Welcome to NHL.com's "Fantasy Faceoff," where our panel of insiders will dissect individual matchups to help determine which player carries the most fantasy value. Torn between two players on draft day? Look no further than NHL.com for the edge on the most compelling positional toss-ups as your fantasy draft approaches.
Earlier this week our NHL.com fantasy writers debated the forward positions. Now we move on to the blue line, where Brian Metzer weighs in on who he believes should be selected first among defensemen, P.K. Subban or Erik Karlsson.
When you enter the market to make a purchase or acquisition of any kind, there are always options.
Looking for a luxury car? You can go towards Cadillac or Lincoln.
Maybe it's a guitar you are hoping to acquire? Some folks will point you towards the Fender Stratocaster, while others will say you have to go with a Les Paul.
It even happens in the realm of decadent food. Some want Lobster; others go with filet mignon. For the indecisive there is the ever popular Surf and Turf platter which gives you both.
At the end of the day it all comes down to preference and that is where we sit this year in terms of the top fantasy defenseman.
Really, how can you pick between P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson? Heck, some will even say that our third-ranked player, Kris Letang, should be the guy that goes first in your league and he very well may. But we're here to discuss the merits of Subban over Karlsson, since that is how we ranked them.
A year ago there was no debate. Karlsson was the guy, no questions asked. He had come off a career season that saw him post .96 points per game, 78 points and 261 shots on goal. He outscored most forwards let alone his peers in the defensive ranks, but a slow start combined with a horrid on-ice accident that resulted in his Achilles tendon being severed slammed the door on his possibly winning back-to-back Norris Trophies as the league's top defenseman.
It also opened the door for this year's top-ranked defenseman, Subban. The 24-year-old missed the first six games of the season due to a contract dispute, before bursting onto the scene with six points in his first six games back. But he really grabbed the mantle as top fantasy defenseman in March, when he posted 18 points (seven goals) in just 14 games.
Subban would ride that wave all the way to his first Norris Trophy and he earned it, honestly. Though he finished with 38 points, tied with Letang, he posted 11 goals, just one behind a rejuvenated Mike Green. His 27 assists and 126 shots ranked him third at the position, which combined with the aforementioned goal total made him head-and-shoulders the best defenseman to own in terms of multiple category coverage.
He also managed to block 49 shots and added 51 hits, which helped you if your league tracks such statistics, but it is the offense that should have you salivating. It is amazing to think that he managed to put up these totals while playing in head coach Michel Therrien's system, which holds players to a higher standard in terms of defensive responsibility.
Subban already earned his spot with his on-ice performance, but the thing that really put him ahead of Karlsson is his resiliency. He's missed just 12 games over the past three seasons, six of which came during the previously mentioned contract dispute.
Though Karlsson made it back late in the season and still managed to post .82 points-per-game, he just didn't look comfortable. Speed and agility are such an important part of his game and it just wasn't there as he seemed to be dealing with the lingering effects of the severed Achilles.
He will face questions about his game until he proves he is back to 100 percent and able to gallop around the ice as he did during his breakout season. His offensive skills are there, but the mobility was a big factor in his success.
In terms of surrounding cast, Karlsson may have a bit more to work with, but Subban still has some very talented forwards who are capable of finishing off his passes. Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchenyuk are all a year older and should be ready to build on their success from last season.
Subban has also matured on and off the ice over the past two seasons and has become a leader for his club. He is no longer the gregarious youngster who at times ruffled the feathers of his teammates. He is probably the biggest catalyst for his team's success and he plays a ton of minutes. Sure, Karlsson has many of these same traits, but the grey areas surrounding his health make Subban leapfrog to the front of the line.
When you head into draft day, there will be plenty of choices to make. Preference will come into play. The numbers speak for themselves and our top two defensemen are ranked where they are for a reason, but as laid out above, there are issues that need to be considered before choosing.
As with the car, the guitar or the decadent food, it is all good, but in this case evidence shows that Subban is just a little better.
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