It’s now time to move on to defensemen for my rankings. I’ll be doing the top 40 defensemen in two separate posts, with the top 20 in this one. I have gone through the top 100 forwards so you can check those out through the hockey page. For now, let’s get right to the blueliners!
1) Brent Burns – You can check out Burns in the top 20 here. I feel like I ranked him too low, so when I do my top 50 overall post, I may slide him up a bit.
2) John Carlson – Burns is in a tier by himself, and who to put at the top of tier two is has been a big internal debate for me. I ultimately decided on Carlson for the safety. Carlson put up 70 points last season, 33 of which were on the power play. Both numbers are incredible. He’s also a plus player most seasons and there’s no reason to expect a change. The one concern is that his shot rate plummeted last season from almost 3 shots per game to about 2.25. That’s still solid for a defensemen, but nowhere near a great asset. Even given that, Carlson was the #3 defenseman last season. Hopefully there’s a bounce back in his shot rate, but either way it’s high floor and high ceiling.
3) Victor Hedman – I could have easily put Hedman second and maybe I’ll flip flop. His down season was 12+42 in 70 games with a +24 rating, 44 PIM and 182 shots. That also includes 25 PPP which is honestly low for how good Tampa is. He’s as good of a bet as any to be +20 or better, the PIM are always solid, and the points should be plentiful. Would you rather take the extra 15 PIM and more certainty in plus-minus with Hedman, or slightly more assists and gambling on Carlson’s shot rate? I might change my mind and flip them, but the lower ice time for Hedman caps his ceiling a bit more. Either way, you’re a winner with either of those two on your team.
4) Roman Josi – Josi has been super steady over the last five years but I think we see a career high in points this year. The departure of Subban should give Josi the permanent reigns for PP1 in Nashville. Yes, that was a disaster last season, but they should transition to a 4F 1D unit which will help drastically. Despite the drop down to only 12 PPP last season, Josi still had 15+41 with 42 PIM and a +9 rating. His shot rate was incredible with well over three per game. Josi’s totals were well within expectation with his underlying numbers, so there’s a legit chance we see a 20 goal, 45+ assist season with a little bit of fortune.
5) Erik Karlsson – The next three guys are in a sub tier that I’ll call Inception. They’re a tier within a tier. These guys are all injury risks, but if they played 75+ games, they could be the #1 overall defenseman, especially 6 and 7. That’s not to take anything away from Karlsson, who Razzballers know I love, but it’s hard to see a way that he tops Burns since they’re on the same team. That said, Karlsson’s floor is as high as it gets besides Burns on a per-game basis. In 53 games last season, Karlsson had 3 goals and 42 assists with over three shots per game. Yes, that’s correct, only 3 goals with that shot rate, because he shot 1.8%. If Karlsson shot at his career high percentage, we’d be looking at around 15 goals per 82 games. The PIM range from below average to average depending on the season, but Karlsson should be extremely valuable everywhere else.
6) Dustin Byfuglien – I’m hoping last season’s injury drives down Big Buff’s price. Yes, the team just let him take a personal leave of absence, but Maurice said he is fine. Although there’s no timetable, for now I’m assuming he’ll be back when the season starts or not long after. Anyways, Big Buff had 4+27 in 42 games last season with almost three shots per game and an absurdly nice 69 PIM. The reason I love Buff is that the Jets blueline is a disaster other than Morrissey and him. We could see him playing 27 minutes a night. We’re getting insane PIM, a great shot rate, and should get plenty of points. He is 34 so it might not last past this season, but I expect Big Buff to do Big Buff things!
7) Kris Letang – Much like Byfuglien, the Penguins defensemen could be a disaster getting Letang 27 minutes a night. He had 16+40 in 65 games last season with 48 PIM and over three shots per game. The question is how many games will Letang play? At this point, I’d be ecstatic with 70. He was the #6 defensemen last season despite only playing those 65 games, so even with this ranking, we aren’t expecting him to play every night. However, he could miss half the season and it wouldn’t be shocking. There’s #1 overall defenseman upside here, but gamble at your own risk.
8) P.K. Subban – I don’t think Subban has #1 overall D upside anymore, but we could see a resurgence in New Jersey. The concern is that his game has fallen off, but since the Devils don’t have any alternatives, Subban will be in a great role regardless. Subban had 9+31 in 63 games last season with 60 PIM and over 2.5 shots per game. The problem was that he dropped to 10 PPP from 25 in 2017-18. I’d bet on closer to 25 this season in New Jersey. The minutes should also go back up towards the 26 he played in Montreal. The floor is lower here on a per-game basis than everyone in front of him, but the upside isn’t far off.
9) Morgan Rielly – I loved Rielly this season but I’m a bit torn on him this season. One, he shot 9% last season. Defensemen don’t do that in the long run. Two, he’s poor in PIM. Three, the Leafs shot 12.1% with Rielly on the ice last season. That’s completely unsustainable and should cost him some assists and plus-minus. Four, Barrie’s arrival has an outside chance of hurting his overall value. Expecting Rielly to repeat being a top 5 defenseman seems like a mistake, but he’s still a bottom end #1.
10) John Klingberg – Klingberg is in the same boat as Rielly except he has Heiskanen breathing down his neck instead of Barrie. I do think Klingberg is the superior PP option at this point in their careers, while it’s a bit unclear in Toronto, but Klingberg also has more concern in terms of shot rate. I do think the assists jump back up for Klingberg, including on the PP, to make him a #1. That said, his ceiling is capped because of the PIM and shot rate. Best case, we see a season push the top 5 for defensemen because of shooting luck for him and his teammates driving up his point totals, but it’s hard to expect more.
