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Fantasy defenseman rankings for 2016-17

Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns most valuable; Seth Jones has sleeper potential

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

It took a while, but all defensemen are finally created equally in fantasy hockey.

With Yahoo's release of its 2016-17 preseason rankings, there are no longer any dual-eligible defensemen. Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) and Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets) lost their rare position flexibility at right wing, having not played the forward position in multiple seasons. Though that makes them slightly less appealing overall, the two are still firmly entrenched among the top five defensemen (Burns is second, Byfuglien fifth).

FANTASY RANKINGS: TOP 250 | CENTER | LW | RWGOALIE

PRESEASON TAKEAWAYS: DEFENSEMEN

Erik Karlsson (No. 1) of the Ottawa Senators, Kris Letang (No. 3) of the Pittsburgh Penguins and P.K. Subban (No. 4) of the Nashville Predators round out the top five at the position, each warranting selection within the first 40 picks in a Yahoo draft. If you'd rather focus on forwards in the early rounds of your draft, there are still plenty of high-end defensemen who should be available outside the first four or five rounds.

Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, who finished seventh among 'D' in Yahoo last season, and Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano (10th) each offers exposure to high-scoring forwards and should be available in the sixth or seventh round of a 10-team draft. Keith Yandle is also in a great spot after moving to the Florida Panthers and should re-join the top 15 if he boosts their first power-play unit.

Video: Fantasy hockey analysis with Pete Jensen

Here's a complete defensemen outlook and fantasy draft guide to help you prepare for this season.

BARGAIN HUNTING - Well-known defensemen in position to outperform their current Yahoo rank

Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes

After getting off to a fast start, injuries derailed what could have been a career NHL season for Faulk in 2015-16. He scored all 12 of his power-play goals in the first 30 games and still finished tied for second among defensemen in that category. Faulk, ranked 18th at his position and 78th overall by Yahoo, should be available in the eighth or ninth round in a 10-team draft. If Faulk stays healthy and Carolina's offense improves, he has a shot to finish among the top 10 fantasy defensemen this season. 

Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

Suter, ranked 122nd overall by Yahoo (26th among defensemen), has been the model of consistency since 2008-09. He had an NHL career-high 51 points (eight goals, 43 assists) and covered five of the six standard categories well last season to finish 12th at his position in Yahoo despite being drafted 128th on average. New Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, known for his regular-season prowess through the years, should maximize Suter's efficiency and make him well worth a pick in the 11th round or later in a 10-team draft.

Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings

A low shooting percentage (3.9) didn't get in the way of Muzzin's 16th-place finish among defensemen last season. But even after his second consecutive season of at least 40 points, Muzzin is still ranked outside the top 20 by Yahoo heading into this season (23rd; 106th overall). He plays big minutes (23:03 per game) for the Kings behind Drew Doughty (28:01), is a staple on the power play (2:18 per game, 13 power-play points), and has strong category coverage for a defenseman available outside the top 100 overall.

POTENTIAL STEALS - High-upside defensemen who should be available outside top 100 overall

Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets

Jones nearly doubled his production after being traded to the Blue Jackets by the Nashville Predators on Jan. 6; he had a goal and 10 assists in 40 games with Nashville and two goals and 18 assists in 41 games with Columbus last season. Jones, who turns 22 on Oct. 3, led Blue Jackets defensemen in average time on ice per game (24:27) and was second in PPP (nine). He's ranked just outside the top 30 (32nd) at his position and the top 150 overall (157th), but has top 15 upside with the potential to flourish in almost every category.

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild

The Wild defense is crowded with young (and old) talent, but Dumba may have the most offensive ability. He led Minnesota defensemen in PPG (six), was third in PPP (12), and second in goals (10) and shots on goal (152) last season. Dumba will be available late in either a 10- or 12-team draft and should finish higher than his rank as the 35th-best defenseman if given more ice time under Boudreau.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs

Rielly led Toronto defensemen in almost every statistical category with nine goals, 27 assists and 167 SOG last season; he was also second in PPP (eight). He is the clear-cut No. 1 defenseman on a Maple Leafs team that figures to improve in its second season under coach Mike Babcock. An injection of talented young forwards, including 2016 top pick Auston Matthews, could have a nice trickle-down effect on Rielly, making him worth selecting among the top 40 defensemen.

