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Fantasy Hockey Defensemen Rankings and Scouting Reports

George Kurtz Staff Writer September 25, 2017 11:37AM EST
When it comes to drafting defensemen, I usually follow two basic strategies. I’m not going to take a defenseman in the first couple of rounds. Sure, I might think about Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson but in the end, I want my top forwards to solidify my goal scoring. I would like a Top 8-10 defenseman to anchor my unit but after that I’m looking for category fillers. As my draft is going along I will look at what secondary categories I’m lacking in. Maybe I need a boost to my plus/minus, hits, blocked shots, or time on ice. If that’s so, I will look for a defenseman that can help in those categories and leave the goal scoring for my centers and wings.

Be sure to check out George Kurtz’ other positional rankings and Top 200.

Right Wings – Left Wings – Centers – Goalies – Top 200

1. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: This really shouldn’t be a shock as Burns is pretty much another forward out there (a position he has played with Minnesota and San Jose).

2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators: If Karlsson hadn’t been coming off foot surgery I might’ve given him more consideration for the number one spot here but it’s hard to do that when we aren’t quite sure when in October he will return to action.

3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning: He had a career season with 72

If you draft Erik Karlsson, you will have to be patient. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

points last year, now we need to see if he can do it again. There are some negatives, however, as his plus/minus was the worst it has been since 2012-13 and he only has 11 career power play goals. His 29-power play assists last season, though, were through the roof.

4. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins: The only question with Letang is health. We know he is one of the best offensive defensemen in the game but each and every season, it’s not a matter of if he will get hurt, it’s when and how many games he will miss. He hasn’t played a full season since 2010-11 and has only played 70-plus games in a season four times in 11 years. He’s also averaging more than 20 games missed over the past four seasons. If you draft Letang, you better draft a competent replacement as well.

5. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets: Byfuglien is that defensemen who should hit all of your categories. He is a big bruising type who is not afraid to use his body against opponents or in front of the net. A nasty streak will also help your PIMs. We would like to see a few more goals on the power play.

6. Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens: Quite a bit will be asked of Weber this season as Montreal has quite a few question marks on defense after him. Weber’s first season in Montreal was a success and even at 32 years of age, there is little reason to believe that he won’t have a solid encore.

7. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators: From top to bottom the Predators have the best defensive corps in the NHL. Josi is kind of forgotten about with the addition of Subban, but a 50-plus point season with double digit goals should be easily obtainable.

8. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators: It seemed to take Subban about half the season to get accustomed to playing in Nashville year after his trade from Montreal but once he did, he started to perform like the player he was for the Canadiens. He was a force in the playoffs and should revert back to his Top 10 Fantasy defensemen status.

9. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks: Keith is one of the steadier D-men in the game. The only negative about his play as far as Fantasy owners are concerned is that he has only scored 15 goals over the past two years and never had more than four power play goals in any season.

10. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes: How good would Ekman-Larsson be if he didn’t play on a second-tier team like Arizona? If you put him on Pittsburgh or Washington we’d be talking about him being one of, if not the best defenseman in the game.

11. Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets: Werenski had an impressive rookie season for a dangerous Blue Jackets team. Not only do I believe he can do it again, but I think he can get even better with more experience and confidence.

12. Doug Hamilton, Calgary Flames: He could be a Top 10 defensemen if he would just pot a few more power play goals each season. He improved his play in the defensive zone last season and raised his plus/minus 26 points from the previous season. The talent is there but I can’t see him being an anchor for my defensive corps.

13. Kevin Shattenkirk, New York Rangers: My only worry would be that the Rangers will play him on the top defensive unit, thus putting him up against the opposing team’s top offensive player. This will slow down his offensive production, as he is far from an elite defensive player. What he does well is create offense, especially on the power play. Putting him on the second defensive pairing will likely work better for the Rangers and Fantasy owners.

14. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings: If we’re talking about one of the best overall defensemen in the NHL, then Doughty has to be in that conversation, but he has always left owners wanting something more as a Fantasy defender.

15. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars: Klingberg is being undervalued. There is little doubt that he, along with the entire team, really underperformed last year. Now that they have reliable goaltending and a top rate first line, this team should once again be one of the more dangerous offensive ones and Klingberg should only benefit from that.

16. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins: Krug had his best season Fantasy wise to date last year. He’s small, only 5’9”, so he’s not your prototypical defender, but he does have offensive flair.

17. Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh Penguins: Schultz had a revival with the Penguins after being a disappointment with Edmonton. There is some worry though, with Letang back, the Pens could elect to go with Evgeni Malkin on the point on power plays, which could push Schultz to the second unit. There is also some worry that Schultz won’t play as many important minutes with Letang back but then again, how long can Letang stay healthy?

18. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: He had the best goal scoring season of his career last year and the Blues will need him to repeat that success, as he will likely lead the defense due to the loss of Shattenkirk.

19. Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres: I may have Ristolainen ranked too low if he becomes the player that most expect him to be. The Sabres are an up-and-coming team but I just don’t know if this is the season that they put it all together.

20. Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers: Gostisbehere followed up an impressive rookie season with a disappointing sophomore one. Perhaps the abdominal and hip surgery slowed him down more than expected. A rebound season could be on the horizon.

21. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild: Don’t let the massive contract fool you, he’s a much better NHL defenseman than Fantasy one. He will have his moments but his upside is limited.

22. Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers: Poor management decisions and injuries derailed the Panthers 2017 season. This year should be better as this team is loaded with young talent and Ekblad could be the key to success on defense.

23. Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes: We heard Faulk’s name being mentioned in trade rumors quite a bit at the trade deadline last season. He is still with Carolina but a slow start to the season could once again light the fire for the Canes to move him.

24. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames: Last season Giordano seemed to sacrifice offense for defense. He was an impressive plus 22, the best of his career, but his offensive numbers were down across the board. It would be nice if we could get a happy medium here.

25. Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks paid him this offseason but don’t be fooled by the big money contract. Fowler is a good NHL defenseman, but not great. I can see him being a solid D2 but don’t be fooled into thinking he is the next Shea Weber or Duncan Keith.

26. John Carlson, Washington Capitals: Carlson had a down season last year and that may have been one of the reasons why Washington acquired Shattenkirk at the trade deadline. Well, Shattenkirk is gone and the Caps will need Carlson to lead the offensive attack from the defense once again.

27. Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks: Seabrook has been one of the most undervalued defensemen over the past couple of years in the NHL but there is little denying that he had a below average 2016-17 campaign. At 32 years old, has age finally caught up to him or was this just a blip on the radar? I’m willing to give him one more shot this year.

28. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers: He is a solid defenseman but a lack of goal scoring has always prevented him from becoming an elite one.

29. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets: If there is a defender who is ready to take the next step towards elite status, Jones may be it. He has gotten better year after year and this could be the season when he becomes a household name.

30. Nick Leddy, New York Islanders: I wonder if his value is so low because of the slow start to last season? Leddy is a terrific skater who can lead the rush and should be a solid D3 for your Fantasy team.

31. Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues: Parayko also had a slow start last season and is yet another defender who could move up to the next tier should he put it all together.

32. Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild: A solid defender who help in all categories with the exception of the power play. Still, he may be a steal as a D3.

33. Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers have fixed the offense (Connor McDavid) and the goaltending (Cam Talbot). If they ever find a top defender or two, look out.

34. Keith Yandle, Florida Panthers: The Panthers won’t be as poor as they were last season and Yandle will contribute on the power play for your Fantasy team.

35. Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators: If not for the knee injury that will keep him out until January, Ellis would be 10 spots higher on this list. Still, Ellis and the player you replace him with should still be more valuable than some other longshots on this list.

36. Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche: Has the skill, just has to put it all together. This may not be the year however as the team is a mess.

37. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets: Hasn’t reached the heights that were once expected of him. Still, he’s a nice dartboard throw late in your draft.

38. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins: The future Hall of Famer just isn’t anywhere near the player he used to be. Even with his reach he has a tough time keeping up with the speed of today’s players.

39. Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers: The 20-year old defender should only get better and may end up proving to be a better blue liner than Gostisbehere.

40. Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild: The Wild are loaded at defense. Dumba may actually end up being the best Fantasy asset of them all.
You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz

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