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.
With almost the entire league in action on Monday, we were hoping for some entertaining hockey. We got that and then some. We had the Sabres come back from 2-0 down with an ECHL goalie who hasn't played any game in over a year to beat the Islanders. Colorado came back from two down in the third twice to beat the Sharks. Montreal scored in the last minute of the game before winning in OT against the Leafs. The Wild were down 2 with 10 minutes, then tied the game with the goalie pulled and won in regulation against Vegas. Even for teams that didn't finish them off, the Stars came back from two down in the third to get a point. Also, Columbus came back from 3-0 down in the third to tie it and lose in overtime. Nights like Monday are a reminder of why hockey is incredible during the regular season. Let's take a look at what happened in each game on Monday night:
While he's not getting the attention that he received in Vegas' inaugural season, Jonathan Marchessault has quietly had a terrific campaign. His best game came on Wednesday, where Marchessault had two goals, two assists, and five shots leading Vegas to a 5-2 victory over the Sharks. This let Vegas become the first team to clinch the playoffs this season, something that has been a formality for months already. Marchessault now had 13 goals and 22 assists in 46 games, along with a +12 rating, 37 PIM, and 147 shots. In other words, he's a plus across the board with elite PIM and a strong shot rate. At 30 years old, Marchessault has shown no signs of slowing down. He's getting easier matchups now which is helping him thrive on the second line. He looks every bit of a top 100 player going forward, with the upside of being top 50 if he has some shooting luck in a season like he did in his one season in Florida. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It's no surprise that the Sharks gave up five goals on Saturday. They've continually allowed a lot of goals and are arguably the best matchup you can hope your players are facing at the moment. It was the top line's turn for the Blues as they combined for eleven points. Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron each had a goal and three assists while Jordan Kyrou scored two goals and added an assist. Perron is now above a point per game and RoR is exactly at it. Kyrou cooled off after a hot start, but he's cemented himself as the third member of this line. The schedule gets pretty tough going forward for the Blues, but I still think I would hold Kyrou in all formats. The upside is through the roof and with the Blues in more of a battle for a playoff spot than they would have anticipated going into the season, I expect the top line to continue getting big minutes. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It was looking good for the Wild on Monday night. After letting Vegas tie the game 2-2, Minnesota scored two goals in 19 seconds near the end of the second period to go up 4-2. Move to the last minute up 4-3 with the goalie pulled, and Mark Stone makes a fabulous pass to Tuch to tie up the game. In overtime, the Wild were controlling the puck until Stone won it back, and hit Patches for the game winner. In a 5-4 victory, Stone had five assists, and not just five assists, five primary assists. He was in a bit of a slump before this game with one point in his previous five games, but safe to say that's in the rear view mirror now. Stone now has 22 points in 18 games, averaging an assist a game. The big concern is that his shot rate has plummeted down to under two per game. That puts a big dent into his overall value, but if he's going to put up an assist a game dominating at five on five, it's hard to complain. That said, be a little more selfish and don't let Patches take every shot! The first captain in Vegas history has been excellent this season and even though I'm American, I can't wait to see him in the Olympics on say, McDavid or MacKinnon's wing. Or maybe the three of them are a line, who knows with how stacked their team is. Let's see what else happened over the last two nights:
Look, to be honest with you, there wasn't a ton of eventful things that happened in the NHL on Thursday night. We're leading off with Sam Gagner for a couple reasons. One, he had a trick on four shots in the 5-2 win for the Red Wings. Sure, one was an empty netter, but a hat trick is a hat trick and that deserves recognition. Never mind that Gagner came into the game with zero goals on the season and the three points in this game were more than he had all season. The other reason I started off with Gagner is to give him some appreciation. He had a solid career for over a decade now, constantly as an elite streamer while having a few years where he was a bottom end hold. With all of the big games McJesus is having lately, you can try to stump your friends with a trivia question in terms of who the last player was that had seven points or more in a game? As you could guess, it was Gagner, but did you know he actually had 8!? He's one of only eleven players in history to have eight points in a game and for that, I thank Gagner for the memory of that wild night in Chicago. Let's take a look at what else happened on Thursday:
My bold prediction of Tyson Barrie scoring 50 points this season was looking absolutely horrible through the first two weeks. After the past week, there's some hope. Barrie had two assists with five shots on Tuesday night against the Senators. That gives him seven points in the last four games and it hasn't been dominated by power play points. The good news is that the Oilers have two more games coming up against the Senators early next week, but either way, I'm expecting Barrie to keep playing well and push towards being the top 10 defenseman I projected. If somebody panicked early, including yourself since I assume most of the readers own Barrie, grab Barrie immediately. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I don’t think most people know that Travis Konecny led the Flyers in both goals and points last season. He’s on his way to a repeat in the early going. Konecny had a hat trick against the Penguins on Friday night which also dishing an assist. Please, blog, may I have some more?
There’s been plenty of young players that have been hyped as breakout candidates, and one that has been generally overlooked is Joel Farabee. The former first round pick is getting a big opportunity on Philadelphia this season and he took full advantage of it on Wednesday. Please, blog, may I have some more?
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?