2020 Fantasy Hockey Tiers: Defensemen (1-5)

Updated: September 27, 2019 at 10:23 am by Dylan Berthiaume

We continue to breakdown the DailyFaceoff Top 300 Rankings into Tiers. After completing the forwards, it’s time to turn our eye on the defensemen.

Previous Tiers Posts:


Tier 1

Brent Burns

Burns answered all of the questions raised about Karlsson eating into his production last season. He recorded 16 goals and 67 assists for a career-high 83 points in 2018-19. There is no one better at getting the puck on net from the blue line. His elite shot volume combined with his durability makes him the most reliable defenseman in fantasy. The 15-year-vet hasn’t missed a regular-season game since 2014. You won’t find a safer pick on draft day.

Erik Karlsson

Injuries and some poor puck luck hampered Karlsson’s production in his first season as a Shark. He scored only three goals but registered 42 assists in 53 games. The drop-off in goal-scoring can be attributed to a 1.8 SH% for Karlsson, well below his career rate of 6.4%. Some slight regression there should be enough to get Karlsson back above 70 points this season, assuming he can stay healthy. The Sharks’ two premier defensemen are in a fantasy tier of their own heading into the 2019-20 season.

Tier 2

Victor Hedman

Hedman has evolved into one of the most consistent goal scorers among all NHL defensemen. He’s scored ten times or more in six straight seasons. Injuries limited Hedman to just 70 games last season and took a toll on his ice-time as well. He played a full three minutes less per game in 2018-19 than the year before. The lingering upper and lower-body issues that plagued him last season seem to be behind him now. Assuming he can stay healthy, Hedman has the talent and opportunity to top 70 points this season.

John Carlson

Carlson’s incredibly high floor is enough to warrant a spot with Hedman in our second tier. He has a knack for getting the puck on net and has posted an above-average SH% throughout his career. Most of Carlson’s fantasy value derives from his role as the quarterback of Washington’s deadly power-play. Setting up Alex Ovechkin for one-timers in the slot is an easy way to pad your assist totals, and Carlson knows it. He’s registered a whopping 58 power-play assists over the last two seasons. He is a safe bet for double-digit goals, and his opportunity makes him a lock for 60 points. I think you’re getting fair value out of his current ADP of 39.4.

Tier 3

Kris Letang

Durability will always be a concern with Letang, but you can count on getting elite production out of him whenever he’s healthy. He scored 16 times and added 40 helpers in 65 appearances last season. He should have no problem continuing to produce at that pace in 2019-20. Letang will continue to see huge minutes at even strength, and his role on the man advantage gives him a very high floor. The injury concerns are valid, but I still like the value you’re getting at his current ADP of 49.0.

Morgan Rielly

Rielly broke out in a major way last season, scoring 20 goals and adding 52 assists, but he seems due to regress in 2019-20. Rielly did notably improve on his shot volume last year, but he shot 9.0%, an unsustainable rate for a defenseman. His 12.1 on-ice SH% will also be tough to replicate, and he has some competition for power-play time in Tyson Barrie. Another 72-point season from Rielly is unlikely, but he’s still a starting fantasy blue-liner and the Maple Leaf defenseman you want to own.

John Klingberg

Klingberg has established himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL since his breakout in 2015. He ran into injury problems last season but has typically been very durable throughout his career. For his career, Klingberg has produced at a 12-goal, 46-assist pace per 82 games. He lacks the upside of the guys ranked above him, but his high floor makes him worthy of the title of a No.1 fantasy defenseman.

Mark Giordano

Giordano enjoyed a career year last season, and it’s hard to imagine him replicating that production in 2019-20. An inflated 11.3 on-ice SH% suggests he won’t be able to tally another 57 assists, but he’s still a very reliable goal-scorer. He has elite shot volume and has posted an above-average SH% throughout his career, making him one of the few defensemen capable of topping 20 goals. Don’t expect last year’s production, but he still offers great value at his current ADP of 69.6.

Roman Josi

One of the most consistent defensemen in fantasy hockey, Josi comes in at the tail-end of our third tier. He’s registered at least 12 goals and 49 points in each of the last five seasons. He ranks third among defensemen in that span in points with 274, and fifth in goals with 70. With @P.K. Subban no longer there to eat into his minutes, Josi becomes Nashville’s unquestioned No.1 defensemen at even-strength as well as on the power-play. He doesn’t offer the upside of the guys in tiers 1 and 2, but he’s still a great No.1 fantasy defenseman.

Tier 4

Torey Krug

While there’s plenty of competition for 5v5 ice-time on Boston’s blue-line, Krug remains the top option on the man advantage. He played the third-most power-play minutes per game last season among all NHL defensemen. That kind of usage on a power-play as lethal as Boston’s gives Krug a very high floor in 2019-20. He’s tallied 50 points or more in three straight seasons, ranking fifth among all NHL defensemen in points with 163 over that span. The underwhelming 5v5 production knocks Krug out of our third tier, but his role as the quarterback for one of the league’s top power-plays still makes him a No.1 fantasy defenseman.

Thomas Chabot

After coming out of the gates flying last season, Chabot’s production tailed off in the second half of the year. For the season, Chabot registered 14 goals and 41 assists in 70 games. His 11.0 on-ice SH% is due for some regression but playing a full 82 games would go a long way towards mitigating that. If he can stay healthy, Chabot’s usage makes him a reliable bet to top 50 points and a borderline number-one fantasy blueliner.

Seth Jones

Jones should continue to be an elite fantasy option in 2019-20. He sees a ton of minutes and is a consistent producer at 5v5, giving him a high floor to work with. Artemi Panarin’s departure could take a toll on Jones’ power-play production, but Jones will be relied on to contribute a lot offensively on this new-look Blue Jackets team, which should help pad his shot volume. Jones fired 184 shots on goal in 2018-19, a dramatic decrease from the 249 he registered the year before. You could do a lot worse than ending up with Jones as your number-one defender, but I’m not crazy about his current ADP of 60.0.

Erik Gustafsson

One of Jeremy Colliton’s biggest successes in his first season behind the Chicago bench was uncovering Gustafsson’s offensive potential. Colliton correctly identified Gustafsson as a force on the power-play, leading to one of the most unpredictable breakouts of the fantasy season. Gustafsson went off for 17 goals and 43 assists in 79 games in 2018-19. His role as the quarterback of Chicago’s dynamic power-play is cemented and gives him a very stable floor, but his 10.6 SH% is bound to regress. He’ll need to dramatically improve on last year’s shot total of 160 if he’s going to get anywhere near 17 goals this season.

@P.K. Subban

After averaging under 23 minutes a game in 2018-19 for the first time since his rookie year, Subban is due for an uptick in usage in New Jersey. Now freed from the Predators’ dreadful power-play, don’t be surprised to see Subban back around the 55-60-point range we’re so used to seeing from him. If he can stay healthy, his shot volume all but guarantees him 10 goals, but he’s being heavily overvalued at his current ADP of 48.0. That’s about three rounds too early for my liking.

Tier 5

Zach Werenski

Like his teammate Jones, Werenski should see an increased role in Columbus’ offence this season. The expected bump in ice-time should help Werenski build on his shot volume. He’s scored at least 11 goals in all three of his NHL seasons and is a safe bet to top that mark again in 2019-20. Weresnki’s fantasy value gets a boost in points leagues that favour goal-scoring, but his relatively low assist totals keep him from joining Jones in the fourth tier.

Rasmus Dahlin

Dahlin impressed, to say the least, in his rookie season, finishing tied for 21st among NHL defensemen in points with 44, and 30th in goals with nine. His point total ranked fourth among all rookie defensemen in the last decade and he comes into 2020 as a serious breakout candidate. The 19-year-old phenom should see plenty of minutes on Buffalo’s top defensive pair and power-play unit, giving him every opportunity in the world to improve on his rookie numbers. A 10-goal, 40-assist season is well within reason for Dahlin.

Matt Dumba

Dumba has quickly evolved into a potent goal-scoring threat from the back-end, scoring at least 10 times in each of the last four seasons. A ruptured pectoral muscle limited Dumba to just 32 games last season, but he still managed to register 12 goals and 10 assists. Dating back to the start of the 2015-16 season, Dumba is 12th among all NHL defensemen in goals while averaging 167 shots per 82 games. His assist totals are very underwhelming and ultimately limit his upside, but the goal-scoring is enough to make him a high-end No.2 fantasy defenseman.

Tyson Barrie

Barrie moves from one offensive juggernaut in the Avalanche to another in the Maple Leafs, but he is set to assume a lesser role. Barrie will no longer be uncontested for power-play time as he was in Colorado. He’s been relegated to Toronto’s second power-play unit to start the season, though that could easily change as the season plays out. Barrie is still an elite producer at even strength and a safe bet to hit double-digit goals regardless of power-play time, but 23 of the 45 assists he registered last season came on the power-play. I’d be comfortable with having him as my No.2 defenseman in fantasy, but I won’t be a buyer at his current ADP of 68.8.

Jacob Trouba

Trouba was able to put all concerns about his durability to rest last season, playing a full 82 games for the first time in his career. Injuries on the Winnipeg blue-line led to increased opportunity for Trouba, and he took full advantage of it. He registered a career-high 50 points and should see even more ice time this year with the Rangers. His upside was always capped by Dustin Byfuglien’s presence, so don’t be surprised if Trouba continues his breakout with New York. He could be an absolute steal at his current ADP of 115.2.



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