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NCHC's top 15 defensemen for 2020-21

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UND defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker carries the puck deep into the Golden Griffins' zone on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Minnesota Duluth's Scott Perunovich has kept a firm grasp on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's offensive defenseman of the year award, winning it in all three of his college hockey seasons.

Perunovich has moved onto the NHL, opening the door for a new winner.

There are several candidates in the Herald's list of the top 15 defensemen for 2020-21. Others will be candidates for the defensive defenseman of the year, an honor that UND's Colton Poolman earned last season. Here are the Herald's top 15 overall blue liners.

1. Matt Kiersted, North Dakota

Only one returning defenseman in the nation had more points than Kiersted's 29 last season -- BU’s David Farrance, who was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

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  • See: How Matt Kiersted became UND's latest coveted undrafted free agent and a top college hockey defenseman

2. Jacob Bernard-Docker, North Dakota (OTT, 1st, 26th)

The second-highest drafted defenseman in the NCHC has perfected the toe-drag-and-shoot move to provide offense. But he can also play a shutdown role in his own end.

3. Derek Daschke, Miami

Daschke has hit the 20-point mark in each of his first two college seasons playing for a Miami team that doesn’t score a ton.

4. Ronnie Attard, WMU (PHI, 3rd, 72nd)

Attard set a record with 30 goals by a defenseman in the USHL. He’ll continue to be a threat as a sophomore at WMU.

5. Jake Sanderson, North Dakota (OTT, 1st, 5th)

The highest-drafted player in all of college hockey will be ready to make an impact from the start.

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6. Bryan Yoon, CC

With one more big season under his belt, the junior blue liner may start receiving free-agent interest from pro teams.

7. Bo Hanson, Denver

The St. Lawrence transfer should get an opportunity to run Denver’s potent power play. That role was vacated when Ian Mitchell signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

8. Nick Perbix, SCSU (TBL, 6th, 169th)

Jack Ahcan has graduated, so Perbix will be asked to do a lot more this season for the Huskies.

9. Louie Roehl, Minn. Duluth

Roehl has played smaller minutes on the Bulldog defensive core. That’s about to change after the early signings of Perunovich and Dylan Samberg and the graduation of Nick Wolff and Jarod Hilderman.

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10. Antti Tuomisto, Denver (DET, 2nd, 35th)

The rookie from Finland played an extra year of junior hockey and should be ready to compete with Hanson for a role on Denver's top power-play unit.

11. Jonny Tychonick, Omaha (OTT, 2nd, 48th)

Tychonick will finally get to show what he can do with plenty of power-play time at Omaha, which lost its top two defensemen to graduation.

12. Slava Demin, Denver (VGK, 4th, 99th)

This season, we may find out exactly how much offense this two-way defender can produce. The former BCHL star has been more of a defensive defenseman to this point.

13. Zach Berzolla, CC

Berzolla isn’t going to put up big numbers, but he’s been steady for three years. No returning player in the NCHC blocked as many shots last season as Berzolla.

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14. Griffin Mendel, Denver

Mendel is a veteran with good size who can play a shutdown role for the Pioneers.

15. Ethan Frisch, North Dakota

Underrated and undervalued player became a fixture on UND’s 26-5-4 team last season.

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North Dakota's Ethan Frisch skates past several St. Cloud State players during the first period of the Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, game at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Dave Schwarz / St. Cloud Times

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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