With the start of the NHL preseason, it's time to start preparing for our fantasy hockey drafts. In an effort to help you (and me) win some fantasy hockey chips, I've inhaled the tape, poured over the stats and even ritually sacrificed a Sean Avery card to appease the hockey gods. In doing so five lists were created of the top ten fantasy hockey players at their position, players were only assessed at their primary position; without further ado let's go into it.
1. Cale Makar
Honestly, this might have been the easiest of all the spots as I'm head over heels for this guy. I've seen convincing arguments that he's the best defenseman since Bobby Orr. While that may be a bit extreme, he's certainly my pick for the best defenseman in the league heading into this season, furthermore, Makar genuinely seems like a realistic bet to be the first defenseman in a long time to crack 100 points.
2. Roman Josi
Led defenseman with over 90 points last season and is the rudder that steers the Nashville Predators ship. Overall the superb Swiss is absolutely stellar and has shown no signs of slowing down as he enters the back nine of his career. Go ahead and lock him into a top d spot on your team, you'll be happy to have him.
3. Adam Fox
Fox quarterbacks one of the league's deadliest power plays, is one of the fastest players from the blue line and has a nose for the net. Simply put if you're looking for an offensive defenseman there might not be any better. The Flying Fox seems to only be improving and he's the 2b to Josi's 2a (side note: do people outside of my friend group call him the flying fox? Because I think that's a cool nickname if you got a better one I'm all ears though).
4. Victor Hedman
Consistency with a capital C. If you want a reliable guy who is going to get 70ish points, ten goals and maybe even a fantasy championship; (and probably a Norris nomination) here ya go. Minus the Covid shortened season, in the last five years, Hedman has at least 11 goals, 54 points and played 66 games each season. Considering the career highs of 85 points and 20 goals in 82 games last year, could he be getting better?
5. Aaron Ekblad
He ranked fifth in P/GP among defensemen last season and was easily on pace to register over 200 shots on goal. The main reason for concern is his injuries. He's missed 21 games in each of the last two seasons. Especially with the departure of Mackenzie Weegar, Ekblad is slated to play huge minutes on the backend for an incredibly talented and offensively based Panthers team. If Ekblad can stay healthy expect elite production.
6. Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks)
Hughes has an interesting case, as over the past three seasons, Hughes ranks fourth in assists (143) and sixth in points (162) among rearguards. Hughes also ranks 43rd in goals (19), 38th in shots (374) and barely registers in hits (44) or blocked shots (145). All of this makes Hughes very valuable in some leagues but diminished in others. Overall increasing his goals (which seems unlikely) or overall scoring to around a point per game (I can see him hitting 80) is needed to raise his value. All things considered, I would be more than happy to have them on my fantasy team, especially as a no-2 defenseman; his value would go down significantly in banger leagues though.
7. John Carlson (Washington Capitals)
Since his breakout season in 2017-18, Carlson leads all defensemen with 328 points, 25 more than Josi and 26 more than Hedman. Carlson’s power play contributions are particularly elite, partially due to Ovechkin’s work from his office. He may make some questionable defensive moves on the ice from time to time, but very few defensemen have his offensive upside.
8. Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings)
Stylistically, Seider’s closest to Hedman; he can score points, quarterback a power play and contribute in both hits and blocked shots. In banger leagues, Seider’s upside is huge and should climb a few spots higher. The sophomore slump is often overblown, and most bumps in the road for young players are only temporary; particularly when they are as talented as Seider. The hype is real and Seider will be a Norris contender for years to come.
9. Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Rielly is very consistent and that is unlikely to change, considering he plays a top role for a contending team with a high-powered offence. Baring another seemingly lucky increase in shooting percentage akin to the 18-19 season, it's fair to expect Reilly to finish top 10 in goals and points for his position. His value goes down in banger leagues, as he doesn't block as many shots or get as many hits as you expect from an all-around high-quality defenseman. Overall, Rielly is a great guy on your fantasy team, especially as an #2 defenseman possessing the comfort of a very high floor.
10. Brent Burns (Carolina Hurricanes)
The Hurricanes currently rely on a scoring-minded right-handed defenseman to get the most out of their offence. Burns will be their third project in three seasons following Dougie Hamilton and Tony DeAngelo, who both had excellent seasons in Raleigh. Burns may be the oldest but he has the best track record and perhaps a change of scenery will invigorate his game. With less responsibility and better opportunities for a stronger team, it seems likely Burns can elevate his numbers closer to his peak. Burns could be the best bargain amongst defensemen this year due to his upside; presuming age is not a major factor for him.
- Charlie Mcavoy – A good player, and if not for health reasons would have made this list. McAvoy’s coming off his best season, but he’s slated to miss a big chunk of time due to injury. He’s finished top-five in Norris voting for two straight seasons
- Kris Letang - Having missed just five games over the past two seasons after a string of injury-plagued years, Letang seems primed to continue a late-career resurgence. He finished seventh in scoring with a career-best 171 hits and 122 blocks, the second-highest total of his career. The Pens have added key pieces and the addition of Jeff Petry should take some pressure off Letang, who will likely finish top-10 in scoring among defensemen again.
- Drew Doughty - Last season prior to his injury DD was having a career year on pace to score what would have been a career-high 65 points with at least two hundred shots, 100 blocks and 100 hits. The Kings are poised to take a leap forward this year after tanking the past few seasons to retool the team. Expectations are high and if the team delivers count on Doughty to be one of the main reasons and beneficiaries.
- Rasmus Dahlin - Will likely be on this list one day but alas not yet. It cannot be understated how improved the Sabres looked under Dan Granado. Since entering the league, Dahlin's point-producing ability has been evident; he has scored at the same point per game pace (0.58) as All-Stars Seth Jones and Charlie Mcavoy. Dahlin’s plus-minus, easily his worst stat last season is a category that seems to be in fewer leagues every year, let alone that his numbers for it will likely improve this season.