We move through more defensemen today going through my Top 40. For those that didn’t see my Top 20, you can check that out here. I have some good news before I get going with these rankings. JKJ is going to be back! He’s going to shift his focus this season towards defensemen, similar to what he does on the baseball side of things with relief pitchers. Look for him to be writing again in the near future, with a rebuttal to my defenseman rankings the first thing coming. And now, let’s get to it!
Tier 4B continued:
21) Rasmus Andersson – Andersson was one of my hits last season as we saw the breakout in Calgary. He solidified himself as the PPQB and rewarded his owners with a 50 point season. What keeps him at this level is a mediocre shot rate and below average PIM. We could also see the PP take a hit with the departure of Tkachuk and Gaudreau, although replacing them with Huberdeau and Kadri should limit the damage. I find Andersson to be a fairly safe option that should end up a bottom end #2, but ideally he’s your #3.
22) Tony DeAngelo – DeAngelo was also a big hit for me last season as he bounced back in a big way in Carolina. He moved to Philly this offseason which certainly hurts his value. It’s hard to say how bad the plus-minus will be, but his shot rate and penalty minutes are so good that his floor remains quite high. TDA is locked into a top PP role and while the team is pretty weak, I can see them having a decent early boost with Torts, as every team he has coached has had outside of Vancouver.
23) Drew Doughty – Doughty played some of his best hockey in a long time last season. The unfortunate part was he only played 39 games, but 31 points with great PIM and shots is what you hope to see. Normally, I’ve been very low on Doughty, but given that the Kings are on the rise, I’m jumping back in at this range. He’s just been so up and down the last few seasons that I can’t rank him higher than this.
24) Jacob Trouba – Trouba definitely belongs in the safe tier. He beats the hell out of people and puts a ton of shots on net. He won’t get much PP time with how much the Rangers rely on their top unit, which makes Trouba more of a team fit guy for fantasy. If you’re short on PIM/hits and shots, he’s your guy in the middle rounds.
25) MacKenzie Weegar – Weegar was fantastic last season. Would you believe that he was a top 10 defenseman? He came in at number 10 on the back of 44 points, +40, 81 PIM and 205 SOG. Weegar is extremely good so I’m not really worried about him taking a step back in Calgary. My concern is that there’s no guarantee he gets any PP time in Calgary. He only had 3 PPP last season, but the +40 is bound to regress some. Like Trouba, it’s all about your team build.
26) Charlie McAvoy – McAvoy was a top 5 defenseman in fantasy last season and in real life. I completely believe in his talent; he’s probably the best defenseman in the league as a pure defender at this point, and his offense really came around last year. He’s only this low because he’s out until December following shoulder surgery. Depending on your league rules in terms of IR spots, bench size, etc. McAvoy could belong earlier or later. If he falls to this range, I’m willing to bite the bullet for two months to get an extra #1D later.
Tier Five: Upside or Aging
27) Owen Power – More homerism! There’s the chance that I’m early on Power, but I think a season similar to Seider’s last year is in the cards. In Power’s 8 game stint to close the season, the Sabres carried a 56% expected goals share with Power on the ice. He didn’t come in on the third pair either, he took hard matchups immediately (he matched up with Matthews in his first game). We’ve seen enough defensemen lately transition into the NHL with ease, and Power has the pedigree to do that. The Sabres haven’t given the top unit much more time than the second, so Power should get plenty of PP time still. I don’t think he has massive upside as a rookie, but he could be a #2 in 12 man leagues.
28) Mikhail Sergachev – I’m being aggressive on Sergachev’s ranking to indicate that I’m targeting him. The reason is pretty simple: increased ice time. McDonagh was traded for cap purposes which opens up a top four role for Sergachev. Finally. He won’t be on the top power play unless Hedman gets hurt, which limits his ceiling, but I think we should see career highs across the board. Odds are, you’ll be able to get Sergachev later than this.
29) Torey Krug – Krug had a great bounce back in the points department with 43 in 64 games. He also set a career high in PIM by a large margin. My concern is that his shot rate continues to fall. It’s to the point where it’s a negative now being under two per game. His shooting percentage was quite high last season, and his minutes are decreasing as well. Krug doesn’t hurt you in any category but his upside seems capped now which puts him down here.
30) Alex Pietrangelo – Pietrangelo was actually 18th in the player rater last season on the back of career high PIM and a great shot rate, plus the goals that come with it. I’m having a tough time shaking how bad he looked to close last season. He’s 32 years old now and I’m not sure he can handle the big workload. My big skepticism comes on the power play. With Cassidy in, I have to think he’s more aggressive loading up one power play unit than DeBoer was, and Pietrangelo would clearly lose out to Theodore in that case. His 17 STP seem likely to go down, which puts him more in the 40 point range while helping in the other stats. That’s still a useful player, but a dropoff from where he has been.
