Thoughts On Drafting Defensemen

Mark Barbour (@18sktrs,

I like to fade defensemen in fantasy hockey drafts, much like I fade goalies (the “Zero-G” strategy popularized by Nate here at Apples & Ginos). In this article I will very briefly set out some data that shows why I like this strategy.

Before getting into that, though, I’ll mention that the 18_SKATERS_BOT is still giving out streaming recommendations at Need a few streaming suggestions to help you win your playoffs? There are some widely available names at the top of the list including some skaters who play on 1 or 2 of the remaining off-days this week.

OK, let’s look at the defensemen.

Some Recent Data For Defensemen

There are two main reasons why I like to fade defensemen on draft day: (1) many defensemen rely on power play time to accumulate points, but that PPTOI may not be as secure as it seems on draft day; and (2) there are often valuable defensemen who emerge during the season who can be acquired later in the draft or out of free agency.

So let’s look at some recent data for defensemen. The data in the table below are based on all games played since January 1, 2023. While this date is somewhat arbitrary, I intended to capture a time period that had some separation from draft day and also included the critical period before and during the fantasy hockey playoffs. Note that I filtered the data so that only defensemen with more than 15 games played were included.

The defensemen are ranked based on the their fantasy points per game (“FP/GP”). The scoring settings used for this purpose are a common format where Goals = 4.5, Assists = 3, Shots = 0.5, Hits = 0.25, and Blocks = 0.5.

Cale MakarCOL200.351.002.350.751.356.61
Roman JosiNSH320.310.663.720.722.006.41
Dougie HamiltonN.J350.290.743.370.831.266.04
Kris LetangPIT240.330.423.002.501.625.69
Erik KarlssonS.J330.270.822.450.421.095.56
Miro HeiskanenDAL330.180.792.910.701.305.46
Josh MorrisseyWPG330.270.552.821.211.735.44
Brandon MontourFLA340.210.683.351.240.915.40
Vince DunnSEA360.250.811.921.560.865.32
Quinn HughesVAN340.120.972.030.320.975.02
Moritz SeiderDET350.090.571.832.692.544.96
Brent BurnsCAR330.240.582.850.421.154.92
Mike MathesonMTL270.260.412.521.191.814.85
Rasmus DahlinBUF330.120.672.331.301.524.80
Jacob TroubaNYR340.180.322.262.352.564.76
Victor HedmanT.B340.180.442.851.001.854.72
Adam FoxNYR340.090.762.090.291.714.66
Seth JonesCHI350.260.342.371.741.544.58
Alex PietrangeloVGK320.160.442.310.842.344.55
Shea TheodoreVGK220.180.552.550.181.554.55
Jeff PetryPIT240.080.502.333.291.334.53
Charlie McAvoyBOS340.120.651.441.032.154.52
Mikhail SergachevT.B370.030.652.111.651.894.48
Jakob ChychrunARI, OTT280.180.362.860.821.894.46
Rasmus AnderssonCGY310.190.482.260.521.744.45
Thomas ChabotOTT340.090.472.561.182.004.38
Darnell NurseEDM340.060.472.291.852.064.32
K’Andre MillerNYR310.190.521.322.191.294.27
Drew DoughtyL.A310.130.651.711.451.064.27
Bowen ByramCOL220.230.361.592.361.364.18
Adam LarssonSEA360.080.361.942.612.194.18
Aaron EkbladFLA340.
Devon ToewsCOL350.090.432.261.541.834.10
Noah DobsonNYI310.100.482.610.811.354.07
Samuel GirardCOL350.090.601.460.771.894.05
Dmitry OrlovBOS, WSH320.120.531.501.841.193.96

There are 36 defensemen listed above. If you’re in a 12-team league you can think of this list as setting out all of the “Top 3” defensemen.

Here are some observations:

  • Makar and Josi were probably the first 2 defensemen drafted in most leagues and they delivered. Unfortunately both of them are injured right now, just when you need them most. I’m going to assume that could happen to any top skater, not just defensemen.
  • The chaos emerges after Makar and Josi. Victor Hedman and Adam Fox were likely 2 of the next defensemen off the board on draft day. Look at the names above them on this list! There are multiple defensemen who were probably available in free agency at some point, not to mention the other defensemen who were drafted in much later rounds. Adam Fox hasn’t even been the most valuable defenseman on his own team during this time period, with Trouba having a slight edge in fantasy points per game.
  • Brandon Montour is at number 8 on this list, which is about where Aaron Ekblad was drafted in a lot of leagues. I’ve been skeptical about Montour all season, in part because I figured it was only a matter of time before Montour was pushed down the lineup in favour of Ekblad (in particular on the power play). Well … the opposite of that happened and you’ll notice that Ekblad is near the bottom of this list, right behind Adam Larsson.
  • Ekblad is not alone when it comes to defensemen who had their power play time reduced relative to expectations on draft day. We’ve seen the same at various times during the season for Hedman, Seider, Chabot, and McAvoy (among others). Like I mentioned above, assumptions about who will get power play time are especially dangerous when it comes to defensemen.
  • One last point for you to consider: Vince Dunn has the most points (goals + assists) among all defensemen since January 1. He might have been undrafted in your league! As is the case with goalies, you can find valuable defensemen in free agency if you’re prepared to jump on the opportunities that arise.

That’s it for now. Perhaps I’ll do a more thorough analysis of this topic during the off-season and then share my method for drafting defensemen (yes … I’m a geek with a specific way that I draft defensemen). Like a first encounter with Zero-G, my D-Fade might make you feel uncomfortable. Want proof? You can listen to an amusing live reaction to my draft strategy right here at Apples & Ginos. Loyal followers might recall that Nate organized bestball drafts this season (do it again please Nate!) and discussed the first draft in episode 52 of the podcast (link to the episode – jump to 24:00 for the relevant commentary). My d-core (for team “HSPUs”) caused Josh to declare “That’s a tough d-core [… and then to soften the blow …] in my opinion”. Nate did not disagree with him. It was an ugly d-core by design, and it worked out just fine.

The End Of The Article

That’s all for this week. I’ll be on vacation starting next week and I’m not sure when I’ll post another article here. Good luck with your fantasy hockey playoffs if you’re still alive!


Mark (18 Skaters)

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