We continue our Fantasy Hockey Preview by looking at the class of Western Conference defensemen. Make sure you check out our Blues Fantasy Hockey Preview and Western Conference Forwards, and as always, pick at your own risk! Here are Bleedin’Blue’s top picks, overrated players, and those who may come out of nowhere to win your league:
Can’t Miss Selections
Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter signed one of the biggest contracts ever for a defenseman, a 13-year, 98 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. Formerly a member of the Nashville Predators, Suter had a career season last year, putting up 46 points with 7 goals and 39 assists. He is also a threat on the power play, helping to man both the point and the wing, registering 25 PP points last year, ranking third amongst defensemen. Further, Suter is a rock on the defensive end, being highly regarded as one the best man to man defenders on the game. He is also extremely durable, playing in over 70 games in each of his seven NHL seasons. It definitely remains to be seen how he will fair with a mediocre goaltender and a far more inexperienced corps around him, especially in regards to his usually stellar +/-. However, I would definitely still take Suter high on the draft as my first defenseman.
Alex Pietrangelo – St. Louis Blues
Along with pair mate Kevin Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo burst onto the scene in 2011-2012, posting 51 points
(12 goals, 39 assists). He was one of the best special teams defenseman in the NHL, registering 24 power play points, good for fourth in the NHL among defenseman, and is a great shot blocker on the penalty kill. Plus, adding to his value would is his time on ice, in which he averaged almost 25 minutes per game. At only 22, Pietrangelo should continue to improve, and will definitely post at least 45 points next season.
Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
After signing the biggest ever contract for a defenseman via an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers (14-year, 110 million), Weber’s deal was matched by the Predators, keeping him in Nashville. He has been a dominating force on the defensive end for his entire career, having both the physicality to matchup with elite forwards and the finesse to stickhandle and make two-line passes. Weber registered 49 points last season, but his production was felt most on the power play, where he put up 22 points including 10 PP goals, most among NHL defensemen. Although his +/- numbers should fall off due to the loss of Suter and other offensive weapons, he should still have a solid fantasy year, and could see even more ice time than last season.
Overrated, Risky Propositions
Jack Johnson – Columbus Blue Jackets
After being traded from the Kings to the Blue Jackets, Johnson registered 14 points in only 21 games. He also put up very high TOI/G, with over 27 minutes per game in Columbus, and was able to maintain a positive +/- with the worst team in the NHL. I do not believe any of these numbers are attainable next season. While the Blue Jackets will be somewhat improved, at least on defense, they probably will not be over .500. In all likelihood, he will not be able to match his 5 +/- while in Columbus, especially if he is on the ice over 20 minutes per game. His ice time will definitely diminish, as the BJ’s will definitely try to develop their young talent on defense. Even his points will most likely diminish, as opposing teams will be more focused on defending the blue line after the loss of Rick Nash. I would be wary of taking Johnson in my top slot, and expect his numbers to drop in Columbus.
Dennis Wideman – Calgary Flames
When healthy, Dennis Wideman has been of the best offensive defenseman in the game. Playing for Washington last season,
Wideman tallied 46 points (11 g, 35 a), and has put up at least 30 points in five of his seven NHL seasons. However, in three of the last four seasons he has had a negative +/- rating, and has not had a significant impact for any major playoff teams. Further, he is heading to Calgary where Jay Bouwmeester is already established as the signature D-man, and may lose time on either the power play or kill. Wideman is definitely a defensive liability, and will not put up any big hit/penalty numbers. He may have another great offensive year, but I expect his point totals to slightly decrease, and his +/- and TOI/G to definitely diminish.
Brent Seabrook – Chicago Blackhawks
The perennial (fantasy hockey) all-star and alternate captain of the Blackhawks, Seabrook put up 34 points last season with a 21 +/-, while averaging almost 25 minutes per game on the ice. However, he registered only four power play points last season, along with only 22 penalty minutes. Although he is a valuable commodity in terms of points and time on ice, his PP/PK points are inconsistent, hits and penalty minutes are perpetually low. Also his +/- could suffer if the Blackhawks underperform again this season. To be sure, Seabrook is a bit of a risky selection, at least within the first few rounds of the draft.
Alex Goligoski – Dallas Stars
Entering his fifth full NHL season, Goligoski has posted at least 20 points in all four of his previous years, eclipsing 30 points in three of those. He is a consistent threat on the offensive end, but is somewhat of a finesse player, and does not put up great power play numbers. However, the positives may outweigh the negatives this season, as the Stars gathered firepower in the form of Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, and Ray Whitney. The addition of these potent forwards will surely increase Goligoski’s production on the offensive end, and may cause his lack of hits/penalty minutes to be eclipsed by his point total. Look for him to have a big fantasy hockey year.
Sheldon Souray – Anaheim Ducks
The 36 year old had a productive year last season, putting up 21 points in only 64 games. He got out to a lightning fast start, mostly due to his great slap shot, but then cooled off as the season went along. Souray is a very good alternative option, as he is relatively consistent and is an all-around solid player, contributing with penalty minutes, +/- and TOI/G. Look for him to put up similar, yet maybe a bit less impressive, for a mediocre Anaheim team this season.
Jason Garrison – Vancouver Canucks
His move from Florida to Vancouver will definitely benefit Garrison in the points department, as he will
benefit from his probable pairing with Alex Edler, along with forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin, among others. I expect his point total to hover around 40, possibly even 45 if he is in the top pairing, dwarfing his 32 points from last season. His PP numbers could also steadily improve, as he attempts to join a unit that is perennially in the top five league wide. Expect his penalty minutes and time on ice to be roughly the same, but his +/- has the chance to skyrocket, as he plays with a team that has been long heralded for being great in the regular season. Could definitely be a top notch defenseman in a late round.