Ranking the top rookie defensemen 

March, 16, 2011

You'd have to go back to the tail end of the Original Six era to find the last time that defensemen won back-to-back Calder trophies. In 1963 and 1964, Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Kent Douglas and Canadiens defenseman Jacques Laperriere took home the rookie award in consecutive seasons.

Last year, Buffalo Sabres freshman Tyler Myers became just the eighth defender since then to have his name engraved on the trophy. With about a month left in the regular season, I doubt we'll see a first-year D-man make it two in a row.

Still, I see several impressive young defensemen in the rookie class of 2010-11. They are a group of guys that are going to be playing in this league for many years to come. Here's how I rank the top five rookie defensemen:

1. John Carlson, Washington Capitals

The 21-year-old has been a steady performer throughout the season in D.C. At 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, Carlson has excellent size to go along with his skating skill and agility.

In 71 games, he has totaled five goals, including three game-winners, and 24 assists. Carlson's plus-16 rating and 22:25 per game average rank him second in both categories among rookie defensemen.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau continues to use Carlson and D partner Karl Alzner against an opponent's top players. Clearly, the club's bench boss has a lot of confidence in his impressive rookie.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.