Earlier today, Craig Morgan officially announced that former Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring after 14 years in the NHL.
Niklas Hjalmarsson A.K.A. The Hammer
Niklas Hjalmarsson spent the first ten years of his career in Chicago. He played an absolutely crucial role in their three Stanley Cup Championships. The defenseman was a ridiculous shot-blocker and blocked over 1,600 shots in his career. In the 2016-17 NHL season, Hjalmarsson played in 73 games for the Blackhawks and notched a career second-best 181 blocked shots.
What’s most impressive is during his second season with the Arizona Coyotes (2018-19) he played in all 82 games and recorded 187 blocked shots. So in nine more games than in 2016-17, he barely beat his previous record by only six more shots. Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2016-17 was the definition of a workhorse.
Hjalmarsson averaged 1.9 blocked shots per game in his ten seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. During their three Stanley Cup Championships, his average blocked shots were 1.8 in 2010, 2.0 in 2013, and 1.5 in 2015. The man just didn’t stop putting his body in harm’s way to help out Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford. His offensive prowess wasn’t a main focus of his abilities, but welcome nonetheless. Over 623 games with the Blackhawks, he scored 23 goals and recorded 120 assists.
Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring from the NHL and forwards everywhere can breath a sigh of relief. He is undoubtedly one of the best defensemen to ever play in the NHL and his numbers are impressive to back it up. When rotating with players like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brent Sopel, and Brian Campbell, Hjalmarsson was one of the biggest problems for opposing offenses. If they actually managed to get a clean shot from the blue line, it was statistically unlikely that it would ever get past the Blackhawks defensemen. Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford should be forever grateful for defenders like Niklas Hjalmarsson. Laying out his body to protect the most padded man on the ice is quite literally cool and tough.