In part four of a five-part series on finding value in your fantasy hockey draft, today's article will focus on defensemen. Part I in this series discussed left wings; Part II discussed right wings; and Part III discussed centers. Specifically, we're interested in using the Yahoo average draft position (ADP) to not only determine the best players to target in your fantasy hockey draft, but also when to target them. The assumptions made in this article include the following: (1) you're in a Yahoo standard league, (2) your league has 12 managers, and (3) your league is not a keeper league.
Before we jump into the details of which defensemen are undervalued, it's important to get a handle on how managers are behaving in their fantasy hockey drafts so far. In the image below, you'll see exactly how many defensemen are drafted in each round of a standard draft (on average). For several years, you could typically count on five defensemen coming off the board in the first three rounds of a fantasy draft. But the image below shows something very different happening this season. Just two defensemen are off the board by the end of the 3rd round (you should be able to name them). With defensemen being pushed back until later in the draft, it will be more difficult to find value at this position in your 2023 drafts. We can use this information to better understand who and when to take when our name is called during the draft.
Player Rankings and ADP
At leftwinglock.com, we create annual fantasy hockey draft kits which marry your scoring settings with our projections to generate customized player rankings. This exact type of draft kit was used by our team to defeat the fantasy experts at NHL.com, win the first-ever Zero Transaction Fantasy Championship, and go undefeated in the Battle of the Fantasy Hockey Podcasts. The draft kit includes sortable spreadsheets filled with projections in 25+ categories for over 600 NHL players. For the purpose of this article, we generated the customized player rankings for NHL players that can be drafted as defensemen in the Yahoo fantasy hockey system. We then compared these player rankings to the player's ADP (average draft position) to determine which players are undervalued (it's never wise to draft on rank number alone). That is, we're looking for players who our draft system ranked highly and whom managers are overlooking.
Below, you'll find a table of four players who are eligible at defense and are being undervalued by managers in fantasy drafts (there are many more listed in our draft kit). Detailed comments for some of these players can be found below the table.
Cale Makar - Cale Makar found himself making history in fantasy drafts last Summer as he was the first defenseman in over five years with an average draft position in the Top-10 (Makar's ADP was 5.3). Makar barely skirts into the conversation on value this season as his LWLRANK comes in just ahead of his ADP. In practice, you won't be able to draft Makar in a value position in Yahoo default leagues. The truth about Makar in fantasy leagues is this: you're going to have to reach to draft him. In most instances, this is not something that managers in the front half of the draft should even consider.
Mikhail Sergachev - Outside of when to draft Erik Karlsson, the debate over which Tampa Bay defenseman to draft first (Mikhail Sergachev or Victor Hedman) is probably one of the more important decisions to get right in your drafts this Summer. In previous drafts, this one was a no-brainer; you draft Hedman long before Sergachev. But partway through the 2022-2023 season, Sergachev replaced Hedman on the top power play unit for the Lightning and ultimately outscored the veteran blueliner 27-14 on the man advantage. Managers are currently coming down on the Hedman side of the debate; his ADP sits at 68.5, making him a late, 6th round pick (without top power play usage, this makes Hedman a very poor value in drafts at this ADP). Sergachev, on the other hand, is surviving until early in the 8th round. The "right" answer will be determined by who gets the job on the top power play unit. For a better part of last season (including the playoffs), that job was owned by Sergachev.
Zach Werenski - Zach Werenski enters the 2023-2024 season in the prime of his career. At the age of 26, Werenski has reached the point in his career where most players realize their peak shot production at even strength -- and yet, Werenski's ADP of 158.3 is the latest average draft position of his career. Werenski, on average, is surviving until the 14th round in fantasy drafts this Summer. With such little value available at the position (in Yahoo default leagues), the smart bet is to draft Werenski in the 11th or 12th round. Werenski is coming off shoulder surgery from an injury sustained in November of 2022 which limited him to just 13 games played. He has one weaknesses relevant to the Yahoo default system: as a non-physical player, Werenski will produce very few hits. Instead, Werenski's value comes from his shot production (3+ shots per game), goal production (double-digit totals in every season), and his 3+ minutes of power play time per game.
Customized Player Rankings
If you're looking for a chance to draft players with great projections who are being ignored by the other fantasy hockey websites, then consider downloading one of our fantasy hockey draft kits this season. You won't be disappointed. While this article focused on the Yahoo standard scoring system, our customized draft kits can handle just about any scoring system you throw our way. You'll find plenty of draft day steals.
For 17 years, you've trusted Left Wing Lock as a reliable source to bring you accurate starting goalie information, line combinations, and player news alerts. That same passion and dedication fuels us as we create the best fantasy hockey draft kits available. We invite you to let us build your customized fantasy hockey draft kit for the 2023-2024 season. Order your kit today!
PLAYER: an NHL player involved in this analysis. Click player name to visit player profile page.
TEAM: the current NHL team for this player.
YPOS: the official position designation for this player in the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey system.
LWLRANK: the rank assigned by Left Wing Lock for this player in this specific scoring system only.
ADP: the average draft position for this player in the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey system.
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