NHL 23: Best Defensemen

Here are the best defensemen in NHL 23 by overall rating.


NHL 23 Player Ratings Best Defenders

There is a popular saying in sports that goes: offense wins games, but defense wins championships. In hockey, while defense is a team-wide effort, the bulk of the defensive responsibilities fall to the right and left defensemen (along with goalie). In NHL 23, particularly if you’re a rebuilding franchise, prioritizing the defensive side is of great essence. This explains why this article on NHL 23 best defenders is important.

Below, you will find the best defensemen in NHL 23 by their overall rating. Importantly, attribute ratings are from the October 4 live roster, or the live roster at game launch. Any stats identified are for games through October 16 as the 2022-2023 NHL season recently began. Lastly, while not an issue here, these player rating lists have all focused on the primary position of the player. Few defenders in NHL 23 play both the right and left side, so you may have to target players based on the side of the defense that needs the most help.


1. Cale Makar (94 OVR)

Age: 23
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: Offensive Defenseman
Team: Colorado Avalanche
Handedness: Right
Salary: $9.000M (5 Years)
Best Attributes: 97 Deking, 97 Puck Control, 96 Speed

Not only is Cale Makar the best defenseman in NHL 23, but he’s only behind Connor McDavid (95 OVR) as the best player in the game along with Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon, which are also 94 OVR like Makar. The 23-year-old has some elite attributes, particularly his 97 Deking and Puck Control paired with 96 Acceleration, Agility, and Speed. He also has 96 Passing, 96 Off. Awareness, and 90 Poise as an Offensive Defenseman. Don’t worry, he’s still a great defender with 95 Def. Awareness and Stick Checking, and 89 Shot Blocking. Topping it off, he has 85 Aggressiveness, Durability, and Strength to pair with 82 Body Checking.

He is entering his fourth season in Colorado and coming off of vanquishing the Tampa Bay mini-Dynasty as the Avalanche won the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals. Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the best player in the Finals. For his career, Makar has 48 goals and 136 assists (184 points) in 180 games. Crucially, he’s only served 54 penalty minutes in his short career. The outstanding defenseman has also recorded 196 shot blocks and 190 hits.

2. Victor Hedman (93 OVR)

Victor Hedman - One of the best defensemen in NHL 23

Age: 31
Position: Left Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
Handedness: Left
Salary: $7.875M (3 Years)
Best Attributes: 95 Def. Awareness, 95 Stick Checking, 95 Poise


Another defenseman to also make the list of best players overall, Victor Hedman is the second-best defenseman in the game behind only Makar and tied with Roman Josi. The 2-Way Defender doesn’t pack the offensive punch of Makar, but makes up for it by edging him in defense. Hedman has 95 Def. Awareness, Stick Checking, and Poise, the latter a must for defensemen. The 2-Way defender also has 93 Strength, 90 Shot Blocking and Body Checking, and 88 Aggressiveness. He can hang with the best skaters with 94 Balance, 90 Endurance, 88 Acceleration and Speed, and 87 Agility.

He is a two-time champion as part of the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They fell in six games in their quest for a three-peat to Colorado, and now look for a third title in four years. Hedman has recorded 134 goals and 472 assists in 902 games, all with Tampa Bay as he enters his fourteenth season. He has spent 624 minutes in the penalty box, but has added 1,377 shot blocks and 976 hits.

3. Roman Josi (93 OVR)

Roman Josi - One of the best defensemen in NHL 23

Age: 32
Position: Left Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: Nashville Predators
Handedness: Left
Salary: $9.060M (6 Years)
Best Attributes: 96 Def. Awareness, 94 Stick Checking, 93 Endurance


The last defensemen to make the list of best players overall, Josi, is tied for second-best with Hedman behind Makar. The Nashville Predator also has a bit more defensive prowess compared to his offense, where he can still hold his own. Josi has 96 Def. Awareness, 94 Stick Checking, and 90 Shot Blocking and Poise. Josi also has 92 Strength, 89 Durability, 87 Body Checking, and 85 Aggressiveness. Additionally, he prides himself as a good skater too with 93 Endurance, 90 Balance, and 88 Acceleration, Agility, and Speed.

Josi is entering his twelfth season, all in Nashville, with hopes to lead the Predators to their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance. For his career, Josi has 140 goals and 403 assists (543 points) in 765 games. He’s added 1,429 shot blocks and 540 hits, spending 302 minutes in the penalty box. Without an iota of doubt, he has proven himself as one of the best defensemen in the game.

4. John Carlson (90 OVR)

John Carlson - One of the best defensemen in NHL 23

Age: 32
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: Washington Capitals
Handedness: Right
Salary: $8.000M (4 Years)
Best Attributes: 94 Passing, 93 Off. Awareness, 93 Slap Shot Power

While John Carlson is still a great defenseman at 90 OVR, there is a decided top tier and secondary tier with a three-point gap between Carlson and the two tied for second – Hedberg and Josi – with Makar a point higher. This doesn’t mean Carlson is bad, of course, as he still has great attributes at his disposal making eligible to be ranked as one of the best defensemen in the NHL 23. The 2-Way Defender is adept on offense with 94 Passing and 93 Puck Control, Off. Awareness, Slap Shot Power, and Wrist Shot Power. On defense, Carlson has 92 Def. Awareness, 91 Stick Checking, and 90 Shot Blocking, making him a formidable right defenseman. Impressively, he also proves to be able to skate with physicality as he has 90 Endurance; 88 Balance, Speed, and Strength; 87 Acceleration, Agility, and Body Checking; and 85 Aggressiveness and Durability.

