It’s the middle of August, which means hockey news is at an all time low as the summer drags on. There’s about a month before players begin reporting for training camps in mid-September, and to fill the airwaves during this dead period, NHL Network is ranking the top 20 players at each position — where the Penguins have already been well represented on the offensive side.
Monday marked the blueliners turn to be recognized, and once again, the Penguins found a familiar name on the list. Coming in at No. 13 on NHL Network’s list of top defenseman in the was the much maligned Kris Letang.
Coming off an up and down 2017-18 season following major neck surgery, Letang recorded 51 points, but felt like a liability at times on the ice. His season will likely be remembered more for the defensive miscues (see: Game 5 vs. Washington Capitals) rather than offensive highlights, but the experts at NHL Network still view Letang as a top defenseman in the pro ranks.
Should Kris Letang be ranked #13 on the Top 20 Defensemen Right Now? #NHLTopPlayers pic.twitter.com/HeZDOobKSG— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 14, 2018
Back in June, we graded Kris Letang’s season and gave him a B- overall, recognizing his offensive game while taking into account his struggles on defense. We also took into account his injury from the previous season, and it seems the NHL Network crew factored that in as well.
Letang is sandwiched between Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. Looking at the full list and seeing some of the other names who cracked the top 20, it’s easy to see why many still consider Letang a top defenseman in the league.
While Letang is still inconsistent on the defensive end, his offensive production still ranks among the best in the league. You must also remember that ranking players is a completely arbitrary process and you can make top 20 cases for almost anyone if you try hard enough.
Here’s a look at the entire list headlined by Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning:
ICYMI: Here are our Top 20 Defensemen Right Now! #NHLTopPlayers pic.twitter.com/sO2SzXdnC3— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 13, 2018
When creating a list like this, there are also going to be players who are underrated or overrated along with a few snubs. We all want to see our team’s players ranked among the best in the game because it generally means your team is pretty good.
Overall, there’s a case to be made for and against Kris Letang being on this list. The team at NHL Network deemed him good enough to qualify and for the most part, we’re lucky to have him wearing a Penguins uniform.