We’re moving out from the crease to the blue liners in my rankings.  Today, I’ll be going through the top 20 defensemen with the Top 40 coming out later in the week.  Let’s get right to it!

1) Cale Makar – Covered in the Top 20 overall here.

2) Dougie Hamilton – The top defenseman last season by a fairly wide margin, Hamilton moved from Carolina to New Jersey.  It’s a little worrisome, but I still expect big things from Dougie.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton ends up getting more minutes than he did while he was in Carolina.  Also, the Devils acquired Ryan Graves from Colorado to presumably play with Hamilton.  He’s not as good as Slavin, but Graves is the exact type of partner that should help Hamilton thrive.  A lot of his value will depend on how the young players on the Devils develop, namely on the power play.  Regardless, I’m expecting a ton of points with elite shots and penalty minutes.  The floor is a little lower in New Jersey, although it’s still a very high floor because he hits all of the categories, but the ceiling is the same.

3)Victor Hedman – Hedman is the start of the second tier that goes until Josi.  You can quibble with the order of this group and I’m not going to argue with you.  Hedman is as safe as they come on the blue line which puts him at the top of this tier.  He’s been a top ten fantasy defensemen for the past five seasons, with four of those seasons in the top five.  Hedman has shown no signs of slowing down and Tampa should remain an elite team, albeit slightly worse than the past two seasons when they’ve won the Cup.  We know what we’re getting from him and that’s an elite stat line across the board.

4) Shea Theodore –  Theodore took the leap that I expected when I ranked him extremely aggressively last season with 42 points in 53 games with just over three shots per game.  He’s a lock for an elite plus-minus on the Golden Knights and there’s no reason to expect anything different than a repeat from last season.  Theodore should be entering the prime of his career right now and while he doesn’t take many penalties, he should crush the other five categories.

5) Adam Fox – Fox’s rise was astronomical last season winning the Norris in his sophomore campaign.  He was a dominant possession player who received PP1 time that massively inflated his assist totals.  I’m expecting a little regression there, but I also think his shot rate takes a jump forward in year three.  If somebody in this tier is going to disappoint, my money would be on Fox because the PIM and shots are bad, but we saw how high the ceiling is last season.

6) Aaron Ekblad – Alright, let’s get bold.  Ekblad was incredible last season playing at a Norris level before an injury ended his season.  Sure, he’s unlikely to shoot 11% again, but Ekblad is a huge plus in every category.  We’re looking at three shots per game, strong PIM, elite goals from a defenseman, and plenty of PPP, especially with Yandle gone, who cut into Ebklad’s top unit PP time in the first month of last season.  I’m all in on Florida this season and Ekblad is a big reason why.  I doubt you’ll have to take him this high but I want Ekblad on every team this year.

7) John Carlson – Washington’s power play took a big step back last season which explains most of the dropoff in Carlson’s production.  Look, he wasn’t going to play at a 90 point pace once again and Carlson wasn’t far off his previous two seasons.  However, he had 10+ fewer assists on the power play than the previous three seasons.  Do you think Washington’s power play bounces back?  Do you like Washington’s team in general this year?  It’s a tough call, but I expect Carlson to be just fine, just more of a middling #1 than right at the top.

8) Roman Josi – Josi went from over 3.5 shots per game to just below 3 last season.  My hope is that this bounces back because Nashville will be desperate for his offense.  Nashville goalies only had a .886 save percentage last season with Josi on the ice which explains the poor plus-minus.  Even if he stays at around 3 shots, that’s elite for a defensemen.  Add in 40+ assists and double digits goals and Josi still ends up a #1.  That said, I think the ceiling is the lowest of the guys in this tier.

9) Tyson Barrie – I was the high man on Barrie last season and he delivered with a huge bounce back in Edmonton.  Barrie had 48 points, 23 of which came on the power play.  He doesn’t take penalties, but Barrie is a great bet to have over 50 assists being among the league leaders in PPP.  We saw him crumble in Toronto so there’s downside here, but he also feels incredibly safe playing with Edmonton.

10) Kris Letang – Letang actually stayed healthy last season missing only one game.  That led to him finishing as the #3 defensemen overall despite a big drop in shot rate from around 3 per game to 2.5.  My main worry with Letang, outside of the massive injury history, is that the Penguins will be missing Crosby and Malkin to start the season.  For someone who gets a lot of his value from the power play, it’s a little concerning.  I don’t expect a bump back up for his shot rate as well; that’s just uncommon for a 34 year old.  I still like Letang, but keep expectations in check.

