2016 Outlook: Displaying the poise of a defenseman with years of NHL experience, Aaron Ekblad waltzed his way to the Calder Trophy last season with a 39-point campaign supported by stellar peripheral numbers. He's got a future as a 30-minute per night defender, which should be incredibly exciting to fantasy owners who will look at his numbers from last season in the context of him averaging just 22 minutes per game. Ekblad is still just 19 years old until next February, so he may not make a huge leap in ice time, but it will certainly continue to increase. The Panthers power play will also become an increasingly helpful source of points for Ekblad as the forward crop continues to grow up, too.
2016 Outlook: He's arrived on the scene as a fantasy force, but Victor Hedman still isn't commanding the respect he deserves. He has a 60-point campaign in him and it's going to manifest itself sooner than later; he just has to stay healthy as the Tampa Bay Lightning's anchor defenseman. While he doesn't shoot as much as some of the other high scoring defensemen, Hedman makes sure his shots count. He can make a run at 15 goals and, with the high octane offense and dangerous power play in front of him, 40-plus assists are almost guaranteed. Hedman will come at a price below other top-tier defensemen because of his injuries last season, but don't mistake him for a second-tier defenseman because of them.
2016 Outlook: Cementing his role as the Stars' top offensive-defenseman in his rookie season, Klingberg is looking to better the 11 goals and 25 assists accrued through only 65 games. At our own imaginary whiteboard, we have Klingberg anchoring a top power play including Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp, and choose one: Jason Spezza, Valeri Nichushkin, Ales Hemsky. Wowza.
2016 Outlook: His body may be getting older, but Andrei Markov's production keeps staying the same age. Turning 37 this season, Markov is still slated for another campaign of near double-digit goals and 50 points from the blue line. The production is thanks in large part to his connection with P.K. Subban on the power play, where Markov collected 25 of his 50 points last season. With Carey Price shutting the door in the crease, Markov has also been a boon to his owner's plus/minus for the past two seasons. Injuries and knee issues that hampered his seasons from 2009 to 2012 are clearly behind him. Markov will go lower than he should in your draft because he isn't the best defenseman on his team and his name still carries some injury concerns in leagues that have been around for five years. Take the discount and be happy with production that could very well be top 10 among fantasy defensemen.
2016 Outlook: Though he'll turn 38 years old this season, Mark Streit's deft passing and smooth skating aren't degrading with age. He's still a safe bet for 10 goals and 50 points from the blue line. If those numbers take a hit this season it won't be his age; it will be the presence of Michael Del Zotto eating into Streit's power play minutes. Del Zotto was sparsely used by the Philadelphia Flyers before January last season and his increase in responsibilities coincides directly with Streit's production fading from 22 points in both November and December to only 10 points in January and February. Still, there is enough to go around of the Flyers key offensive cogs for Streit and Del Zotto to both earn their keep this season.
2016 Outlook: He's not an offensive defensemen by profile, but Niklas Kronwall puts in enough ice time with talented players to boost his output significantly. He has settled into the range of 45-to-50 points with decent enough peripherals to be considered a tertiary fantasy defenseman. His status as the Detroit Red Wings best fantasy defenseman has elevated his status somewhat beyond what it should be. His actual output doesn't stack up with some of the better offensive defensemen in the league. There is also a new risk this season: Kronwall has derived some of his value from the 20-plus power play points he earns each season. Mike Green is in line to steal away some of those touches on the man advantage.
2016 Outlook: Missing almost a dozen games didn't help, but it still wasn't a surprise to see Ryan McDonagh's offensive numbers slip when the New York Rangers found themselves with alternatives to roll out on the power play. That will be the case again this season, as Keith Yandle will get a full offseason to cut his teeth as the Rangers power play quarterback. That doesn't mean McDonagh's won't have some uses in fantasy hockey, but his 14 goals from the 2013-14 season won't come close to being repeated and last season's 33 points are closer to what we can expect going forward. But with a solid plus/minus and modest power play scoring on the second unit, McDonagh slides in as a No. 3 fantasy defenseman.