ROOKIE WATCH - Young defensemen outside top 200 who can find fantasy relevance

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

Pulock showed flashes of what he can do on offense in limited time last season that could lead to an increased role. He played 15 regular-season games (four points, 15 SOG) but came alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with three points (two PPP) and five SOG in six games. Pulock has a chance to break into a top-four role over the course of the season and could be featured on the Islanders' first or second power-play unit, making him a deep sleeper candidate.

Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

If any rookie defenseman can duplicate what Shayne Gostisbehere did with the Philadelphia Flyers last season (46 points in 64 games), it's Werenski. He'll likely start the season with Cleveland of the American Hockey League, where he helped win the Calder Cup with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2015-16, but would earn a call-up if the Blue Jackets deal with injuries on defense. He's not worth drafting in standard formats, but was a point-per-game player at the University of Michigan last season and has a chance to be very valuable in fantasy once he cracks the NHL roster.

Julius Honka, Dallas Stars

Many believe defenseman Esa Lindell is next in line to get a spot on the Stars roster, but Honka has nothing left to prove with Texas of the AHL and is the better overall prospect. He finished sixth among AHL defensemen in scoring last season with 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) in 73 games. Like Werenski, Honka shouldn't be targeted outside of a keeper league and likely would need an injury to force his way onto the roster unless he convinces coach Lindy Ruff otherwise during training camp.

Video: Pete Jensen previews the top fantasy hockey picks

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DEFENSEMEN RANKINGS

The below rankings may differ from the order of defensemen in NHL.com's top 250 by Pete Jensen. ... Standard Yahoo categories include goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, PPP and SOG for skaters.

1. Erik Karlsson, OTT
2. Brent Burns, SJS
3. Kris Letang, PIT
4. P.K. Subban, NSH
5. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI
7. Drew Doughty, LAK
8. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI
9. Roman Josi, NSH
10. John Carlson, WSH
11. Mark Giordano, CGY
12. Keith Yandle, FLA
13. Victor Hedman, TBL
14. John Klingberg, DAL
15. Shea Weber, MTL
16. Torey Krug, BOS
17. Duncan Keith, CHI
18. Aaron Ekblad, FLA
19. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF
20. Justin Faulk, CAR
21. Tyson Barrie, COL
22. Brent Seabrook, CHI
23. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL
24. Jake Muzzin, LAK
25. Dougie Hamilton, CGY
26. Alex Pietrangelo, STL
27. Ryan Suter, MIN
28. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS
29. Seth Jones, CBJ
30. Colton Parayko, STL
31. Sami Vatanen, ANA
32. Hampus Lindholm, ANA - RFA
33. Anton Stralman, TBL
34. TJ Brodie, CGY
35. Ryan McDonagh, NYR
36. Trevor Daley, PIT
37. Alec Martinez, LAK
38. Morgan Rielly, TOR
39. Zdeno Chara, BOS
40. Nick Leddy, NYI
41. Mike Green, DET
42. Mattias Ekholm, NSH
43. Michael Stone, ARI - INJ.
44. Brian Campbell, CHI
45. Matt Dumba, MIN
46. Matt Niskanen, WSH
47. Andrej Sekera, EDM 
48. Jacob Trouba, WPG - RFA
49. Ryan Ellis, NSH
50. Adam Larsson, EDM

Just missed: Andrei Markov (MTL), Alex Goligoski (ARI), Jared Spurgeon (MIN), Cam Fowler (ANA), Jake Gardiner (TOR), Danny DeKeyser (DET), Olli Maatta (PIT), Dion Phaneuf (OTT), Johnny Boychuk (NYI), Cody Ceci (OTT)

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