11) Darnell Nurse – Would you have guessed that Nurse was the #2 fantasy defenseman last season?  Almost three shots per game, elite PIM, 16 goals, and a huge +27 rating was enough to overcome over 6 PPP.  There in lies the issue with Nurse.  Barrie has that top unit spot on lock down.  The only good thing is that McDavid and Draisaitl generally play the full 2 minutes so when Nurse does go on the power play, it’s still among the best units in the league.  You’ll have to make up the PPP elsewhere, but Nurse should be a big value everywhere else, even with some shooting regression.  However, don’t expect another +27 from him.

12) Jakob Chychrun – Chychrun starts a new tier of players with elite upside but a big question mark.  Chychrun took a massive step forward last season finishing as a top 10 defenseman for the first time.  The question mark isn’t as much about Chychrun himself as it is about the Coyotes.  They are going to be absolutely dreadful meaning Chychrun could have a horrible plus-minus.  We could be looking at one of the seasons OEL had at his peak where he’s around 20 goals with elite shots and strong PIM, but the plus-minus hurts a lot.  If you’re in a league without plus-minus, he should be higher than this.  However, this may even be too high because it’s not out of the realm of possibility he hits -30 on this team.

13) Quinn Hughes – I have very little down that Hughes will have 50+ assists if he stays healthy (and signs a new contract first).  The problem is that right now, he’s a two category player with PPP.  Hughes is below two shots per game making it extremely unlikely he gets to double digit goals and the plus-minus was awful.  My hope is we see a bump in year three from Hughes in his willingness to shoot the puck, but at the end of the day, he’s a playmaker first.  Hughes fits certain builds very well, namely those that end up with a bunch of shooters early.  Just be aware of the downside because he wasn’t a top 25 defenseman last season even though he played every single game.

14) Seth Jones – It’s no secret in these parts that I think Jones is massively overrated by the public and media.  However, fantasy is largely about opportunity.  The Blackhawks backed up the Brinks trucks for Jones and while I expect that to be a horrible contract, Jones will get every opportunity to succeed this season.  That will include a ton of power play time on the first unit.  One, Jones was mostly on the second unit in Columbus, and two, Chicago’s top unit is much better than Columbus’ top unit anyways.  If you look at the one big season Jones had offensively, it was largely driven by 24 PPP.  That’s a doable number this season; we’ve seen worse players like Gustafsson do better than that.  I can see the plus-minus being quite bad too, but simply from a fantasy perspective, I’m bullish on Jones for this season.

15) Jeff Petry – I had a tough time ranking Petry this season, but this tier feels about right to me even though his floor and ceiling are closer together than the previous three guys.  On one hand, he’s a clear regression candidate from the role he had last season.  However, Weber’s absence should help balance that out as Petry becomes the clear focal point of the blue line.  Additionally, as bad as Hoffman has been at even strength, he’s an incredible power play asset.  Petry should get a bunch of easy points feeding Hoffman and Caufield on the power play.  He’s right around average across the board with being a plus in goals and potentially PPP.

16) Charlie McAvoy – I’m expecting career highs from McAvoy across the board, but the question is by how much?  The shot rate is still below average, but it has gradually increased in every season of his career.  He’s been elite at evens every season giving him a great plus-minus.  The PIM are very good.  Now, he should be getting PP1 time from the start next season.  Even with only 11 PPP last season in 51 games, he was the 12th best fantasy defenseman last season.  If McAvoy can get to even 2 shots per game and he stays on the first PP unit all year, I think he ends up a top 10 defenseman.  There’s always the chance they flip to Grzcelyk or McAvoy goes back to 1.5 shots per game in which cases he’ll settle as a bottom end #2.  This ranking puts it in the middle, although I’d pick the former if I had to.  McAvoy closes the tier that starts with Chychrun.

17) Tony DeAngelo – This starts a new tier that goes into the Top 40.  Look, we know that this could massively blow up in my face.  If DeAngelo has another problem in the Carolina locker room, his career might be over.  The fact of the matter is that DeAngelo should step right into the first unit for Carolina.  He’s always taken a ton of penalties, he should get easy minutes behind Slavin and Pesce, and he’s coming off a top 5 fantasy season for defensemen in 2019-20.  I can understand why you would completely pass on Tony Dogs, but if he does play every game, the numbers should be great again.  Again, like Ekblad, I expect him to go much later than this.

