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Fantasy defenseman top 50 rankings for 2018-19

Karlsson regains first spot after trade to Sharks; Vlasic enters list as potential beneficiary

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com is previewing the fantasy defenseman landscape for 2018-19. From top players to underrated options and rookies at the position, this guide will prepare you for upcoming drafts. For more fantasy hockey coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Impact of Karlsson trade to Sharks | Cheat sheet

 

STARTING AT THE TOP

Erik Karlsson, SJS (Yahoo average draft position: 34.7) -- The San Jose Sharks acquired the 28-year-old from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, altering the defenseman landscape. Before the Karlsson trade, fellow elite option Brent Burns had the highest Yahoo ADP at the position (19.5), but this could trigger a chain reaction of defensemen being selected much earlier in drafts. Karlsson, who leads active NHL defensemen in career points per game (0.83), is worth selecting in the first round, ahead of Burns. Karlsson also boosts the value of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, his potential defense pair, who joins the top 50 rankings after the trade.

Brent Burns, SJS (ADP: 19.5) -- The 33-year-old ranks second among all players in shots on goal (1,005) since 2015-16 behind Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (1,066). Burns had an NHL career high in assists last season (55) but had his lowest goal total (12) since 2012-13. His shooting percentage (3.6 last season) should revert closer to his career average (7.1), making him a likely candidate to finish among the top three at the position with Karlsson. Burns and Karlsson are both predicted to have at least 70 points by NHL.com and would be the first duo to achieve this feat since Brian Leetch and Sergei Zubov of the New York Rangers in 1993-94.

Tweet from @NHLReese: #FantasyHockey implications: Could Burns and Karlsson both hit 70 points this season?

Victor Hedman, TBL (ADP 22.6) -- The reigning Norris Trophy winner finished fifth among defensemen with 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists), fifth in power-play points (26) and was second in plus/minus (plus-32). With an elite power play and team security, Hedman is an extremely safe pick in the first two rounds of any draft and the obvious choice for anyone worried about Karlsson and Burns sharing the scoring on the Sharks.

 

BARGAIN HUNTING

John Carlson, WSH (ADP: 82.3) -- The 28-year-old led NHL defensemen with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists), and his 32 PPP ranked second at the position behind Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers (33). Carlson covers SOG (227; 5th among defensemen) and hits (0.9 per game in NHL career), making him a bargain if available outside the top 70.

Keith Yandle, FLA (ADP: 103.9) -- The 31-year-old led the Florida Panthers in ice time per game (24:29) and ranked first among their defensemen with 56 points (eight goals, 48 assists), including 18 PPP, in 82 games. With the addition of wing Mike Hoffman, Yandle expects the Panthers power play (21st in NHL last season; 18.9 percent) to improve. "I think it's a huge addition for us," Yandle told NHL.com. "I think he's a shot-first type guy. If you looked at our power play last year, we had a lot of guys who were really unselfish and wanted to make that extra pass and I think for us to add a guy that is a shot-first guy, and has a great shot at that, is a huge advantage for us."

Jake Gardiner, TOR (ADP: 127.0) -- A potential 2019 unrestricted free agent, Gardiner was tied for sixth among defensemen in even-strength points (37) and led the Maple Leafs with 22:32 per game. His shooting percentage (3.9) was an NHL career low and could easily revert closer to his average (5.9). Potential power-play exposure to elite center John Tavares makes Gardiner worth targeting in the 10th round or later.

 

POTENTIAL STEALS

Ryan Pulock, NYI (ADP: 141.1) -- Despite playing mostly on the second power-play unit, Pulock had 10 goals and 11 PPP in his rookie season. The 23-year-old could overtake Nick Leddy for a spot on the top unit and is one of the more intriguing sleeper candidates this season under new coach Barry Trotz.

