The 2018-2019 NHL season has just begun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your fantasy hockey team.
The addition of defensive statistics to ESPN’s standard game, such as blocked shots, has altered the way we see blueliners in the fantasy realm. It’s no longer about the select few individuals who can shoot the puck with recklessness and contribute with the additional skater on a consistent basis. Well-rounded blueliners – those who contribute goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, blocked shots, and hits – have become more important to the game than ever before this season. Just like in real life. Other factors, like as average time on ice and plus/minus, may also help a defender become a highly sought-after fantasy asset.
Only 12 defenders in ESPN’s standard league scored more than 2.0 fantasy points per game last season. There were just a dozen of them. When you consider that 16 blueliners ended in the top 50 in total fantasy points on ESPN, it’s easy to see why. This is not a position to be taken lightly.
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The number of lineup slots available and how they’re divided between forwards and defenders may also influence how your blue line is drafted. With so many slots up front and so few on the rear, a more cautious approach is required. There isn’t much of a difference between great fantasy defensemen and those who are simply decent. A more compact lineup – say, seven attackers and five defenders – necessitates a more aggressive selection of the finest blueliners available. However, never at the cost of more explosive forwards, who, on average, give out higher fantasy rewards. In more traditional leagues, I like to select a top-12 (in my opinion) defense early, fill in the later rounds with high-ceilinged mid-tier prospects, then finish the draft with wild cards and super-sleepers.
I prefer top-tier defenders.
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (ESPN’s No. 8 defenseman):
Simply said, he’s a superstar. Only four defenders scored more fantasy points per game than the sophomore in 2020-21, although he wasn’t at his best. Makar finished third in scoring with the additional skater and sixth in assists after missing a dozen games in an already short season. He’s a key member of one of the league’s most dangerous power play teams, averaging over 24 minutes per game. With a couple more blocked shots, the still-young 22-year-old may finish first in his position’s fantasy table. He’s well worth a first-round pick.
Seth Jones (No. 15 defender, Chicago Blackhawks):
To be honest, this manager is eyeing the newest member of the Blackhawks’ blue line as her fantasy defender of choice. Jones, one of the game’s most well-rounded assets, has already made a significant contribution across the board. Check for scoring. Goal-scoring opportunities? Certainly. Hits and blocked shots? Yes, absolutely. While doing so, he put in an average of 25 minutes or more each game. And now, at the age of 26, the talented 26-year-old (in his prime) is leaving Columbus for a group of scoring teammates that includes Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews (fingers crossed), and up-and-comer Kirby Dach. Chicago is paying Jones a lot of money to be exceptional, and he will be elite. Keep an eye out.
See also: Adam Fox (No. 4 defender, New York Rangers), and Jeff Petry (Montreal Canadiens) (No. 10 defenseman)
Defensemen in the mid-tier should be targeted.
Morgan Rielly (No. 29 defender, Toronto Maple Leafs):
Even though Toronto’s best defender didn’t shoot the puck nearly as often in 2020-21, he still managed to lead his team with 0.64 points per game and 12 power-play points. He sees a lot of action and can be counted on for a positive plus/minus. With a couple more blocked shots than last season, Rielly is back in the top tier. In production-heavy fantasy leagues, snagging the Leafs D-man as your D2 or D3 (my goodness) would be a big score.
Shea Theodore of the Vegas Golden Knights (No. 19 defender and possibly top-tier cusp), Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins (No. 27 defenseman), and Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks are also worth mentioning (No. 41 defenseman)
Sleepers who are important
Rasmus Dahlin (No. 50 defender, Buffalo Sabres):
Dahlin’s current ESPN rating seems theatrical, even when considering his rather poor performance last season (23 points, minus-36 in 56 games). Only one season before, when the Sabres weren’t exactly a powerhouse, the just-turned 21-year-old had 40 points in 59 games. On a club with nowhere to go but up, the 2018 first-overall draft selection is poised for a big rebound season (the Jack Eichel drama will be resolved at some point). There are two other reasons that contribute to my enthusiasm about Buffalo’s finest blueliner as a sleeper fantasy asset: In contrast to previous coach Ralph Krueger’s more defensive style, new coach Don Granato seems to be more willing to let Dahlin do his attacking thing. If the current RFA signs a bridge contract, which is a genuine possibility, he or she may feel even more motivated. Dahlin should be drafted as a D3 or D4 unless your league’s plus/minus is very important. He has the ability to outshine several D-men who have been pre-selected.
