What’s poppin, Razzpimples?
Ya boi JKJ is back for another year of fantasy hockey content here at Razzball! Going a different route this time around, though. I’m gonna be your D daddy! No, no, not that kind of D, ya silly goose! Defenders. All the defenders. I don’t exactly know why, but I’ve taken a real liking to that position. If you’re familiar with my baseball work, I handle all the RP business. Taken a liking to relievers in baseball, and in hockey it’s the defenders.
Viz has his own separate list of defense rankings, but he comes at that from a standard league point of view. I’m gonna hit you with what I refer to as Bash Daddy rankings. For leagues that include the gritty stats like hits, blocks, and even PIMs. One of my favorite stats to track (for everyone) is blocks+shots+hits, or BLK+SOG+HIT, or BSH, or Bash (bit of a stretch, but that’s where I get “Bash Daddy” from). Guys who shoot, hit, and block are just so sexy to me. So these rankings you see below account for all of that.
One thing you should keep in mind is I’m coming at this from a categories-league angle. I find those the most enjoyable (and it’s standard fare, anyway), so that’s just how it’s gonna be, folks. This list would not look the same from a points perspective. In points leagues, you want guys who for the part, um, score points. Goals are great, PPP are great, lots of assists can be great…you get the idea. Bangers who bash like hell provide a steady baseline of points and definitely have their place on all types of fantasy rosters (as long as bangs count, duh), but I value a Categories Jacob Trouba much more differently than a Points Jacob Trouba. And you’ll see no Quinn Hughes this time around; he would be a Top 10 option in points, but for full-bangs categories he’s a negative value given he really only contributes to assists and PPP.
1. Cale Makar: Easiest call ever. If you get a full season from Makar, you’ll have yourself the #1 fantasy defenseman regardless of format. Odds are his floor is like 20 G and 50 A, with 30+ PPP, lots of shots (for a D), and very solid H+BLK. My preferred baseline for H+BLK from a D is 200, and he should get there. Even if he doesn’t, he’s the #1 D, but forward-esque offensive stats and then bangs on top of it? Unreal value. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s like +50 either. Now, all that being said, you’re paying around a #5/#6 overall price for this guy in drafts, so that’s just a personal decision you’ll have to make. I’m not of a mind to pass up 100+ points and 40 or 50 goals from a forward just to have the sexiest defender on the board.
2. Roman Josi: My usual MO is to take a forward or two and then grab Roman Josi. In Yahoo, he’s the fourth D off the board right now (standard leagues, so no BLK or PIM factoring in), but there’s not a single other D man I’d rather have not named Cale Makar. Josi could realistically give you the exact same season Makar could but with more shots and a cheaper draft price. Need I remind you, he had 23 G, 73 A, 281 SOG, and 37 PPP last year. I mean, you’re expecting that from Makar, right? Don’t pay for Makar; get all that from Josi instead.
3. Victor Hedman: Basically the same player here, but you’re likely to get way more SOG from Josi, so that’s why I’ve got Hedman below him. Otherwise, either one could get the edge in points, PPP, or bangs. Also, a point in Hedman’s favor is that for Josi to have another season like 2021-22, Duchene and Forsberg and company have to score like they did. That’s…not the likeliest thing to happen. Still, gimme Josi’s shots. But Hedman is still an elite D1, of course. I didn’t mean for this paragraph to be so much about Josi, but in my mind you go Hedman if you miss out on Josi. Or you go with both if you don’t want to think about defense for like the entire rest of your draft.
4. Kris Letang: Do we get another basically full season from Letang? If so, hard to imagine he’s not a Top 5 fantasy D. And since these are Bash Daddy ranks, Letang comes it at #4 for me. He’s not quite the point-per-game guy everyone above him is, but he brings very strong peripherals to back up his 60+ points. You’ll get about two hits a game, a block and a half per game, and maybe upwards of three-ish shots per game. His PIMs are even pretty okay, with 40ish or 50ish coming your way. Also was +20 last season. Man does it all, and his ADP is stupid low for how much he can do, even if you’re in a bare-bones standard league. Wouldn’t be unwise at all to skip the top three guys and make him your D1.
5. Aaron Ekblad: Ekblad is currently the fifth D off the board, and I aptly have him as the #5 fantasy D-man. I like Letang’s peripherals floor a good bit more, so that’s why he’s bumped a spot higher. Ekblad is injury-prone as well, so that’s a risk you’ll have to weigh when drafting. We’ll also have to see how he handles playing without the defensive prowess of ex-partner MacKenzie Weegar. At any rate, Ekblad was on pace for a career year with 57 PTS in 61 GP, 15 of those being goals. He’ll score goals, he’ll get you PPP, and he’ll shoot a lot. He’ll also probably get you about a hit and a block per game and should be insanely elite in the +/- department. I’m a scooch worried about 69% (nice) secondary assist rate, but then again Florida is so good that that could be the case again. They just pass and pass and pass and score, and Ekblad will see enough touches to be a part of that magic. Maybe so much so that he’ll finish worthy of a Tier 2 ranking next season.
