2019-20 Fantasy Hockey: Defenseman Tiers

The elite guys still occupy their own tier on the pyramid of Fantasy defensemen, but thanks to a substantial influx of talent, just below is a glut of very talented players. There's little separating the players in this second group, and depending on the type of Fantasy league, some are more preferable than others.

Here are your 2019-20 Fantasy defensemen ranked by tiers:

Tier 1

Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, Kris Letang, John Carlson, Dustin Byfuglien, Morgan Rielly, John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, Roman Josi

The only defenseman to score over 80 points and register over 300 shots last season, Brent Burns once again holds down the number one spot. No other defenseman averaged better than a point per game, and Burns' 42 even-strength assists alone would've been good enough to finish in the top 30 in scoring among defensemen. However, only seven blueliners in the modern era have scored over 70 points in their age-34 season.

Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman round out the top three with very little separating the pair of Swedes. Karlsson's offensive ability is unquestionably elite, but his health is a big concern. He was limited to just 53 games last year and still managed to tally 42 helpers. Hedman is the better all-around player, but he generates fewer shots and produces fewer points, capping his Fantasy value.
Mark Giordano, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, almost drops out of the top 10 mainly because of his age. He will be 36 in October, and while he may be a statistical outlier, Father Time is undefeated and only the incomparable Nicklas Lidstrom managed to score at least 70 points twice after his 35th birthday.

After the cream of the crop, there's a glut of about 30 players who could easily move up and down the rankings and score anywhere from 40-60 points — the difference will likely be how they get there. Tier 2A features those who possess higher upside but come with some risk, while Tier 2B consists of medium-upside veterans with less risk.

Tier 2A

Thomas Chabot, Tyson Barrie, Mathew Dumba, Seth Jones, Torey Krug, Rasmus Dahlin, Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, Zach Werenski, Erik Gustafsson, Jacob Trouba, Charlie McAvoy, Josh Morrissey, Ryan Pulock, Shea Theodore, Shayne Gostisbehere

Thomas Chabot at the top of the list may raise eyebrows, but in all standard and advanced metrics, the Senators already have their next franchise player. The knock against Chabot was that 29 of his 55 points were scored in the first two months, but the belief is that he's gained enough experience entering his third season and will be very motivated in a contract year.

Rasmus Dahlin and Cale Makar certainly are on a similar path, and their upsides are undoubtedly tremendous. If Makar can continue where he left off in the playoffs, the Avalanche's transition offense will be an even bigger nightmare to deal with. The same could be said for Quinn Hughes, who dazzles with his quick feet and has become a model defenseman for the new era. Chabot, Dahlin, Makar and Hughes can be difference-makers right away and are worth mid-round gambles.

Tier 2B

Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Keith Yandle, Alex Pietrangelo, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan Suter, Drew Doughty, Aaron Ekblad, Dougie Hamilton, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Ellis, Jared Spurgeon, Mattias Ekholm, Duncan Keith, Jeff Petry

There's an argument to be made that Aaron Ekblad (age 22), Dougie Hamilton (24) and Rasmus Ristolainen (24) belong in Tier 2A. All three are in their prime, but there are either flaws in their game or they face an uphill climb for minutes. Keith Yandle is still the preferred power-play quarterback for the Panthers, while Hamilton and Ristolainen have been trade rumor-mill staples for the past few seasons, and in both cases find themselves slowly falling out of favor.

P.K. Subban has the most upside in this group with a fresh start in New Jersey and has the luxury of playing with low expectations. The criticism of Subban remains the same: his shake-and-bake style of play, relying more on his athleticism than positioning, makes him a wild card. However, at his best, Subban was a double-digit goal-scoring machine, and when he makes the right move at the right time, he creates a lot of scoring chances.

Tier 3

Mikhail Sergachev, Miro Heiskanen, Oscar Klefbom, Nate Schmidt, Darnell Nurse, Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Green, Jake Gardiner, Alexander Edler, T.J. Brodie, Jake Muzzin, Ryan Murray, Jaccob Slavin, Cam Fowler, Nick Leddy, Tyler Myers, Dmitry Orlov

Here's a bunch of very capable rearguards capable of 30-40 points with contributions in peripheral stats. However, none of these players will put up big point totals due the limitations in their talent or role.

Mikhail Sergachev can make a case to be in Tier 2A, but he's the third-best defenseman on his team. He's had a solid start to his NHL career through two seasons, but everyone's still waiting for his breakout. It'll be difficult given his limited minutes, but along with Miro Heiskanen, Sergachev has the most upside in this tier.

Colton Parayko is the easiest to overrate in this group. He's coming off a career-high 10 goals and a Stanley Cup, but the 26-year-old isn't considered an offensive threat. That role belongs to Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn, which will cap Parayko's offensive upside. The upper limit to Parayko's production is likely in the low 40's given his limited time on the power play.

Tier 4

Vince Dunn, Travis Sanheim, Filip Hronek, Ivan Provorov, Kevin Shattenkirk, Anthony DeAngelo, Justin Schultz, Noah Hanifin, Samuel Girard, Damon Severson, Colin Miller, Brandon Montour, Jakob Chychrun

This is the group ideal for taking late-round fliers on since so many of them have big upside, but cashing in on their potential will require some luck.

Vince Dunn and Filip Hronek are the most obvious standouts. Dunn has quietly emerged as a fine offensive contributor and may become the Blues' top power-play quarterback if Craig Berube's trust in him continues to build, and the 21-year-old Hronek looked great after completing his AHL apprenticeship.

After getting paid $35 million for scoring 47 points over two seasons of work, Samuel Girard has to prove he's worth the dough. This may not be pretty and could become a losing gamble because he comes into his third full season with a lot of question marks. Kevin Shattenkirk will also have to prove his worth in Tampa after being bought out by his hometown Rangers, as well.

Tier 5

Adam Fox, Erik Brannstrom, Dennis Cholowski, Evan Bouchard, Dante Fabbro, Josh Mahura, Jake Bean, Philippe Myers, Jimmy Schuldt, Rasmus Sandin, Gavin Bayreuther

This is the group of players who may be worth taking with your last pick. Adam Fox and Erik Brannstrom possess the biggest upside in this group. Fox's career numbers at Harvard suggest he'll be a big contributor right away, and Brannstrom has a chance to do the same with the cost-conscious Senators after scoring 32 points in just 50 games in the AHL last season. 

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