The 2019-2020 NHL season was a platform for budding rookie defensemen to show that they are the next crop of elite fantasy blueliners. Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes became go-to players on fantasy rosters, as some of the previous top-end producers took a back seat. So where will they rank this season? Let's take a look:
1. Dougie Hamilton, CAR
If not for being sidelined for a good portion of the 2019-2020 season, Hamilton would've likely been the top scoring defenseman in the NHL. With Carolina's lineup basically returning as is, you can write him in as a sure top-tier fantasy defenseman.
2. Roman Josi, NSH
Not far behind Hamilton in our projections is the reigning Norris Trophy blueliner. Josi has quietly been as consistently great as they come in producing offense from the backend, and should without a doubt find himself near the top of the league again in fantasy production.
3. John Carlson, WSH
Carlson has been very strong offensively from the backend for some time now, but last year he took it to a new level. Washington as a whole is an aging team, but the veterans they have in place seem to have a little more left in the tank. It should be interesting to see, speaking of ageless wonders, if newly added Zdeno Chara is paired up with Carlson and if this improves his defensive zone play.
4. Brent Burns, SJS
Burns is in a unique situation. He is on a team projected to bring up the rear in the West Division, and his best teammate plays the exact same position as him. That teammate, of course, is Erik Karlsson, and it's easy to see these two as interchangeable as fantasy options. As of now, we project both defensemen on the top powerplay unit. Although, San Jose does like to use four forwards from time to time, so there could be lulls in powerplay production from either player on given nights.
5. Victor Hedman, TBL
It wouldn't be smart to leave Hedman out of the top five in defensemen rankings, despite some of the quality talent following him on this list. As the clear lead pivotman on the reigning Stanley Cup champions, to expect anything less than another big year would be foolish.
6. Kris Letang, PIT
With Justin Schultz not returning to the Penguins this season, there is no longer a serious threat to Letang's powerplay time on the top unit. When that unit, of course, includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Letang will find himself comfortably among the top ten defensemen.
7. Mark Giordano, CGY
The Flames' top players were interestingly not up to form last season, but Giordano provides a high floor for any fantasy owner due to the club's reliance on him in all situations. If Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan can regain their offensive dominance, that will only benefit the 37 year-old defenseman.
8. Morgan Rielly, TOR
Another defenseman who should benefit by subtraction, Rielly will almost certainly remain on Toronto's top powerplay unit throughout the upcoming season with Tyson Barrie leaving the team. On top of that, his expected d-partner, T.J. Brodie, is a major upgrade at even strength from the departed Cody Ceci. All this, along with his team expected to roll through the North Division, sets up Rielly for what could be a career-year type scoring pace.
9. Torey Krug, STL
A new team for Krug will lead to a bit of an adjustment, but ultimately it should be more of the same. The Blues are not much different than the Bruins in many ways, and Krug should get the best crack at powerplay time from the blueline. With powerplay specialist Mike Hoffman likely joining the team, Krug could be the beneficiary of plenty of "easy" assists and powerplay points.
10. Ryan Ellis, NSH
The highest rated defenseman on this list who is unlikely to garner much playing time, Ellis' value comes mostly at even-strength and on the penalty kill. Remember that blocked shots accumulate points too, and Ellis is as elite as they come in that department. Secondary assists and offensive zone possession help as well, and, by being paired with Josi, Ellis has quite a lot going for him to be a steady force in your fantasy lineup.