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Well folks, it’s that time already, as the puck drops on a new NHL season in a mere 72 hours. Ahead of your last minute fantasy drafts and tough decisions heading into the season, I have decided to kick off my contributions to our hockey coverage with our top ten fantasy defenceman.
Note that when it comes to fantasy defenceman, it only really helps to stretch and use an early pick on studs such as Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. As a fantasy owner, if you are unable to get one of those two guys, do not panic, and save your pick for another round and another elite fantasy d-man. As long as you have your n0.1 blue-liner picked at some point throughout the first five rounds, your team should be in good shape heading into the season.
1) Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Not much needs to be said about Karlsson’s fantasy value. He has proven himself as the top fantasy blue-liner over the past half-decade, scoring 65 or more points in four of his last five seasons. On top of that, he exploded for 82 points in 82 games last year, a pace he should be able to keep up under new Senators head coach Guy Boucher. Karlsson is the undisputed best offensive defenceman in the NHL and warrants a 1st round pick in any league.
2) Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Now that we’ve established Karlsson as the top fantasy d-man, it’s time to talk about Brent Burns, the undisputed second-best fantasy option on the back-end. The 31 year-old is coming off his best season as a pro, where he WENT OFF for 75 points and an astonishing 353 shots on goal (2nd in the NHL). He and the rest of the Sharks seem poised to go on yet another playoff run, which bodes well for the veteran, and warrants him of a first round pick. Both he and Karlsson are the only blue-liners to offer that high of value.
3) Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
OEL is coming off a career year in Arizona, in which he scored 21 goals to go along with a career-best 55 points. The 25 year-old also led his team with eight game winning goals and lead all d-men with 12 power play markers, which are both valuable stat categories in a lot of fantasy leagues. As the young Coyote team around Ekman-Larsson continues to improve, look for his offensive production to do the same. This guy has the potential to put up Karlsson like numbers once everyone else around him gets going.
4) P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
The hockey world was left in shock earlier this summer after Subban was sent from Montreal to Nashville in exchange for veteran d-man Shea Weber. This blockbuster may end up working in the Preds favour, as they got a stud defenceman, who has consistently proven himself at an elite level, and put up 51 points in just 68 games this season (missed 14 games with a neck-injury). Expect a full and healthy season out of Subban with a much improved supporting cast (Forsberg, Johansen, etc.) and defence partner in Roman Josi (more on him later), which should bode very well for the 27 year-olds offensive stats.
5) Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Since the rebirth of the Jets’ franchise back in 2011, Big Buff has consistently been the team’s biggest asset on the back-end. Management invested in him with a fat new contract in the offseason and for good reason, as he has produced at least 18 goals and 45 points in each of the past three seasons. He is also an asset in leagues that count hits and/or PIMs, as he regularly makes appearances in the NHL’s top 10 in both those respective categories.
6) Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Letang ranked third in defeceman scoring last year behind Karlsson and Burns with 67 points. Healthy, Letang is nearly a lock to finish in the top 5 fantasy players at his position, but that health isn’t always something fantasy owners can put a lot of faith in. The 29 year-old has always battled several injuries throughout his career, and last season was no exception, as he missed extended time throughout the regular season and playoffs, this time with a concussion. As we know, a concussion is nothing to mess around with, making Letang a bit of a wildcard heading into this season. If fully healthy, this guy is a stud, and should rack up the points playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
7) Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
The reigning Norris Trophy winner comes in at seventh on our list, coming off a 51-point season. However, as we know, the Norris isn’t handed out the best offensive defenceman, but rather is handed out to the best all-around one. Don’t expect Doughty to exceed his point total from last season by much in 2016-17, but expect the other stats that make him so special, like total ice time (over 28 minutes per game) and plus/minus (+24 last season), to keep him prominent on what may be an offensively-challenged Kings team.
8) Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
The Nashville defenceman has spent most of his career in the shadow of former team captain Shea Weber, and was seemingly one of the best kept secrets in the NHL. However, following Weber’s departure to Montreal, Josi is a secret no more, and it is now his time to take over the spotlight as the team’s leader. Josi’s 61 points last season, highlight by a whopping (and team-leading) 47 assists, should easily transition into this year, with room for improvement while being paired with newly acquired P.K. Subban both 5-on-5 and on the power play.
9) Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
The other half of the aforementioned June blockbuster trade saw 31 year-old Weber land in Montreal, a team in desperate need of his defensive, veteran presence. While those seem to be the main reasons the Canadiens were willing to give up so much for Weber, his offensive ability (three career 20-goal seasons) is an added plus. Weber has a lethal point-shot that always makes him a scoring-threat, and is coming off a career-high 14 power play goals last season, a trend the Canadiens hope he will bring with him out east.
10) Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
The Flames captain had a big bounce-back year following an injury riddled 2014-15, as he put up a career-high 56 points and appeared in all 82 games last season, proving himself as the fantasy asset he had been in previous years. Giordano, who also scored career-highs in goals, with 21, and shots, with 212, last season, will be heavily relied upon by the Flames this season to do pretty much everything required from the blue-line, whether it be quarterbacking the power play or killing penalties, which will help to keep his stats at a similar pace to a 2015-16.
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues