2017 Outlook: Suter had a big season in 2015-16, tying his career high in goals (eight) while recording more points (51) and shots on goal (188) than ever before. He consistently ranks among the league leaders in ice time (28:35 last season) and handles the reins on Minnesota's top power-play unit, where he racked up 21 of his points while receiving 3:54 of ice time. The Wisconsin native will be 32 in January, so he's not getting any younger, but Suter is quietly one of the most well-rounded, elite defenseman in the game. As long as the 6-foot-2 blueliner doesn't wear down from logging so many minutes, there's no reason why he can't reach the 50-point plateau again in what will be his fifth season in the State of Hockey.
2017 Outlook: While Krug posted a career-high 44 points in 2015-16, he took a step backward in terms of goal scoring, recording only four tallies after dazzling with 26 goals over the previous two seasons. The 25-year-old has emerged as the go-to blueliner in Boston, logging heavy minutes and quarterbacking the first power-play unit, where he piled on almost half of his points in 2015-16. The loss of Loui Eriksson might impact the power play, but Krug still has plenty of talent to work with up front, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and newcomer David Backes. Krug is a highly effective defenseman who is never afraid to join the rush and generate offense. He has now posted three consecutive seasons around 40 points and the Bruins will be relying on him heavily once again, so look for the Michigan native to produce offense consistently and improve on his low scoring output from 2015-16.
2017 Outlook: Hedman is a multi-category stud who is elite at both ends of the ice. He puts up points, clears the crease, blocks shots and drives possession as a true No. 1 defenseman. Hedman is also highly coachable and brings Nicklas Lidstrom-type intangibles to the game, both on and off the ice. He led the Bolts in helpers last season (37) and delivered 47 points overall, while his plus-21 was also best on the team. The big Swede continued the excellence in the postseason, finishing third in scoring from the blue line with 14 points in 17 games. Hedman is a top-five NHL defender on the ice based on his all-around game, but slips when it comes to fantasy given that all those intangibles don't always translate to value. Hedman's 47 points put him 16th in scoring from the blue line last season. That's solid. But a whopping 41 rearguards put up more points with the man advantage than Hedman did. Draft him as a top 15-18 guy and you'll do just fine this season.
2017 Outlook: Muzzin should be the poster boy for perseverance. The Penguins used a fifth-round pick on him in 2007, but he failed to garner a contract and reentered the draft two years later without any suitors. Muzzin's hard work and patience paid off as the Kings inked him to a three-year entry-level contract in January of 2010. He hasn't looked back, showing marked improvement season after season. In fact, the minute-munching defenseman is fresh off a campaign that included career highs in assists (32), PIM (64), and average ice time (23:04) to complement 13 points on the man advantage. His iCorsi value was 333 in 5-on-5 situations, third-best among blueliners. Of course, the Kings were the best possession team in the NHL last season and Muzzin reaped the rewards. Heading into the 2016-17 season, go ahead and draft the 27-year-old with confidence, as he's not just "the other guy" next to Drew Doughty, but a valuable fantasy asset in his own right.
2017 Outlook: Ekblad enjoyed another productive campaign in 2015-16, tallying 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) with a plus-18 rating in 78 games, and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract extension this offseason. The 20-year-old Ontario native will be entering just his third NHL season in 2016-17, and will become more productive as he develops into the franchise defenseman Florida expects him to be. The 6-foot-4 Ekblad should have even more opportunities to leave his mark on the score sheet this season, as the Panthers signed free agent Keith Yandle, an offensively gifted defenseman who will likely be paired with Ekblad at full strength and on the power play in 2016-17. Yandle led all of his Ranger teammates with 42 assists last season, and should give Ekblad plenty of opportunities to fire shots on net on the man advantage. Fantasy owners looking to add a second defender shouldn't hesitate to snatch Ekblad after the premium options are off the board, even if he gets off to a late start due to a concussion sustained during the World Cup of Hockey.
2017 Outlook: Vatanen has grown up in the Ducks organization among a similarly skilled group of young defensemen. In four years of NHL service time, he has steadily climbed up the depth chart to the point where he's widely considered the team's most prolific blueliner. Vatanen fashioned a 38-point season, with half of those (four goals, 15 assists) made possible by his quarterbacking the top power-play unit. This level of productivity effectively duplicated his prior season, proving that he's evolving into a dependable, offensive-minded asset. Vatanen has averaged a little over 21 minutes of ice time per game in recent seasons, yet there's room for an even larger role, so he may be a big beneficiary of the Ducks' coaching change as new bench boss Randy Carlyle traditionally recognizes his big guns, rewarding them with all the playing time they can handle. Vatanen comes packed with upside heading into the 2016-17 season, so draft accordingly.
2017 Outlook: A broken foot/ankle limited Carlson to 56 games in 2015-16, but the playmaking defender still managed to register eight goals, 31 assists and a plus-16 rating in a monumental season that included the Caps clinching the Presidents' Trophy. The blueliner feasted in the playoffs, showcasing an incredible knack for power-play goals -- four of his five tallies came with the man advantage, not to mention seven assists. He poses a threat on special teams and bolsters a blue line that's tough to beat with Braden Holtby protecting the net. Already back to full health and ready to rock in 2016-17, Carlson provides excellent fantasy value at a relatively shallow position. The 2008 No. 27 pick was well on his way to setting career-highs across the board, a feat that should be attainable in the coming season as he's in the heart of his prime.
