2018 Outlook: Somehow, No. 88 managed to outdo his eye-popping 27-goal, 75-point campaign of 2015-16 with 29 snipes, 320 shots, 76 points (ninth overall and tops among league defensemen) and a plus-19 rating en route to his first Norris Trophy last season. The 2003 first-rounder isn't afraid to get involved in the defensive zone, either, as evidenced by his triple-digit blocked shot tally (142). It's also important to note that Burns' career-high production came while skating a full minute less (24:52) than the previous year. That increase in efficiency suggests he may still have more to give. That said, it won't be an easy task for the bearded blueliner to join the exclusive 80-point club in his age-32 season, so it's probably wise to make sure the league's top offensive powerhouses are off the board before calling Burns' name.
2018 Outlook: Karlsson is the cream of the crop as far as puck-moving defensemen go, having racked up 82-game averages of 19 goals, 56 assists, 28 power-play points and 264 shots on goal over the past six seasons. Despite bringing a rather unimposing frame to the ice, Karlsson has proven to be quite durable with five games last year the only ones he's sat out since sustaining an Achilles laceration by Matt Cookie in 2012-13, and he toughed out multiple foot ailments in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. His status for Opening Night is up in the air, but even so, while he may not be able to match the transcendent facial-hair game or goal-scoring ability of Brent Burns, Karlsson continues to have a serious case for being the league's most offensively-gifted blueliner.
2018 Outlook: Byfuglien brings an unmatched combination of skill and grit from the blue line, averaging exactly 50 points and 120 PIM over the past three seasons. The former forward has also cleaned up his defensive game recently, posting a positive rating in three consecutive seasons after finishing in the negatives during eight of his first nine NHL campaigns. A healthy Byfuglien is a lock for over 200 shots on goal and double-digit power-play points, making him one of the few players capable of providing sizable contributions in every single category. Just remember that the 32-year-old defenseman has established a clear ceiling for himself, having failed to top 20 goals and 56 points in a season.
2018 Outlook: Only Brent Burns topped Hedman's 72 points from the blue line last season, which was a remarkable achievement, given that Burns had him beaten by 154 shots. Tampa Bay's premier blueliner also tripled his previous career high in power play points, as he collected four goals and 29 assists with the man advantage. Hedman uses his 6-foot-6, 223-pound frame to control the point, block shots and flatten opponents whenever necessary. Case in point: He totaled 155 hits while fearlessly throwing his body in front of 264 shots since the start of the 2015-16 campaign. He ranks in an elite tier of fantasy defensemen, but Hedman very well could regress on the heels of a personal-best shooting percentage of 9.6 in 2016-17.
2018 Outlook: As expected, Weber's offensive production took a hit in his first season away from Nashville but not as drastically as one might think. He put up 17 goals, 42 points and a sterling plus-20 rating while dishing out his customary triple-digit hits (140) and blocked shots (157) in 25-plus minutes of average ice time with the Canadiens. P.K. Subban, the fellow marquee Canadian defenseman Weber was traded for, put up 10 goals, 40 points and a minus-8 rating by contrast — albeit in 12 fewer games — so those who opted to roll with Weber received decent returns. Heading into this season, Weber will again be the Habs' go-to blueliner in all situations, so look for another 15-plus goals and around 45 points. Jonathan Drouin joining the team's power play should pay dividends for Weber as well.
2018 Outlook: After Kevin Shattenkirk was traded to Washington, Pietrangelo posted five goals, 22 points and 84 shots while logging 27:10 of ice time per game (3:18 with the man advantage) through the final 31 contests of the season (including the playoffs). Those are elite fantasy numbers, and although Colton Parayko projects to have a major role alongside Pietrangelo, it became evident last spring that Pietrangelo is the go-to offensive defenseman for the Blues. The 27-year-old veteran has been a high-end fantasy asset in the past, with multiple 50-point campaigns. Pietrangelo's virtual arrow is pointing straight up heading into 2017-18, and he could prove to be a significant bargain on draft day.
2018 Outlook: Werenski was a major factor during Columbus' best season in franchise history, posting 11 goals, 36 assists and a plus-17 rating as a rookie. Twenty-one of those points were on the power play, ranking Werenski ninth among NHL blueliners. The threat of a sophomore slump is ultimately outweighed by the 20-year-old's growth potential, especially with the Blue Jackets once again set to dress elite talent around him. Don't worry about the facial fractures that knocked Werenski out of the playoffs, as those have had more than enough time to fully heal.
