarColorado Avalanche

The Stanley Cup Winning team had to make this list somewhere, but their top line of Devon Toews and Cale Makar has certainly made a splash on their way into this season. While the pairing currently sits at a +/- of 0, they’ve got some of the most time on ice per game of any defensive players across organizations. Their team has an impressive record so far, sitting tied for third in the Western Conference and tied for first in their division, and this top line is a big part of that. While their performances have been fairly impressive, there is still certainly room for them to grow into some better performances to improve their +/- ratings, they currently sit at around a point per game, so their offensive abilities are still on a solid display in the early season.

4. Thomas Chabot & Artem ZubOttawa Senators

Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub break into the top 5 defensive pairings in the NHL after a surprising start to the season that sees some impressive performances among the Ottawa Senators team. The Senators currently sit third in the Atlantic Division and have yet to need to take a game to overtime, thanks largely to this line’s defensive performances allowing them to play in a secure fashion from their own end, as well as the offensive zone. They’ve displayed some elite edges to control their positioning and shut down chances before they can become an issue for their goalie to deal with. Overall, the pairing could certainly move up the list if they maintain their form all the way throughout the season.

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3. Brady Skjei & Brett PesceCarolina Hurricanes

Skjei and Pesce have consistently made the list for top defensive pairings in the early season, as the two are seemingly able to start each season off strong with one another, playing solidly at both ends of the ice and helping their team to be one of the final teams left undefeated. Largely due to this defensive pairing’s hard work, the Hurricanes sit at the top of the table in their division, and Pesce and Skjei can tote one of the highest combined +/- ratings for a defensive pairing, as well as some of the most minutes for a second defensive pairing at a bit over 23 minutes per game a piece. Their impressive performances haven’t put up many points for either of them personally, but it certainly has worked to keep the puck out of their net and keep their team in winning form, which makes them a large part for any Carolina Hurricanes Staley Cup Hunt.

2. Rasmus Dahlin & Mattias SamuelssonBuffalo Sabres

This is the only defensive pairing that has really seen some changes already, as Samuelsson picked up an injury and is currently under day-to-day status, the first line defensive pairing for the Buffalo Sabres has been an impressive one, and has been a large part of what is keeping Buffalo out of the bottom of the league in the early season. In the five games that these two players were paired with each other, they managed to secure nine points for Dahlin, as well as being extremely effective in shutting down opposing plays. Based on the current performances of this line, the Sabres will want to get Samuelsson back into playing condition as soon as they can, as this pairing seems to be a huge difference-maker for the organization.

1. Brayden McNabb & Shea TheodoreVegas Golden Knights

Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore could honestly go anywhere on this list, they’ve been the top in +/- of any defensive pairings, and they’ve managed an impressive start to the season. The real thing that puts these two at the top of the list is their consistency across performances, and their abilities to fill roles in any situation. Overall, these two defensive players have managed to keep the puck out of their net on most occasions and see the Golden Knights on top of their conference as well as the league as a whole. Whether it be stopping the puck in their defensive end, breaking up plays in the neutral zone, or helping contribute in the offensive zone, these two players have shown a solid understanding of what is needed from them and gotten their stick on the puck to make necessary plays and help their team come away with a win.

What do you think? Do you agree with our rankings of the top 5 defensive pairings in the NHL? Let us know in the comments, and for more hockey content, stick around on Overtime Heroics.

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Having written with Overtime Heroics for two years as a variety writer, Alex Sorichetti now serves as a managing editor with the company.