2009-10 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit: Defencemen Rankings
We kick off the 2009-10 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit today with the release of our defencemen cheat sheet. Once we finish the cheat sheets, we’ll also be offering you sleepers to target, busts to avoid and our take on the rookies you need to consider this season.
Defencemen are a little bit of an enigma to draft for Fantasy purposes, though you can’t underestimate their importance. With forwards, there’s always a way to find a comparable second- or third-tier guy to fill in for a slumping player. With defencemen, there’s not. You’ll also find a glut of guys between the 35- and 45-point range, most of whom have the potential for more based on the forwards they work with.
In other words, once you get out of the top tier, it’s a grab bag. These general rankings are based on a combination of last year’s stats, power play time, teammates, coaching system, and general trends. If your league puts extra emphasis on, say, PIMs or power play goals, look at the stats and adjust the rankings accordingly.
Numbers in parenthesis represent last year’s rankings.
1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals (3): Is Green the second coming of Bobby Orr? No, definitely not — Green won’t revolutionize the game and Orr never had a public display of Jersey Shore Douchebaggery like Green’s see-it-to-believe-it website. Still, Green’s propelled himself to be far and away today’s most prolific scoring defenceman, thanks to an offense-first mentality, high-flying forwards, and a go-go-go playing style. Now, about that website…
2. Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh Penguins (6): Yes, Gonchar’s a year older and well on the wrong side of 30. Still, when you’re quarterbacking a power play with some dudes name Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it’s hard to argue the point. The Penguins went from floundering to flying around the time Gonchar came back into the lineup last year; anyone think that that’s a mere coincidence?
3. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings (1): Lidstrom must have Benjamin Button disease because the guy’s gotten better with age. His elite level of play at the age of 39 is something that is difficult to replicate in any sport (Ray Bourque was close, but he didn’t rule the ice the way Lidstrom does at the same age). The Red Wings should be hungry after losing a heartbreaking Game Seven to Pittsburgh, and while the team lost some scoring depth, Lidstrom will still be running the power play with the big guns.
4. Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks (7): People often overlook the rash of injuries that, at times, took out up to 10 regulars from the San Jose lineup during the middle part of the year. Coach Todd McLellan admitted to shifting to a more defensive style during that time, which means that Boyle would have had even better point totals if the Sharks had somehow managed to stave off half of those injuries. In his second season in San Jose, look for Boyle to take an even more important position on the team.
5. Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens (10): How does last year’s second-highest scoring defenceman slip to No. 5? Consider this: Montreal reloaded its forward lineup with players like Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Will they gel? No one knows, and if they don’t, you’ll see Markov’s power play point totals drop. He will get his points, but projecting them will be as difficult as predicting how the Habs will fare.
6. Mark Streit, New York Islanders (20): Oh Mark Streit, we ask for your forgiveness. Last year, we mocked you as a one-trick pony going to Long Island for big bucks. This year? Well, folks on Long Island seem to think of you as a bright light (not a lighthouse, though; that’s a different topic on Long Island) in an otherwise barren landscape. The Islanders’ youth should be better this year (we’ll see about John Tavares, though), meaning that Streit has nowhere to go but up.
7. Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings (8): Something about the water at Joe Louis Arena shuts up naysayers and adds a good five years to careers. Rafalski’s point totals are virtually assured by playing with the talented Red Wings, though he doesn’t have the same aura of immortality that Lidstrom does.
8. Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks (9): Please note that we are not — repeat, not — calling Campbell the eighth-best defenceman in the league. Anyone who’s seen him play knows that “defence” is in his job description merely by default. However, you can’t deny Campbell’s puck-rushing skills, and the addition of Marian Hossa makes this already high-scoring team even deadlier on the power play. And fortunately, Campbell doesn’t lose Fantasy points for bad turnovers.
9. Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers (5): Pronger goes as a high-scoring defenceman on a one-trick pony team to a high-scoring defenceman on a team stacked with forwards (if they stay healthy). This should create a natural boost to his point totals, and don’t forget the all important PIM points. There’s a reason why some Anaheim fans affectionately referred to Pronger as “Captain Elbows.”
10. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (4): While never as flashy as some of his counterparts, Chara’s booming (and record-breaking) shot is feared by anyone who dares step in front of the net. He’s a lock for 45+ points with an upside of around 60 depending on how the Bruins fare, especially during the first few months when Phil Kessel is sidelined. One bonus about Chara — he’s a key to the Boston penalty kill, which means he’ll pop in the occasional shorthanded assist.
12. Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames (2): Once the golden boy of Canadian hockey, Phaneuf came under fire last season for his hit-and-miss play. He’s still got a heck of an upside, and should have a little more open ice with Jay Bouwmeester on the other Calgary point during the power play. It’s up to Phaneuf to find some consistency to his game.
12. Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks (16): Life will be quite different for Niedermayer with Pronger gone. Still, he’ll have Ryan Whitney playing the point with him, and Niedermayer can easily create an offensive rush all on his own. Any positive gains on this year’s point totals will largely reflect on the ability of Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne to provide a steady second line.
13. Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames (15): For countless seasons, just about everyone’s talked about how many points Bouwmeester could put up if he just had some scoring help. Now he’s reunited with former Panther Olli Jokinen, but he’s also got a fellow All-Star manning the blueline (Phaneuf) and some guy named Jarome Iginla putting in power play goals. Jay, the rest is up to you.