18) Alex Pietrangelo – Pietrangelo’s first season in Vegas was a success outside of the power play.  He had over three shots on goal per game, was +20, and played around a 45 point pace.  However, you have to expect Pietrangelo to have more than 4 PPP next season, even with Theodore having the top spot locked in.  He also had his worst shooting luck in five years last season so there’s plenty of hope for Pietrangelo to push towards being a bottom end #1.  I just can’t quite get there, but would be happy to get him in this spot.

19) Torey Krug – It’s not going to be exciting, but Krug looks set to be a #2 fantasy defenseman again.  His first season in St. Louis saw Krug pile up 30 assists, but only score two goals because of poor shooting luck.  I don’t expect Faulk to take his spot on the first unit for part of the season again like last season either.  I honestly don’t have much to say about Krug because we know what to expect from him at this point.

20) Ryan Ellis – I want to put Ellis higher than this.  By the start of the season, I may regret this.  The problem is that the Flyers have a bunch of options on the blue line for the power play.  Provorov is still there.  Why sign Yandle if he’s not going to play on the power play?  Maybe they roll Ellis on the first unit anyways and put those two on the second unit together.  Maybe Ellis and Provorov are together at even strength and the power play with Yandle running the second unit?  I am strongly against 2D on the power play at any time though. There’s still Risto as well, who the Flyers gave up an exorbitant amount for. Maybe Ellis gets stuck on the second unit just like in Nashville, in which case he’s not going to reach this ranking.  That said, two of the last four seasons, Ellis has been playing at a borderline top 10 defenseman pace.  I’m really interested to see how things turn out with Ellis this season, and Philly in general.

That’s all for now guys.  I’ll be back later in the week finishing out my top 40 for defensemen.  As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below.  Thanks for reading, take care!

  1. Shitwolf says:
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    thanks man! With my league settings I am looking to take Nurse and Weeger. I think deangelo is a good risk to take and i might take the plunge! Speaking of risky players is Kane gonna play this year? He is so amazing in my league, but yikes! If i ended up taking nurse weeger and deangelo who is a good 4th D to make up for the lack of PPP from weegs and nurse? we use 7 forwards 4 D and it feels like D drop off quick!

    • Shitwolf says:
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      Bam did a mock draft and shea theodore has an ADP in the 70s that is the answer IMO!! I could go first 3 round top forwards, is 4th round to early for nurse with hits/blocks? He was the #1 D last year with those cats on the player rater? How early do you reach for guys above ADP in these extra cat leagues I guess is my main question haha 🙂

      • Shitwolf says:
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        I just feel like wingers I can wait on cuz I see so many late round ADP guys that I think can put up points that are going above pick 150… what are your thoughts on Mantha this year in washington?

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      It sounds like Kane is going to play, but obviously it’s a big risk. I’m keeping him in my big league, but I’ll limit my risks elsewhere. So you’re looking for a late PPP guy on D? Rasmus Andersson could be a pretty nice option for cheap with Giordano gone. Noah Dobson same idea. Samuel Girard maybe too? Depends how much you want from this guy in the extra categories.

      Wow, that’s crazy with Theodore. I think he’s top 50 for sure. I think the 4th round is pretty accurate for Nurse with hits and blocks, it makes a big difference. That’s really league dependent as far as how much to adjust. I wish I could give you a better answer, but in some leagues people overcompensate, while others you can get a ton of hits/blocks guys later than you should be able to.

      I agree in general that you can wait on wingers, there’s so many of them. I really like the talent, but I also don’t see Mantha on PP1. Oshie and Backs play in his usual spots, and I don’t see them getting bumped. Maybe Kuz gets bumped and Backs moves outside? Big fan of the player but I’m not expecting much different than Detroit. His variance is pretty large due to injuries and his career has been pretty up and down in general.

      • Shitwolf says:
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        ya I just saw mantha in a pack of other wingers i like and i knew you were a fan haha. Garland is going like pick 170 on yahoo same with bjorkstrand. I think that is why i want to take D early thay add that extra cat juice cuz i see guys that are on pp1 going late. Horvat also has an ADP of like 150. In yahoo ranks it is odd there is just aroujd pick 50-70 a range of guys i just dont wanna draft haha.

  2. Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves says:
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    i wouldn’t touch TDA with a 40 foot pole. that dude is str up poisonous human, and unless he somehow (like many other sociopaths) actually learns to keep that stuff down every minute of his life while in public (this includes non hockey life obv) he’ll blow up again. also we got social media, with that in play this becomes even harder. sports books should have lines out there for:

    – how many more NHL games he plays (over/under, a few options with different lines)
    – some sort of line he not only flames out of NHL but like numerous (mostly ex NFL players) other nutjobs ends up in prison after killing somebody or maiming them in a bar fight or woman choking/attempted murder, store robbery, attacking cop(s) or the like type scenario. l.phillips type stuff (ex STL rams/MIA RB) chance on this guy. sprewell if he didn’t calm down.

