Sports Hockey

2017 Fantasy Hockey Preview: Defencemen

Joel Colomby

By Joel Colomby, Toronto Sun

Brent Burns scoring totals last year would have been great even for a forward. (The Canadian Press)

Brent Burns scoring totals last year would have been great even for a forward. (The Canadian Press)

The corps of elite defencemen seems to have thinned out slightly because of injury considerations, age or off-years in 2016-17.

Last season produced only nine rearguards with 50 or more points, down from a dozen the year before. But of the D-men who will attract the most attention on draft day, bushy-bearded Brent Burns is the first to come to mind and will likely garner first-round status based on his 29 goals and 76 points.

But Lightning’s Victor Hedman (our pre-season pick last year to win the Norris) and Senators’ Erik Karlsson, coming off foot surgery, won’t be far behind.

Following is a loose list of the projected top fantasy defencemen. broken down into tiers — which means, at the moment, there’s not a lot to choose between any of the names in that grouping and, depending on personal preference, any one could be as valuable a pick as anyone else.

TIER ONE

Brent Burns SJ

Drafting his goals and assists is like adding an extra forward to your team.

Victor Hedman TB

Only four points behind Burns but his plus-minus dropped from plus-21 to plus-3.

Erik Karlsson OTT

Highest points-per-game over the past three years but will miss first few weeks

Dustin Byfuglien WPG

A rare combination of points and penalties makes him an attractive pick.

Kris Letang PIT

Elite offensive potential though he has missed a third of Pens games since 2011.

Roman Josi NAS

A safe pick though numbers dipped slightly in his first season without Weber as a partner.

Duncan Keith CHI

Reversed slight downhill trend by returning to 50-point, plus-20 plateau.

Shea Weber MON

Top-shelf, all-around blueliner kept it going in his first season as a Hab.

P.K. Subban NAS

We’re expecting an improvement on 40 points and minus-8 in second year with Preds.

Drew Doughty LA

Safe high fantasy pick, but falling plus-minus reflective of team’s tumble.

Zach Werenski CLB

As a rookie, quickly established himself among league’s top defencemen.

Dougie Hamilton CGY

Goals, assists, points and PIMs have increased in each of his five years.

Kevin Shattenkirk NYR

Thanks to his wicked shot, should be best NYR powerplay QB since Leetch.

Ryan Suter MIN

NHL-best plus-34 what separates ice-eater from other 40-point D-men.

Alex Pietrangelo STL

Now Blues’ undisputed go-to D-man, doubling his goal total from seven to 14.

 

TIER TWO

Rasmus Ristolainen BUF

Rising PIM totals even more reason to jump on this emerging young star.

Mark Giordano CGY

Goals and points well down from 2015-16, but plus-minus rocketed up.

Justin Schultz PIT

Wonder if his stunning breakout would’ve happened if still on improved Oilers?

Justin Faulk CAR

His 17 goals tied for second-best among NHL D-men, but minus-18 hurts.

Seth Jones CLB

Partnered with Werenski a definite plus. Has all the tools to be a superstar.

Torey Krug BOS

Minus-10 offset by team-leading 25 power-play points. Starting on IR.

Jake Gardiner TOR

Breakout candidate has grown in leaps and bounds in two years under Babcock.

John Klingberg DAL

Salvaged a sophmore slump season in final 25 games, going 5-13-18.

Oscar Klefbom EDM

Emerging star had 26 of his 38 points in second half of season.

John Carlson WAS

Best thing for him and his owners is that Shattenkirk moved on.

Aaron Ekblad FLA

Former first overall pick took major step backwards with 21 points, minus-23.

Ryan McDonagh NYR

May not produce as much on scoresheet with Shattenkirk in town.

Shayne Gostisbehere PHIL

Best news is that he led all NHL D-men in power-play time on ice per game.

Keith Yandle FLA

Reliable veteran has hit the 40-point mark eight seasons in a row.

Colton Parayko STL

Will he get more PP TOI with Shattenkirk gone? He didn’t after the trade.

Ryan Ellis NAS

Has improved his points per game every year for the past four.

Cam Fowler ANA

Coming off an 11-goal, 39-point season, both career-highs.

Jacob Trouba WPG

Will be undervalued after a brutal post-holdout start to last season (0-3-3 in 15 GP).

Jaccob Slavin CAR

Emerging youngster’s team-leading plus-23 stood out among all of those Canes’ minuses.

