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?
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.
It's not the first time this season, but Jonathan Huberdeau had five points in Tuesday's 7-4 win over the Predators, scoring twice and adding three assists. I know I'm a broken record with Huberdeau, but there's no superstar that gets less recognition than Huberdeau does. Thankfully, the Panthers clinched a playoff berth with the victory so he'll get back on the big stage. He's playing a 95 point pace again and should be around 25th overall going into next season in standard leagues. If your league doesn't include shots, he'll be even higher. It took longer than anticipated, but Huberdeau has proven to be worth the third overall pick from 10 years ago and then some. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Going into the season, I was high on Aaron Ekblad because the reports out of Florida were that Yandle was going to get scratched to open the season and his future was in doubt. One bout of COVID later, and Yandle was in opening night and scored. For the bad luck I've had on rankings this year
, Yandle has not impacted Ekblad one bit. Ekblad had hit a bit of a rough patch over the last week, but he fixed that in a big way on Thursday. Ekblad scored two goals and added two assists with six shots in the 5-4 win over the Predators. That brings Ekblad to 8+7 in 22 games, an incredible rate of goals for a defenseman. Add in three shots per game and strong PIM, and Ekblad has a chance at finishing as a #2D this season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
James Neal opened the season on an absolute tear, a stretch that included a four goal game. He fell off dramatically over the last two months, but he had another massive game on Tuesday. Neal had a hat trick and an assist in the 7-5 win over the Rangers. So should we care? I mean, the Rangers are a disaster defensively. And the answer is... yes and no. What great advice! It all comes down to your team needs. Neal has been excellent on the power play and should continue to do so on Edmonton's first unit. The goals are going to keep coming in. On the other hand, he's -23 and has only eight assists on the season. If you're desperate for goals and power play points, or are in a league with extra categories that include PPG, then there's a case to hold Neal. Otherwise, I would prefer to stream him so he doesn't tank my plus-minus while also giving less assists than any other fantasy relevant player. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last three nights:
I talked a lot about Taylor Hall in Monday's post (you can read that here). The trade that I was talking about happened on Monday with Hall moving to Arizona. In the trade, Hall and Blake Speers went to Arizona for a 2020 conditional first-round draft pick, a conditional 2021 third-rounder, along with forward prospects Nate Schnarr, Nick Merkley and defenseman Kevin Bahl. First, let's look at this from Arizona's perspective. It's a steep price to pay for a rental, but Hall is the best player traded in quite some time, and Arizona is looking to snap a long playoff drought in a weak division. I totally get the move given their strong defensive talent but lack of overall offensive talent. Hall played on Tuesday dishing an assist and adding a shot in 18 minutes. He played with Christian Dvorak and Clayton Keller. In Monday's piece linked above, I said to buy Keller going forward due to his recent play. This only enhances his value. Same goes with Dvorak, but he moves up to an elite streamer for now. As for New Jersey, it's hard to complain about this return. You have potentially two first round picks in this deal, but at least a 1 and 3. Bahl is a monster coming in at 6'7 and can skate fairly well. I don't see a PP guy there, but he should be a modern stay-at-home who is strong on the PK. For those in deep leagues, he should be a very good hits/blocks guy down the line. Merkley has decent upside, but he has already had reconstructive knee surgery. He's not the best skater, but he has great hockey IQ and should end up as a playmaking center in the middle six. Schnarr was a third round pick in 2018 who didn't show a ton of offense until after he was drafted. He then exploded in Guelph last season, but he's struggled in the AHL so far. That isn't a surprise as many 20 year olds struggle in their first pro season. I don't expect a ton, but there's a decent chance he ends up an NHL'er. All in all, seems like this trade has the potential to be a win-win once you consider that Hall seemingly didn't want to stay in New Jersey. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Hat tricks aren't that uncommon in the NHL. First period hat tricks are. Evander Kane became the first player in Sharks history to do so, scoring three goals and adding an assist with five shots in the 5-2 win over the Hurricanes on Wednesday. Kane has long been a player that I rate higher than consensus because of his shot rate and penalty minutes. Kane has four goals and two assists in four games since returning from suspension to go along with four PIM and 13 shots. Pretty, pretty good. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Sharks went 0-3 without Kane and are 3-1 since. With their current depth issues, Kane should be leaned on heavily giving him a great chance at a top 50 fantasy season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Not sure David Pastrnak even knows who Christopher Columbus is, but he sure dominated on his day Monday. Pastrnak won the game for the Bruins scoring all four goals on five shots. Two of those goals were on the power play, he chipped in two penalty minutes, and finished +1. I generally don't like to lead off posts talking about superstars, but I feel obligated to give Pasta props for a four goal game. The top seven going into the season were pretty clear for me but who was eighth was a debate. I ultimately decided on Draisaitl but went with Pastrnak in the nine spot. So far, so good. Look for the Bruins top line to dominate on a nightly basis. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I've been stubborn in terms of thinking Dougie Hamilton was going to have a massive fantasy season for years now. Loyal Razzballers know my love for guys who hit all of the categories, and Hamilton has always done that. It seems like Carolina is finally giving him the chance to be the #1 guy in all situations and he's off to a tremendous start. On Friday, Dougie scored a goal and an assist with four shots and two PIM. He followed that up with a goal on five shots Saturday, bringing him to 4+4 in 6 games with 19 shots, 6 PIM and +7. Obviously he's not going to keep up this pace, but this is the kind of start that can allow Hamilton to finish as a top five defenseman. In fact, gun to head, I'd bet on it happening right now. If you follow my rankings, odds are that you have Hamilton on your team in redrafts or keepers. If that's the case, don't even consider selling high because this isn't a fluke. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Today, we wrap up my defensemen rankings going through the top 40. Guys that don't make this list will creep into my top 200, but these 20 blueliners will be the last guys that get a whole paragraph on them. For those who didn't see it, my top 20 can be read here. Let's get right to it! 21) Seth Jones - I know it will be controversial that Jones isn't in my top 20. A lot of my concerns with Jones last season were founded. His huge jump in shot rate dropped almost all the way back to where it was in 2016-17. His power play totals plummeted. His assists and goals both dropped despite the team shooting 9.9% while Jones was on the ice last season, the best of his career. Am I expecting a big bounce back? Not really. The loss of Panarin should help increase his PP role, but he could also lose PP1 time to Werenski. Obviously he could get back to 2017-18 form where he was a bottom end #2, but I have my doubts.