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.
We're keeping it moving here at Razzball Hockey HQ today looking at the top 20 defensemen in my 2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Rankings. My goaltending rankings and top 20 overall are easily available on the Razzball Hockey home page. Unlike when I made a list of players that I considered for my Top 20 overall where I had 35 potential candidates, I only wrote down 22 names for Top 20 defenseman candidates. Defensemen remains an extremely top heavy positions, so differentiating the players in the 11-50 range will go a long way. Last year, I nailed Ekblad as an elite D ranking him 6th, and also had DeAngelo and McAvoy well above consensus in my Top 20. Andersson and Seider were my big wins lower down. For failures, Barrie and Petry lead the way, along with ranking Doughty too low. Let's hope for better this time around. Let's get to it!
Fifty-six goals. That's how many Auston Matthews has on the season after another two goal performance on Thursday. Not only does he have the most goals in a season in Maple Leafs history, he now holds the record for most goals in a season by an US-born player. Matthews has 49 goals on 49 games, a run that hasn't happened in this millennium. He's locking up the Hart Trophy with this run, and the fantasy question is where he goes in drafts next season. I still couldn't bring myself to take Matthews over McDavid because the floor for McDavid is the highest we've seen in the fantasy hockey era, but I think Matthews has played himself into tier one being worthy of the second pick overall. Can't wait to see how Toronto performs in the playoffs this year. Let's take a look at what happened over the last two nights:
There's been plenty of bounce back players this season across the NHL. One of them who hasn't received the attention of others is Ryan Johansen. Johansen's career was strongly trending in the wrong direction the previous two seasons, including only 22 points in 48 games last season. He has been decent most of the season, but really took once he moved to the top line. His best game of the season was on Tuesday night, scoring his first career hat trick on seven shots in the 6-2 win over the Wild. Johansen now has 20+34 on the season with 51 PIM. Yes, Johansen's career has turned out to be a big disappointment with the way it was trending early on in Columbus, but it's nice to see him score 20 goals for the first time since 2014. Remarkably, he's still 29 years old, so this level of play can be repeated next season. For the rest of this one, Johansen is an elite streamer in standard leagues and a hold if your league doesn't include SOG as a category. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
In stunning fashion, the Coyotes have won six of seven games this month, including games against the Avalanche and Maple Leafs. In their last six games, they have goal totals of 8, 9, 5, 5, and 6. Just as we all expected, an offensive juggernaut in the desert. Wait, that's not Vegas... Arizona won both games in a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday, winning 5-3 in Ottawa and 6-3 in Montreal. Their lead man was Lawson Crouse. Crouse had a hat trick on four shots in the win over Ottawa before scoring a goal and an assist with three shots in Montreal. That brings Crouse to 19+13 on the season, easily a career high in goals and one off his career high in assists. For the time being, Crouse is an elite streamer. You can even make a case for holding him in hits leagues given his gaudy total, and the PIM are great as well. Crouse looked on the path to being a massive bust, and while he still has a way to go, this is an incredible encouraging season from the 24 year old. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
David Perron had a horrible start to the season and was shaping up to being one of the biggest fantasy busts of this year. To say things have turned for the better is an understatement. Perron scored two goals on seven shots against the Predators before scoring a goal on seven shots against Winnipeg. Since Perron went back on the top line, Perron has exploded. He has eight goals and five assists in the last ten games with 35 SOG. It's good enough across the board that Perron is a clear hold in all formats again. He's only available in about 25% of leagues, but even in a shallow league, I wouldn't be cutting Perron to keep a stream spot. The schedule is a little light the next couple weeks, but it really picks up in the last week of March and early April. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Remember when the Kraken took Vitek Vanecek in the expansion draft and then traded him right back to Washington? Imagine where Washington would be if they only had Samsonov. Vanecek had a 36 save shutout in the 4-0 win over the Hurricanes. He missed some time recently, but Vanecek is approaching a 2.30/.920 line. He's been miles better than Samsonov despite Samsonov winning at a much higher clip. Amazingly, Vanecek is still available in over 70% of leagues at the time of this writing. I'm not saying that he's going to be a workhorse, but Vanecek will be splitting at the very least, and his numbers are clearly good enough to hold. This season has been quite encouraging for Vanecek's long term prospects as well. He's not a lock to be the Washington goalie of the future, but it's certainly in play now. At the least, he looks the part of a capable tandem. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
