Wild West: Top Western Conference Fantasy Defensemen 2018-19
For part three of this series we are going to look at defensemen in the West. We will be using the Fantasy Hockey Geek ranking tool to get a ranking that combines all of a player’s stats for the searched categories. For the purposes of this series, the ranks are based on a 12 team, head-to-head league, using the categories of goals, assists, power play points, shots, hits and blocks for forwards/defensemen and wins, saves, save percentage and goals against average for goalies. Player eligibility for this series is based on Yahoo, and any draft ranks are based on average draft positions compiled from Yahoo, ESPN and CBS by FantasyPros.
3. Drew Doughty (30)
I admit to being a little surprised with Doughty pulling a top three rank. I hadn’t been under the impression he had had a particularly successful season over in LA. That impression was pretty accurate as he lost goals, assists and points in 2018-19. It turns out 2018-19 was his second least successful season point wise in the last five seasons. He ended very closely ranked with a couple of players that we will discuss in the Bubble section, but he eeked out the top three rank as he provided great value in hits and blocks as well as decent value on the offensive side.
His 8 goals and 37 assists certainly were nothing amazing, particularly when paired with a 154 shots (a loss of 50 from 2017-18). His time on ice was lower though relatively constant, both overall and on the power play, and he actually increased his power play points by a few. His 168 hits (up 40 from 2017-18) and 120 blocks is really what added to his value in 2018-19.
Most of his percentage numbers are fairly low across the board. That is largely true for many Kings, and definitely implies that he could stand rebound a bit next season. One general concern though is that Doughty has actually been losing ice time consistently for five straight seasons. He is 29 so we wouldn’t expect that to be necessarily due to his age – if anything that typical regression would start around now. In 2014-15 he was averaging almost 29 minutes a night. In 2018-19 he was down to 26.5ish. He still is getting large minutes for sure, but if he keeps dropping time those shot rates will have a difficult time picking up.
Over the last five seasons he has averaged a 50ish point pace, and that seems like a pretty reasonable expectation going forward. If anything though I wouldn’t be surprised if that pace was a little on the low side of 50. If he had can keep up his hitting and blocking (which probably rose because LA wasn’t great this year) he definitely still keeps a fair amount of value.
2. Mark Giordano (15)
What happens when Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm have career years? Their defenseman does too (or maybe it is the other way around). Giordano did not eclipse 40 points in either of his last two seasons but put up 74 in 2018-19. His 17 goals is the second highest of his career and his 57 assists is 22 assists more than his previous high. His 21 power play points is ten more than 2017-18, though is actually only the second highest of his career.
So what happened for Giordano in 2018-19? At 35 it seems rather unlikely that he suddenly morphed into a new kind of player. There are a couple of small things to note here first. His power play time, and percentage of his team’s power play increased a little, as did his shot pace. That undoubtedly helped lead to increases in goals and power play points. Unfortunately neither of those totals really account for the massive jump Giordano saw in 2018-19. The big change was in assists, and when we dig into that we see some issues.
Giordano definitely benefited from Calgary’s explosive top line this year. As I have indicated in several other places, I am not entirely confident that we can expect the same level of performance next season across the board. His team five on five shooting percentage while he is on the ice was up at 10.52% in 2018-19. In his previous three seasons he averaged 7.84%. That is one potential pitfall for Giordano. Another is his IPP (which had been hovering just below 40% for several years) was up at 51.7%. These numbers tell us two things. 1. There is a very good chance that fewer goals are scored when Giordano is on the ice in 2019-20, and 2: When goals are scored while he is on the ice, there is a very good chance Giordano will get in on fewer of them. The two together could result in a relatively dramatic fall from 74 points. Now it is entirely possible that the breakouts by the top line represent a shift in how we think about all of those players and if they all keep up their very strong 2018-19 seasons they could help negate some of the potential fall. Even with that though, I wouldn’t be drafting Giordano expecting higher than a 50 point return.
1. Brent Burns (3)
Because of course it is. There was some concern going into the season that adding Erik Karlsson to the mix might hurt Burns, particularly on the power play. Initially it looked like those worries might bear out as San Jose’s power play struggled initially and it seemed like only one of Burns or Karlsson could be productive at a time. At the end of the day though none of that mattered. Burns finished the season with 83 points, the highest of his career with 16 goals and 67 assists.
Burns was undoubtedly helped this season by breakouts from Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl etc., but unlike with Giordano none of his underlying numbers are much out of order. If anything they might be a little bit low. Like with Doughty though declining time on ice over the last several seasons is going to catch up with him at some point (though he is still just over 25 minutes a night), as will declining shot rates, and oh right, age.
At this point there really isn’t much more to say about Burns. He is an elite defensemen. Maybe 2019-20 is the year that age starts to catch up to him, and there are no real indications that he can’t hang on for another elite year. Perhaps his numbers bip closer to 70 than 80, but really how much more do you want from a defensemen?
Bubble Players (just missed a top ranking):
Roman Josi (31) had the second highest point total of his career (15 g, 41 a, 56 points), and a career high in shots. He missed out on a top three ranking mostly because of a lackluster performance in hits, and if that category wasn’t counted he would have displaced Doughty. Jacob Trouba (37)’s 50 point season (8 g, 42 a) was by far his best. It helped that it was the first time in several season that he played all 82 games, and it also helped that Dustin Byfuglien missed chunks of time for the Jets, giving Trouba a chance to score a career shattering 18 power play points (previous high was six).
Erik Karlsson (119), the 15th ranked defenseman and Dustin Byfuglien (216), the 29th ranked defenseman had disappointing seasons because of injuries. In Karlsson’s case it is not too concerning, but Byfuglien is a bit of another story. In only six of his 12 seasons has he been able to play more than 75 games. He has a history of injuries and he is now 34. It is going to be harder to rehab, and keep up with the league than it used to be and it seems pretty likely that the chance of injury is going to increase with age rather than decrease.
Darnell Nurse (44), had a career season helped pretty dramatically by Oscar Klefbom missing time so he could take his power play duties and time on ice. His 41 points (10g and 31a) was by far the best of his career. He was ranked just ahead of Tyson Barrie (49) and was drafted 205th overall. Barrie was drafted 71st. I would also like to point out that Alex Edler (65) rarely gets the love that he deserves. He was drafted 207th on average but scored on a 50 point pace, added exceptional hits and blocks and finished just ahead of Oliver Ekman-Larsson (67) overall, who was drafted 105th on average.
Thanks for reading. Next week, goalies.
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