Gus Katsaros

Hockey Analytics

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Five Breakout Defensemen

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


The position is changing fairly dramatically and quick, with defensemen stepping into the league ready to contribute, requiring less developmental time. Off season skills training is sophisticated and developmental paths are clearer now. Blueliners are able to skate at NHL pace and contend with the stops, starts and directional changes with ease. I go into more detail about this here, and here for a reference.


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Elite defensemen are targeted early, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman are the most desirable among blueliners, go early in drafts, and are expensive to acquire if a fantasy GM missed out.

 

Instead of trying to select defenseman early and often now to get the best of the position into my fantasy roster, I’d suggest now that secondary tiers of defensemen will produce in similar bands. Real value could be in taking a high scoring forward over an average or typical defensemen earlier in drafts.

 

A one-year sample isn’t ideal, but in 2016-17, the distribution of points among defensemen in all-situations is in the image. Four defensemen scored at the elite level (Burns, Karlsson, Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk a tad lower). The second tier of performers, (19 defensemen in this case) could be had later in drafts, taking more scoring power among a better group of forwards. Interchangeability and  potential production over expectations can be filtered into the decision making as well.

 

 

If you missed out on a 40-point defenseman, chances are you could have chosen one of the 21 blueliners between 35-39 points, while compensating with higher scoring forwards. There’s the sweet spot from 2016-17. My expectations for this position is a similar distribution, where only a small group of defensemen represent elite scoring, and the middle is compressed tighter, offering similar production – and a potential breakout or two.

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Seth Jones


Career year, somewhat overshadowed by linemate Zach Werenski and the rookie story. Came on after an early season foot injury. Earned 11 points during the franchise record 16-game win streak. There’s a future conversation regarding the Norris that will include this young blueliner’s name and could very well lead the Blue Jackets defensemen in scoring.

 

Colton Parayko


Inherits exceptional opportunity to put up career highs – and lead the Blues defensemen in scoring. A capable and effective point man. A least he scored his first goal of the season early, unlike the 100 shots and 40 games before his first in 2016-17. There’s great high 40’s potential here.

 

Rasmus Ristolainen


Tinder for fiery online debate, the flawed gem will be manning a power play that includes Jack Eichel and potential for wayward peripheral points and a distinct jump up in production. Scrutinzed intensely at 5v5, the Sabres bolstered assistance with the acquisition of Marco Scandella. If it’s straight points you’re looking for, there’s budding career highs and 50-plus points.

 

Ivan Provorov


Averaged 21 minutes a night in 2016-17 and finished fourth among rookie blueliners, and can give Shayne Gostisbehere a run for the team blueline scoring crown, challenging for goals. If you missed out on the Gostisbehere, there is an option not too far in an orange jersey that may be cheaper to acquire.

 

T.J. Brodie

Started slow over the first 31 games (31-1-6-7) carrying around Dennis Wideman before a short point per game spell (9-2-7-9) and production in small spurts in 2016-17. Consistency was lacking. The low-profile option, however, is overshadowed by a stronger contingent in Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. There’s a value play here, failing to hit the 40 point mark for the third straight season, a return to that plateau could be had for a cheap price.

 

Honourable Mentions


The list isn’t really over here, Aaron Ekblad returning to form jumps out, as does a cheap acquisition in Erik Johnson, underrated Damon Severson in New Jersey, Josh Morrissey in Winnipeg and Dmitry Orlov in Washington as secondary choices that can surprise. 



Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey
Email :Gus Katsaros



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