Victor Hedman vs. John Carlson

by Rick Roos on August 28, 2013


Who is the better own in fantasy hockey – Hedman or Carlson?




This week’s match features two young defensemen (Victor Hedman and John Carlson) who’ve been on the fantasy radar for their entire careers, but so far haven’t been able to make the leap into the elite defenseman category. The question is which one is more worthwhile to own. Let’s find out by looking at the key side-by-side comparisons.


Past Scoring and Recent Trends

Despite both being born in 1990, Hedman and Carlson each have over 230 regular season games under their belt, providing a pretty decent sample size of statistics for analysis. On the other hand, because neither player has yet to even average half a point per game in a single season, there are fewer scoring trends to study. And although it appears on the surface that both players have experienced steady point scoring numbers during their young careers, with no real upward or downward trends, that‘s not actually the case.

Carlson followed up seasons of 37 points (2010-11) and 32 points (2011-12) with 22 points in 48 games last season, which projected to 37 points. In short, his production has held quite steady. Hedman tallied 26 points in 2010-11, 23 in 2011-12, and 20 in 44 games last season (also projecting to 37 points). But Hedman’s 23 points in 2011-12 came in only 61 games, which projects to a 31 point full season pace. Therefore, not only has his scoring pace increased in the last three seasons (from 26, to 31, to 37), but if we look closely at Hedman’s finish to 2011-12, we see he scored eight points in his final nine games, which means he actually has tallied 28 points in his last 53 games, projecting to 43 points over an 82 game season. So although Carlson has consistently scored at a 30+ point pace, Hedman had the same points pace as Carlson last season and has been trending upward while Carlson has merely continued to tread water.


Ice Time Trends and PP Performance

The Ice Time numbers (overall, shorthanded, and power play) for Hedman and Carlson over the past three seasons tell a very interesting story:



Overall Ice Time per game

SH Ice Time per game

PP Ice Time per game


22:39 (Hedman)

23:01 (Carlson)

2:36 (Hedman)

2:51 (Carlson)

2:33 (Hedman)

2:13 (Carlson)


23:05 (Hedman)

21:51 (Carlson)

2:54 (Hedman)

2:27 (Carlson)

1:08 (Hedman)

1:25 (Carlson)


21:00 (Hedman)

22:38 (Carlson)

2:02 (Hedman)

2:19 (Carlson)

1:38 (Hedman)

2:13 (Carlson)


What jumps out immediately is that Carlson’s shorthanded Ice Time has increased every season. That’s a double whammy, as not only is shorthanded duty wasted time in terms of offensive output, but it also wears down a player such that he’s less likely to be as productive during the rest of a game. As support for this, consider that only 32 NHL defensemen had more shorthanded Ice Time per game last season than Carlson’s 2:51, and a grand total of just two of those 32 (Kimmo Timonen, Dion Phaneuf) scored more than 24 points!

Beyond that, Hedman has been trending upward in the right area – PP Ice Time. In fact, his 2:33 per game last season is just below the combined averages from the previous two seasons! This is in contrast to Carlson, whose 2:13 was merely equal to what he had back in 2010-11. Plus, the increase in Hedman’s PP time last season coincided with a decrease in SH time, which is a definite win-win.

But Hedman didn’t make the most of this situation, managing only two points with the man advantage last season. And in the past three seasons, Hedman has amassed only nine total points on the power play despite receiving a combined 276 minutes of PP Ice Time. What’s interesting is that Carlson has been generally ineffective on the PP as well, amassing a total of 18 PP points over a combined 405 PP minutes during the past three seasons. Thus, while it has taken Hedman an average of about 30 PP minutes to get a PP point, Carlson didn’t fare too well either at 22.5 PP minutes per PP point. The key takeaways here are that neither player is likely to benefit your team much in the area of PP points, and that Hedman’s upward trend in PP minutes might end if he continues to put up such poor numbers.


Present and Future Roles with Their Teams

Both players are signed for several more years at about $4M per year; given that, plus their current roles, it’s safe to say that they’ll remain on their current teams with a solid place in a top four pairing. What’s interesting about both of their teams is neither one has featured a reliable point scoring defenseman (aside from Mike Green) in recent years. In fact, other than Kurtis Foster in 2009-10, you have to go all the way back to the Dan Boyle era in Tampa to find another defenseman who averaged more than even half a point per game in a season. And for Washington, if you remove Mike Green from the equation you have to go all the way back to Sergei Gonchar in 2003-04 to arrive upon a half point per game or better defenseman.

We could look at this in two ways. On the one hand, it leaves the door open for each to still become a sorely needed scoring defenseman for his respective team. But I think what it more likely means is that because neither player has taken strides thus far to become a scorer, then it might be necessary to consider that neither one might ever make that leap. Both are still young, so it’s not that I’m saying they cannot actually make the leap at some point down the road– only that the fact they haven’t already done so despite their teams not having other defenseman scoring options (except Mike Green in Washington) is something to take note of and factor into future expectations.

