Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.
The Montreal Canadiens and restricted free agent defenseman P.K. Subban finally found enough common ground Monday to come to terms on a two-year contract. Though the feisty Subban has an uncanny knack of getting under the skin of opponents and occasionally teammates, his signing is great news for fantasy owners.
The 23-year-old led all Canadiens blue liners in goals (seven), assists (29), points (36), power-play points (14), and shots on goal (205) last season. He led the team in average time on ice (24:18) and was second in penalty minutes (119), two statistics that particularly are attractive in hybrid leagues that count such categories.
Subban is scheduled to meet with general manager Marc Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien on Wednesday in Ottawa to discuss his role and Therrien's newly implemented system. Hopefully that meeting will shed some light on when Subban will skate in his first game of the season.
Social media chatter shows that Therrien's system is of some concern to owners around the league based on the fact that it isn't exactly a game plan that allows for much offensive freedom. We aren't overly concerned, as history shows that that thinking might not be warranted.
Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Andrei Markov all have had successful offensive seasons in the Therrien system over the years. Gonchar played 208 games for Therrien in Pittsburgh and scored 177 (0.85 per game). Letang had 38 points in 122 games (0.31 points per game) and Markov had 24 points in 56 games (0.43 per game) during Therrien's only full season during his first stint in Montreal.
It also is worth noting that during those 208 games in Pittsburgh the Penguins' offense, albeit led statistically by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, ran through Gonchar. He was the player carrying the puck up ice, penetrating the offensive zone and quarterbacking the power play. Subban is ready to step into that kind of role.
Subban might not have Crosby or Malkin in Montreal, but he will be surrounded by some talented offensive players. He'll likely return to his familiar pairing alongside effective puck-mover Josh Gorges during even-strength situations and is sure to skate on the team's top power-play unit with Markov. It is worth noting that the unit has clicked at a 29.6-percent clip during the early stages of the season.
For his career, Subban has averaged 0.48 points, 0.13 goals, 0.20 power-play points and 2.5 shots per game. Mix those numbers in with the likes of talented rookie Alex Galchenyuk and veterans Erik Cole, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Markov, and you have an effective recipe for fantasy production.
The entire group will get a boost once Max Pacioretty returns in a few weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
Fantasy owners should be utilizing the lag between Subban's contract signing and his first game to grab him if he's available. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who will find him on the waiver wire, as there are just two percent of Yahoo! leagues in which he isn't owned.
Tobias Enstrom, Jets -- Enstrom long has tantalized fantasy owners with his slick puckhandling, smooth playmaking and accurate shot, but in recent seasons he has not been able to play a full slate of games. This could be the season that he puts it all together -- health, production and fantasy greatness. He occasionally gets lost in the shuffle, especially playing on a team with high-scoring Dustin Byfuglien, but he has a career average of 0.54 points and 1.33 shots per game, and already has seven assists in six games this season.
Justin Schultz, Oilers -- It doesn't happen all the time, but Schultz's case, the hype looks to have been accurate. The rookie, who had torn up the American Hockey League to the tune of 48 points (18G, 30A) in 34 games, is off and running in the NHL, with two goals and three assists in his first five games. Of his five points, four have come on the power play. He is shooting the puck a ton, with 16 shots on goal, and is in line for some gaudy totals playing with the young guns on his roster. He is owned in just 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes -- Larsson is entering his third season and looks like he could be following a similar career path to that of countryman Erik Karlsson. The latter took huge strides forward during his third season, totaling 78 points and winning his first Norris Trophy. Ekman-Larsson's game looks a lot like Karlsson's and he already has two goals, three assists, three power-play points and 16 shots on goal through his first six games. It also is worth noting that the Coyotes are averaging 3.5 goals per game this season, good for sixth in the League.
Shea Weber, Predators -- Many felt that Weber's game would be affected by the loss of Ryan Suter, and though it isn't time to panic, it is worth keeping an eye on. Weber has zero points through his first six games and his biggest fantasy contribution to this point comes in the form of the 16 shots that he has taken. He is too good to give up on, but as we approach the quarter-mark of the season, it might be worth looking into a trade.
Mark Giordano, Flames -- Giordano remains an effective play in deeper leagues, but his single assist and minus-1 in four games don't work real well for fantasy owners. It probably is prudent to look for fantasy production elsewhere, maybe in the form of the previously mentioned Schultz.
Paul Martin, Penguins -- Just one week after making our trending upward list, Martin finds himself heading the other direction. That doesn't mean he hasn't played an effective on-ice game, but his offense has all but dried up after the first two games of the season. He still may get some looks on the second power-play unit, especially in light of the recent injury to Matt Niskanen, but he is being used in more of a shut-down role these days.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Derek Morris, Coyotes -- The 34-year-old is thriving with the Coyotes thus far this season. He has four assists and 13 shots on goal in six games and should continue to scavenge points as the team continues to score. Though he won't be a top scorer, he could be a great injury fill-in.
TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN RANKINGS
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
1. Erik Karlsson, Senators (same)
2. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (same)
3. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (+2)
4. Alexander Edler, Canucks (+2)
5. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+2)
6. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+5)
7. Kris Letang, Penguins (-3)
8. Shea Weber, Predators (-5)
9. Dan Boyle, Sharks (same)
10. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-2)
11. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (+2)
12. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+2)
13. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+4)
14. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (+6)
15. Ryan Suter, Wild (-5)
16. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-4)
17. Mark Streit, Islanders (-2)
18. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (+1)
19. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (-1)
20. Drew Doughty, Kings (-4)
21. Justin Schultz, Oilers (+6)
22. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (+1)
23. Joni Pitkanen, Hurricanes (+1)
24. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (+1)
25. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (-4)
26. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (NR)
27. Alex Goligoski, Stars (+4)
28. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+9)
29. Mark Giordano, Flames (-7)
30. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (-4)
31. Dennis Wideman, Flames (-2)
32. Dmitry Kulikov, Panthers (-4)
33. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+6)
34. Matt Carle, Lightning (+2)
35. Ryan Ellis, Predators (-5)
36. Tyler Myers, Sabres (-4)
37. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (-2)
38. Ryan Whitney, Oilers (-5)
39. Cam Fowler, Ducks (-5)
40. Mike Green, Capitals (+2)
41. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (+2)
42. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+3)
43. Jason Garrison, Canucks (-5)
44. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (-3)
45. John-Michael Liles, Maple Leafs (+2)
46. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (same)
47. Ian White, Red Wings (-7)
48. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (-4)
49. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+4)
50. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (NR)
51. Dan Giardi, Rangers (-2)
52. Slava Voynov, Kings (same)
53. Brendan Smith, Red Wings (-5)
54. John Carlson, Capitals (+2)
55. Tom Gilbert, Wild (NR)
56. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+4)
57. Paul Martin, Penguins (-7)
58. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (-1)
59. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (-1)
60. Nikita Nikitin, Blue Jackets (-5)
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Jared Spurgeon
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