Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks
Jeff Schultz, Washington Capitals
Prior to narrowing down the field to the three finalists, a panel of NHL coaches, scouts and analysts appointed 12 nominees. The other stay-at-home defensemen considered for the award were Scott Hannan, Zbynek Michalek, Willie Mitchell, Douglas Murray, Chris Phillips, Robyn Regehr, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Anton Volchenkov and Greg Zanon.
Among NHL coaches, Mitchell of the Vancouver Canucks was the recipient of very hearty praise, but missing 30 games with injuries held back his candidacy as a finalist. Phoenix's Michalek and Ottawa's Volchenkov also received a lot of support. As potential unrestricted free agents who will be highly sought after, Michaelek and Volchenkov will get their prizes soon after midnight on July 1.
But back to the Final Three ...
Brooks Orpik: The Penguins and Team USA defender is second in the NHL (to Stephan Robidas of Dallas) in the unscientific stat of "hits," but no one in the game is skeptical about Orpik's physical play and shutdown ability.
"It was nice to be on his side with the Olympic team," said New Jersey sniper Zach Parise. "He's one of the toughest guys in the league to go up against." Said Orpik's teammate Bill Guerin, a veteran of 17 NHL seasons: "In the one-on-one battles and play around the net, I'll take Brooksie over anyone. He's one of the best defensive defensemen I've played with or against."
Brent Seabrook: The 6-3, 220-pound defenseman has paired with Duncan Keith to form one of the best blueline tandems in the NHL and at the Olympics. Averaging over 23 minutes of icetime, Seabrook is sixth in the league in hits and ninth in the NHL at plus-20.
"He makes the game easier for me and everyone else on the team," said Keith. "We've gotten to know where the other is on the ice at all times. He's become such a smart, strong defenseman. In my view, he's one of the best all-around players in the game."
Jeff Schultz: On the juggernaut Capitals, Schultz does not see any power play time and has just 41 shots on goals in 69 games this season. But as his league-leading plus-38 illustrates, he is one of the best pure defensemen around. His coach believes Schultz is also one of the most improved.
NHL FanHouse will announce the winner of its Best Defensive Defenseman of 2009-10 award on Monday, April 12.