2016 Outlook: Despite losing more than a month to a leg injury last winter, Vatanen still managed to lead all Ducks defenseman in scoring (12 goals, 25 assists in 67 games) and the entire squad in power play points (17). No question as to who's Anaheim's go-to offensive-defenseman, particularly with special teams. While the 24-year-old may not see as much ice-time at even-strength as his blueline colleagues, he'll be relentlessly called upon to anchor the No. 1 power play.
2016 Outlook: We expected a breakout season from Justin Faulk last year. But he busted the doors off even the most optimistic of outlooks by tripling his goal output and climbing to 50 points. That would put him squarely in the elite level of fantasy defensemen, except his rotisserie value is crumpled by a terrible goal differential on the Hurricanes. Faulk was minus-19 last season. That situation is unlikely to change, but everything else should be a repeat for Faulk. He's worth drafting to your squad, just not until the best of the best fantasy defenders are already off the board. James Wisniewski and his booming slap shot might also eat into the 238 shots on goal Faulk let rip last season.
2016 Outlook: Now that we've recovered from the surprise of the Bruins trading the young lad, let's figure out how Hamilton fits in with an already solid corps of Calgary D-men. Our guess is as a second-pair blueliner, anchoring the Flames' No. 2 power play. If he can avoid injury, the 22-year-old could better his recent output of 10 goals and 32 assists in Boston. Especially if he continues to shoot more.
2016 Outlook: There's actually more upside to Torey Krug's fantasy game than he is getting credit. Zdeno Chara's numbers drove off a cliff last season, but Krug's remained steady at the 40-point threshold. That's mainly because the slack from Chara's lack of contribution from the blue line was largely picked up by Dougie Hamilton. With Hamilton shipped out, Krug will be the man on the blue line. He should play almost every second the Bruins get on the power play and could push his point total closer to 50 this season as he finally emerges as a high-tier fantasy defensemen.
2016 Outlook: What you'll get from the Kings' franchise defenseman is a ton of on-ice minutes and a healthy helping of shots. What you won't get is jaw-dropping production, a la Erik Karlsson etc. But 45-plus points -- including a good portion counting with the man-advantage -- should gratify your desires from a No. 3, or even 2, fantasy blueliner.
2016 Outlook: Though his 31-goal season feels like a lifetime ago, Mike Green won't turn 30 years old until after the coming NHL season has started. Though he is apt to miss more time than most other players, that isn't the biggest question with Green. The biggest question is how he is going to be used. When forced into a traditional defenseman's game of prevention and puck possession, Green provides decent enough fantasy numbers to be a solid No. 2 fantasy defenseman. But if new Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill decides to loosen the reins, the sky is the limit for Green's potential on offense. It's not an easy decision and there are sacrifices to the team's defensive game, but Green has big potential if allowed to rush with the forwards. But given that the worst-case scenario here is still a solid fantasy defenseman -- albeit an injury-prone one -- Green is worth an investment for what he'll cost in your draft.
2016 Outlook: An interesting number comes out when you take the best output for each month that came from New York Islanders defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Tarvis Hamonic. If you add up Boychuk's October, November and January with Leddy's December and April plus Hamonic's February and March, you get a defenseman that played 79 games and managed to collect 54 points. That is to say that these three moderately offensive defensemen seem to take from each other, with only one stepping up to take the reins at a time. In only one of them managed to stake a claim as the top dog. For what it's worth, Boychuk led the way out of the gates and faded down the stretch last season. He had 22 points and a plus-15 in 36 games before the All-Star break and only 13 points and an even rating in 36 games after. Given the early season production from Boychuk, he should be the target in drafts.
2016 Outlook: He may not "wow" you in the production department, but the Wild's top D-man is essentially playing half of every regulation game for his squad, averaging over 29 minutes (league record). Otherwise, forecast a 40-point drive from Suter, as a mainstay on the top power play.