31) Darnell Nurse – Nurse is quite similar to Trouba and Weegar in that he fills PIM/hits and shots while giving little on the PP. He might give even less this season with Bouchard and Barrie presumably getting the PP time (maybe Nurse gets some second unit and they play two D at times). The shortened 20-21 season is definitely an outlier for him as he shot 10%, but with the volume he has, 10-12 goals is a realistic expectation. His assist rate has been steady for four seasons now, so we have a pretty clear picture of what Nurse is.
32) Bowen Byram – More upside plays. Byram played the most minutes of any Colorado defenseman in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Not Makar, not Toews, Byram. And there were no injuries involved, Bo was that good. Injuries derailed his regular season, but Byram had 17 points in 30 games. This is with playing under 19 minutes per night and little PP time (only 1 PPP). Now, he’s obviously not going to get a ton of PP time, but he could step into the second unit. Regardless, bigger minutes this season plus being on an elite team is a lock for a great plus-minus. A bump in shot rate should happen on a per-minute basis alone. I can see myself moving Byram up just to guarantee that I get him.
33) John Klingberg – The next two guys are in a similar boat in that they are on bad teams but likely to be traded at some point during this season. Klingberg is a lock to be moved barring an injury or something completely extraordinary happening. He moves to Anaheim after putting up solid points in Dallas, but being brutal at even strength. I can think he’s in line for something similar in Anaheim. I’m giving him a slight bump from where I originally had him because he could make a big difference down the stretch, especially in H2H leagues, if he’s traded as a rental to the right team.
34) Jakob Chychrun – Chychrun is going to give strong PIM and shots. That much is a given. So is a horrible plus-minus while he’s on Arizona. Somehow he had 1 PPP last season which seems impossible. If I knew he would get traded right away, he’d be in a group with Trouba and Weegar. The problem is that it could happen at any point during the season, if at all. Do you want to saddle yourself with that dreadful +/- ? My hope is that he gets back to his 2020-21 form in which case he’s a top 100 player even with a below average plus-minus.
35) Erik Karlsson – Karlsson put up 35 points in 50 games last season, and with Burns’ departure, he should get an uptick in power play points. He’s another guy who could have a dreadful plus-minus, and the PIM and shots aren’t good anymore, so it’s pretty much empty points. That has some value, but odds are, I won’t be owning Karlsson at all.
36) Gustav Forsling – Forsling was quite good for Florida last season scoring 37 points in 71 games. That was despite 0 PPP and 21 minutes per night. There’s no guarantee he gets the power play time now, although I think there’s a chance he takes that spot from Montour. Either way, his minutes are bound to go up now that he should be on the top pair with Ebklad. The shot rate has been average for a defenseman, which is fine, but could see an uptick. We’re close to the point where I want to gamble on upside for defensemen in 12 man leagues or shallower, so I like Forsling quite a bit as a dart throw.
Tier Six: Low floor, above average upside, or medium floor, medium upside
37) Tyson Barrie – If Barrie loses PP time to Bouchard, he probably won’t even be worth holding. His shot rate is trending in the wrong direction, he’s poor in PIM/hits, and his minutes continue to decrease. Given how bullish I am on Bouchard, I’ll probably be avoiding Barrie altogether unless there’s a team I desperately need PPP on and I want to hope Barrie keeps that role.
38) Vince Dunn – The path is there for Dunn to have a huge role on the Kraken this season. Giordano is out of the picture, and his only PP threat is Schultz, which, meh. I really like Dunn’s game, I just wish he would shoot more because his shot is excellent for a defenseman. The top unit in Seattle could be completely revamped with Burakovsky, Bjorkstrand, and Beniers in the fold. The first two are long time favorites of mine, but put those three with McCann and Dunn and you could have a solid PP. Now, the plus-minus could be bad again, but I have some hope that Seattle isn’t that bad again, unlike Chychrun or Karlsson. Dunn also piled up a ton of penalty minutes last year. I’m not sure if that’s real, but again, we’re shooting for upside here.
39) Josh Morrissey – I wasn’t sure which Winnipeg defenseman I wanted to rank. I can easily see Pionk taking this spot if it looks like he’ll be on PP1. My hope is that Morrissey takes that spot as the PIM and hits took a huge jump last season, and the shot rate is average for a defenseman. I can’t imagine it being anything exciting, but if you want a safer guy, he’s a solid option.
40) Jaccob Slavin – Slavin is incredible at taking next to no penalties with how much he plays. The good news is that he received a fair amount of PP time last season and that could happen again. He’s such a force at even strength that Slavin is a lock for an elite plus-minus while being solid in all of the other categories besides PIM. It’s a specific team build fit, but there’s value in knowing what you’re getting from him.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back on Monday starting my forwards rankings, with the plan to get my top 200 out at some point next week. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!
UPDATE: Sorry for delay guys. Hopefully going to be on a plane home tomorrow from Fort Lauderdale without any issue from the hurricane. My plan is to get out Top 80 forwards along with a Top 200 overall for Friday. The Top 40 will definitely be out Wednesday morning. Be sure to check out JKJ’s defensemen post in the meantime!