Hello everyone. Today, I’m going to take a look at the top 20 overall defensemen on the season based on the ESPN player rater for the categories used in the RCL’s. I decided to start with defensemen because the top 10 and 20 from the preseason were the first two articles I wrote for Razzball. You can find the top 10 here and the top 20 here if you want to have them open while you read this. While there were some surprises in the teens, the most part the rankings were very close for the most part. The top 11 overall defenseman were all in my top 17. Let’s get to it!
1) Brent Burns – I had Burns ranked 7th overall in the preseason despite my mancrush for him. My concerns were that he wouldn’t repeat his 36 points at even strength from 2014-15 because of the uncertainty around the Sharks. Turned out that fear was misplaced because Burns reached 45 points at even strength and 30 more on the power play. He also avoided the injury bug for the second straight season. Getting 27+48 is great in itself but the biggest difference was the shots. Burns had a ridiculous 353 SOG, 108 more than the season before and second most in the league behind Alex Ovechkin. I won’t have Burns #1 going into next season but he won’t be far from it.
2) Kris Letang – I had Letang ranked 3rd in the preseason which was higher than everywhere else. Hopefully everyone reaped the benefits with me. Despite the horrible start for Pittsburgh and missing 11 games, Letang was a beast across the board. He finished with 67 points in 71 games, 66 PIM and over 3 shots per game. With a solid plus-minus and elite special teams points, Letang hit all of the categories extremely well. There’s no chance we’ll be able to get Letang as late in drafts in 2016-17 than this year (ESPN had him outside the top 100) but Letang should be a top 5 defenseman next season.
3) Dustin Byfuglien – I had Big Buff 4th going into the season. Things went pretty much how you’d expect for Byfuglien. He was behind the other top guys in assists but had 19 goals, 119 PIM and over 3 shots per game. Buff will be ranked around the same spot next season and once again, whether you take him or the other guys in his tier will depend on your team build.
4) Erik Karlsson – Karlsson was my #1 going into the season and was for the majority of the season. He had an absurd 82 points in 82 games leading the entire NHL in assists and finishing tied for fourth in points. He should clearly win the Norris Trophy (even though #5 probably will) and gets my vote for the best player in the NHL right now. He finished because despite taking over 3 shots per game, he finished with 16 goals, behind the other elite defensemen and also finished -2. The Senators roster is flawed but hopefully they fix things in the offseason; it’s a shame to see Karlsson wasted. The 25 year old is in the middle of his prime right now and will be my #1 again going into next year.
5) Drew Doughty – I had Doughty ranked 14th in the preseason because I didn’t think he had an elite ceiling. Despite what it looks like, his finish in the top 5 is a bit fluky. One, the player rater gives him a big boost for being +24 and while that’s a credit to him, it’s hard to repeat. In the previous four years, he finished a combined +22. He also was relatively poor at even strength offensively with only 25 of his 51 points coming at even strength. That puts him in a company with guys like Mattias Ekholm, Tyler Myers and Kevin Klein. The big special teams make his totals look better than they were and makes it unlikely for him to repeat it. I’ll be staying away from Doughty on draft day if his ADP is where I think it will be.
6) Oliver Ekman-Larsson – I had OEL 13th in the preseason, the last guy in the third tier from 4th to 13th. My concern was that his plus-minus would be horrible but with him limiting it to -6, he was able to finish 6th by a fair gap over 7th. OEL went over 20 goals for the second straight season, saw a big boost in assists, kept the shots over 3 per game, was strong on the power play again and added a ton of penalty minutes getting 96 on the season. The Coyotes are only going to get better which will boost OEL as well. I’ll have him ranked right around this spot going into next year.
7) John Klingberg – I had Klingberg ranked 17th going into last season. I said that “Klingberg has so many things going for him that this time next year, he could easily be a lock for the top 10 fantasy defensemen rankings next offseason.” Well that certainly turned out to be the case. The shots saw a nice boost to almost 2.5 per game, the assists and power play points are elite and the plus-minus was great as well. His shooting percentage was pretty poor so Klingberg could get a goals boost next year and while the plus-minus is a detriment against Doughty because he hasn’t done it before, Klingberg could repeat it on an up and coming Stars team. He’ll be ranked in the bottom of the top 10 defenseman.
8) P.K. Subban – I had Subban ranked 2nd in the preseason and he was second until he missed the last 14 games due to injury. This is despite Subban scoring only 6 goals on 176 shots which will surely regress to the mean next season. The assists, penalty minutes and special teams were all elite again. He’s a lock to be in the top 5 again going into next season, more than likely 2nd or 3rd.
9) Roman Josi – I had Josi ranked 12th going into the season because his ceiling didn’t reach the guys above him. Josi put up very close to the same line as the year before. He had added 6 more points overall due to 9 more on the power play but saw his plus-minus go from +15 to -3. The boost from 26 to 43 PIM is also nothing to sneeze at. Josi will be ranked right around the same spot again because we know what we’ll get from him and that’s something worthwhile.