2017 Outlook: Yandle was the Rangers' most productive defenseman in the offensive zone last season, leading all Blueshirt blueliners with 42 assists and 47 points over 82 games. The left-handed Yandle will now take his offensive skill set to Florida, as he signed a huge seven-year, $44.45 million contract with the Panthers this offseason. The 30-year-old American is expected to skate with Aaron Ekblad on Florida's top pairing and No. 1 power-play unit, a partnership that will only benefit Yandle's already impressive offensive numbers. He'll also be playing with the best supporting cast he's had in recent memory, as the Rangers simply aren't as deep or talented at forward as are the up-and-coming Panthers. Yandle's offensive-minded style of play, as well as his beneficial change of scenery, could help the 6-foot-1 defenseman reach 60 points for the first time in his NHL career. Fantasy owners looking to pick up their second option at defense would be wise to take a long, hard look at Yandle in drafts this season.
2017 Outlook: Pietrangelo is an excellent all-round defender. He has delivered two seasons of 50 points or more, but slipped to just 37 points last season despite seeing close to three minutes per game on the power play. At 26, he still has plenty room to expand his game as one of the best Canadian blueliners in the NHL. However, he plays heavy minutes in a defensive role and on the penalty kill, which inevitably cuts into his would-be production. Because he's so well-rounded, the Blues will continue to use Pietrangelo in this capacity while Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko spread their wings in offensive roles. Contrary to what many believe, Pietrangelo isn't the team's top fantasy defender right now and maybe isn't even the second-best. Expect a 40-45-point season in 2016-17 and a return to the 45-50 point range the following year if Shattenkirk leaves town due to salary constraints.
2017 Outlook: Barrie, one of the best young blueliners in the NHL, was unable to avoid a salary arbitration hearing with the Avalanche in the summer, though he ended up settling on a four-year, $22 million contract extension before the arbitrator could rule on his case. With the salary drama in the rearview, Barrie can focus on the 2016-17 campaign, which will be his sixth in the NHL. Highly regarded in most fantasy circles, the 26-year-old has seen his power-play totals increase in each subsequent season, and naturally, the rest of his offensive production has followed. In 2015-16, Barrie played 78 games and recorded 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists), with 21 of those coming with the man advantage. He did struggle in the defensive zone, finishing with a career-worst minus-16 rating, but the Avs had a down year as a whole, and when they improve, Barrie's numbers should follow suit. Come draft day, set your sights on Barrie as your No. 2 or No. 3 defenseman if possible.
2017 Outlook: Parayko is a little bit of Shea Weber with a dash of Al MacInnis. And that should make Blues fans and fantasy owners flat-out giddy with anticipation. Parayko won't be at the elite level in 2016-17, but his time is certainly coming. His slap shot is heavy and accurate, being clocked at more than 100 mph. He finished his rookie season with nine goals and 33 points in 78 games, but his game is so much more than that. Parayko was the Blues' most reliable possession defender in both shot generation and suppression last season, as a rookie … on a team with Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk. That's impressive for a guy no team wanted in his first year of draft eligibility. Parayko has the size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and skill to be a star in the NHL, and it won't be long before he's considered among the league's best two-way defenders. This season, he might even deliver more points than Alex Pietrangelo. Draft for 40 points and a basket of goals. And get ready for stardom in 2017-18.
2017 Outlook: Chara has been in the league for 18 years and is still getting the job done at the age of 39. Last season, he registered nine goals, 28 helpers and a plus-12 rating in 80 games. That output was in line with his career averages, and therein lies the beauty of owning an established player -- you know what you're getting. Chara is a nightmare for opposing goalies when he gets a chance to screen with his 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame, and those long arms make it easy for the Czech to mow down the opposition in pursuit of the puck. His value is most apparent in categorical leagues, where he'll provide nice totals for points, hits, blocked shots and penalty minutes. Knee injuries have troubled Chara recently, but his obsession with staying in tip-top shape mitigates some of the risk that comes with his age. He's an oldie but a goodie.
2017 Outlook: Seabrook is the type of player whom coaches love; he is efficient, has first-rate passing skills from the blue line and fearlessly commits to defense by turning in an abundance of hits and blocked shots each and every year. A top-pairing blueliner with Duncan Keith as his sidekick, Seabrook enjoyed a superb 2015-16 campaign, which included a career-high 14 tallies to go along with 35 helpers, 121 hits and 150 blocked shots. Furthermore, more than half of his points took place with the man advantage, which adds to the intrigue of owning him. There's so much offensive talent in Chicago that it's easy to overlook No. 7, but don't make that mistake if you're searching for a reliable option at a relatively shallow position.
2017 Outlook: Since entering the NHL in 2013-14, Lindholm has been a steady two-way contributor for the Ducks and fantasy owners alike. Case in point: the Swede has scored 92 points (23 goals, 69 assists) in 236 career regular-season games to complement an immaculate plus-61 rating. He has an above-average shot for a rearguard, leading to a career-high 10 goals last season. Big puck-moving blueliners who work on the man advantage come at a premium in the fantasy world, and Lindholm fits the bill. While he's still working his way into the elite class of defenders, more experience should help him get there.
2017 Outlook: Stralman is the heartbeat of the Bolts. He's the quiet maestro that drives possession and conducts offensive attacks. Plus, he plays one of the most efficient shutdown games in the NHL. Stralman is the total package and a perfect number two NHL defender. He'll serve up another 40 points, play in all situations and help deliver a Norris Trophy to partner Victor Hedman.