6. Adam Fox: If he shot more and hit more, he’d be Top 5 easily. He’s got 10ish goals and 55ish assists mininum in him, with elite PPP, elite +/-, and great blocks. It’s just the shots, hits, and PIMs holding him back from the rest of the pack. You’re 100% getting a Top 10 D from him given he avoids injury and his teammates don’t have the worst luck in professional sports history.
7. Dougie Hamilton: I’m ready for Dougie Hamilton to get back to his peak Carolina days and play a full healthy season again. Maybe I have rose-colored glasses on from my previous love affairs with Dougie, but I’m expecting his Devils teammates to take a step forward. For one, PK Subban is thankfully gone. Secondly, there’s a wealth of young talent progressing before our very eyes. Jack Hughes, Dawson Mercer, Jesper Bratt, not to mention Alexander Holtz in the wings. Anyway, it’s easy to look at Hamilton’s 30 PTS in 62 GP and be like “meh.” It’s a mistake to shy away. Viz has him #10, and I’m bumping him even higher for elite potential. That’s right, elite! DH is very capable of 20ish goals, 40-50ish assists, 250ish shots, and 200ish H+BLK. And what, 50 PIM or so? Or even 60ish like in his Calgary days? All-around coverage, folks, at an ADP outside of the Top 100. Gimme all of that action!
8. John Carlson: As long as that Ovi guy is clapping goals from his office on the man-advantage, John Carlson should continue to rack up a healthy amount of PPP. And Mr. Carlson himself scored 17 G on 8.7% shooting, which is a tad high for a defenseman, to be honest. He managed about a hit a game and a block and half per game last season, with 195 SOG, a +13 rating, and 20 PIM. He was 90th percentile in primary points per 60 minutes among all defenders, and primary points are the ones you wanna see.
9. Morgan Rielly: Rounding out Tier 3 is Toronto’s PP point man. He got all kinds of hype after that 20-goal season not too long ago but then kinda fell flat. Bounced back in a big way last season, though, with 68 PTS and a sexy 221 SOG. Gotta think he can do better than 23 PPP, too. I have him below Carlson for the dip in bangs, but he’ll likely get you more PIM than Carlson and could easily score as many (or more) goals. He only shot 4.5% last year, so basically half of what Carlson did.
10. Jacob Trouba: I’m doing it. I’m sliding Jacob Trouba into the Top 10. Remember my favorite stat? BSH? No one had more BSH in all of hockey last year. Not even Bash Overlord Brady Tkachuk. Trouba had 204 SOG, 207 H, and 177 BLK to total 588 BSH (to Brady’s 583). And on top of that, the man scored 11 G, had 28 A, a +23 rating, and an elite 88 PIM. So by drafting him, all you’re sacrificing are some assists and power-play points, which you can get from any number of sources. If you’re in a true bangers league with all the fixins, Jacob Trouba has to be on your roster. Take him as your D1 even. Make it happen. Thank me later.
11. Darnell Nurse: Can’t have Trouba this high and not also have Darnell Nurse right behind him. He does everything Trouba does, just to a tiny bit lesser degree, namely in the PIM and BLK departments. He actually had more BSH per game than Trouba last year, but he played 71 games to Trouba’s 81. Otherwise, they’re basically the Josi/Hedman dilemma all over again.
12. Drew Doughty: Drew Doughty feels like he’s 45 years old, but he’s still somehow only 32. No spring chicken, though there’s plenty of gas left in that tank. Injury bug has bitten him a couple times in recent years, most notably holding him to just 39 GP last season. Pacing stats out isn’t very wise if you’re using them to make decisions, but I still love to do it. Doughty paced for 15 G, 50 A, 27 PPP, 208 SOG, 63 PIM, and 238 H+BLK last year. Easily Top 10 value right there, just keep in mind that’s based off half a season’s worth of data. The good news is that data, limited as it may be, was not fluffed by unsustainable metrics. His individual SH%, his teammates’ SH% when he was on the ice, his PDO, and his secondary assist rate all pass the eye test. The Kings surprised the hell out of me last year and they shouldn’t be any worse this year since they lost practically no one and added Kevin Fiala. Viz is on something dropping Doughty to #23.
13. Moritz Seider: What a year from Moritz “Apple” Seider last year, eh? He’ll step into a #1 role this year on a Red Wings squad that’s gonna be knocking at the postseason door before we know it. Stevie Y knows what he’s doing. Seider doesn’t shoot and score like other top defenders, and his +/- will likely be in the red, but every where else he’s just so. damn. good. The Calder winner played all 82 games, amassing 312 H+BLK and 50 PTS. Maybe he gets a little more trigger happy this season and fires off 200+ SOG, and maybe that 3.7% shot rate improves as well. Maybe not. Doesn’t matter, he’s gonna be hella good either way. He’s not useless with PIM, either. Oh yeah, that David Perron guy should help him get more PPP. Might just mess around and be a Top 10 fantasy D, but I’m not quite as hype on sophomores as some others. Could be eating crow this time next year. That crow still might taste better than Seider’s current Yahoo ADP of #45 overall.
