Defensemen are the unheralded part of a Fantasy Hockey team. It's a scoring-driven game, and there's only so many blueliners that can put up big numbers. Still, there's value to be added to your roster if you don't punt on the position on draft day. This is how the NHL's best defensemen break down into tiers for the 2022-23 Fantasy season.
Cale Makar, Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Adam Fox
These four defensemen are the best of the best. If you want to prioritize point production from your blueliners during your draft, you need to be ready to spend a pick on one of these four in the first two rounds. All of these players have the ability to score like a forward, which is a huge boost if you can uncover some gems at forward in the later rounds. They'll be worth the early-round value, especially Makar and Fox, who have the benefit of youth -- and perhaps another level yet undiscovered in their games. That said, Hedman and Josi are steady veterans who command massive minutes in all situations.
Power-play quarterbacks in good situations
John Carlson, Kris Letang, Aaron Ekblad, Quinn Hughes, Morgan Rielly, Brent Burns, Shea Theodore, Drew Doughty, Moritz Seider
This second tier probably won't do enough to earn themselves hardware at the end of the year, but they're all more or less No. 1 defensemen in their own right. Most importantly, they're on teams that are either competitive or set to take a step forward in 2022-23, which should help keep their plus-minus rating on the positive side of the ledger. With good team situations, these players represent high-floor options. If you can snag two from this tier, you're sitting pretty heading into the middle rounds. There's potential for 60 points throughout this group, and some (Ekblad, Doughty, Seider) have enough snarl to provide a boost in PIM.
High-end defensemen with limited downside
Devon Toews, Justin Faulk, Miro Heiskanen, Rasmus Dahlin, Tony DeAngelo, Alex Pietrangelo, Torey Krug, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Dobson, MacKenzie Weegar, Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard, Zach Werenski, Tyson Barrie, Dougie Hamilton, Thomas Chabot
While these blueliners are a noticeable step down from the top-two tiers, they still project as solid No. 2-3 Fantasy defensemen. The big question: how much power-play time will they get? All these players have 40-point potential at a minimum, but getting that boost with the man advantage will make them safer picks. Heiskanen, Dahlin, DeAngelo, Krug, Dobson, Werenski, Chabot, Hamilton and Barrie are all expected to begin the year on their respective team's first power-play units. Whichever of the two Flames in this tier (Andersson and Weegar) gets that job will get a similar boost. The others are still steady options that could push for the No. 1 power-play role during the season, and they may come at a discount on draft day.
Circumstances raise concern
Jacob Trouba, Jaccob Slavin, Jared Spurgeon, Charlie McAvoy, Noah Hanifin, Gustav Forsling, Shayne Gostisbehere, Mikhail Sergachev, Damon Severson
Whether it's regression, the team situation or a combination of both, these defensemen probably won't repeat their performances from 2021-22. Guys like Trouba, Slavin, Hanifin, Sergachev and Severson are all solid, but aren't the top defender on their teams. Forsling, Gostisbehere, and Spurgeon should have significant roles this season, but their teams may take a step back. McAvoy is the outlier here -- he should be further up the list, but he'll miss the start of the season after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. The combination of missed time and an adjustment period should make Fantasy managers bearish on McAvoy.
Solid depth choices
John Klingberg, Mattias Ekholm, Dmitry Orlov, Neal Pionk, Josh Morrissey, Brandon Montour, Cam Fowler, Bowen Byram, Hampus Lindholm
These players could all see some power-play time -- Klingberg, Morrissey and Lindholm being the most likely candidates for man-advantage minutes. They're steady, but there's not a lot of upside in this group outside of the hope for a full and healthy season from Byram. Montour, Fowler and Orlov are all regression risks after impressive 2021-22 campaigns. Ideally, you'll already have picked enough players from the higher tiers to avoid needing more than one from this group. They should, at best, be the No. 4 defenseman on your roster, and one that can help address a need in one category rather than across the board.
Rounding out the lineup
Ryan Suter, Colton Parayko, Alexandre Carrier, Jonas Brodin, Vince Dunn, Ryan Pulock, Sean Durzi, Jakob Chychrun, Jamie Drysdale, Owen Power, Calen Addison
This group contains a mix of veterans who can score and youngsters worth a speculative flier toward the end of your draft. In the latter group, Addison's probably you're best bet over Durzi, Power and Drysdale. For veterans, Suter, Dunn and Brodin probably make the most sense, while Chychrun and Parayko represent the best of the fallback options. These guys can all deliver some offense, though they may need a few things to break their way in order to reach their full potential.
Significant risks and red flags
Jeff Petry, Seth Jones, Brady Skjei, Mark Giordano, Ivan Provorov, Matt Dumba, Alex Goligoski, Oliver Kylington, Erik Karlsson, Travis Sanheim, Adam Pelech, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Timothy Liljegren, T.J. Brodie, Alexander Edler, Vladislav Gavrikov, Samuel Girard, Ryan Ellis, Carson Soucy, Kevin Shattenkirk, Filip Hronek
Between potential role reductions and shaky usage situations, these players are all significant gambles. Skjei, Provorov, Kylington, Liljegren, Girard and Hronek are all way down from last year due to new arrivals that could bump them out of the power-play conversation entirely, or at least down to the second unit. Petry, Goligoski, Giordano, Edler, Shattenkirk, Dumba and Ellis are injury and age-related decline risks, with some of them potentially not even guaranteed an everyday role. Ekman-Larsson, Karlsson, Jones and Brodie could all get crushed from a plus-minus standpoint. Finally, Pelech, Gavrikov, Girard and Soucy are all buried on their respective teams' depth charts and will likely regress after playing above expectations in 2021-22.