2018 Outlook: The Predators sure know how to groom elite talents on the blue line, as Josi has developed into the same type of two-way force as Ryan Suter and Shea Weber before him. Weber's departure prior to last season didn't have a negative impact on the Swiss defenseman, who sports averages of 14 goals and 51 points over his past four campaigns. He's also finished as the team ice-time leader in three consecutive seasons while averaging north of 200 shots per year in that stretch. Between his own capabilities and the strong supporting cast around him, Josi has everything he needs to maintain his status as one of the game's top defensemen.
2018 Outlook: Letang is one of the league's best offensive defensemen when healthy, but he's missed 154 of 458 regular season games over the past six seasons. His presence takes an already deadly Pittsburgh power play to another level, as the Montreal native has 82-game averages of 27 power play points and 65 points overall since breaking out back in 2010-11. Letang's combination of inability to stay in the lineup, productivity when healthy and role in a stacked lineup that just won a championship without him makes him the Rob Gronkowski of hockey. And just like with Gronk, those who gamble on Letang on draft day better have a replacement on hand for when he inevitably goes down.
2018 Outlook: Shattenkirk and the Rangers are a match made in heaven. The New York native is the perfect fit to fill a hole the team has had since Brian Leetch left: power play quarterback. While the Rangers have trotted out skilled passers like Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle in that role in recent years, they haven't possessed the booming shot that has allowed Shattenkirk to rack up 25 goals and 104 points with the extra man over the past four seasons. Assuming he skates on the top pairing with two-way stud captain Ryan McDonagh as expected, the 28-year-old defenseman could challenge his career-high rating of plus-20 and is basically a lock to top 40 points for the fifth consecutive campaign.
2018 Outlook: Ristolainen doesn't get much attention playing in Buffalo, but the soon-to-be 23-year-old has evolved into one of the best young defensemen in the league. The hulking 6-foot-4, 203-pounder packs a punch on the power play, having topped 20 points with the extra man in consecutive campaigns. He's also developing a mean streak, as last season's 58 PIM marked a career high. Rating is still a weak point for Ristolainen on a Sabres team that hasn't exactly been competitive over the past few years, but he's coming off a career-best minus-9 finish and should improve further as the young core around him takes another step forward.
2018 Outlook: The 24-year-old defenseman posted career bests in goals (13), points (50) and shots (222) while also recording solid peripheral statistics (64 PIM, plus-12 rating and 14 power play points) last year. Hamilton's 1.56 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five also ranked second among all defensemen with at least 500 minutes. Looking ahead to 2017-18, fantasy owners would love to see him receive a more prominent power play role, especially with the No. 1 unit. Hamilton's established himself as an excellent fantasy asset, but it will probably be difficult to improve his even-strength production, so counting on more of the same is advised unless his role expands with the man advantage.
2018 Outlook: Krug has been a force on the power play since entering the league, averaging over 19 points with the extra man over his first four full seasons. He was one of only four defensemen to top both 50 points and 200 shots on goal last year and still has room for growth after finishing six goals short of his previous best. While his vision and puck handling ability continue to develop, Krug is coming off a career-worst minus-10 rating after going plus-40 over his previous three campaigns. That said, Krug carries more than enough offensive talent to offset his defensive issues and likely isn't done honing his skills at just 26 years of age. He suffered a non-displaced fracture in his jaw during the preseason, but is not expected to miss more than a handful of games.
2018 Outlook: Doughty's numbers dipped last season after winning his first Norris Trophy in 2015-16. However, his 44 points and 181 shots are still strong fantasy marks, and he logged huge minutes once again with 27:09 of ice time per game (3:17 on the power play). Additionally, Doughty's plus-8 rating was a team-high mark, and his possession numbers were elite again with a 55.2 Shot Attempts For percentage. It's also worth noting that Doughty is still in the heart of his prime, and the 27-year-old defenseman projects to continue providing excellent numbers for the foreseeable future. He offers a reliable high-floor, high-ceiling combo, and there is potential for a rebound in the points column in 2017-18.
2018 Outlook: Rarely can a 49-point campaign from a defenseman classify as a disappointment, but Klingberg definitely took a small step backward in 2016-17. To start, losing long-term defense partner Alex Goligoski took a toll on Klingberg's play to start the season, and the entire team struggled with multiple key pieces injured. Everything is looking up heading into 2017-18, though. Klingberg found his form with five goals and 18 points through his final 25 games last year, and the Stars added a number of difference-makers this offseason. An offensive rebound is well within reach, and don't forget that Klingberg's 147 points through the past three years rank eighth among all defenseman.