We’re keeping it moving here at Razzball with the Top 40 defensemen. If you didn’t see the top 20, you can read that here. I have some good news as well! JKJ, who writes on the baseball side of things, is going to be helping me out with hockey this year. He’s going to have a weekly post during the season to focus on streaming. As of now, the plan is for that to come out on Thursdays to cover the weekend since streaming is prevalent on Friday and Saturday. Additionally, he’s going to do quick team previews for the entire league. Look out for those starting next week! In this portion of the rankings, team build means a lot. Pay attention to the categories that you’re light in and target those holes. For example, you may desperately need someone like Weegar earlier than where I have him ranked. You could also have no need for him. In other words, do not be a slave to the ranking order. Now let’s get to the top 40:
21) Morgan Rielly – Rielly looked on the verge of fantasy superstardom two seasons ago with 72 points (20+52). I have no idea what happened last season as he went from pushing towards three shots per game to under two per game. That’s a drastic hit to his value. Maybe it bounces back, but he’s already bad at PIM and hasn’t been as good on the power play as you would think. He should be valuable, but don’t overrate him.
22) Mark Giordano – One thing is apparent doing these rankings. Defensemen is already pretty ugly and we’re only 22 guys in. I don’t feel great about having Giordano this high, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s great options. While the points have dried up a bit for Giordano the past two seasons, part of that was due to being bumped off PP1 in Calgary. If it looks like Dunn is getting that job for Seattle, then Giordano is sliding down. I think Gio will get first crack at it, and we know the shots will be solid. It’s boring, but should be decent enough across the board. Perhaps the new team rejuvenates him.
23) John Klingberg – The threat of Heiskanen (more on him soon) taking PP1 back gives me some trepidation in having Klingberg this high. It’s also the last season of his deal meaning he could get moved if he’s unsigned and the team struggles. However, I don’t think that would necessarily hurt his value. The days of Klingberg getting 60 points are in the past, but he should still get in the 50-55 range with strong PPP.
24) Matt Grzcelyk – A last round pick of mine last season, Grzcelyk was very good when on the ice last season. If I knew he was going to be on the first unit all season, I’d have him even higher. He was a plus in all categories playing under 20 minutes per game. That number should go up this season giving him additional upside. I had Grzcelyk lower when I started doing this post, but had to move him up the more I dug in. There’s plenty to like here.
25) Mikhail Sergachev – Sergachev was very close to two shots per game last season, an improvement that gets his shot rate to a passable rate for a defenseman. The PIM are nice, the assists are solid, and if Hedman were to miss time, Sergachev would be elite. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a jump this season regardless. Amazingly, he’ll only be 23 years old for the entire season.
26) Thomas Chabot – How bad will the plus-minus be? That is the question we ask of Chabot. Everything else is going to be very good to great, including the time on ice he receives. If you don’t want to stomach a potential -20, I understand that. Maybe Ottawa isn’t a disaster this season and Chabot ends up being a small minus? If that’s the case, then even 25th overall is too low. I like taking the gamble on him as my #3.
27) Neal Pionk – As long as Pionk keeps his spot on the first power play unit, we know what we’re going to get as far as assists go. Will his shot rate go back up towards 2.5 or stay below 2? My guess is it’s closer to the former, but that’s only an educated guess. Regardless, he’s not going to hurt you in any category which does a lot as far as defensemen go.
28) Miro Heiskanen – I can’t ignore the upside anymore. It was a dreadful season for Heiskanen as it was for most of the Dallas Stars. My hope is that the arrival of Suter lets Heiskanen have more offensive freedom. The range of outcomes here is pretty wide. Would it shock me if Heiskanen pushed towards 60 points? Not really. He could also play at a 40 point pace again and be a big disappointment. You tend to see defensemen make a jump in year four so I’m hoping for the same for Heiskanen.
29) Rasmus Andersson – My favorite late target, it’s a leap of faith to put Andersson this high. He played last season at a 31 point pace which is a career high. That said, he’s clearly going to be the PPQB for Calgary now. He’s also a strong contributor in penalty minutes. I’m putting some stock into the eye test here as I’ve been a fan of how his game has developed over the past year. With Giordano’s departure, Andersson should stay in the top six giving him a fair amount of upside.
30) Samuel Girard – Girard was incredible last season with 32 points in 48 games. None of the underlying numbers suggest that he’s due for regression. The problem is that he’s going to have a poor shot rate, the PIM are low, and he won’t play PP1 unless Makar goes down. There is a chance that with Toews out to start the season, Girard plays with Makar. I assume they don’t for balance reasons, but that pair would be unbelievable. Anyways, Girard fills a specific need of assists and plus-minus so if you’re looking for that from your D3, he fits well in this range.