14. Shea Weber, Nashville Predators (NR): Though Weber doesn’t have Chara’s height, he can just about match him in the blistering shot department. The world discovered Weber last year, though Nashville fans have watched him evolve from a young defenceman to a potential Norris winner. His cannon shot is key to the Predator power play — something that should only get better this season with full years from Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan.
15. Dennis Wideman, Boston Bruins (12): Did you know that Wideman equaled teammate Chara in points last year? And while his +/- was better, he didn’t carry the same amount of PIMs as Chara. In other words, Wideman’s got a little ways to go before he reaches Chara’s Norris-caliber level of play. In the meantime, you’ll just have to be happy with 40-50 points for your Fantasy team.
16. Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings (NR): Lidstrom and Rafalski may get all of the attention, but Kronwall’s numbers speak for themselves. The issue here is second-unit power play minutes — with the loss of Hossa, Jiri Hudler (probably) and Mikael Samuelsson, the Red Wings won’t have as many forward options. This will inevitably affect the power play, and whichever defenceman is not out there with Henrik Zetterberg/Pavel Datsyuk will see his points drop. That’s most likely Kronwall.
17. Sheldon Souray, Edmonton Oilers (NR): If he’s healthy – and despite his critics, Souray played 81 games last year – he’s a lock for 15 goals, perhaps even 20 or more with his booming shot. It helps that Edmonton’s young stars should only improve, and if Dustin Penner ever regained his John Leclair-esque ability to put in garbage rebound goals, you’d see Souray’s power play assist totals go up.
18. Marek Zidlicky, Minnesota Wild (17): Things have changed up in Minnesota, with the old (boring) guard being shown the door and a new (hopefully entertaining) coach taking the reins. Todd Richards has emphasized a quick, up-tempo style, which should only help a skilled offensive defenceman like Zidlicky. Note that almost a quarter of Zidlicky’s points were power play goals.
19. Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs (18): People don’t realize this, but the Leafs were in the top third in goal scoring last season despite not having too many skill players. Kaberle himself was hurt for more than a quarter of the season, but when he played, he was the ice time leader and power play quarterback. He may not put up the same point totals as he did when he ran the show with Bryan McCabe, but he’s still the key piece in Toronto (plus, who knows what moves Brian Burke might make?).
20. Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers (19): Timonen may have seen his point totals drop since going from Nashville to Philly, but this No. 1 defenceman now has another No. 1 defenceman to run the power play with. With the Flyers’ young forwards set to get better and better, Timonen has all the tools in the world to return to form.
21. Cam Barker, Chicago Blackhawks (NR): More offensive-minded than Duncan Keith, Barker kicked off the year in the minors before becoming a mainstay on the Chicago power play. He should have fewer points than teammate Campbell, but more than Keith, and considering his age (23), Barker has got a greater offensive upside than Keith.
22. Bryan McCabe, Florida Panthers (NR): The Panthers weren’t exactly a high-flying team last year, but that didn’t stop McCabe from popping in 15 goals in just 69 games. He still loves to shoot the puck, and half of his total points came on the power play. How much will he miss Bouwmeester remains to be seen; the flipside is the hope that guys like David Booth and Michael Frolik get better with age.
23. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins (NR): With Gonchar out for most of last season, Letang had to step it up and handle Penguin power play duties. While the power play was up and down during this time, it gave the 21-year-old valuable experience, which should only make things better as he starts the season next to a healthy Gonchar.
24. Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators (NR): See Weber’s description above, though Suter’s shot isn’t quite the canon that Weber’s is. Still, Gary Suter’s nephew is living up to his potential and should be a lock for 40+ points for years to come.
25. Tom Gilbert, Edmonton Oilers (NR): What should we expect from the young American? In his second (technically third, if you count the six games he played in 06-07) NHL season, Gilbert’s point totals went up and his goals dropped. Getting somewhere in between his rookie (33) and sophomore (45) totals shouldn’t be difficult, though eclipsing 45 points might be a challenge in his third full year.
26. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks (NR): Keith’s point totals have grown by around 10 almost every year, but there’s a good chance that they’ve hit a plateau. That’s okay, because his defensive game has become as valuable, if not more, as his offensive game. With a wide range of talented forwards to play with, Keith will probably bounce between first and second power play duty, but there’s not too much of a difference between them.
27. Andrej Meszaros, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR): Let’s state it right now – the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t that bad this year. With the top two power play units consisting of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Alex Tanguay, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan Malone, the Bolts’ power play should be much better, especially because the team’s coaching presence is stable. Meszaros should benefit greatly from that and return to the form he had in Ottawa.
28. Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks (NR): Bieksa had 42 points in his first full season and 43 points in his fourth year. Lock him in for at least the low 40s, but Bieksa also comes with a crazy amount of penalty minutes. Will he anchor the Vancouver PP with Alexander Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, or Mathieu Schneider?
29. Rob Blake, San Jose Sharks (NR): Blake still loves to shoot the puck, and his second year in San Jose should help him defy Father Time yet again. Under McLellan’s system, Blake’s shot is the perfect power play foil to Boyle’s puck rushing plus passing skills and the talented Shark forwards.
30. Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta Thrashers (NR): A bright light as a rookie, Enstrom hit the good ol’ sophomore slump last year. Of course, so did the entire Thrasher team as they took half a season to figure out what coach John Anderson wanted. When it clicked, though, Atlanta put together a solid run, and Enstrom should beat out his rookie total of 38 points while helping sophomore teammate Zach Bogosian.