Brent Seabrook CHI

Goals dropped from 14 to three, but he should still be good for 40 points.

Matt Niskanen WAS

A solid bet for 35-40 points again, but has to repeat his plus-20 to maintain value.

Jared Spurgeon MIN

Flipside of a great plus-minus: Earned only five of his 37 points last year on the power-play.

Morgan Rielly TOR

Has settled into more of a shutdown role, but the offensive upside remains.

 

TIER THREE

Tyson Barrie COL

His 38 points at 26 years old not nearly as attractive as the 53 he had at 24.

T.J. Brodie CGY

Endured a rough even-strength season, his plus-minus tumbling to minus-16.

Jake Muzzin LA

Looking to rebound with his entire team after offence and plus-minus took a big hit last year.

Shea Theodore VGK

First, make sure this future Vegas cornerstone actually makes opening-night roster.

Matt Dumba MIN

If his career trends hold, he should be in line for first 40-point season.

Dmitry Orlov WAS

Now on No. 1 pairing, he may top his 33 points of last year with more PP time.

Ivan Provorov PHIL

Established himself quickly as Flyers’ go-to rearguard as a rookie.

Mattias Ekholm NAS

Assumed more of a shutdown role with Subban as his partner.

Radko Gudas PHIL

An underrated fantasy blueliner with ability to contribute innumerous categories.

Nick Leddy NYI

Posted a career-high 11 goals, 46 points as Isles’ No. 1 defender.

Nikita Zaitsev TOR

Finished a surprising third in rookie defence points in his first season out of Russia.

Dion Phaneuf OTT

Value lies in being one of only a few league defencemen who can hit 100 PIMs.

Alex Goligoski ARZ

Excellent puck skills, but surprisingly inefficient with the man advantage with just eight PP points.

Sami Vatanen ANA

Coming off shoulder surgery after mustering only 10 even-strength points all season.

Alec Martinez LA

Nothing spectacular, but contributed nicely in everything from points to plus-minus to blocks.

Brady Skjei NYR

Unexpected breakout star’s 35 assists were fourth highest for a rookie D-man in franchise history.

Trevor Daley DET

He’s likely now the Wings’ No. 1 D-man and should get the ice time to show for it.

Zdeno Chara BOS

Big guy’s best days behind him, but at 40 years old and healthy, he can still produce.

Andrej Sekera EDM

Reversed a minus-15 to a plus-14 last year and chipped in with 35 points.

Tyler Myers WPG

Played only 11 games, but totalled five points in them with 13 PIMs and a plus-5.

David Savard CLB

Excellent plus-33 makes up for lack of PP time and complements his 23 points.

Mark Borowiecki OTT

Nothing offensively, but he is a one-stop fantasy hits and penalties producer.

 

YOUNG WITH UPSIDE: Charlie McAvoy BOS, Josh Morrissey WPG, Noah Hanifin CAR, Connor Carrick TOR

RELIABLE ROSTER FILLERS: Nick Holden NYR, Marc-Edouard Vlasic SJ, Johnny Boychuk NYI, Ron Hainsey TOR, Ian Cole PIT, Adam Larsson EDM, Josh Manson ANA

 

2016-17 LEADERS

GOALS

Burns SJ 29

Faulk CAR 17

Weber MON 17

Karlsson OTT 17

Ellis NAS 16

Hedman 16

ASSISTS

Hedman TB 56

Karlsson OTT 54

Keith CHI 47

Burns SJ 47

Krug BOS 43

Shattenkirk SL-WA 43

POINTS

Burns SJ 76

Hedman TB 72

Karlsson OTT 71

Shattenkirk SL-WA 56

Keith CHI 53

Byfuglien WPG 52

PLUS-MINUS

Suter MIN +34

Spurgeon MIN +33

Savard CLB +33

Orpik WAS +32

Orlov WAS +32

Schultz PIT +27

Cole PIT +27

PIMS

Borowiecki OTT 154

Byfuglien WPG 117

Phaneuf OTT 100

Gudas PHIL 93

Englelland CGY 85

L.Schenn ARZ 85

HITS

Borowiecki OTT 364

L.Schenn ARZ 286

Gudas PHIL 280

Larsson EDM 253

Emelin MON 241

Polak TOR 232

BLOCKS

Russell EDM 213

Karlsson OTT 201

Cole PIT 194

de Haan NYI 190

Giordano CGY 184

Hjalmarsson CHI 181