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Predators top ranking of all 16 defense groups in Stanley Cup Playoffs

P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm lead the NHL's most dominant defensive corps. Who slots in behind them? John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The best part of the NHL's opening round is that there isn't a single series that appears to be a walk in the park. Whether you are using the eye test or digging deep into the numbers, you can make a case for nearly every club to advance. One way to figure out which team might have a deep postseason run in them is by looking at their strengths and weaknesses by position.

After ranking every team's forwards, now it's time for the defensemen. Who has the true No. 1 D-man who will carry his team? Who has a strong third pairing that could come in handy? Which players will make the biggest difference? We rank them 1-16 here.

All pairing stats are for 5-on-5, and via Corsica Hockey.


1. Nashville Predators

Top pairing: P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm
Key stats: 526 minutes, 55.8 Corsi for percentage, plus-3 goal differential

If you were to rank the best pairs in the NHL, Nashville's first and second pair would both belong in the top 10. The Preds' Subban-Ekholm and Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis combos are both dominant. Subban's outstanding skating and offensive skill combined with Ekholm's length, smarts and sound defensive play create huge challenges for opponents, while Josi and Ellis are both mobile and offensively gifted. The Josi-Ellis pair has a 54.7 Corsi for percentage and plus-14 5-on-5 goal differential in 563 minutes together.

Nashville's defense played a huge role in its run to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and the Preds have improved their depth. With former Shark Matt Irwin and the addition of veteran Alexei Emelin, coach Peter Laviolette now has the flexibility to spread his talented defenders throughout his three pairs.