The defense position used to be separated in half: most NHL teams had offensive defensemen and defensive defensemen. More often than not, teams would pair an offensive type with a more stay-at-home defender. Nowadays, with the NHL becoming a harder league to score goals with each passing season, MOST defensemen are asked to contribute on offense (while maintaining a standard of competency in the defensive zone). The best defensemen these days are good at both ends of the ice. With that in mind, here are the 20 best fantasy defensemen heading into the 2016-17 campaign:

1. P.K. Subban, Predators

Release the hounds! After coming over from Montreal, expect Subban to make a major impact in Nashville under coach Peter Laviolette who prefers a more open playing style than Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.

2. Erik Karlsson, Senators

The slick Swede is by far the safest fantasy defenseman on this list, after producing 82 points last season. Karlsson plays all over the ice like a forward, though will new coach Guy Boucher rein him in a little?

3. Kris Letang, Penguins

He is the kingpin of the Stanley Cup champions' blueline brigade and an outstanding skater, which helps him in all facets of the game. Injuries are the only drawback with picking Letang early in fantasy drafts.

4. Brent Burns, Sharks

The Western Conference's version of Erik Karlsson, Burns also plays like a forward sometimes and is a tremendous power-play contributor on one of the National Hockey League's top units

5. Roman Josi, Predators

After spending most of his first three full seasons alongside Shea Weber in Nashville, Josi will have a new defense partner in 2016-17. Will the Predators pair up Josi with Subban, or split them up?

6. Tyson Barrie, Avalanche

Barrie is now signed to a long-term contract to be Colorado's power-play quarterback, a role he can flourish in. The 25-year-old blueliner might have Karlsson-type offensive ability, with Letang's skating stride.

7. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes

The Coyotes are an emerging young team, so 'OEL' figures to continue to produce quality fantasy totals for several more seasons. Ekman-Larsson is one of the most underrated stars in the NHL these days.

8. John Klingberg, Stars

The talented Swede emerged as the Stars' power-play quarterback last season and was a true revelation. Given his ice time and the potency of the Dallas attack, Klingberg appears to be a fairly safe fantasy bet. 

9. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets

'Big Buff' is coming off a 53-point campaign in 2015-16, one of his most consistent performances since entering the NHL over a decade ago. For leagues that count penalty minutes, Byfuglien would be higher on this list.

10. Victor Hedman, Lightning

If Hedman ever puts it ALL together, look out! The mammoth rearguard has as much physical ability as any player in the NHL but expends a lot of energy shutting opponents down. His offense comes and goes.

11. T.J. Brodie, Flames

The Flames have tremendous offensive ability from the back end and Brodie is emerging as the best of the bunch in Calgary. His skating ability is first-rate and his decision-making with the puck is getting better.

12. John Carlson, Capitals

The top point man on one of the NHL's top power plays, Carlson missed a big chunk of 2015-16 due to injury. This season, he should be back at full strength. The 26-year-old might enjoy a career season in '16-17.

13. Aaron Ekblad, Panthers

It is hard to believe Ekblad is only entering his third NHL campaign, since he plays with the poise of an 11-year veteran. After posting 36 points last season, expect Ekblad's fantasy totals to increase significantly in '16-17.

14. Ryan Suter, Wild

Typically one of the NHL leaders in ice time, Suter is a very reliable fantasy pick year in, year out. He plays at a high level in all game situations and is also rather durable (he has missed just 4 games the last 4 seasons).

15. Mark Giordano, Flames

What makes Giordano such an attractive fantasy defenseman is his ability to score goals. He potted a career-high 21 goals last season and has hit double-digits in the goals department four times in his NHL career.

16. Torey Krug, Bruins

The diminutive but talented offensive rearguard does not always quarterback Boston's top power-play unit but he probably should. Krug has averaged 41 points in his first three full seasons with the Bruins. More to come.

17. Sami Vatanen, Ducks

There is plenty of competition for ice time along the Ducks blueline, but Vatanen is probably Anaheim's best offensive defenseman and power-play quarterback option. All he needs is to stay healthy this season.

18. Ryan Ellis, Predators

On a team loaded with offensive threats from the back end, Ellis gets to play a secondary role. However, he has made the most of it and should continue to improve his fantasy numbers (despite the arrival of Subban).

19. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues

This is probably Shattenkirk's final season in St. Louis, as the pending unrestricted free agent will likely test the market next July 1. The 27-year-old rearguard has plenty of incentive to post quality numbers this season.

20. Dougie Hamilton, Flames

Hamilton struggled a little to get acclimated to the Flames' style last season but still posted 43 points. A towering blueliner with a wealth of ability, Hamilton should be more comfortable in 2016-17. Expect better totals.