The other thing that’s interesting to consider is that Carlson played two of his three full time NHL seasons when Mike Green was either out of the line-up or ineffective. In fact, last season was the first time when Carlson shared the ice with a mostly healthy, much more productive Mike Green, and the results did not work out well for Carlson. For example, Carlson had at least a point in only six of the 19 games where Green scored a point or more. And the results were even worse when the Mike Green of old really reappeared, as while Green amassed 11 points in his final eight regular season games Carlson only managed two points, which were scored in a single game. This raises a big question in that if Mike Green has indeed returned to his former self then will Carlson even be able to keep scoring at his previous 30+ points pace, let alone improve? With Hedman there is no similar threat given the other defensemen on the Lightning roster.



With Carlson, you’re getting as clean a slate as possible in that not only has he never been suspended, but he hasn’t even missed a single game in his three full seasons! And although during two of those same three seasons Hedman only missed three games (2010-11) and four games (2012-13), there was a small trouble spot in the 21 games missed during 2011-12. And it was reported that Hedman suffered a concussion in the 2009-10 season and then another in 2011-12. Neither one led to him missing a huge amount of time, but it’s something that has to be lurking not only in the back of the minds of fantasy owners, but also Hedman’s. Both players also are likely to represent their highly rated country in the 2014 Olympics, so both are likely to endure similar associated fatigue.


Secondary Categories

For defenseman like Hedman and Carlson who aren’t proven scorers, secondary category production can be all the more important, as contributions from these kinds of guys can help make up for one dimensional players on your roster who give you lots of points but not much else. Here’s a table which lists how each player fared in the most common secondary categories over the past three seasons:






Blocked Shots




+1 (Hedman)

+11 (Carlson)

56 (Hedman)

59 (Carlson)

84 (Hedman)

123 (Carlson)

31 (Hedman)

18 (Carlson)

76 (Hedman)

97 (Carlson)


-9 (Hedman)

-15 (Carlson)

96 (Hedman)

83 (Carlson)

127 (Hedman)

153 (Carlson)

65 (Hedman)

22 (Carlson)

82 (Hedman)

152 (Carlson)


+3 (Hedman)

+21 (Carlson)

54 (Hedman)

70 (Carlson)

85 (Hedman)

160 (Carlson)

70 (Hedman)

44 (Carlson)

101 (Hedman)

144 (Carlson)


What’s interesting is that three of these categories have clear winners, with Hedman having many more PIMs than Carlson each season (but neither player is penalized very much) and Carlson having many more Blocked Shots (50% more one season; nearly double in another) and more Shots (nearly double in one season) than Hedman. And it’s also worth noting that Carlson’s stats in these two secondary categories were huge (3rd in the NHL in Blocked Shots in 2012-13; 11th among defensemen in Shots). Plus/minus was back and forth, with Carlson oddly being either better than +10 or worse than -10, and Hits was close enough that we should expect it to remain basically a wash. Overall, Carlson holds an edge in more categories, and it’s a valuable edge since he’s among the elite in those categories.


Value vs. Cost

Up to this point we’ve seen that Hedman and Carlson have pretty comparable overall value, so one important thing to do as part of this analysis is compare each player’s value in relation to the cost it would take to get him, whether by trade or in a draft. And the reality is that Carlson will likely cost you more to obtain than Hedman. This is mainly because Carlson plays for Washington, and many folks think that based on what Mike Green has done Carlson might do the same (or close to it). Plus, Carlson is essentially heading into his “magical fourth year”, and that might entice some poolies. Also, despite Hedman’s points pace actually trending upward, he still hasn’t scored more than 26 points in a season, and people will focus on that, even more so because it seems quite disappointing for a former #2 overall pick. When it comes to value versus cost, I give an edge to Hedman.


So Who Wins?

Doing this Cage Match reminded me why I feel sympathy for people who own guys like John Carlson in fantasy leagues. When you look at his ice time in particular, it’s clear that he has so much value to his team as a shutdown defenseman that it’s actually holding back his offense. But can you blame the Capitals? They already have plenty of offensive production, including Mike Green from the blueline (and perhaps Dmitri Orlov if he ever develops), so they’re glad to use Carlson in a role where he’s counted upon primarily to prevent the opposition’s goals rather than helping his own team score.

And while it’s not like Hedman is being groomed by Tampa Bay to be the next Erik Karlsson, it does appear that the team is becoming more comfortable giving him additional opportunities to contribute on the score sheet. And Hedman has responded by slowly but steadily increasing his point scoring pace in each of the last three seasons.

In the end, I think the edge goes to Hedman, mainly based on value versus cost, upward trending in points scoring, and concerns about the Mike Green effect on Carlson. But that edge is not too large, which means it could just as easily tilt toward Carlson if, for example, your league emphasizes secondary categories in the areas (Shots, Blocked Shots) where Carlson not only is clearly better than Hedman but is one of the best among all NHL defensemen.






Recent Cage Matches:



Brad Marchand vs. T.J. Oshie 
Holding Court – Final Verdict 
Bryan Bickell vs. Troy Brouwer 
PA Parenteau vs. Jason Pominville