Hockey Pool season is upon us. Scrimmage and Stats is doing a three-part strategy piece to help you guys win your pools this year. This section will focus on defensemen, which are always difficult to select, as you may already know. Will they repeat their last season? Will they finally break-out? Will they get worse? We crunched the number for you, so let’s get to it.
The trickiest thing when looking for which defenseman to take is, outside of the top-5, it’s quite literally anyone’s guess as to who will produce the most points. Due to high scoring defensemen being rarer than high scoring forwards, I would heavily suggest drafting a top D-man first because they will likely be gone by rounds 3 or 4 (depending on the size of your pool). Let’s look at who you should take in this year’s Draft:
The Surefire Pick
You always need that pillar, that can’t miss #1 defenseman that will be putting up points regardless of his team. Look no further than Erik Karlsson. With him starting fresh with San Jose, I would expect him to even surpass his last year’s totals and should find himself close to a Point Per Game (PPG) by the end of the season. Last year’s top scoring defenseman, John Carlsson, should also be a safe bet to replicate his 65 point total from last season. Brent Burns should continue being a monster in San Jose, especially with the addition of Karlsson. He is is involved in much of the offense in the Bay and should see his numbers rise with Karlsson joining the ranks, especially on the Power Play. John Klingberg , another top candidate, should continue to see his point totals rise as he matures into an all-around #1 D for Dallas. Victor Hedman and Drew Doughty are no-brainers as well. These guys have consistently taken the league by storm, and I even anticipate a jump in production for Hedman over the full season, due to the addition of Ryan McDonaugh in Tampa Bay.
Other players I would consider with my 1st defenseman pick would be Shane Gostisbehere in Philadelphia. He may not be the #1 D man per say, but he is certainly their main guy for offensive contribution and is often seen starting plays with Giroux and Voracek. Also P.K Subban and Roman Josi seem like sure bets to replicate their 50 + point seasons this year, as Nashville’s core has remained intact.
This is generally your 2nd pick, unless you were lucky enough to get two players in the list above. To us, the Stabilizer is the assured point-producer who has been consistent throughout their career. This brings to mind players like Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Torey Krug, Keith Yandle, Alex Peitrangelo, Colton Parayko, Ryan Ellis, Cam Fowler, and Tyson Barrie. These guys all play a high-amount of minutes, and are figureheads on the Power Play and are very implicated in the game.
Other players that I would consider would be Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is set for a bounce back season in Arizona. I would suggest the biggest sleeper out of all the aforementioned players is newly acquired Carolina Hurricane, Dougie Hamilton. Carolina now has a bonafide #1 D man in Hamilton and he should see his point totals rise playing with that much talent and that much ice time. The Leafs duo of Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are excellent sleeper picks, as they will likely see an increase in offensive output now that they have three stacked offensive lines in front of them. Lastly, I would not forget Big Buff (Byfuglien), as he is pivotal in the success of Winnipeg on the back-end. He’s always good for 40-50 points.
The Value Picks
This should generally be your 4-6 picks (assuming you have 4 to 6 defensemen to choose from). This is where you can gamble on players like oft-injured Kris Letang, who is a PPG player when healthy. You could also gamble on up-and coming defensemen like Ivan Provorov, Charlie McAvoy, Josh Morrisey, Brady Skjei and Matt Dumba to increase their previous season’s point totals as they continue becoming top-pairing defensemen.
Other players to consider here are sophomore players like Shea Theodore, Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan Pulock, Jakob Chychrun, Vince Dunn and Will Butcher as a last pick. They all have the potential to improve on their totals from last year, but they could also regress. If you prefer a stable, yet under-the-radar guy, consider Vegas’ Colin Miller, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, Calgary’s Noah Hanifin or New York’s Nick Leddy as guys you could plug in and maintain your success.
What About Rookies?
There are a few rookie defensemen that could possibly make an immediate impact this season, and we all know one of them very well. His name is Rasmus Dahlin and, unless you’ve been living in a cave the last year, you’ll know this guy is a serious candidate for the Calder Trophy next year. Having already played with men, many think he will hit the ground running like Zach Werenski did two years ago. Beyond Dahlin, you have Miro Heiskanen (3rd overall pick in 2017) in Dallas who will also make the jump rather seamlessly from the Swedish Hockey League to the NHL. Olli Juolevi is also a serious candidate to make the Canucks, while Winnipeg’s Sami Niku looks to have a spot on Winnipeg`s defense as well. All guys that could have an immediate impact, but Dahlin and Heiskanen are clearly above the rest.
Best Value Picks For Pools With A Salary Cap
Obviously, high-scoring young players on their Entry Level Contracts (ELC) will be at the top of this list, as they cannot make more than 950K per season. The Likes of Butcher, Provorov, Sergachev, McAvoy, Werenski and Chabot are all guys you should consider picking up sooner than later in the draft, if you have a Salary Cap to worry about. Picking one of them early will allow you to pick a high priced defensemen later on.
For players that have contracts above $1 million, the best value players are Klingberg, Gostisbehere, Josi, Gardiner, Miller and Ellis. All of these players make less $4.25 million or less and have produced a minimum of 40 points each. These are money picks to consider for your 1st or 2nd defensemen picks. Having a top defenseman on a very friendly deal will allow you to spend elsewhere later on in the draft, when your friends have no Salary Cap space left to take bigger name players.
With Defensemen now covered, you can make the best of your picks, with or without a built-in Salary Cap. It’s always best to get your defensemen first, because there are a ton of high-scoring forwards, but not nearly as many high-scoring D-men. Always remember folks, the best offense is a good defense!
Looking for some Hockey Pool strategy on who to draft at Forward and as a Goalie? Scrimmage and Stats also has a full Fantasy Hockey analysis for Goalies and Forwards accessible to you for free. These tips on sleeper picks and value contracts will help vault you to the top of your hockey pool!
For a full a full Hockey Pool guide (Forwards, Defensemen and Goalies), click here!