31) Mattias Ekholm – Ekholm has always been an elite defensive defenseman, but now he’ll get the chance to showcase his offensive abilities more frequently. He’s done well in the past when Josi or Ellis were injured, but with Ellis out of the picture now, he should get PP2 time all season. Ekholm played at a 40 point pace last season despite only 2 PPP in 48 games. If he can get 10 in 82 games, we’re looking at around 50 points with a solid shot rate and PIM. There’s not huge upside here, but it’s high floor, medium ceiling.
32) Ivan Provorov – Ellis’ arrival should help Provorov quite a bit at even strength. However, he probably loses his spot on PP1? I discussed this in the Ellis portion of the top 20 so you can check out at the link in the open. The assists are low for a #3, but everything else is solid across the board with the potential for 15+ goals, a number you generally won’t find in this range.
33) Rasmus Dahlin – Another case like Chabot, although the plus-minus can be absolutely dreadful. I prefer Dahlin in head to head over roto as plus-minus is extremely swingy from week to week. The Sabres will be terrible, but Dahlin showed plenty of signs towards getting back on track once Granato took over. I think Dahlin gets over 50 points this season and we don’t see a crazy -36 again, but you have to be willing to accept that risk to take him even in this range.
34) MacKenzie Weegar – Weegar had more points last season than he did in the previous two seasons combined. It was a massive breakout that really transforms the Panthers’ future outlook. In standard leagues, I’m pumping the breaks a bit though. One, he had three PPP last season. Maybe he gets PP2 time, but that’s far from a lock (if it looks like he will, he’s moving up 5-10 spots). Two, the Panthers shot outrageously well with him on the ice last season which probably won’t repeat itself. Three, the shot rate is bad. The PIM are great and I love Weegar as a player, just don’t expect a borderline top 10 fantasy season again. I expect him to fall back into the range that most elite defensive defensemen have been in. In hits and blocks leagues, he gets a massive boost.
35) Drew Doughty – The points were very solid from Doughty last season, mostly on the back of an improved LA power play. I’ve been the low man on Doughty for the entire time I’ve been at Razzball and not much is changing here. Yes, his opportunity to succeed will be there because the Kings blue line is awful. However, Doughty simply can’t hang against top lines anymore. The Kings have been crushed with him on the ice for three straight seasons and there’s no reason to expect a change. He’s as much of a lock for a bad plus-minus as Chabot is. His shot rate dropped below 2 per game as well. It looks a lot like empty points now.
36) Brent Burns – Burns is in the same boat as Dahlin now. It’s been a mighty fall for a Razzball favorite, especially in the shots department. He dropped all the way down to 2.5 per game and the Sharks were killed with him on the ice last season. On one hand, the PPP can’t be that bad with him playing that much. He also takes a lot of dumb penalties. On the other, he’s 36 years old and it’s hard to fathom much of a bounce back. I may be even high on Burns having him at 36th.
37) Moritz Seider – At this point in my drafts, I’d rather gamble on upside than take someone who will be fine but has a very low ceiling. Seider has the chance to be a great player in the NHL. It might be a year too early for fantasy, but this late, I’m willing to take the chance to see if he’s able to take the league by storm. He’s going to step right into Detroit’s top four and he should be their leader in ice time by the end of the season.
38) Vince Dunn – Dunn bounced back last season with 20 points in 43 games, an encouraging number considering he was on the third pair. He’ll surely be in the top six in Seattle which boosts his floor simply with more minutes. If he does get PP1 time, this is a huge steal, but he should bring back this value regardless.
39) Jamie Drysale – Unlike Seider where I’m unsure it’s a year early for him to be valuable in all fantasy leagues, I feel more confident that it is a year early for Drysdale. However, that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to take the chance on him as a lotto ticket. Anaheim is going to be quite bad once again which will hurt his plus-minus, but also give him plenty of opportunity to put up points. My hope is that they put him on PP1, but there’s always the chance Shattenkirk gets that time. If that happens, Drysdale will be useless in standard leagues. I like him enough as a prospect that I’ll roll the dice here. If it fails, you’ll always be able to pick up a safe guy in the first week or two. Think Ekholm before this season, or a guy like Faulk.
40) Matt Dumba – That’s two straight seasons of Dumba being a huge disappointment offensively. Call me stubborn because I’d take him late again. Worst case, you get a great PIM guy. Best case, he rediscovers his offense, mostly his shot, and you get a top 20 guy this late. Again, roll the dice late on D.
That’s all for now guys. It’ll be forwards next week from me with a top 200 list in the not-so-distant future. Also, be on the lookout for team preview from JKJ! As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!