Look, defensemen get a bad wrap in fantasy hockey. Just like they do on the ice for their NHL teams, many of the best defensemen toil quietly in obscurity. For your fantasy hockey team, they tend to be complementary players. Defensemen are excellent sources for multi-cat leagues. When you get one who puts up a high point total, though, he can make the difference between making your team an also-ran or a champion. With that in mind, now is a good time to take a fresh look at our Top 50 Fantasy Hockey Defenseman Rankings.
Fantasy Hockey Risers:
Shea Weber has been a pleasant surprise this year. Ranked #21 among D in the preseason ranks, he jumps to #6 in this update. In the preseason, there were legitimate questions of whether all the years of 25+ATOI were finally catching up to Weber, who missed significant time in two straight seasons. Instead, we have been treated to a season of prime Weber. Weber is top 10 in D in scoring and on pace for a season of 54 points, 240 shots, 140 hits, and 140 blocks. Among all the higher point-scorers, not one has more hits OR more blocks than Shea.
A question everyone had in the preseason was who would be the lead D on Edmonton’s power play. When it became clear early on that Oscar Klefbom would be on the ice with Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, his stock went through the roof. Barring a change to his role, there is no reason to think he will slip back down. From #50 to #5, Klefbom will be owned on a lot of fantasy hockey champion teams this year.
24-year-old Neal Pionk was combined with a prime first-round draft pick last summer so the Rangers could get back Jacob Trouba. While Trouba has been fine, Pionk has thrived as the PPQB in Winnipeg. In the preseason, much speculation surrounded whether Dustin Byfuglien would step in to take back his accustomed role. Instead, Byfuglien remains at home and Pionk has 32 points, 18 on the power-play unit. With little competition in Winnipeg’s thin D corps, there does not look to be a challenger to the role. Pionk goes from #50 in the preseason to #10 D now.
Fantasy Hockey Fallers:
PK Subban’s fall has been sudden and dramatic. With his recent history of injuries and move out of high-powered Nashville to bottom-barrel New Jersey, we gave him a modest #12 ranking preseason. Now he comes in at #50. He is still on roughly a 200-shot pace, but 11 points in 48 games while having only an irregular spot on the top power-play does not indicate a bounceback coming soon. PK’s critics are often unfair to him, but there is little to defend this year’s performance.
John Klingberg’s declining rank is partly due to injuries this year, but regardless he has the lowest scoring rate, shot rate, and shooting percentage of his career. Miro Heiskanen recently suffered a concussion, giving the returning Klingberg a bit more time to dig back into the top defensive role on the team. Still, when Klingberg’s scoring drops he has fewer peripheral stats than his peers, which lowers his floor. A slip from #13 to #30 results.
The lead story among defensemen ought to be Dougie Hamilton. I thought the #15 rank we gave him in the preseason was aggressive given coaches’ history of underusing him his whole career. Instead, Justin Faulk got traded and freed up a spot on the power play. Hamilton’s ATOI jumped by 4 minutes. In 47 games, his 40 points already eclipsed the 39 he scored in 82 games for Carolina last year. Had he not broke his fibula, he would probably be #3 on this list.
Top 50 Fantasy Hockey Defenseman Rankings
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