The Canucks have the franchise goaltender that they need to be true Stanley Cup contenders. They have a forward group that features high-end talent as well as depth throughout. They have a defence group that could lead a team to the Calder Cup.

While that’s being dramatic, the Canucks do have a very weak defence corps that is holding the team back. While Quinn Hughes is the most electric defenceman the franchise has ever seen, behind him, the team features a mix of unproven youngsters and overpaid veterans.

If the Canucks want to contend for one of the three Pacific Division playoff spots that are up for grabs, they’re going to need to hope that the defence plays well enough to keep them in games. Do they have the talent to best their Pacific Division opponents?

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Each team will be graded on two categories (best defenceman and best defence depth) with points being handed out for the team’s ranking within the division. All the points will be tabulated at the bottom of the article and it will be scored like golf.

Anaheim Ducks

Best Defenceman: John Klingberg – 6th

After being linked to the Vancouver Canucks as a possible match, John Klingberg eventually signed a deal with the division rival Anaheim Ducks. He’s a smooth skater, a player that can create offence from the blue line, and a veteran presence in the room. While those characteristics may not have made him a great fit for Vancouver, he’s instantly the best defenceman on the Ducks.

Best Depth: 7th

The Ducks have a few solid defencemen but the position group gets thin near the bottom. Jamie Drysdale is a great young prospect and Cam Fowler had a solid season, but the bottom three players are nothing to write home about. Kevin Shattenkirk is not the player he once was.

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Calgary Flames

Best Defenceman: Noah Hanifin – 4th

The Calgary Flames boast a deep defence corps filled with young players that are just about to hit their prime. Hanifin is the best of the bunch. He chews up minutes at even strength and features on the power play and penalty kill as well. He managed to get 48 points last season while also being helpful in every situation. Hanifin is firmly in the middle of all the top Pacific Division defencemen at the moment, but in a few years, he should be closer to the top.

Best Defence Depth: 1st

Even when the Flames were staring down the possibility of losing Matthew Tkachuk for a minimal return, they still could rely on the fact that they have a great defence corps. Adding Mackenzie Weegar to that group is an added bonus that makes the team even stronger. The Flames have a very balanced defence group that most NHL teams are jealous of.

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Edmonton Oilers

Best Defenceman: Darnell Nurse – 3rd

One of the more controversial players in the NHL, Darnell Nurse was handed a massive $9.25 million contract by the Edmonton Oilers. While it’s going to be tough for him to live up to that deal, Nurse is still a good player. He’s pretty dynamic offensively and at 6’4″ has the size to push out opponents. However, he’s been critiqued for his defensive play, specifically against the rush, and while he did get better last season, he’s still not as strong as the top two in this division.

Best Depth: 5th

The Oilers slide in at number five on this list but they do have a couple of regression candidates to keep an eye on. One of those is Cody Ceci who had a solid season last year but has yet to prove across his career that he can be relied upon in a top-four role. Evan Bouchard and Phillip Broberg are both young players that could take a step forward this season.

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Los Angeles Kings

Best Defenceman: Drew Doughty – 5th

Once one of the best defencemen on planet earth, Doughty is now in the later stages of his career. Even though he is getting older and isn’t the player he once was, Doughty can still have a positive impact on the ice. He had a bounce back year this past season that was unfortunately cut short due to a variety of injuries. If he can stay healthy, Doughty figures to once again be the leader on the Kings blueline.

Best Depth: 4th 

Take a look at the Kings defence depth chart and a familiar face is sitting there. Alex Edler is a veteran presence for the Kings and while he’s fallen off a step, he’s still a solid third pairing guy. The Kings are rich in right-handed defencemen, including some prospects that have yet to break the NHL, one of the most valuable position groups across the league.

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San Jose Sharks

Best Defenceman: Erik Karlsson – 8th

Similar to Doughty, Karlsson was once one of the most dynamic blueliners in the NHL, and likely one of the most dynamic in modern NHL history. After signing a massive deal in San Jose, Karlsson’s play has fallen off a cliff. A slight resurgence last year, thought not not to the same level as Doughty, means that Karlsson is still the best Sharks defenceman. However, there isn’t a ton of competition.

Depth: 8th

The San Jose Sharks defence group is a graveyard of former impact players. Karlsson’s decline has been documented but Marc-Edouard Vlasic is another former contributor who is now an overpaid burden. The Sharks are firmly in rebuilding mode and their defence looks a lot more bleak than the solid but not great forwards.

Seattle Kraken 

Best Defenceman: Vince Dunn – 7th

The Seattle Kraken have a variety of good but not great defencemen that could have taken this position. Dunn was the team’s best last season so he holds the title for now. With 35 points in 71 games last season, Dunn was able to chip in offensively. The Kraken had a tough year and were caved in by most teams, making life difficult for their defencemen.

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Depth: 3rd

In classic expansion team fashion, the Kraken lack star power but have solid depth throughout. Adam Larsson is not a superstar but he is someone that can put up points and be effective while eating up minutes. The Kraken also signed Justin Schultz this offseason, a right-handed defenceman that has aged really well in the NHL, especially in regards to his play in his own zone.

Vancouver Canucks

Best Defenceman: Quinn Hughes – 1st 

Quinn Hughes is the most dynamic defenceman to ever wear the Canucks jersey and will rewrite every franchise record by the time that he is done playing. While his sophomore season saw many of his defensive metrics drop, this past year Hughes was more responsible in his own zone and had a stronger two-way profile. He’s one of the best defencemen across the entire league and there’s still another gear for him to hit.

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Depth: 6th

The Canucks have a huge lack of defence depth. It’s probably the most glaring hole across the entire roster. The right side is especially bad with journeyman Luke Schenn likely playing first line minutes to start the season and Tyler Myers playing the role of complete minute-cruncher. It will be interesting to see if Jack Rathbone or Travis Dermott can emerge this season as reliable options.

Vegas Golden Knights

Best Defenceman: Alex Pietrangelo – 2nd 

Last season was a funky one for the Golden Knights who struggled through injury issues on their way to a surprising playoff miss. This season the team will be gearing up for a deep playoff run and Pietrangelo figures to play a major role. Even in what was considered a down year, Pietrangelo managed to record 44 points. More stability around him this year should be a positive for Pietrangelo.

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Depth: 2nd

The Golden Knights have great depth throughout their defence group. Shea Theodore is a creative offensive defenceman that shows up on the scoresheet. The franchise has handled the development of Nicolas Hague extremely well and he will likely only improve over the next few years. Alec Martinez is a veteran warrior that will put his body on the line in any situation. Overall, a very solid group.

Final Rankings

Tier 1

1st: Vegas Golden Knights (2 + 2) = 4

2nd: Calgary Flames (4 + 1) = 5

Tier 2

3rd: Vancouver Canucks (1 + 6) = 7

4th: Edmonton Oilers (3 + 5) = 8

5th: Los Angeles Kings (5 + 4) = 9

6th: Seattle Kraken (7 + 3) = 10

Tier 3

7th: Anaheim Ducks (6 + 7) = 13

8th: San Jose Sharks (8 + 8) = 16

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