When it comes to formulating your draft strategy, take some time to carefully consider your approach to defense. More than any other position, defensive scoring can vary dramatically from league to league. Some leagues value scoring by a defenseman higher than forwards, while others lump them together. This can dramatically change your approach in terms of when to draft that first defenseman on your list. For example, in standard CBS league scoring, a goal by a defenseman is worth 5 points, compared to 3 for a forward. That puts a premium on a D-man who can put up 10 or more goals in a season.
When it comes to ranking defensemen, it’s important to approach it in tiers. There tends to be a dramatic drop off in production after the first 10 or 15 players. After that, you can pretty much find 30-40 guys who will fall into the 30 to 45 point territory. So, as opposed to goaltending, there’s relatively little difference between your 20th ranked defenseman and your 40th ranked guy. Just look at last years stats for example. 13 players topped the 45 point mark. After that, there were 36 players who landed between 30 and 45 points. The real difference comes at the top of the list, where Mike Green is in a class by himself. While Duncan Keith put up a fight, 17 points separated Green from the 3rd place finisher, Drew Doughty.
Another factor to consider is how predictable this position tends to be versus offense and goaltending. While goalie leaders tend to fluctuate wildly from year to year, the top scorers on defense tend to be much more predictable. So, if you spend an early pick on a top-rated defensemen, you’ve got a much better chance of having the pick pan out. Just ask anyone who drafted Tim Thomas or Nick Backstrom (G) in round 1 last year.
As a general rule, I try to acquire 2 of the top 10 defenseman out there, even if I have to sacrifice in other areas. It’s just the safest bet out there. After that, fill up on forwards and goalies and fill out your defense with whatever you can nab around round 8 and beyond. And if you have a shot at Mike Green – take it. Even as high as first overall. In terms of value, you can’t beat his numbers at that position. Period. Well, you know my number one is, so let’s take a look at the rest of the top picks as well:
1. Mike Green
True, his goal totals were way down last season, but he still pounded home 19 and led all blueliners in points with 76. He should repeat or improve on those totals in 2010-11. If there’s a such a things as a sure thing in fantasy hockey, his name be Mike Green.
2. Drew Doughty
If anyone has a shot at rivaling Green in points from the back, it’s going to Doughty. The smooth skating King is entering just his third season, and he’s already among the elite at his position. Don’t hesitate to take him in the first round.
3. Shea Weber
Shea Weber has arrived as a top-rate fantasy defenseman. Putting aside the 2007 season when he was hurt, Weber has delivered goal totals of 17, 23, and 16. His shot from the point is the hardest we’ve seen since Al Iafrate and Al MacInnis retired. 20 goals should be a given this season in Nashville.
4. Duncan Keith
Keith has finally got the respect due him after finishing 2nd in defensive scoring, winning the Cup, and claiming his first Norris Trophy. No reason to expect any major setbacks here, though it may be tough to reach 69 points again. He looked a little gun shy in the finals after losing half his teeth, but he has the summer to get over that fear. Bank on 60 points or more and be content with him as your top defenseman.
5. Sergei Gonchar
When healthy, there have been few fantasy options better than Mr. Gonchar over the past decade. He’s a master at running the power play and piles up the assists. His move from Pittsburgh to Ottawa may detract from his totals a bit, but don’t let that scare you away. Remember, he put up top stats on a poor Capitals team before coming to the Pens. The only thing holding Gonchar back from being a top 3 defensive pick is health concerns. I’d still take a chance on him in Round 2.
6. Dan Boyle
Boyle has topped 50 points for 5 of the past 7 seasons, and one of those off years was cut short by freak injury. The Sharks haven’t lost a bit of their firepower up front, so you can expect another solid offensive year from the veteran defenseman. He should see somewhere in the neighborhood of his customary 15 goals and 50+ point season, while chewing up close to 30 minutes a night.
7. Zdeno Chara
Chara’s goal totals took a dive last season, along with everyone else in Boston. He still finished the season with 44 points and a buttload of penalty minutes, which is par for the giant over the past decade. The Bruins will score more this season, and Chara should rebound back to the 15 goal territory.
8. Tyler Myers
Myers proved to a beast on defense in his rookie year, racking up 11 goals and 48 points in route to winning the Calder Trophy. He did so playing a relatively modest number of minutes for a #1 defenseman. The Sabres won’t hesitate to give him more ice time after losing Lydman and Tallinder this summer. Don’t be shocked to see 60 points by his name by the end of the year.
9. Mark Streit
Streit has been a fantasy stud since arriving on the Island three seasons ago. However, his numbers have dipped a bit over the last two seasons. He’s still an elite performer and will continue to play roughly half of each game, as the Islanders have few other options. New York’s youngsters are entering their prime and the goal count will rise this season, so look for Streit to approach 50 assists. Quality pick as your #1 D.
10. Chris Pronger
At age 36, you’d think he should be starting to slow down; however, if you watched the playoffs last spring, there are no signs of that yet. Pronger’s stats are remarkably consistent from year to year, and he contributes in all categories. So, depending on your format and scoring, you may place him higher. Look for another 10 goal / 50 point year from the bad boy in Philly.