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10 ECHL Shutdown Defensemen You Should Know

10 ECHL Shutdown Defensemen You Should Know

Here are 10 shutdown defensemen in the ECHL you should know. They can match up against playmakers, log ice time, block shots and be dependable for coaches.

Mar 28, 2024 by Justin Cohn
10 ECHL Shutdown Defensemen You Should Know

It’s only natural that we give a lot of love to the players who score highlight-reel goals and make snazzy 100-foot passes. We also love the goaltenders who make acrobatic saves. Fighters, we never stop talking about them, do we?

But we don’t give enough love to the defensive stalwarts because they’re not particularly colorful, even if their roles are crucially important – especially as we get to the low-scoring games that come with playoff hockey.

That’s what this column is all about.

Here are 10 shutdown defensemen in the ECHL you should know, players who can be relied upon to match up against the playmakers, log lots of ice time, block shots and be dependable for their coaches. If they happen to be able to score when they get chances at the other end of the ice, then all the better.

Quinn Wichers, Utah Grizzles

The 26-year-old has good size – he’s 6-foot-4, 216 pounds – and averages about three shot blocks per game. 

He plays upward of 26 minutes per game, and that’s no small ask in the Mountain Division, where he matches up against high-flying teams, including the Idaho Steelheads and Kansas City Mavericks. 

Utah gave up a ton to get Wichers from the Wheeling Nailers, receiving him and future considerations on Dec. 13; Part of the trade was forward Jordan Martel, who has 24 goals and 39 points in 39 games since then. 

Wichers’ offensive skills are nothing to sneeze at – he has two goals and 26 points in 44 games for the Grizzlies – and he’s not afraid to get aggressive near the opposing net. But his best work comes in the neutral zone, where he’ll stand up attacking forwards, and in front of his own net, where he’ll use his size to clear opponents out of priority areas. 

His minus-4 rating isn’t bad for a team in fourth place in its division. 

Wichers stays out of the penalty box – 26 minutes this season – and has 26 games of AHL experience with Tucson and San Diego.

Mike McKee, Tulsa Oilers

A staple of the Tulsa lineup since 2017, the 30-year-old McKee has a big 6-foot-5, 236-pound body, and he’s a lot of deal with for forwards trying to set up in front of the Oilers’ net or willing to go into the corners with him. 

He’s done a better job as he’s aged of staying out of the penalty box; he’s got 68 penalty minutes in 64 games this season, way down from the 194 penalty minutes he racked up during the 2018-2019 campaign. 

He’s bailed out Tulsa goaltenders with a lot of shot blocks – in Friday’s 4-1 victory over Idaho, he had three key blocks on one shift to help preserve an early one-goal lead – and he’s been serviceable on the offensive end with one goal and 11 points this season. He’s also got a plus-3 rating for the Mountain Division’s third-place team. He’s good for about 20 minutes of ice time per night.

Ben Carroll, Orlando Solar Bears

Carroll, 28, leads Orlando blue-liners in scoring with five goals and 31 points in 59 games, but his value goes way beyond what he does in the offensive end. 

He logs upward of 26 minutes of ice time some nights, and he’ll block up to six shots. 

He was a good defenseman with the Allen Americans from 2020-2022, then played in Denmark last season, and he returned to the United States with vast improvement at both ends of the ice. 

He’s not particularly big – 6 feet tall – and isn’t particularly physical, though he’s not afraid to dole out some hits. But he’s reliable matching up against top forwards for the entirety of games.

Arytom Kulakov, Worcester Railers

The 21-year-old rookie out of the OHL’s Erie Otters has excelled with four goals and 12 points in 55 games for the Railers, but his best work has come in his own zone. 

He plays bigger than his 6-foot-2 size would suggest with good positioning and a penchant for blocking shots. 

He also makes good, quick decisions in the defensive zone, playing about 20 minutes per night. 

His minus-2 rating is fairly strong for a team that’s in fifth place in the North Division and been outscored by 27 goals this season. 

He’ll get involved physically – he has 68 penalty minutes – and has tremendous upside for such a young player.

