by PuckStopsHere on 12/03/13 at 01:49 AM ET
A couple days ago I wrote about the NHL's +/- rating leader Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks. He has been passed by Justin Braun of the San Jose Sharks. He is a player who is interesting for different reasons.
Braun leads the NHL with a +19 +/- rating. This gives him a two point lead over anyone else. He has eight points in 26 games played from defence so far. Braun is a player that I have viewed as approximately a replacement level defenceman for the last couple years. He has been a defensive role player in San Jose for a little over two years. He was sometimes a healthy scratch who was used in a shutdown role. This season he has earned a chance to play regularly - perhaps in the spot opened up when Brent Burns moved to forward.
Braun is most often lined up with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is the better defenceman in the pairing. In fact Vlasic started so well this season that some have suggested he has a chance to play for Canada in the 2014 Olympics. Vlasic plays a tougher role than Braun and hence does not have quite as strong a +/- rating.
Braun is a beneficiary of a 1065 PDO, which is strong evidence that this success is not fully sustainable. He has shown himself to be an NHL calibre defenceman so far this season. His days as a healthy scratch appear to be over. San Jose has found a solid defenceman capable of playing on a top pairing in Justin Braun.
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