- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Niklas Hjalmarsson, defenseman
2013-14 cap hit: $3,500,000| Age: 27 | Season stats: 4 goals, 22 assists, plus-11
Season recap: Hjalmarsson has developed into the Blackhawks’ most dependable defensive player. The pairing of Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya was given the toughest assignments and allowed Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to be used in more offensive situations. Hjalmarsson also set career-highs with 22 assists and 26 points.
Season highlight: Hjalmarsson had two assists, four blocked shots and was a plus-2 in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the second round.
Season lowlight: Hjalmarsson was on the ice for three 5-on-5 goals by the St. Louis Blues and had a 36.5 Corsi percentage in the Blackhawks’ 4-3 three-overtime loss in Game 1 of the first round.
Final grade: A.
Inside the numbers: Hjalmarsson led the Blackhawks’ defensemen with a 29.8 quality of competition time on ice percentage, according to extraskater.com.
Notes: Hjalmarsson led the Blackhawks with 157 blocks in the regular season and 57 blocks in the playoffs. He finished second among all players in the playoffs.
Quotes: “He’s a tough character,” Oduya said of Hjalmarsson in the playoffs. “He’s a Swedish Viking. He’s one of a kind obviously. It’s good for morale. We know he’s always out there doing his job.”
What’s next: Hjalmarsson is in the Blackhawks’ plans for many years to come. His new five-year contract goes into effect next season, and his cap hit will jump to $4.1 million. He’s expected to be paired with Oduya again next season.