Ramblings – 20 Defensemen Who Could Reach 80 Points (Apr 06)
The only active defensemen to ever reach 80 points in a season are Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. Kris Letang could have made it, but he was too prone to injury and now the window has passed him by. But I put together a list of players who 'could' get there, and honestly a few of them will because the NHL is more wide open with scoring these days and a lot of that rests on the puck-moving defensemen. Some D could have made the list with the right bounces, teammates, coaching, PP time, etc. (I'm thinking about Erik Gustafsson, Mike Matheson, Shayne Gostisbehere etc.). But here are some guys I think could get there. At some point. Maybe. Here is the list I came up with, along with some musings about how they could get there.
20. Miro Heiskanen
I don't know if, offensively, Heiskanen can get there. Nor do I think the team around him is good enough to help. But his overall talent is elite. When he reaches his prime he could potentially be the top all-around defenseman in the world. And he's only 20, so for all we know the team around him could have Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews on it in six years.
19. Adam Fox
Fox has had such an impressive rookie season and it's just so rare to see this from a defenseman coming straight out of college. I really thought there would be an adjustment period. But Fox has been a standout. However, he has to fight for every scrap of PP time that he gets on this team. On a team other than the Rangers? Sky is the limit.
18. Ryan Merkley
A one-dimensional defenseman, but that dimension is offense. He'll be in his third or fourth NHL season by the time Karlsson and Burns step aside and in the meantime those two vets can show him how it's done. This is a team already used to elite blue-liners running the offense, so the table will be set. A boom-or-bust fantasy option.
17. Josh Morrissey
An elite all-around blueliner who has tons of untapped potential. It was a little discouraging to see an undrafted puck-mover like Neil Pionk get chased out of New York (many of their fans loved it), only to see Pionk muscle Morrissey off the power play by December. But the cream always rises to the top. I can see Morrissey coming out of nowhere for an incredible season the way Morgan Rielly did in 2018-19.
16. Zach Werenski
To me, Werenski has 70-point upside on most teams and would need help getting to 80. He won't get there with the current Columbus team. It's just he and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and the two of them could 'possibly' pull up guys like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cam Atkinson and perhaps even Gustav Nyquist into the high-60s or even 70 points. But as I've noted before, he's quite young (just 22) and this could be a completely different team when he's 27.
15. Rasmus Sandin
The 20-year-old will apprentice under Rielly for the next three or four seasons and likely top out in the high-50s. But he could find that other gear and as he hits 26 or 27 maybe flirt with that 80-point threshold. Much would depend on the core of the team around him. I know the players around him are locked in for the long term, but trades happen (even ones with no-move clauses).
14. Victor Hedman
Hedman would be a steady 65- or 70-point guy year after year if he didn't get hurt. But he's the king of minor, nagging injuries that cost him a couple games here, a couple games there and so instead we have a steady 55- or 60-point guy who occasionally pops for 70. But one year he'll play 82 games and that will be the year he flirts with 80 points.
13. Adam Boqvist
While I do worry that Patrick Kane's decline starts to set in just when Boqvist enters his prime, there is hope that the Blackhawks have enough developing offense (Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, etc.) to help their top PP blueliner Boqvist along. At this point on my list we're still looking at the longer shots, where they likely top out in the 60s. But the 19-year-old Boqvist absolutely deserves discussion.
12. Roman Josi
I think Josi has topped out this year. Everything has come together for him, from health, to teammates to bounces. He has 65 points in 69 games and will turn 30 by the time hockey resumes. It's hard to believe that he has yet another gear to hit. That being said, if anyone can pull a Mark Giordano, it's Roman Josi.
11. Ryan Pulock
Pulock is 25 years old and has never posted a point-per-game season in his entire career at any level and three seasons in the NHL his career high is 37 points. But he is supremely talented, is starting to gobble up the ice time and his PP time is finally starting to rise. Next year he'll have that PP and ice time we've been waiting for, and at 26 he will enter his prime. As with Noah Dobson (who would be No.21 on this list), the team around Pulock is a concern so a jump of the magnitude I'm suggesting would also require the likes of Mathew Barzal having the year of his life and the Isles to bolster the offense via free agency. If Pulock has a 55-point season next year, I would be much more confident that he can join the rarified 80-point club. So that stepping stone needs to happen.
10. Filip Hronek
The 22-year-old has fallen off over the last two months (eight points in his last 24 games). But on a team that doesn't boast a 55-point player, he still managed 31 points. As the team gets better, he'll put up better numbers. He's Detroit's guy on the power play for the next five years.
A Strong Case
It is here where my list leaves the realm of "long shots" and enters the realm of "possible and even likely". The above 11 players have a lot of "ifs" and "buts" involved. These nine players have much stronger cases. In the case of Bouchard, he is the best offensive defenseman to come along for Edmonton in 20 years. And he'll arrive just as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl enter their prime. The timing is pretty sweet for Evan Coffey. I mean Bouchard.
