An elite defenseman in fantasy hockey is a very valuable asset because of how few defensemen put up big offensive numbers. The best of the best are often grabbed early on draft day. Sometimes, a career year will inflate a defenseman’s numbers, making him a high pick on draft day, but ultimately a mediocre fantasy skater.
John Klingberg will not be one of those players.
His breakout 2015-16 season came after an eye-catching 40 point, 65 game rookie year in Dallas. Twelve power play points and 11 goals as a rookie were sure signs that he had real potential. With offensive juggernauts Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin sharing so much ice time with him, it’s surprising, in hindsight, that so few gambled on Klingberg back in the fall on draft day.
No fewer than 26 defenders were drafted (on average) before him in most leagues, according to fantasypros.com. When the regular season came to an end, only Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, and Brent Burns were more valuable defenders in standard fantasy scoring categories.
But unlike those three elite defensemen, Klingberg will be just 24 years old next season. His best hockey is still ahead of him.
In his second season in the NHL, Klingberg more than doubled his shooting rate, picked up 10 more power play assists and 14 more even strength points. He did all of that while seeing only about a minute more of ice time per game and appearing in 11 more games than he did as a rookie.
It’s hard to say where the ceiling is for Klingberg, but it is going to be a fun ride in the next few seasons figuring that out.
He didn’t put up electrifying numbers in Europe while playing in Sweden and Finland, but his production in the NHL thus far has been outstanding. He may not be as popular or well known as household names Shea Weber or Duncan Keith, but there is a strong case for drafting Klingberg before either of them.
There are exciting things happening in Dallas and Klingberg is one of the main reasons why.
There are few power plays that give goaltenders more nightmares than the Stars’ does. The top power play unit that Klingberg quarterbacks has Seguin, Benn, Patrick Sharp, and the crafty Jason Spezza on it. With all of those dangerous forwards still under contract next season, there is good reason to expect that Klingberg will either match (or surpass) his 22 power play points next season.
For many 24 year old defensemen that might be a tall task, but Klingberg has all of the necessary tools to build on his breakout season.
One possible bump in the road is that Alex Goligoski, Klingberg’s defensive partner, has an expiring UFA contract and might not be coming back to the Stars. Goligoski’s potential departure might hurt Klingberg’s fantasy stock in the eyes of some, but the pros of drafting him early on draft day dwarf the cons.
His production over his first two NHL seasons alone presents a convincing case for his place among fantasy hockey’s best blue liners, but it isn’t the only reason to click his name during your fantasy draft. The strength of Dallas’ offense, his role on the team, and his potential and talent make Klingberg a can’t-miss defensemen on draft day.
Let other managers go for the bigger names on the blue line in the first few rounds. Klingberg’s big season didn’t just launch him up the draft board at least 100 spots, it also made him one of fantasy hockey’s few elite defensemen — and perhaps the most underappreciated one.