Many of the best defensemen in the NHL this season are in their late-20s or early-30s. It usually takes young blueliners several seasons to fully develop their skills at the big league level.
Notable examples include last season's finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi (the 2020 Norris winner) is 30, as is the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman. Meanwhile, John Carlson of the Washington Capitals is 31.
Recent former Norris winners and finalists, including the Calgary Flames' Mark Giordano, the San Jose Sharks Brent Burns and the Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty, also fell within that age range.
Most of them remain among the NHL's best blueliners. However, there are a number of young rearguards under the age of 25 who are already joining their ranks. In a few years, they will supplant their older peers as the best in the league.
Some, such as the Colorado Avalanche's Cale Makar, quickly established themselves as stars. Others, such as Adam Fox of the New York Rangers, have quietly become the best rearguards on their teams.
Here's our ranking of the top-10 NHL defensemen in the next five years. Offensive and defensive skills, time on ice and special-team play were among the factors used for this compilation.
10. Samuel Girard, Colorado Avalanche
The presence of teammate Cale Makar often means Samuel Girard is overlooked among the Colorado Avalanche's top defensemen. Opponents, however, do so at their peril. Though small in stature, the 5'10”, 170-pounder has quietly blossomed into a skilled puck-moving blueliner in his own right.
Only 22, Girard has steadily developed his game since his rookie season in 2017-18. With 31 points in 41 games, he will shortly exceed last season's career-best 34-point performance. His average ice time of 23:31 is third among Avalanche skaters and he's sitting fourth with 22 even-strength points.
Girard may have taken a little longer than Makar to blossom but he's quickly establishing himself among the league's best offensive blueliners. He's become a key part of the Avs core and will only get better over the next five years.
9. Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
This season saw Jakob Chychrun's long-awaited breakout performance. With 13 goals in 45 games, the 23-year-old defenseman is jockeying with the Edmonton Oilers' Darnell Nurse for the goal-scoring lead among NHL blueliners. His 31 points also rank among the top-10 for this season's blueliners and among the Coyotes leading scorers.
Chychrun's development over the past two seasons is even more impressive considering he overcame two major knee surgeries earlier in his career. He's emerged this season as the Coyotes' best puck-moving defenseman, leading them with 23:09 in ice time per game. His 73 blocked shots rank second among his teammates.
Having supplanted captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson as the Coyotes top defenseman, Chychrun is playing a significant role in their battle for a playoff spot in the Honda West Division. His performance this season bodes well for a productive career over at least the next five seasons.