As preparations for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 hit high gear leading up to the start of the tournament on Sept. 17 in Toronto, NHL.com looks at how the teams stand. Seven writers who will cover the two-week event at Air Canada Centre were asked to rank the teams from 1-8 in various categories. Today, we look at which team has the best offensive defenseman.
There will be some tremendous offensive defensemen in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, none better than Erik Karlsson of Team Sweden.
A panel of seven NHL.com voters gave Karlsson, who plays for the Ottawa Senators, a perfect score of 56. He received each of the seven first-place votes and defeated runner-up Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) of Team Canada by seven points.
"Karlsson has led NHL defensemen in scoring three years in a row and each of the last four full seasons," NHL.com columnist Nick Cotsonika said. "Enough said."
For the purposes of this vote, the top offensive defenseman for each team in the tournament was identified, and he was the only one from that team eligible to be ranked first through eighth by the voters.
The players eligible were Karlsson, Burns, Dustin Byfuglien (Team USA), Sami Vatanen (Team Finland), Andrei Markov (Team Russia) Michal Kempny (Team Czech Republic), Shayne Gostisbehere (Team North America) and Roman Josi (Team Europe).
Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner (2012, 2015) who was the runner-up last season, was particularly dominant in 2015-16. He had 82 points in 82 games and was the first defenseman since Paul Coffey of the Edmonton Oilers in 1985-86 to finish among the top five in the NHL in scoring; he was tied for fourth with Sharks forward Joe Thornton, trailing Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks (106), Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars (89) and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (85).
Karlsson, who is the only defenseman in the World Cup to win the Norris Trophy more than once, also was the first defenseman in a decade to score at least 80 points.
"Nobody makes a sweeter outlet pass than Karlsson, who is a threat every time he's on the ice," NHL.com deputy managing editor Brian Compton said.
LNH.com managing editor Arpon Basu noted Karlsson has been consistent for years.
"Karlsson has 222 points during the past three NHL seasons," Basu said. "The next-highest defenseman during that span is Burns at 183 points, 39 behind Karlsson. The Senators have also scored 384 goals with Karlsson on the ice during those three seasons; the next-highest defenseman is P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators at 347 (all with the Montreal Canadiens). Karlsson is alone in this class."
Although Karlsson was a clear-cut choice for first in this category, and Burns received all seven second-place votes, things weren't as clear after that.
Josi was third with 41 points, and Gostisbehere was fourth with 32 points, two more than Byfuglien.
Last season, Gostisbehere, 23, scored 17 goals and had 29 assists in 64 games as a rookie with the Philadelphia Flyers.
TEAM SWEDEN (Erik Karlsson) - 56 points (7 first-place votes)
TEAM CANADA (Brent Burns) - 49 points
TEAM EUROPE (Roman Josi) - 41 points
TEAM NORTH AMERICA (Shayne Gostisbehere) - 32 points
TEAM USA (Dustin Byfuglien) - 30 points
TEAM FINLAND (Sami Vatanen) - 19 points
TEAM RUSSIA (Andrei Markov) - 18 points
TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC (Michal Kempny) - 7 points