30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 24. Victor Hedman
It’s well known that the Tampa Bay Lightning are unfairly stacked. They have one of the best snipers of this decade (Steven Stamkos), the best goalie in the league (Andrei Vasilevskiy), one of the best young centers (Brayden Point), one of the best scorers in general (Nikita Kucherov), and also one of the best defensemen. Victor Hedman might fall under the radar just because of the pure star power on the Lightning, but he shouldn’t. There aren’t many defensemen in the past 20 years who could claim to be better than him.
Just this past February, ESPN claimed that Victor Hedman is the greatest hockey player in the world. Say what you want about ESPN hockey coverage, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds on paper (but it is wrong). Hedman is constantly named the best defenseman in hockey. He does just about everything. Last season, he won the Conn Smythe award as he helped carry this dominant Lightning team to its first title since 2004.
Hedman can do it all on the ice. He uses his huge 6’6 frame to stop opposing offenses from getting major chances. He plays an insane amount of time on the ice (he’s averaging over 25 minutes of ice time this year, and he’s never averaged less than 20 minutes per game).
He has a great reach, his shot is second to none, his hockey IQ is right there with any forward in the sport, and he finds a way to be physical but stays on the right side of the edges. When Hedman is on the ice, the Lightning knows they are getting the best out of the play.