    – had no clue that nurse was even near that high in non hits/blocks leagues, in those he’s a clear top 5 type though. no small part of the guys above him are outright terrible in at least one of those (relative to other D men in general i mean). plus/minus variance is crazy when it flips to the good side. chychrun/petry also move up in hits/blocks.

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      I assume you will be able to get TDA close to 100 spots later than where I have him ranked. I think he’s worth the gamble though. Sure, he could get kicked off the team in a month, but who knows? Assuming he does anything like that off the ice seems excessive, I think he’s a racist moron but still. Depends what he wants, I think he knows he has to be on his best behavior to not be done in the league forever. Maybe he won’t be able to help himself, I fully acknowledge that.

      Yeah, Nurse was incredible last season. I do expect some regression, but they’re going to need him to play massive minutes again.

      • Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves says:
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        i’m only in hits/blocks leagues so i always want nurse, just didn’t realize how valuable last year. in one spot i got all of nurse (keeper, keep 7) and barrie (pretty early in draft). that worked quite well (really having rantanen/mackinnon helps more as keepers).

        – racist morons quite often get into shit in public for no reason (see their crazy racism), only good news for TDA is he’s so rich he probably doesn’t even have to go into areas where all those skin pigmented types go to possibly say something stupid that gets him into some shit. when you read about how 2 unrelated people get into some shit at say a gas station and somebody gets shot (or a bar), how you think that stuff starts, i’d venture to guess it’s over 70% somebody said something crazy offensive to a person that wasn’t in the mood to deal with it (and/or might be crazy themselves in the opposite direction). guys like him get dead all over the place in many areas. most people put up with the existence of guys like him, but very many aren’t that connected to doing that if stress gets high. a LOT of guns running around amurica.

        • Shitwolf says:
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          Well racism isn’t a fantasy cat so I think using TDA is ok as a fantasy player. How about Kane? I don’t think I will touch him this season now

          • Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves says:
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            yeah i got no issue with using him in fantasy, he’s useful, i’m not one of those guys who lets real life ethics (or fandom) into not drafting useful players. (otherwise good lord how many NFL players could one not own?). with him the risk of the real life crazy b.s. though makes him a risk to play in the NHL. kane i ain’t close to as worried about, he cheated on a woman who’s clearly trying to ruin his professional life (could be true of course what she’s saying) but if there was evidence of it pretty sure that’d have leaked out there already. and kane is very good at producing. he’ll also probably be far cheaper now. viz mentions above not being that worried on kane (albeit also not going out of his way to draft him, but he seems to not play in hits/PIMs leagues or is shrinking the ones he does).

            • Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves says:
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              my “40 foot pole” comment above was assuming certain things about his ADP, which could be wrong (i’ve done no drafts nor checked any ADP data as of yet). if he’s cheap i’ll draft him for sure.

            • Shitwolf says:
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              I just read something about domestic violence and then after he is clear of the gambling charges. I guess that falls under that same lady category. Thanks for tip hobbit he is draft worthy now!

            • Viz

              Viz says:
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              I’m a little worried about Kane now that they’re telling him not to come to training camp. I don’t want to get into gossip stuff with Kane, let’s just say he had his fair amount of troubles in Buffalo and clearly it continued. There’s been ton of reporting about how his teammates don’t want him there so I really don’t know how things go for Kane. I’m strongly considering not keeping him in my main league where we keep 9.

              As for TDA, I assume his ADP is going to be extremely low. Again, I wouldn’t take him as early as I have him ranked, but I do think his numbers will be that good if he stays on the ice.

              • Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves says:
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                yeah i didn’t know team was telling him not to come to camp. that’s more worrisome than the other stuff, most/all of it could’ve been either not important or made up to whatever extent. was that realised BY the team esp if so.

                • Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves says:
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                  “conduct dangerous to the team” in particular if the team is letting that phrase out there whether that’s a real thing or some attempt at contract voiding if they’re putting that out themselves if TDA has a 40 foot pole trying to come up with…. 150 foot pole.

                  https://www.nbcsportsedge.com/hockey/nhl/player/24544/evander-kane

                  a big difference between those last 2 updates.

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