With around five weeks until pre-season action kicks into gear, the Habs' talented core is training hard to try and repeat a successful season. Among those players lies an underrated defensive defenseman, one who I believe will get noticed (more so), and feared league wide by the end of next season.
The 7th overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft compiled some impressive stats last season:
266 Hits (second in the NHL)
227 Blocked Shots (6:59 BS-per-minute, which is good enough for 3rd in the NHL)
In Komisarek, the Habs own a fearless defenseman who can throw the body with the best of them, and is durable as a rock (Komisarek's team-high string of 196 consecutive games played ended last season). Komisarek also has unbelievable recuperative ability in the defensive zone, rarely making mistakes in front of Carey Price. He does tend to get over aggressive at times, but it's a price worth paying when you see the countless players he victimizes. His big frame of 6'4 and 240 lbs. allows him to protect his teammates as well, although Komisarek doesn't drop the gloves frequently -- that's a good thing considering the more he's on the ice the better.
The terrifying part of all this is that the best is yet to come for the 26-year-old. Having not entered his prime yet, Komisarek still has room to grow and improve his game. As he gets older, his leadership abilities will get stronger (he'll be the future captain), as will his defensive play. While there isn't much upside to his offensive game, it's not unreasonable to expect some more goals from Komisarek, who happens to own a big shot. While he owns all of these terrific defensive qualities, there is one asset that allows him to be so successful with all these traits, and that is his good skating ability. While Komisarek is not considered fast on his feet, he does skate extremely well for someone of his stature, and this allows him to get in all the right places at the right times. Another quality that he owns is the ability to annoy other teams' best players, like Mats Sundin for example, who he constantly hits and shuts down throughout the games. It's no doubt that Komisarek will always be out against the league's best players to truly test their patience.
Going into next season, there is a great crop of defensive defenseman out there: Robyn Regehr, Anton Volchenkov and Brooks Orpik just to name a few. But among all of these talented defenseman, I believe Komisarek will stand as the NHL's best defensive defenseman by season's end. I think next season he will tap his potential, and it will land him as one of the best defensive players in the league for years to come. His rough, mean, hard-hitting attitude is going a long way into making him a feared opponent on the blue-line. And his shut-down role on the Habs will mesh well with potential superstar Carey Price too.
All this and I'm not even taking into account the group of defensemen prospects that are up-and-coming for the Canadiens. Among the list, Ryan McDonagh, David Fisher, P.K. Subban, Pavel Valentenko and Alexei Yemelin are all potential NHL defenseman who threaten to give the Habs one of the best defensive teams in the very near future.
With all that said, I'll say it again: Mike Komisarek will be the NHL's best defensive defenseman next season.