We already saw Rielly nearly accomplish the feat in 2018-19 when he tallied 72 points in 82 games. Now he's in his prime. We also saw, first hand, what having a one-dimensional star offensive defenseman added to the roster does to an all-around elite guy like Rielly. His stats took a nose dive. Just in case you needed a refresher after watching the same thing happen to Alex Pietrangelo years ago when St. Louis acquired Kevin Shattenkirk. By the same token, you saw Pietrangelo bounce back after Shatty left – you should see the same thing with Rielly after Tyson Barrie leaves. The all-around guys miss out on key offensive opportunities and shoulder more of a defensive role so that the one-dimensional guy gets situations he can best handle.
As a 22-year-old, Chabot had 39 points in his first 39 games (last year). That's all I need to see. I'm convinced he can get to 80. Will he? Well, that would naturally depend on health and how well the team around him improves. But the toolbox is there.
As Close to a Sure Thing as it Gets
A franchise defenseman who is destined to win a Norris or two, Dahlin at 27 years old (he's currently only 19!! Turns 20 next week) could even get to 80 on his own, surrounded by a bunch of hot dog vendors and a guy named Dobbs. But he has Jack Eichel. Nothing is for certain, but with good health Dahlin will get there in seven years.
We've been waiting for the switch to flip on this guy. Hamilton finally found that switch this season at the age of 26. All it took was to get rid of that bum Justin Faulk. But after 40 points in 46 games, Hamilton suffered an injury in Game 47 and that was the end of that. For now. But his window still has a good four or five years left in it…
The former No.1 prospect on my Fantasy Prospects Defensemen list for many months, a couple of years ago, DeAngelo is one of just four defensemen to have an 85-point season in the OHL since 2000 (Ryan Ellis, Evan Bouchard and Kevin Dallman). He has 51 points in his last 62 games, averaging more than four minutes of PP time per game over the last 13 contests. Fox scored at a similarly torrid pace in college with Harvard, with 48 points in 33 games last year and actually beating Cale Makar in points-per-game average (1.45 to 1.20) that season. So why do I like DeAngelo so much more than Fox?
- He's further along. More established, already been through any sophomore struggles, yadda yadda yadda. First to market, right? It's his job to lose.
- DeAngelo holds an edge in terms of IPP, as well as 5on5 S%. Fox has been getting a lot of bounces (10.3% 5on5 S%), and yet when goals are scored while he is on the ice he got points on 48.3% of them (versus 56.4% for Tony D)
- I really struggle to wrap my head around a defenseman who was brought through the college ranks having a higher offensive upside than one coming through Canadian junior. Probably just a personal bias that I need to overcome, and I'd love to investigate the numbers on this. But the highest scoring defensemen are either brought through the European ranks or through junior hockey in Canada. Besides Brian Leetch, can you think of even a 70-point defenseman who came out of college? Sure, Fox could be the first, but I tend to lean toward the proven data.
Caveat: The above is for the next five years only, which is as far out as you should be looking in terms of keeper value anyway. For all I know, Fox may be better at 28 than DeAngelo will be at that same age.
As for Jacob Trouba – I think he's supremely talented. But as I already noted in the Rielly/Barrie and Pietrangelo/Shattenkirk examples, he is too good. He's not one-dimensional. So while Fox and Tony D battle it out for PP time, Trouba shoulders the rest of the load. Not getting PP time will still see him reach 40 or 45 points. But he won't reach his upside as long as those other two are around.
3. Cale Makar
And…right after I speak of my seeming anti-college bias, I come back at you with two straight college kids. Why lift the bias for Makar and Hughes, yet maintain it for Fox? Pedigree. High draft picks get special treatment by coaches and management, so they get special treatment from me. As soon as these next two players hit 80 points (and join Leetch), perhaps the pretend door (in my mind) swings open for the next ‘Adam Fox’ that comes along…
Anyway, numbers two and three are interchangeable here. I went with Hughes over Makar because, bottom line, I like what Hughes will have around him in the future. I love what Makar has around him too, but Mikko Rantanen is sidelined half the time, and after Nathan MacKinnon nobody excites me. Still, Makar could reach 80 points on his own and lead his team in scoring if it was most other teams. He's a pretty safe bet regardless of where he ranks versus Hughes.
2. Quinn Hughes
1. John Carlson
Carlson is the obvious number one because, hell, if the NHL somehow squeezes in even five more games per team in August regular season competition, Carlson hits 80 points this year. He's just five points shy.
The above list contains players with odds that are anywhere from 5% to 90% chance that this happens. If I go “super long shot” and take this down to 1% I could probably add at least a dozen other names. So how many actually get there? If I’m a betting man I put my money down on three or four.
See you next Monday. Be safe. Thanks for continuing to support the website, and if you're bored and need a fantasy hockey fix – visit the gang in the forum here.
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