The Washington Capitals’ defenseman is entering his fourteenth season, all with Washington, yet shining through as one of the best defensemen that’s ever graced the game. Also, he is a two-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup champion, having won with Washington in 2018. The former first rounder has 133 goals and 462 assists (595 points) in 891 games. He has 1,689 shot blocks and 774 hits, spending 292 minutes in the penalty box.

5. Adam Fox (90 OVR)

Adam Fox - One of the best defensemen in NHL 23

Age: 24
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: New York Rangers
Handedness: Right
Salary: $9.500M (7 Years)
Best Attributes: 96 Puck Control, 96 Off. Awareness, 94 Agility

The 24-year-old Adam Fox hopes to be a key player in returning the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2014 and their first title since 1994. The Offensive Defenseman is skilled with the puck, almost acting more as a Playmaking Defenseman, which isn’t an archetype in the game. Fox has 96 Puck Control and Off. Awareness, and 93 Deking and Passing, with 87 Hand-Eye. He’s aided with the puck with his 94 Agility, 93 Acceleration, and 92 Speed. On defense, Fox has 92 Stick Checking, 91 Def. Awareness, and 88 Shot Blocking, with 86 Strength and 87 Endurance to boot.

Entering his fourth season, the right defenseman 25 goals and 143 assists (168 points) in 207 games. The assists total truly shows his ability to create shots for his teammates from the right defense spot. Fox also has 327 blocked shots and 88 hits, with 74 minutes spent in the penalty box. Despite being in the league for a short period, the offensive defenseman has done enough to earn him a spot as one of the best defensemen in NHL 23.

6. Alex Pietrangelo (89 OVR)

Alex Pietrangelo

Age: 32
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: Offensive Defenseman
Team: Vegas Golden Knights
Handedness: Right
Salary: $8.695M (5 Years)
Best Attributes: 92 Def. Awareness, 90 Shot Blocking, 90 Endurance

The long time St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is now entering his third season with the nascent Golden Knights. Young as the franchise is entering its sixth season. They did lose the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season and reached the playoffs in the next three seasons before missing the 2022 playoffs, their first missed playoffs in team history. Pietrangelo is one of the best defensemen out there with 92 Def. Awareness and 90 Shot Blocking and Stick Checking. He also has 90 Poise, Endurance, and Strength, keeping him on the ice and out of the penalty box. He’s good with the puck with 90 Passing and Puck Control, plus strong with his shot with 90 Slap Shot and Wrist Shot Power.

Entering his fifteenth year, Pietrangelo hopes to hoist the Stanley Cup for a second time with his second franchise as he was a part of St. Louis’ title team in 2019. Pietrangelo has 129 goals and 391 assists (520 points) in 882 games. He’s also recorded 1,624 shots blocked and 613 hits, having spent 299 minutes in the penalty box.

7. Aaron Ekblad (89 OVR)

Aaron Ekblad

Age: 26
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: Florida Panthers
Handedness: Right
Salary: $7.500M (3 Years)
Best Attributes: 93 Stick Checking, 92 Def. Awareness, 91 Stick Checking

Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers has the highest rating of any player on the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy for the team with the most points (they also had the most wins during the 2021-2022 season). Ekblad is stout on defense with 93 Stick Checking, 92 Def. Awareness, and 91 Shot Blocking. He also has 90 Endurance, 89 Strength, and 85 Durability to pair with 88 Balance and 87 Acceleration, Agility, Speed, Aggressiveness, and Body Checking. He can handle the puck with 90 Puck Control and Passing while providing some wicked shots with 90 Slap Shot and Wrist Shot Power.

Ekblad is entering his ninth season – all with Florida – and seeks to be a main player in taking Florida past the second round (quarterfinals) of the playoffs for the first time since 1996, when they made their only (unsuccessful) Stanley Cup Finals against Colorado. Ekblad has 98 goals and 194 assists (292 points) in 556 games. He has recorded a symmetrical 591 shot blocks and hits, with 334 minutes spent in penalty. Given the stats the Ekblad has raked in so far in his career, it is obvious why he would rated as one of the best defensemen in NHL 23.

8. Charlie McAvoy (89 OVR)

Charlie McAvoy - One of the best defensemen in NHL 23.

