Why it's hard to find elite defensemen

Updated: August 10, 2011, 2:49 PM ET
By Alvin Chang

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber fell to No. 49 overall in 2003 NHL draft. He was a late-bloomer, played a physical game and didn't look like a future Norris Trophy candidate. Scouts had a lot of questions about his game, and they just didn't know if he would develop to be a legitimate NHL player.

That same year, the Predators drafted another defenseman No. 7 overall, Ryan Suter. Suter was seen as a smooth-skating blueliner who could anchor a blue line. There were far fewer questions about his game, although -- like all defensemen -- he still had to adapt to the next level.

Nine years later, Weber -- the second-rounder -- is arguably the best defenseman in the league. Suter -- the top-10 pick -- is close but he's not quite in the held in the same regard.

Weber's story is quintessential of elite NHL defensemen. Most of them aren't pegged as future stars; most of them aren't first-rounders; most of them have huge holes in their game as 17-year-olds. However, it's these guys -- not high first-rounders -- who end up having elite careers. So just how often are scouts missing these guys? And why are they missing them?

Finding Steven Stamkos vs. finding Shea Weber