Shea Theodore, VGK (ADP: 158.6) -- The 23-year-old was third among Vegas Golden Knights defensemen with 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 61 games. He led all Golden Knights defenseman with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games and could carry over his strong finish. With top defenseman Nate Schmidt suspended for 20 games, Theodore could see an increased role at even strength and do even more with his first power-play usage. Vegas acquiring goal-scoring left wing Max Pacioretty can only help Theodore's value.

 

ROOKIES TO WATCH

Rasmus Dahlin, BUF (ADP: 106.9) -- The rookie is likely to play at least 20 minutes per game and contribute to an improved power play, which features another offseason addition in left wing Jeff Skinner. NHL.com has projected Dahlin, the first pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, for 43 points (eight goals, 35 assists), including 18 PPP, but his ceiling could be even higher if center Jack Eichel remains healthy for a full season.

Miro Heiskanen, DAL (ADP: 185) -- With all the hype surrounding Dahlin, Heiskanen (No. 3 pick in 2017 draft) is flying under the radar. The 19-year-old had 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 30 games for HIFK of Liiga and could play on either the top pair with John Klingberg or the second with fellow Finnish defenseman Julius Honka. Dallas is one of the few teams that has an elite group of four skaters (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Klingberg), which could propel the rookie defenseman to immediate fantasy relevance.

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CONSENSUS TOP 50 DEFENSEMAN RANKINGS

Standard Yahoo categories include goals, assists, plus/minus, PPP, SOG and now hits for skaters. ... Value has been quantified based on factors including but not limited to past production, defense pairs, power-play usage, injury history, age, sleeper, bounce-back or breakout potential, anticipated regression and contract status (pending unrestricted or restricted free agent). Any potential 2019 UFAs (*) and RFAs (**) are also noted below. INJ. indicates players with injury concerns. These are the average of Pete Jensen and Rob Reese's defenseman rankings.

1. Erik Karlsson, D, SJS*
2. Brent Burns, D, SJS
3. Victor Hedman, D, TBL
4. Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG
5. Drew Doughty, D, LAK
6. P.K. Subban, D, NSH
7. John Klingberg, D, DAL
8. Seth Jones, D, CBJ
9. Roman Josi, D, NSH
10. John Carlson, D, WSH
11. Kris Letang, D, PIT
12. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, PHI
13. Dougie Hamilton, D, CAR
14. Torey Krug, D, BOS (INJ.)
15. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF
16. Keith Yandle, D, FLA
17. Tyson Barrie, D, COL
18. Ivan Provorov, D, PHI**
19. Mark Giordano, D, CGY
20. Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS**
21. Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL
22. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, ARI
23. Morgan Rielly, D, TOR
24. Zach Werenski, D, CBJ (INJ.)**
25. Matt Dumba, D, MIN
26. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, BUF
27. Ryan Ellis, D, NSH
28. Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA
29. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TBL
30. Jake Gardiner, D, TOR*
31. Ryan Suter, D, MIN (INJ.)
32. Shea Theodore, D, VGK (RFA)
33. Jake Muzzin, D, LAK
34. Brandon Montour, D, ANA
35. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI
36. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D, SJS
37. Nick Leddy, D, NYI
38. Colton Parayko, D, STL
39. Will Butcher, D, NJD**
40. Erik Johnson, D, COL
41. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, NYR
42. Josh Manson, D, ANA
43. Justin Faulk, D, CAR
44. Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL
45. Duncan Keith, D, CHI
46. Mike Matheson, D, FLA
47. Cam Fowler, D, ANA
48. Tyler Myers, D, WPG*
49. Mattias Ekholm, D, NSH
50. Mike Green, D, DET - INJ.

Just missed: Nikita Zadorov, D, COL**; Sami Vatanen, D, NJD; Colin Miller, D, VGK; Jeff Petry, D, MTL; Noah Hanifin, D, CGY

Key injury: Shea Weber, MTL

 

Read: Fantasy Defenseman rankings for August 2018

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