Mattias Norstrom

Perhaps the most underrated player of his generation was long time Los Angeles Kings defenseman and captain Mattias Norstrom.

Strong on his skates, Norstrom was quietly one of the league's top defensive defensemen. He only scored 18 goals in a career that exceeded 900 NHL games, but he was undeniably a warrior who earned the respect of everyone in the NHL.

"He's the most underrated player in the League, bar none," said Jeremy Roenick. "He's tough as nails to play against. He never lets up. Physical? He's in your face every time you step anywhere near the Kings goal crease.

Luc Robitaille, both a teammate and foe, heaped tons of praise on Norstrom.

"I've got the welts to show that I've faced a lot of the toughest defensemen in my career," Robitaille observed. "To me, Matty is the ultimate warrior. He takes a beating and gives you a beating. There's no fear there.

"I remember back in 2001, when Matty and Peter Forsberg went toe-to-toe every shift for seven straight playoff games. It was a classic physical matchup. And when the series was over, the Avs advanced, but Forsberg wound up in the hospital with a ruptured spleen -- and it wasn't because of an illegal hit. Everyone was talking about two great competitors not wanting to give an inch to one another."

Norstrom was a physical specimen who sacrificed his body every night to help his team win. But it was heady understanding of the game that really allowed him to excel as a defender. He was a true throwback to the era of Tim Horton or Brad McCrimmon.


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