Benton Maass, South Carolina Stingrays

The 25-year-old second-year pro isn’t going to play overly physically, but he’s ultra-reliable, as evidenced by his plus-29 rating over 112 games with the Stingrays in his first two seasons out of Minnesota State-Mankato. 

With a 6-foot-2 frame, he’s good for more than two shot blocks and 19 minutes of ice time per game. 

His quick decision making in the defensive zone has helped the Stingrays’ 10th-ranked defense, and he’s logged three AHL games with Hershey. 

In the offensive zone, he’s been solid with seven goals and 18 points in 57 games this season, and he’s been solid backtracking into his own zone when opposing offenses are in transition.

Adam Brubacher, Reading Royals

It’s not uncommon for Brubacher, 28, to rack up seven shot blocks and 30 minutes of ice time in a game. 

He’s well known for his capabilities at the offensive end – he’s got 10 goals and 27 points in 50 games this season, firing a ton of blistering slapshots – and his minus-17 rating is indicative of the Royals’ overall struggles, as they’re in the North Division cellar. 

He’s got 37 games of AHL experience with Manitoba, Abbotsford and Bakersfield. 

When he’s at his best, he uses his 6-foot-4, 205-pound size to pound opponents into the boards, but even if he’s not doing that, he’s reliable in matching up against top forwards from opposing teams.

Christopher Cameron, Indy Fuel

Cameron, 6-foot-4, has a deserved reputation for his physicality; he has 122 penalty minutes in 61 games this season. But don’t be fooled, he’s more than just trips to the penalty box. He’ll level opponents with hits, sometimes up to seven per game. And he blocks almost two shots per game. 

He’ll also log more than 20 minutes of ice time in a division that has a lot of terrific playmaking forwards, such as those with the Central Division-leading Toledo Walleye or the Fort Wayne Komets. 

Offensively, Cameron has three goals and 15 points. 

The 24-year-old third-year pro out of the OHL’s Barrie Colts is plus-22 this season and a key part of the Fuel being in second place in the Central.

Ben Brinkman, Iowa Heartlanders

Brinkman is one of the most unheralded players in the league, probably because he plays for Iowa, which is in the Central Division cellar, but he’s a big part of the defense’s respectable No. 16 ranking. 

The 23-year-old, 6-foot-1 rookie out of Notre Dame has blocked 109 shots this season and logs up to 27 minutes of ice time, no small feat considering he’s going against the likes of Toledo’s Brandon Hawkins and Indy’s Cameron Hillis. 

His minus-8 rating actually is not bad, considering the Heartlanders have been outscored by 45 goals this season. 

And he stays out of the box; he’s got 16 penalty minutes in 60 games.

He’s not overtly physical, obviously, but he doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff, and he’s good in transition play, making him all the more valuable. He has four goals and 11 points.

Marc-Olivier Duquette, Kansas City Mavericks

The ECHL’s top team is deep with blue-liners, but Duquette, 6-foot-4, is someone who stands out for the way he matches up against opposing forwards by using brute force and a willingness to throw his body in front of the puck. 

When he’s on, he’ll contribute about four body checks and up to five shot blocks in a game, while logging about 22 minutes of ice time. 

At 26, he’s played for Fort Wayne, Wheeling and Maine, but he’s taken his game to a new level with so much talent around him with the Mavericks, and that’s also been seen at the offensive end with eight goals and 26 points in 61 games this season. 

He’ll be a pivotal figure come the playoffs, when Kansas City likely will have the top seed.  

Josh McDougall, Norfolk Admirals

I’m not going to tell you that McDougall, 25, is a physical player. Big hits aren’t part of his repertoire. But he’s a 5-foot-10 player indicative of what has made the Admirals – finally – so good this season, as they’ve pulled within four points of Adirondack for the North Division lead. 

McDougall positions himself well, makes good decisions and can be counted on in high-leverage situations. 

He logs more than 20 minutes of ice time per night, blocks a shot or two and has helped Norfolk to the No. 9 defensive ranking with 3.00 goals against per game. 

He’s good in the offensive end – he has three goals and 19 points in 55 games – and is coming into his own in his third pro season out of Mercyhurst College.

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