14. MacKenzie Weegar: Going from Florida to Calgary strikes me as a net negative, but it shouldn’t be too much of a dip in overall fantasy value. The +/- might dip and he’ll see zero PP time, but other than that you should still get your elite BSH. Figure about 300 H+BLK and 200 SOG should be in store once again. Will we see 44 PTS again? Tough to say, but something tells me probably not. Regardless, sign me up for all those BSH and elite PIM (81 last year). Battles of Alberta should be fun!
15. Brent Burns: If Weegar’s transition is a net negative, can’t help but think it’s a net positive for Brent Burns going from the Sharks to the Canes. Thing is, he ain’t getting any younger, and no matter what kind of spin you want to put on it, the man will be 38 years old before this season is over with. Playing 19 years of NHL hockey with the kind of physicality he does can only go on for so long, and it’s truly a wonder he’s still going as strong as he is. So, I have this as a separate tier since there are some consistency questions marks, as well as a new-face-in-a-new-place question mark in Burns’s case. He doesn’t hit nearly as much as he used to, nor does he shoot like he used to (remember that stretch of 56 G and 673 SOG across two seasons?!? MY GOD), but he still put up 10 G, 44 A, and 203 SOG on a piss-poor San Jose team last season. Not to mention he blocked 150 shots, a career high. Also, no more Erik Karlsson hogging his offense. Maybe being a lone PP1 QB again will rejuvenate him the same way a Cardinals uniform has rejuvenated Albert Pujols. Maybe this #15 ranking is too conservative.
16. Rasmus Dahlin: We had ourselves our first truly good season from the former #1 overall pick in 2021-22. Dahlin gave his loyal owners 13 G, 40 A, 21 PPP, 170 SOG, 68 PIM, 121 H, and 91 BLK. That’s really good stuff, and if you’re like me then I don’t really give a hoot about his -22 rating. If I’m ever in leagues that count it I just punt it. What’s crazy is Dahlin isn’t the only left-handed #1 overall pick on the blue line in Buffalo, with Owen Power just waiting to blossom into a mega star, yet who has Dahlin blocking his way to doing just that. So I guess that’s good news for Dahlin owners, cuz I don’t think Power leapfrogs him in the pecking order. Not to start, at least. But if Dahlin is slow out of the gate, things could go downhill pretty quick.
17. Thomas Chabot: Chabot was on his way to a 50-point season last year, and now Ottawa has added a bona fide elite goal scorer in Alex DeBrincat and a future Hall of Famer in Claude Giroux. Josh Norris is developing into a stud C1, and that Brady Tkachuk guy is pretty good, too. That makes up the PP1 unit that Chabot will quarterback. And given the sheer volume of minutes he chugs, Chabot racks up the peripherals as well. The only thing really holding him back is that his career high is just 71 GP. Only got 59 out of him last season. Maybe all those minutes aren’t the best idea? If we ever get 80+ out of him, I don’t see how 10 G, 45 A, 25 PPP, 200 H+BLK, and 225 SOG don’t all happen.
18. Radko Gudas: You don’t draft him for offense. You just wait ’til later in your draft and take his 100+ PIM, 150+ BLK, and 300+ H and call it a day. Fwiw, a certain paywalled projection system has him as the #7 overall D in a full banger categories league (your standard cats + blocks and PIM). His bangs are just out of this world good, and playing for Florida works wonders for you plus-minus.
19. Zach Werenski: This ranking could come back to bite me, I just couldn’t bring myself to squeeze him in any higher. Columbus has a power-play unit that’ll boast Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau together, so Werenski is in line to boost last year’s total of 14 PPP. Should see a boost in overall assists as well. You know the goals will be great and the shots will be great; we got 216 SOG from the dude in just 68 GP. He’s no slouch for BLK and PIM, but he doesn’t hit much at all. There’s also the fact he’s missed significant time in each of the last three seasons. That’s where my conservative ranking comes from. Still, he’s had an 82-game pace of 50+ points in two of the last three seasons. He’s just very meh when it comes to hits, PIM, and plus-minus.
20. Josh Morrissey: Lastly (for this article), we’ve got Josh Morrissey, who is probably the PP1 QB for the Jets. In the past, he’s had to contend with Neal Pionk. Seems he’s pulled ahead for that gig if you ask me. He’s not an elite PP QB or anything, but he’ll do just fine while racking up the bangs. Man had 66 PIM, 104 BLK, and 150 H last season while firing off 173 SOG. If he can break the 40-point mark and bring you those totals, don’t see how a Top 20 year ain’t in the cards.
I do some fantasy baseball as well as some fantasy hockey here at Razzball. Find me on Twitter: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time.