The top defensemen typically don't last long on draft day and investing in the position improves the odds that Fantasy managers will be able to ice a lineup that is offensively balanced. Targeting at least one blueliner early that you can build around will ensure you won't have to scramble to secure replacement-level options later, which could be the key to winning your Fantasy league.
Karlsson led all blueliners with 1.23 points per game played last season. He racked up 25 goals and 76 assists en route to his third Norris Trophy. Karlsson put his injury woes of the past behind him, appearing in all 82 regular-season contests, but that history is a bit worrisome going into 2023-24. Still, he has a great opportunity to flourish as a member of the Penguins, which makes him a worthy Fantasy gamble on draft day. Makar ranked second among defenders with 1.10 points per game played, while accumulating 17 goals and 49 helpers in 60 appearances. He also placed sixth among defensemen with 30 power-play points. If he can stay healthy, Makar stands a very good chance of topping all defensemen in scoring in 2023-24. He should be the first rearguard off the board in redraft leagues.
Elite options to build around
If you manage to land any of these defenders during your Fantasy drafts, you won't be hurting for points. They're all capable of producing like high-end forwards, with the added benefit of plenty of production with the man advantage. Dahlin morphed into a multi-category monster last season, and Bouchard has the potential to rapidly move up the ranks as the point man of the Oilers' incredibly efficient power play. Hughes is an excellent assist and power-play point compiler, but he doesn't offer the same multi-category coverage of his peers in this group. Heiskanen, Hamilton, Josi and Fox are more than capable of anchoring any Fantasy managers' defense corps in 2023-24.
Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Brent Burns, Charlie McAvoy, Josh Morrissey, Devon Toews, Morgan Rielly, Vince Dunn, Kris Letang, Hampus Lindholm, Shea Theodore, Noah Dobson, Drew Doughty, Moritz Seider, Alex Pietrangelo, Rasmus Andersson, John Carlson, Justin Faulk
Sergachev supplanted Hedman as Tampa Bay's power-play quarterback last season, but they both have an immense amount of Fantasy appeal going into 2023-24. Burns, McAvoy, Lindholm, Dunn, Rielly, Pietrangelo, Andersson, Dobson, Seider, Theodore, Carlson, Toews, Doughty and Faulk soak up playing time, including power-play minutes, and were all strong point generators last season. Morrissey could come back down to earth following his offensive breakout last campaign, but just like the other defenders in this collection, he should operate in the 50-60 point range this year. Letang should still have excellent category coverage this year even though he's lost some Fantasy appeal following Karlsson's arrival.
These blueliners could be in Tier 3, or are a shade below that level, but there are some major concerns about their ability to stay healthy. Letang narrowly missed the cut for this group thanks in large part to his 78-game season in 2021-22. Montour and Ekblad are expected to miss the start of the 2023-24 season following offseason shoulder surgeries. They both played through injuries for the Panthers during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and are facing indefinite timetables for their respective returns. Montour and Ekblad are currently slated to return sometime between November and January. Chychrun has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, while Chabot has missed significant playing time in each of the past two seasons. The projected top two blueliners or the Senators have plenty of uncertainty surrounding them entering an important season for the franchise. Byram's wealth of potential has been held back by concussion issues, while Krug will go into training camp with a foot injury after playing in just 63 games in 2022-23 and 64 contests in 2021-22.
Solid depth options
These defensemen are good bets to surpass the 40-point plateau this year and they can help your Fantasy squad in other areas as well. Miller broke out in a big way last season while transforming into a multi-category threat. Nurse, Ekhlom and Orlov also bring plenty of category coverage to the table. Jones has a great deal of bounce-back potential in 2023-24 with rookie phenom Connor Bedard now in the fold for the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Fowler and Forsling are coming off career years offensively. Additionally, Forsling should get a big boost out of the gate due to the absences of Ekblad and Montour to start the season.
The blueliners in this bracket possess plenty of upside and could be overlooked in some drafts. Hughes may be a slight exception to that because he's garnering interest as a potential Calder Trophy candidate. Durzi could become the power-play quarterback for the Coyotes this campaign after being productive in that role in a secondary capacity for the Kings last season. Clarke is projected to step into the spot vacated by Durzi during his 2023-24 rookie campaign with LA. Now with the high-powered Maple Leafs, Klingberg will probably rebound quite well following an underwhelming 2022-23 campaign split between Anaheim and Minnesota. Werenski and Drysdale have bounce-back appeal as well after injuries drastically cut their 2022-23 seasons short. Power, Addison and Sanderson should all improve upon their solid rookie performances from a year ago. Matheson was productive for the Canadiens last campaign despite being limited to just 48 appearances. If he can stay healthy, he could be a very good depth piece for Fantasy managers this season.
Rounding out the roster
Brady Skjei, Tyson Barrie, Jacob Trouba, Jeff Petry, Shayne Gostisbehere, Neal Pionk, Jared Spurgeon, Noan Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Samuel Girard, Filip Hronek, Tony DeAngelo, Justin Schultz, MacKenzie Weegar, Juuso Valimaki, Radko Gudas
These defensemen will probably be available toward the end of your draft, and some of them could end up being waiver wire material. Hanifin, Barrie, Gostisbehere, DeAngelo, Ekman-Larsson, Hronek, Girard, Weegar, Schultz, Spurgeon, Skjei and Valimaki could be utilized on their respective team's power play. Provorov, Trouba and Gudas are generally deployed in defensive situations, but they're still decent multi-category contributors. However, the plus-minus ratings of Provorov and Gudas might be an issue for some Fantasy managers this season.