10) Mark Giordano – I had Giordano ranked 5th in the preseason which looked absurd for the first half of the season. Like the rest of the Flames besides Johnny Gaudreau, Giordano was a disaster the first few months of the year. Thankfully for the people who drafted him, he finished strong to get into the top 10. Gio finished with 21+35 with solid penalty minutes, shots and special teams points. I’ll probably have him just outside the top 10 going into next year only because he’s 32 years old and the Flames could limit his workload a bit.
11) Victor Hedman – I had Hedman ranked 9th for defensemen in the preseason which was a bit higher than most. Despite finishing 11th, it was a bit disappointing because a lot of that value came from his plus-minus. 47 points with solid PIM and SOG is nothing to sneeze at but the Lightning didn’t come close to matching 2014-15 offensively. I do expect them to bounceback next season so Hedman should be right around this spot again; where he regresses in plus-minus he should get back in the other categories.
12) Ryan Suter – I had ranked 38 total defensemen in my top 200 and Suter wasn’t there; this was my biggest whiff of the group. Suter always played a ton of minutes but never really did much with them in Minnesota until this year. Suter tied a career high in goals and set a career high in assists, shots by a mile and had his second best year in power play points. I’ll have Suter lower than this going into next year because guys who set career highs at 31 rarely top them at 32. That said, he will probably be close to the top 20 since he’s a plus in all categories but goals.
13) Brent Seabrook – Seabrook was my 38th ranked defensemen going into the season and while I whiffed here as well, I don’t think it was a mistake. Seabrook was great when Duncan Keith was suspended and while he was better than I expected even with Keith, it was boosted by a high shooting percentage by his standards. He could lose his spot on the top power play unit next season just as easily as he keeps it. The penalty minutes are also low and I expect to go back towards 40 points instead of crossing 50. If he’s your #3 next season in a 12’er, you’ll probably be okay but I’m going to stay away.
14) Torey Krug – Krug was my 26th ranked defenseman and he blew by that ranking by crushing in assists, special teams points and shots. I’m going to want Krug badly next season; his goals are certain to increase after scoring only 4 goals on 244 shots. My guess is that people have him ranked lower than this because he scored only 4 goals but I’ll have him right around this spot.
15) Jake Muzzin – I didn’t have Muzzin in my top 200 and while it looks like a big oversight, this season wasn’t much different than the year before when he was fringe top 200. The goals, assists and power play points were all virtually the same. The penalty minutes saw a big boost as did the shots with a nice bump in plus-minus. Muzzin was very far behind Krug in the player rater with the rest of the top 20 close to him. Honestly, his biggest value was that he played all 82 games. He won’t be in my top 20 going into next year but he’ll certainly be in the top 200, probably top 150.
16) Shea Weber – I had Weber ranked 10th overall and while there were some nice things for Weber, there are some worries here. Despite scoring 2o goals, 5 more than the year before, Weber took 48 less shots meaning that goal total was a bit fluky. The penalty minutes also disappeared going from 72 to 27. Add in a plus-minus that dropped off completely and I’ll be staying away from Weber next season. I’ll probably have him right around 20th which will be well after he goes based on name value.
17) Shayne Gostisbehere – I didn’t have Ghost ranked in the top 200 as well but that was justifiable; he wasn’t even in the NHL to start the season. At least I can find solace in the fact that I told everyone to pick him up right away once he was called up. Ghost took the league by storm being a big plus in every category besides penalty minutes. While he slowed down a bit in the second half, the nice thing was that his minutes steadily increased throughout the year and should go up even more next year. He’s going to be right on the fringe of the top 10 for me.
18) Zdeno Chara – I didn’t have Chara in the top 200 after scoring only 20 points in 2014-15 as a 38 year old. He didn’t do anything spectacular this season but managed to be a plus in all categories this season which was enough to get into the top 20. Unless he falls next season and I need penalty minutes, I’ll be staying away from Chara next year. 37 points and 71 PIM is nice but nothing spectacular. He’s 39 years old now so his great days are behind him.
19) Aaron Ekblad – I had Ekblad ranked 19th going into the season. I got one exactly right! His numbers were extremely close to his rookie year with a slight boost to 15 goals. It was nice to see Ekblad avoid a sophomore slump and instead take a slight step forward. The Panthers are only going to get better and that’s true with Ekblad as well, who just turned 20 years old. I’ll probably have him slightly higher than this next season since I expect him to be closer to 50 points next year instead of the high 30s.
20) Duncan Keith – Keith was my 15th ranked defensemen and did pretty much what you’d expect on a per game basis; the only problem was he missed 15 games due to injury or suspension. Keith isn’t flashy and is usually ranked higher than he should be because he’s great in real life. I assume I will be priced out on Keith again and that’s fine.
Just to note quickly, my biggest whiffs were Kevin Shattenkirk, who I ranked 6th and finished 21st, and John Carlson, who I had 8th and finished 30th. Shattenkirk missed 10 games but was really dragged down because he finished -14. Carlson missed 26 games and struggled when he first came back. Both of them have a great chance to bounce back next season.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll have a writeup tomorrow although I’m unsure about the topic as of yet. I am planning on doing daily notes on the playoffs every other day for April meaning it won’t be daily notes tomorrow after only three games. Instead, it could be something similar to this for forwards or goaltending. It could also be a breakout / flop article or if you have any suggestions, post them below and perhaps I’ll go with that as well. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments. Take care!