The art of drafting and developing offensive-minded defensemen into responsible players capable of being trusted with NHL ice-time has not been perfected yet. National Hockey League teams continue to juggle and tweak their approach with these potential offensive catalysts in hopes of finding the next Erik Karlsson or Kris Letang. Fantasy leagues that permit drafting of young defenseman often make decisions tough come draft time. Should you draft the defenseman with good odds of become a regular thirty-to-forty NHL rearguard? Or, is the better approach to identify those defensemen with high offensive upside and disregard the risk of them not becoming an NHLer? The answers will depend solely on your team's draft tendency and comfort level with taking risks but The Dean's List would chose the latter.
Like the last edition of The Dean's List where we took a look at the Top 10+ Fantasy-Based Forward Rankings, the following list does not reflect actual NHL value. The list was created to rank potential defensemen in the 2012 that possess fantasy worthy offensive abilities. The Dean’s List has adjusted the following rankings to factor in NHL likelihood and offensive potential to ensure that the rankings remain realistic and not a total crapshoot.
1. Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
Currently sidelined for the remainder of the WHL season with a knee injury, Rielly is the most offensive defender in this draft class. A tremendous skater with great footwork, Rielly is able to generate an offensive assault on his opposition through elite vision and slick passing skills. The offence runs through Morgan Rielly and he projects to be a valuable commodity in points only fantasy leagues. Rielly is the number one choice for fantasy defensemen in the 2012 draft class and should be drafted accordingly.
2. Mathew Dumba (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
The feisty, hard hitting, heavy shooting Dumba is an intriguing prospect that does come with some risk but as a late 94-born defenseman, time is on his side to improve even more. The concern with Dumba is whether he can play his physical game at the next level given his below average physical size (6-0, 173). Often compared to former WHL defender Dion Phaneuf with his style of play, Dumba will draw interest with any team holding a top ten pick given his potential to become a "franchise defensemen". In fantasy leagues rewarding penalty minutes and hits Dumba will carry extra value. The energetic rearguard is a good gamble when drafting a defenseman simply based on his potential.
3. Derrick Pouliot (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
The former first overall pick of the WHL Bantam Draft, Pouliot is just another Portland Winterhawk looking to become a first round NHL pick following in the footsteps of Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Bartschi, and Joe Morrow. Pouliot currently sits fourth in WHL defensive scoring in just his second full WHL season. The Weyburn, Saskatchewan native covers the ice efficiently with his effortless stride and his meticulous positioning. In a way, Derrick Pouliot resembles a younger Duncan Keith but with less refinement at this point in time. Pouliot has the potential to become a powerplay