11) Dougie Hamilton – Dougie’s first season in Carolina was a disappointment with only 21 assists, 5 of which were on the PP. However, he did score 18 goals on an incredible 259 SOG and provided 54 PIM. That’s elite goals and shots for a defenseman and the PIM are close to it. Hamilton was still a top 15 defensemen last season despite a +0, 7 PPP and 21 assists. I have little doubt the PPP will improve to a more respectable total. Hamilton had a 97.7 PDO which means he was unlucky. His 58.1% Corsi is among the best in the league. He’s extremely safe with his health history and the massive contributions to the secondary stats, making him a great fit for all teams. If he finished as a top 5 guy, I wouldn’t be surprised.
12) Mathew Dumba – Dumba’s start to last season was outstanding with 12+10 in 32 games, 21 PIM and almost three shots per game. Even with some shooting regression, that’s clearly a #1 fantasy D. Sadly, injury ended his season early which sent the Wild’s season down the tubes. I’m a bit bullish on the Wild compared to consensus, mostly because of the blue line. Dumba was coming off a 50 point season in 2017-18 and could have easily surpassed that last season. Given the quality PIM and elite shot rate, even 50 points would make him a bottom end #1. If he gets say, 20+40, he’s pushing towards the top 5 defensemen. I’m hoping the injury keeps his ADP down because I’m expecting a huge season.
13) Mark Giordano – Giordano had his career season at 35 years old as he won the Norris Trophy. After an unlucky season that resulted in 38 points, Giordano almost doubled that last year with 17+57. The goals were right in line with his career shooting percentage, so something close to that seems likely to repeat. The assists, however, will not. Calgary shot 11.3% last season with Gio on the ice, so the assists and plus-minus will plummet. The risk is an age-related drop off, but my assumption is he lands in the middle of the last two seasons. Gio was easily the #1D last season so he has plenty of room to spare to remain a bottom #1D, but I’m not interested in buying high.
14) Keith Yandle – Yandle has been steady over the year but is another guy who managed career highs last season with 53 assists and 62 points. He was the #6D last season despite a -17 rating. That should increase with Bob’s arrival. However, expecting 39 PPP again is fools gold. The main question is will Yandle take two shots a game again like he did from 2016-18 or repeat being around 2.5 from last season? Why I love Yandle as my #2 if I can get him there is that he hasn’t missed a game in a decade. He’s as safe as they come with upside.
15) Jacob Trouba – Trouba was a top 10 defenseman last season with 50 points and 58 PIM for the Jets. Now he moves to Manahttan, where he’s the clear #1 for the Rangers now. On one hand, I can see Trouba really taking off in New York. He could get his shot rate back up to above average after a drop last season, it’s his PP to run now, and the minutes should go up. On the other, he’s an injury risk and I’m a bit down on the Rangers compared to consensus. Trouba hits all of the categories well so I’m great with him as my #2, but there’s more risk here than most guys in this range.
16) Rasmus Dahlin – Dahlin’s rookie season was solid with 44 points, 34 PIM, and a decent shot rate. The good news is that was at 18 years old. He didn’t play the first unit PP at the beginning of the season, and it’s almost fait accompli that he becomes a superstar. It wouldn’t shock me one bit if it happens this season already. The coaching change should help tremendously, both in terms of style of play and the amount of minutes that Dahlin plays. If you told me Dahlin had over 60 points and pushed three shots per game, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit. Obviously it’s a risk taking him this high for this season, but I assure you he won’t be lower than this next season.
17) Cale Makar – Alright, let’s gamble! Makar looked the part in the playoffs for Colorado with 6 points in his 10 games. All of the tools are there for him to be a offensive superstar from the blue line. The great news is that Barrie’s departure opens up a spot for Makar on Colorado’s first power play unit. He can stumble into 25 points on the power play alone. I’m gambling on the talent to prevail here.
18) Tyson Barrie – There’s the chance that everything works out well for Barrie in Toronto as the #2 to Rielly. The risk is what drags him down here, because barring a Rielly injury or Babcock deciding to play him on PP1 over Rielly, the upside is capped. Barrie set a career high in all categories besides plus-minus last season. Perhaps he repeats everything by being better at even strength and taking a slight hit in PPP? Maybe I’m concerned about something insignificant, but something isn’t sitting right with me in terms of Barrie for this season. 50 points, sure, no problem at all. Pushing 60 again seems unlikely, and the PIM could easily go back down to well below average.
19) Torey Krug – We know that Krug is going to give you incredible PPP and assists with solid PIM and shots. It sucks that Krug went from an elite shot rate to only a solid one, but it’ll still play. Krug set a career high with 47 assists last season despite playing only 64 games. Boston’s PP should still be great and Krug should still be running it so the floor is extremely high. There’s not a ton to say on him because we know what Krug is at this point.
20) Thomas Chabot – If you told me Chabot had 70 points this upcoming season, I’d believe it. If you told me he was -30, I’d believe it. I don’t think his rating will be that bad, but that’s the downside. In his second season and first as the #1 in Ottawa, Chabot had 55 points in 70 games with 32 PIM and 185 SOG. Those numbers are great for any 21 year old, let alone on a terrible team. The question is was Chabot driving possession well because of his own ability or because of the forwards, mainly Stone? I think he’s a star, but the lack of help around him could drag his numbers down. On the other hand, I’d love to own him again because there are few with as much offensive ability as Chabot. It’s not as much of a gamble as you think as he was right around 25th last season for defensemen and that’s with a -12.
That’s all for now guys, as this post has gone well past the 2k mark. I can’t help myself! Feel free to ask any questions, give any comments, or leave any suggestions below. I’ll be back early next week, possibly Monday, with 21-40 for defensemen. Thanks for reading, take care!