Age: 24
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: Boston Bruins
Handedness: Right
Salary: $9.500M (8 Years)
Best Attributes: 92 Stick Checking, 91 Def. Awareness, 91 Shot Blocking

Young Charlie McAvoy makes the list as tied for the second-youngest player on this list alongside Adam Fox, both one year younger than Makar. McAvoy has solid ratings, including 92 Stick Checking and 91 Def. Awareness and Shot Blocking. He also has 90 Poise and Endurance, 89 Speed and Strength, and 88 Acceleration, Agility, and Balance with 85 Durability. McAvoy also has 91 Passing and Puck Control, and he can pack a fairly accurate and powerful punch on offense with 89 Slap Shot Power, 88 Wrist Shot Power, 84 Wrist Shot Accuracy, and 83 Slap Shot Accuracy.

The fifth-year Boston Bruin has 34 goals and 144 assists (178 points) in 313 games, all in Boston. He has also added 512 shots blocked and 576 hits, spending 243 minutes in the penalty box. McAvoy is a one-time All-Star who made the 2017-2018 All-Rookie Team.

9. Drew Doughty (89 OVR)

Drew Doughty - One of the best defensemen in NHL 23

Age: 32
Position: Right Defense
Archetype: 2 Way Defender
Team: Los Angeles Kings
Handedness: Right
Salary: $11.000M (5 Years)
Best Attributes: 92 Puck Control, 92 Def. Awareness, 92 Slap Shot Power

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty rounds out the list as the last defenseman rated 89 OVR or higher. Doughty is another stout defender with 92 Def. Awareness and 90 Shot Blocking and Stick Checking. He adds 90 Poise, 90 Endurance, 88 Strength, and 85 Durability. He’s a skilled skater as well with 89 Acceleration, Agility, and Speed topped with 88 Balance. Doughty also has 85 Aggressiveness and Body Checking, making him a good player to land some hits.

Doughty is entering his fifteenth year (all with the Kings) and has won two titles with Los Angeles having been on the 2012 and 2014 teams. The veteran has 133 goals and 436 assists (569 points) in 1,019 games. He’s also added 1,330 blocked shots and 1,776 hits, having spent 697 minutes in the penalty box.

All of the best defensemen in NHL 23

Below, you will find all of NHL 23 best defenders by overall rating. Each of the players listed below is at least 88 OVR.

NameOverallAgePositionArchetypeHandednessTeamSalaryBest Attributes
Cale Makar9423Right DefenseOffensive DefensemanRightColorado Avalanche$9.000M (5 Years)97 Deking, 97 Puck Control, 96 Speed
Victor Hedman9331Left Defense2 Way DefenderLeftTampa Bay Lightning$7.875M (3 Years)95 Def. Awareness, 95 Stick Checking, 95 Poise
Roman Josi9332Left Defense2 Way DefenderLeftNashville Predators$9.060M (6 Years)96 Def. Awareness, 94 Stick Checking, 93 Endurance
John Carlson9032Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightWashington Capitals$7.525M (4 Years)94 Passing, 93 Off. Awareness, 93 Slap Shot Power
Adam Fox9024Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightNew York Rangers$9.500M (7 Years)96 Puck Control, 96 Off. Awareness, 94 Agility
Alex Pietrangelo8932Right DefenseOffensive DefensemanRightVegas Golden Knights$8.695M (5 Years)92 Def. Awareness, 90 Shot Blocking, 90 Endurance
Aaron Ekblad8926Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightFlorida Panthers$7.190M (3 Years)93 Stick Checking, 92 Def. Awareness, 91 Stick Checking
Charlie McAvoy8924Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightBoston Bruins$9.405M (8 Years)92 Stick Checking, 91 Def. Awareness, 91 Shot Blocking
Drew Doughty8932Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightLos Angeles Kings$11.000M (5 Years)92 Puck Control, 92 Def. Awareness, 92 Slap Shot Power
Morgan Rielly8828Left Defense2 Way DefenderLeftToronto Maple Leafs$7.305M (8 Years)91 Deking, 91 Stick Checking, 91 Speed
Devon Toews8828Left Defense2 Way DefenderLeftColorado Avalanche$4.100M (2 Years)92 Def. Awareness, 92 Stick Checking, 90 Discipline
Kris Letang8835Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightPittsburgh Penguins$5.975M (6 Years)91 Passing, 91 Def. Awareness, 91 Stick Checking
Miro Heiskanen8823Left Defense2 Way DefenderLeftDallas Stars$8.450M (7 Years)93 Endurance, 91 Shot Blocking, 91 Stick Checking
Rasmus Dahlin8822Left Defense2 Way DefenderLeftBuffalo Sabres$6.375M (2 Years)91 Passing, 91 Puck Control, 91 Stick Checking
Dougie Hamilton8829Right Defense2 Way DefenderRightNew Jersey Devils$9.000M (6 Years)93 Passing, 93 Puck Control, 91 Slap Shot Power

Now you know all of the best defensemen in NHL 23 by their overall ratings. Will you try to poach Makar or aim for someone like Doughty or Rasums Dahlin?

For more outstanding players that the game has to offer, check out our list of the best centers in NHL 23.


Bruce Lee

Bruce "Lee" is the Lead Editor for OutsiderGaming. He's a passionate writer, great editor who works tirelessly to develop young writers, and of course a great gamer. Bruce is interested in many games--from MLB the Show to the newest Pokemon releases.
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