What's up, Razzball hockey nerds! I'm filling in for Viz this week, who's doing some traveling. Let's start off by giving some love to Tanner Jeannot. At the time of writing this, the dude is still only 47% rostered on Yahoo despite being the #94 overall player in standard formats. He brings massive value in the hits category, clocking in as the #4 forward (and #5 player) in that regard. But he's not your Clutterbuck or Reaves type who isn't scoring any points. Nay, Jeannot has 17 G and 14 A in 51 GP this year. On Tuesday, Jeannot netted two more goals on 3 SOG, chipping in a +2 rating and 6 H, which is a badass freakin line in a standard format. Oh yeah! And if you're a PIM-leaguer, Jeannot is elite there as well, with 87 on the year. All this from a 24-year-old I'd never heard of and who went undrafted, ultimately being signed by the Preds last year and appearing in 15 games. He's an every day-er now, and I think it's safe to say he's found a very comfortable home in the NHL. Here's what stood out over the last couple days of action:
Before this season, Tage Thompson was part of the punch line about how bad the Sabres were fleeced in the RoR trade. Amazingly, Thompson has come out of nowhere to play better than RoR has this season (although I'm sure the Blues are just fine with it, banners fly forever). Thompson was fantastic over the weekend, scoring a hat trick against the Avalanche before scoring a goal on four shots against the Blue Jackets on Sunday. That brings Thompson up to 20 goals and 18 assists in 47 games and over three shots per game. Thompson is right on the fringe although I lean towards grabbing him for now. Buffalo's next opponent? Montreal. Let me get some of that. Either way, Thompson's development is massive for the Sabres going forward. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
The Flames are playing incredible hockey at the moment as they make their way up the standings. The top line gets a ton of credit, but the second line has been just as important. They've thoroughly dominated for months generating absurd shot rates and possession. This continued the last two nights as Calgary blew out Vegas and Toronto back to back. Mikael Backlund led the way with six points between the two games, scoring a goal and three assists against Vegas, then following it up with two more assists against the Leafs. Andrew Mangiapane scored three goals over the two games, while Blake Coleman dished two assists. It might be a stretch, but I have them all as elite streamers right now. I'd rank them Mangiapane, Coleman, Backlund depending on your league format, but the work they're doing against top lines is more valuable in real life than fantasy. Still, if they keep getting over 80 shots per 60 minutes as a line, which they've done for over a month, there will be plenty of fantasy value. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It looks like I was a year early predicting Matthew Tkachuk to be a top 20 fantasy hockey player. It also looks like I sold him a bit short. Tkachuk had five assists on Monday, all of which came in the first two periods. He's playing at a 40+50 pace with well over three shots per game, elite play at even strength and the power play, and plenty of PIM. The first line in Calgary is playing just about as well as any line in the league with Tkachuk leading the way. He's a top ten skater on the season now, and while I wouldn't rank him as a first round pick i.e. the top 12, he's a slam dunk top 20 guy. Guys who absolutely dominate all of the categories are harder to come by, and the only two that have been better so far are Marchand and Kadri. For the rest of the season, I'd take Tkachuk over Kadri too, and long term, Tkachuk is the top guy. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It's been the longest break without playing hockey in Evgeni Malkin's career. He sure didn't show any rust in his return. Malkin was outstanding on Tuesday, scoring two goals and an assist with four shots playing 17:21 in the 4-1 win over the Ducks. Everything we wanted to see from Malkin in his season debut was there. Top power play unit? Check. Centering the second line? Check. Quality minutes? Check. He'll even have better linemates once Rust returns. I'm not expecting Malkin to be a top 20 player, but top 50 certainly seems within reach given how well the Penguins power play is clicking. If you stashed him, then you're going to make out extremely well if he can stay healthy. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights: