These tier posts breakdown our positional rankings to help you better understand who you should be targeting in your fantasy draft and when you should be going after them. Here are our top defensemen for the 2018-19 season, tiers 6-9. You can find the rest of our positional tiers here:
- Centre, Tiers 1-5
- Centre, Tiers 6-9
- Right Wing, Tiers 1-5
- Right Wing, Tiers 6-9
- Left Wing, Tiers 1-5
- Left Wing, Tiers 6-9
- Defense, Tiers 1-5
Mark Giordano (CGY), Ryan Suter (MIN), Jake Gardiner (TOR), Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF)
Giordano registered 13 goals and 25 assists in a full 82 games last year, nearly identical to the 39-point campaign he had the season before. While he may no longer be the elite fantasy defenseman that he once was, the departure of Dougie Hamilton means Giordano’s powerplay time should go up this season. He doesn’t have the upside of the guys ranked above him, but he’s a safe bet to hit double-digit goals from the blueline. Suter may not have the goal-scoring prowess that Giordano does, but his gaudy assist totals and ATOI year after year make him a worthy addition to any fantasy blueline.
Gardiner has played a full 82 games in each of the last two seasons, averaging 7 goals and 41 assists. The skill of the Maple Leafs’ forward corps means Gardiner should have another productive season, but his fantasy value could take a hit if Morgan Rielly cuts into his powerplay time. Ristolainen notched six goals and 35 assists last season, making it the third straight season that he’s hit at least 40 points. While his defensive game is far from polished, his usage (26:30 ATOI last season) and powerplay production give him mid-round fantasy value.
Kevin Shattenkirk (NYR), Colton Parayko (STL), Aaron Ekblad (FLA), Cam Fowler (ANA)
Shattenkirk put up 23 points in 46 games last year before a left meniscus tear brought an early end to his season. Assuming a clean bill of health, he should break 40 points this season, though he’s unlikely to replicate his 56-point performance in 2016-17 given the poor supporting cast he has in New York. Parayko’s usage and shot volume have steadily increased in each of his first three seasons in the NHL. He’s recorded back-to-back 35-point seasons and registered a career-high 212 shots on goal last year. He’s a good bet to top 40 points if his minutes continue to rise, but he’ll likely need to improve on his 3.4% career shooting percentage if he wants to break into double-digit goals.
Though his assist totals are underwhelming, Ekblad is coming off a career-high 16 goals and has scored at least 10 goals all four years he’s been in the league. He’ll be leaned on heavily at even strength again this year by head coach Bob Boughner, but he won’t see a significant rise in his counting stats if he can’t steal Keith Yandle’s spot on the first powerplay unit. Fowler scored eight goals and added 24 assists in 67 games last season. He has an ATOI of 24:51 since Randy Carlyle returned as the head coach of Anaheim in 2016-17, and should be the most heavily utilized Ducks’ defenseman again this year. At 26 years old, don’t expect Fowler to be much more than a half a point-per-game guy, but he can add some goals to your blueline.
Mikhail Sergachev (TBL), Charlie McAvoy (BOS), Shea Theodore (VGK), Justin Faulk (CAR)
Sergachev is coming off an impressive rookie season where he scored 19 goals and added 31 assists as a 19-year-old. Remarkably, Sergachev had an ATOI of only 15:22 and played primarily on the Lightning’s second powerplay unit. The depth of the Lightning blueline and the presence of Norris Trophy Winner Victor Hedman suggest Sergachev will play a similar role again this season. He has the potential to be a 60-point player, but we’re still a couple seasons away from that. McAvoy also impressed as a rookie in 2017-18, putting up 32 points in just 63 games while skating on the top pair alongside Zdeno Chara. He’s not going to challenge Torey Krug for powerplay time, but the Bruins are so good at 5v5 that McAvoy’s usage should almost ensure him 40 points over a full 80 games. His offensive ability pales in comparison to Sergachev, but he will be far more utilized this season.
Theodore, another young defensemen who had averaged around 0.5 ppg last season, fits right in this eighth tier with McAvoy and Sergachev. While he might see a slight bump in 5v5 ice time this year, he’ll most likely still be behind Colin Miller for powerplay time. His skillset is exciting, but his usage doesn’t warrant more than a mid-to-late-round pick. Faulk’s three-year run of 15-goal seasons came to a crashing halt in 2017-18 when he managed to find the back of the net just eight times in 76 games. The arrival of Dougie Hamilton slashes Faulk’s fantasy value. He won’t see powerplay 1 time unless the Hurricanes opt to go with two defensemen in their top unit.
Nick Leddy (NYI), Brandon Montour (ANA), Colin Miller (VGK), Will Butcher (NJD)
Leddy joins the long list of New York Islanders whose draft stock plummeted when John Tavares announced he was leaving. His streak of three straight seasons with at least 10 goals and 40 points will be in serious jeopardy if the Islanders powerplay struggles without Tavares. Montour scored nine goals and added 23 assists in what was his first full season last year. His usage was mediocre with an ATOI of 20:28, but it did get a serious bump when Fowler was injured. He’ll have a hard time breaking 40 points without something similar happening again this year.
Miller was a powerplay specialist in Vegas last season, leading all Golden Knights in power play time despite playing fewer 5v5 minutes than any other defenseman on the team. Nate Schmidt‘s 20-game suspension opens up more ice time for Miller, as he’s expected to take Schmidt’s spot on the top pair. After registering 177 shots on goal last season, another two or three minutes of ice time a night should be enough to secure him a 200 shot, 10-goal season. He’s a great sleeper pick with an average draft position of 175 in Yahoo! standard leagues. Butcher’s 44-point performance last season as a rookie was enough to earn him the last spot in this tier. He needs to shoot the puck more (just 88 shots last season), but he was excellent in the role of quarterback on the Devils’ powerplay, picking up three powerplay goals and 20 powerplay assists.
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