Today, we wrap up my defensemen rankings going through the top 40. Guys that don’t make this list will creep into my top 200, but these 20 blueliners will be the last guys that get a whole paragraph on them. For those who didn’t see it, my top 20 can be read here. Let’s get right to it!
21) Seth Jones – I know it will be controversial that Jones isn’t in my top 20. A lot of my concerns with Jones last season were founded. His huge jump in shot rate dropped almost all the way back to where it was in 2016-17. His power play totals plummeted. His assists and goals both dropped despite the team shooting 9.9% while Jones was on the ice last season, the best of his career. Am I expecting a big bounce back? Not really. The loss of Panarin should help increase his PP role, but he could also lose PP1 time to Werenski. Obviously he could get back to 2017-18 form where he was a bottom end #2, but I have my doubts.
22) Mikhail Sergachev – I wrote a sleeper post on Sergachev here. The more digging I did, the more I didn’t like the guys in the 21-30 range. Sergachev and the next guy are the main two I like, simply for the upside. The idea of getting quality defensemen early appeals to me this season more than usual, and I’m a big fan of getting stud blueliners.
23) Quinn Hughes – Another gamble, but like Makar, I absolutely love the skill set. These two are quite similar, I just slightly prefer Makar’s situation. Hughes should be running the top power play for the Canucks and getting top 4 minutes right away. Getting to play with Boeser, Pettersson, Horvat, and Miller sounds outstanding. His creativity, vision, and patience to play within his speed position him to be a stud right away. A rookie season like Chabot’s second season is in play here.
24) Shea Weber – On a per-game basis, Weber has been great in Montreal. The problem is that he’s missed 80 games over the past two seasons. Weber is taking almost three shots per game and shooting at a percentage that should get him around 20 goals. My assumption is that if he is healthy, Weber is going to get a lot more PPP this season. Obviously it’s a risk, but there aren’t many defenseman who can score 20 goals.
25) Alex Pietrangelo – Like the majority of the Blues, Pietrangelo started horribly and finished the season strong. He’s good for double digit goals , low PIM, and a solid shot rate. Pietrangelo also is only decent on the power play. In other words, it’s pretty boring except for goals. That said, Pietrangelo is extremely safe and if that’s your third defenseman, you’re in solid shape. Pairing him with Makar, Hughes, Sergachev, etc. to cover yourself is a great plan.
26) Ryan Ellis – After a huge second half in 2017-18 coming back from a knee injury, Ellis was just fine last season with 41 points. Here’s what I’m excited about. Subban is gone so Ellis is a lock to get power play time. Additionally, Subban’s departure should force Laviolette to give more minutes to Josi and Ellis. Since Ellis has been a full time NHL’er, he’s been +8 or better, including +17 or better for the past three seasons. He doesn’t give many PIM and the shot rate can be slightly below average to solid, but Ellis could easily give us 10+40 with some upside from there to go with great plus-minus.
27) Erik Gustafsson – Gustafsson took off in the second half when Chicago increased his role, scoring a whopping 60 points. With 34 PIM and right around two shots per game, the secondary stats are fine. Now, no defenseman shoots 10.6% regularly so we can expect some regression from Gustafsson in the goals department. However, we could see more power play assists given a full season in that role. My one concern is that Gustafsson is a UFA at the end of next season, and if Chicago is struggling and can’t get an extension, he could get traded. If he’s moved, he’ll certainly go into a worse role than he has with Chicago. I was on Gustafsson early last season, but there is some concern here.
28) Drew Doughty – Doughty had the season from hell and still had 45 points with 44 PIM. He hasn’t missed a game in five seasons and the PPP are always strong. The problem is two-fold. One, the shot rate plummeted. I could see that getting back to average so I’m not that concerned about it. The bigger problem is the plus-minus could be a wreck again. Going from +23 to -34 is the biggest swing I can remember. Offensively, the Kings were shooting at a normal percentage for Doughty when he was on the ice. The problem was the goaltending was worse and Doughty’s possession numbers took a massive drop. Was it a one season drop or is Doughty falling off? We’ll have to see, but I’ve always been lower on Doughty than consensus and the Kings’ struggles are going to continue this season, no doubt about it.
29) Oliver Ekman-Larsson – This is almost the same situation as Doughty except OEL has been -16 or worse three straight seasons. The PIM are strong, the goals are very good for a defenseman, and he’s solid on the PP. The upside is that Kessel helps the PP and OEL gets back to 50 points. The downside is he’s -25 again and it’s hard to own him, especially in roto leagues.
30) Shayne Gostisbehere – As much as I don’t care for most of the guys above, I really don’t care for most of these guys. I have no idea what we’re going to get from Gostisbehere. It could be 60 points, it could be 35. What we know is that he’ll be on PP1 on a unit that is generally very good. If you told me he ended up pushing the top 10 for defensemen, I wouldn’t be surprised. I also wouldn’t be surprised if people get super frustrated with him and are asking me if it’s okay to cut him.
