Why GMs should push D-men to the NHL

Updated: March 9, 2011, 3:39 PM ET
By Alvin Chang

In 2002, the Colorado Avalanche selected defenseman Johnny Boychuk with the 61st overall pick. For six years, he lingered in the WHL and then AHL, until he finally made his NHL debut in 2008. But that summer, the Avs traded their slow-developing blueliner to the Boston Bruins. There, he played in the minors for another year. In 2009 -- seven years after being drafted -- he finally became an NHL regular.

This was a nightmare for the Avs, who spent a second-round pick on Boychuk. You want your investments to pay off -- but not for another team. Even if they had kept Boychuk, he would've been eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, just two seasons after becoming a regular.

While this is a worst-case scenario, it's the reason some teams hesitate when drafting a D-man. Conventional wisdom says that defensemen take longer to develop than forwards. So teams figure that, by the time a blueliner develops, he'll already be close to free agency, and the draft investment will not pay off.