Fantasy Hockey 2018: Sleeper Defensemen

Ryan Pulock
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders reacts against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period during their game at Barclays Center on February 13, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Drafting fantasy hockey defensemen in the late rounds allow you to focus more on your offence at the start of the draft. If you can find the right defenseman late in the draft it will give you a lot of opportunities to draft more skilled players early on and still feel confident on the back end. Here are two candidates that can help shore up your blueline.

Fantasy Hockey Sleeper Defensemen 2018:

Oscar Klefbom: Edmonton Oilers, Yahoo! Rank 278

Oscar Klefbom had a disappointing 2017-18 season. His bad season coincided with the poor season the Oilers had as well. Both the team and player were expected to be much better. Something else that factored into Klefbom’s under-achieving season was a nagging shoulder injury that bothered him throughout the year. However, after off-season surgery, Klefbom is healthy and ready to have a bounce-back campaign. Look for Klefbom to improve on his 2016-17 season where he totalled 38 points without the shoulder injury.

In just 66 games last year, Klefbom still fired 203 shots on goal. Many of these shots came on the power play where he averaged 2:45 time on the ice. A healthy Oscar Klefbom should be trusted more on the power play this season. Klefbom is expected to be the only defensemen for the Oilers on the first unit. This means he will have an opportunity to get the puck to skill players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Both these players have the ability to create offensive chances which will translate into both goals and assists for Klefbom. This expected increase of playing time on the power play will translate into more power play points as well as shots on goal, which are both very important stat categories in fantasy hockey.

Klefbom is also expected to assume a spot on the first defensive pairing alongside Adam Larsson. Larsson is well-known as a solid defensive defenseman. He has never surpassed 25 points in his seven-year NHL career. Playing with Larsson bodes well for Klefbom. A full season with Larsson will allow him to jump up in the play and show off his offensive ability. Sort of like what Marc Methot did for Erik Karlsson. A healthy Klefbom will now also get regular first pairing minutes, which gives him more opportunity to get points.

Look for Klefbom to hit the 50 point plateau this season. He will be seeing plenty of ice time not only regular strength but also on the power play. Klefbom will have ample opportunity to be the offensive defenseman the Oilers expect him to be.

Ryan Pulock: New York Islanders, Yahoo! Rank 207

Ryan Pulock enjoyed a breakout season where he tallied 32 points in 68 games including 10 goals. 21 of these points came after the All-Star break. This second half breakout should be very appealing to fantasy hockey managers. If he can pick up where he left off last season he has the potential to be the steal of your draft.

Unlike Klefbom, Pulock will not see as much time on the power play right now. He is expected to start the season with the second unit. Pulock will need to rely on his heavy shot and take every opportunity he has to shoot the puck. He only tallied 184 shots on goal last year. He should see an increase this season. Pulock’s greatest asset is his shot. With a shot like his, every time he shoots the puck it has a good chance to find the back of the net or open up rebound opportunities for his teammates.

These sleeper defensemen will allow you to gain an advantage offensively by drafting skill players in the higher rounds. Both these defensemen are solid players that can provide you with points on the back end. Keep them in mind while you are drafting for depth on the blue line.

 

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