31) Zach Werenski – A repeat of last season for Werenski seems realistic. That would be about 45 points with poor PIM, decent shots and PPP. Perhaps the shot rate can get back up to where it’s an asset. He’s still only 22 years old so I’m not ruling out Werenski taking another jump, but a lot will come down to his power play role and how good CBus is there.
32) Anthony DeAngelo – Alright, somebody I really like! Now, that’s not to say there’s concern here with DeAngelo. One, he’s still unsigned and I’m not sure if a deal gets done sooner than later. Two, it’s possible that Fox takes his PP time. I think the two play together on PP2 but we’ll have to wait and see how. However, if DeAngelo is playing on opening night getting PP2 time, he could get 40 points and 100 PIM. Yes, the shot rate is slightly below average, but it’s extremely difficult to get that out of anyone on the blue line. You won’t need to take him this early, but I’m targeting DeAngelo because he fits so many team builds.
33) Charlie McAvoy – I wanted to rank McAvoy higher, and in head to head leagues I probably would bump him a few spots. He’s great with plus-minus and PIM, there’s PP upside (especially if Krug goes down) and he played at a 40-45 point pace last season. However, that shot rate is dreadful and he’s missed a bunch of time in both of his seasons. The upside assuming Krug stays healthy is that McAvoy gets to two shots per game and PP2 improves for Boston. He’s easily a #2 if that happens. I like targeting him around here, but I can’t reach on the assumption he starts to shoot more.
34) Josh Morrissey – Morrissey is another guy who has a poor shot rate, although we saw a big jump in year three. My hope is that we see the year four leap. One, his PP2 spot is locked in as is a massive role at even strength with Big Buff. Morrissey may have to play 27 minutes a game because the Jets blueline is extremely lacking. The PIM should bounce back and he’s been a plus player every season. If Big Buff misses time again, the upside is insane here. Again, this is another guy you should be able to get much later that I’d like to gamble on.
35) Aaron Ekblad – Double digit goals, good PIM and a shot rate that ranges from average to very good. Ekblad is still only 23 so I don’t want to rule out improvement, but it’s season six and Yandle has PP1 locked down, so Ekblad is more of a play for the secondary stats than anything else.
36) Miro Heiskanen – Heiskanen’s rookie season has become a bit overrated, but I still love the player long term. The issue is that he’s another guy blocked out of PP1, in this case because of Klingberg. The shots are already very good, and he ran particularly bad in terms of plus-minus last season so I’m not too concerned there. This is another case of gambling on the upside because I don’t love the alternatives.
37) Ryan Suter – Suter showed signs of decline last season at age 34. The shot rate has really dropped off to the point that it’s become a negative. His power play points really fell off but were saved a bit from Dumba being injured. We can’t count on that happening again. The penalty minutes and assists are decent enough to be owned, but it’s certainly not going to be exciting.
38) Mattias Ekholm – I feel like I should move Ekholm higher because I do want to own him. When I do overall rankings, I assume that will happen. He gives solid PIM, his shot rate has climbed every season as he pushes towards average, and he’s been a massive plus the last two seasons. He only had 7 PPP as well, which is a negative but is one of the two discussion points for Ekholm. Yes, Subban is gone, but Ekholm still may not get PP work. That could go to his new partner Fabbro. Ekholm is so good in real life that I don’t think losing Subban as a partner will hurt too much, especially with how Subban played last season, but maybe Fabbro isn’t ready for difficult minutes and it drags Ekholm down. However, an injury to any of Josi, Ellis, or even Fabbro could make Ekholm a #2D. It’s not like these other guys who need one specific player to go down to get a big value boost, it’s one of 2-3 for Ekholm.
39) Ivan Provorov – Provorov looked like he was going to take off after a 17+24 second season with 2.5 shots per game. Instead, his offense disappeared. At this point in the draft, I’m looking to gamble on somebody because I can easily cut them without issue. Provorov fits that billing. If he plays 25 minutes again and gets the shot rate back up, we should see double digit goals. He’s also done nothing on the power play and maybe that changes on PP2. I could also see taking a shot on Sanheim on the same basis, but we’ve seen Provorov be a #3 before so taking him as a 4 to gamble makes sense.
40) Alex Edler – All of the secondary stats are great, but will the points remain with Hughes in the fold? There will be a hit in PP totals unless Hughes struggles (I highly doubt it) or gets injured. He’s basically the older, safer version of DeAngelo. That carries plenty of value and as mentioned above, fits in most team builds.
That’s all for now guys. I will have a goaltending post later in the week before making a big top 200 list. I want to get that list out by the end of the week so everyone has it for upcoming drafts, and then I’ll have a separate post next week with details on guys at the bottom of the list that aren’t covered in my position rankings. As always, feel free to ask any questions, give any comments, or make any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!