Erik Karlsson (No. 51 defender, San Jose Sharks):
First and foremost, he seems to be in good health, which is a welcome departure from previous offseason periods. There’s also the Norris Trophy-caliber résumé of 625 points in 788 regular-season games to consider. Sure, by the 31-year-standards, old’s last season was abysmal, but there’s no reason to think he’s permanently damaged. With the prospect of representing Sweden in the Olympics and earning an average of $11.5 million per year in the NHL, this former fantasy hero will be motivated to put up acceptable statistics at the very least. Take a later-round flier on one of the most prolific fantasy performers of the last decade if you’re prepared to take a chance on his groin’s long-term health. Imagine if Karlsson can even come close to his previous season’s statistics.
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Vince Dunn (No. 99 defender, Seattle Kraken):
Is it safe to assume Mark Giordano will be in charge of the Kraken’s No. 1 power play? Because I’m not one of them. Dunn, who is 24 years old and still on the rise, seems to be the more attractive option for such a position on a squad that is beginning from the ground up. With his 38th birthday coming up in early October, the veteran former Flame will likely get some special teams action and even-strength minutes, but not quite as much as he may be used to. Dunn is destined to bloom into (maybe) one of the league’s more productive defenders now that he’s out of St. Louis’ oversupply of too many too-good defensemen. In my opinion, it is a sleeper-city.
Also check out Minnesota Wild defender Matt Dumba and Arizona Coyotes forward Shayne Gostisbehere (No. 63 defenseman)
Consider these late-round selections
Rasmus Andersson (No. 55 defender, Calgary Flames):
Now that Mark Giordano has moved to Seattle, other players of Calgary’s blue line will be expected to contribute more at even strength and on the power play. That’s the 24-year-old Malmo, Sweden native with Noah Hanifin. At least until the Flames’ back end undergoes further alterations. Andersson is a solid fantasy presence with the ability to fill a depth position as a regular player. He won’t put up the flashiest statistics, but he is a constant fantasy presence and has the wherewithal to fill a depth position as a regular contributor. Particularly in the higher levels. With Giordano gone, a complete season of 40 points isn’t out of the question. It could be a lot worse.
Jamie Drysdale (No. 96 defender, Anaheim Ducks):
If Drysdale doesn’t crack the Ducks’ top pairing this season, it won’t be long before he does. This offensive-minded blueliner was selected sixth overall by Anaheim last year for a reason. He’s already made an impression as an 18-year-old in the AHL, scoring 10 points in 14 games, and holding his own in 24 games with the Ducks. The next top-power-play quarterback will have a long and fruitful career ahead of him. The former Erie Otter may be worth fantasy consideration in re-draft competition as early as this autumn, making him a no-brainer selection in dynasty and deeper keeper teams. Colorado’s Bowen Byram and Detroit’s Moritz Seider are two more talented rookies to keep an eye on right now.
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Noah Dobson (No. 103 defender, New York Islanders):
For this growing 21-year-old, the leisurely, hazy days of logging 16 minutes each game are long gone. With Nick Leddy departing for the Detroit Red Wings, Isles coach Barry Trotz has no option but to use Dobson as a top-four defender (probably) and a power-play asset in every game (most definitely). Dobson, who is averaging 0.55 points per game, is in a good position to help cover the huge scoring hole left by Leddy’s departure. The 2018 12th overall draft pick has the offensive skills and is poised to take the next major step in his third NHL season. Dobson had seven assists in 12 playoff games this spring before facing the eventual Cup-winning Lightning, including four with the extra skater. As a developing blueliner and fantasy asset, he has the potential to turn a lot of heads this season.
New York Rangers’ K’Andre Miller is another worth mentioning (No. 100 defenseman)
At the present value, avoid in drafts.
Dougie Hamilton (No. 12 defender, New Jersey Devils):
In real life, Hamilton is a top-tier defender with a lot of offensive potential. There aren’t any. But playing for the Devils isn’t the same as playing alongside his old Carolina teammates. Hamilton will improve everyone around him in New Jersey in terms of scoring. Unfortunately, the less-productive group will inevitably pull down its new blue-line star to the same level of inefficiency. The Hurricanes had the league’s second-best power play (25.6 percent) last season, thanks in part, but not entirely, to Hamilton. New Jersey came in 28th place (14.2 percent ). I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose Hamilton – far from it – but you shouldn’t select him as early as his rating indicates.
Also check out the Vegas Golden Knights’ Alec Martinez (No. three defenseman)
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The nhl defenseman points leaders is a statistic that shows the total number of points that a defenseman has scored during the current season. This statistic can be used to help determine which players are likely to have good fantasy hockey seasons.
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