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.
Mika Zibanejad was looking like the biggest bust of this season near the halfway point. Well, it's changing pretty quickly and amazingly, it wasn't the Sabres that turned it around. Last week, Zibanejad had three goals and three assists against the Flyers. It was so fun that he did it again eight days later! On Thursday, Zibanejad doubled down with his second natural hat trick and six point game in rapid succession against Philadelphia in the 8-3 win. That brings him up to 10+16 in 32 games, not exactly lighting the world on fire, but within reason. He's still over three shots per game, so while a repeat top 20 season is out of play, a top 50 season is still within reason. As I said at the time, Zibanejad is prone to huge hot streaks, and I think 17 points in 7 games qualifies. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Playing time has been the only thing that has stopped Alex Tuch from breaking out in the past. It looked like he was going into the top six two seasons ago, but then the Golden Knights acquired Stone keeping Tuch on the third line. Well, this season that has finally changed even though Stone is still on the team, mostly because the Karlsson line plays less minutes. On Saturday, Stone left the game with a minor injury which led Tuch to being double shifted. Even before that, Tuch was on a tear and it'll only get better with his increased workload. Tuch scored two goals on six shots on Saturday after scoring a goal on Friday. That brings Tuch up to 12 goals in 21 games, an excellent mark. Sure, his shooting percentage is unsustainable, but the increase in minutes could counteract that a bit. Tuch is still available in over 40% of leagues, so if you're lucky enough to be in one of them, grab him now. Let's take a look at what else happpened over the weekend:
Nothing helps getting your season back on track like playing against the Buffalo Sabres. Carter Hart has had a really rough go of it in the opening month of the season, but on Sunday, he looked to turn it around in Buffalo. You'd think that after the Sabres were shutout 3-0 on Saturday that they would come out firing on Sunday. Nope. Hart stopped all 28 shots he faced, most of the routine variety, to beat the Sabres 3-0. Brian Elliott only needed to make 23 saves on Saturday as the Sabres are in complete disarray. As I always say, goalies are voodoo, but I'd be stunned if Hart doesn't make a jump towards being a #1 fantasy goalie again. If you can buy low on Hart, I would try to do so. The fact that the Flyers are 11-4-3 despite Hart's horrible start shows you what kind of upside the team has. Elliott should be streamed every time he starts as his save percentage is over .930 in his eight games. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
I've run out of superlatives to describe Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. I don't even like starting posts with them because everyone knows how good they are, but this weekend's play deserves the big praise. McDavid had two goals and an assist with three shots on Saturday, while Draisaitl had two assists with a shot and two PIM. Those games were horrible compared to their explosion on Sunday. McDavid scored a goal and dished four assists while Draisaitl had six assists! They were already the top two in the league in points before Sunday's games. Now, they're lapping the field at the end of January. It's a treat to watch these guys on a nightly basis, and even better if you have one of them on your fantasy team. With the way the rest of the North division plays, what's the ceiling for points for these guys? 90? 100? It sounds ridiculous in 56 games, but they're at another level at the moment and they won't have a tough defensive team to play in their entire division. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Your early leader in goals two weeks through the season is Max Pacioretty. Patches had a hat trick on Tuesday putting eight shots on goal in the process while adding two penalty minutes. That gives Patches six goals in seven games, along with a whopping 32 shots in 7 games. His linemate, Mark Stone, has arguably been the best player in the league to this point, so the opportunities are going to be there for Patches to have a monster season. After a disappointing first year in Vegas, Patches has really found his game again. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
We’re going to keep the rankings rolling today with my defensemen tiers. As a reminder from the goaltending rankings, I will be ranking the guys in order, but I am putting more focus on tiers than the exact rankings of players. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Another trade domino fell on Sunday as Blake Coleman was traded to Tampa Bay for a first round pick (Vancouver's conditional first from the Miller trade) and Nolan Foote. Coleman is in the midst of a breakout season with 21+10, 40 PIM and over three shots per game. So how much will this move help him? On one hand, going to Tampa Bay is good for any player. On the other hand, his ice time is surely going to decrease. While he won't play Monday, I'd still hold Coleman to see what develops. He's signed for only 1.85m for next season which I assume is a big factor in the price. This is a great return for New Jersey, as Foote should end up as a second line winger who is a goal scorer. He has an elite shot and knows how to use his big frame. For now, I assume Jesper Bratt moves onto the first line, but he's still only a middling streamer. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Andre Burakovsky has gone back and forth between bottom end hold and elite streamer for most of the season. Right now, we're in one of his upswings again. Burakovsky had a goal and three assists in the 6-1 Colorado win over the Sabres on Tuesday. That's a whopping 10 points in the last 4 games and 14 in the past 8 for Burakovsky. He also has Ottawa, the Kings twice, and Buffalo again over the next three weeks. He's an easy hold while he's on fire and the schedule remains incredibly soft. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
For today’s post, I’m going to write about one thing for each NHL team about their first two weeks that I think it was worth discussing. This is going to be a long post, so let’s get right to it! Please, blog, may I have some more?