The Detroit Red Wings have always been a great source of fantasy production from the blue line, but that was due in large part to the presence of the now retired Nicklas Lidstrom. Would someone on the roster step up to offset such a substantial loss?
Heading into drafts this season, owners hoped that Ian White, who had a resurgent year playing alongside Lidstrom, would be able to provide some offensive punch. His 32-point campaign was good enough to get him drafted in 79 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues. After producing just one point in February and two on the year, he is currently owned in just 18 percent of leagues.
Many were drawn in by the potential of youngster Brendan Smith, our 51st ranked defenseman, selecting him in 76 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey drafts. Unfortunately a sprained right shoulder has sidelined him for all but eight games this season. He has just one assist on the year and has seen his ownership drop to 16 percent.
While a number of owners were left disappointed by White and Smith, many others are patting themselves on the back for selecting a guy who has spent the past nine seasons as Lidstrom's understudy, Niklas Kronwall.
If you were lucky enough to select Kronwall, you are seeing a substantial return on investment as the bruising Swede is currently leading all defensemen in scoring with 16 points. He did suffer a recent five-game scoreless drought, but is riding back-to-back three-point performances, and is looking pretty comfortable quarterbacking the Red Wings' power play. He has picked up 10 of his 16 points with the extra man.
Known for laying thundering body checks, Kronwall has always shown an ability to pick up points in the league. He produced a career high 51 points back in 2008-09 and has seasons of 11 and 15 goals on his resume.
Kronwall is producing .84 points per game this season, which is well above his career average of .48. That is going to be tough for him to continue, but even with some drop off, he'll likely be a very productive player the rest of the way. The good news is that he'll continue to share the ice with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and 26-year-old rookie, Damien Brunner, which should keep him flush in offensive opportunities.
Your lineup will not only benefit from his goals and assists, as Kronwall provides support in many other categories such as shots on goal (28), PIMs (24), hits (17) and blocked shots (27).
Surprisingly, Kronwall is still available in 10 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues and could be sitting on the wire in your league.
Cam Fowler, Ducks -- Fowler breaks back into the rankings this week after missing nine games with a concussion. Though he hasn't notched any points since rejoining the Ducks, they will come as he meshes back into one of the best teams in the Western Conference. He has seasons of 40 and 29 points on his resume and is poised for a big step forward. He will also be able to reintegrate at his own pace with Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin taking some of the offensive pressure off of him. He is owned in just 35 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues.
Kimmo Timonen, Flyers -- Timonen is one of the most consistent guys in the League and he seemingly gets better with age. The veteran now has 13 points (two goals) on the year, nine of which have come on the power play. He has four points in his last four games and gets to play with an impressive group of forwards that features Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux.
Francois Beauchemin, Ducks -- Yes, we mentioned another Duck above, but Beauchemin's performance has to be mentioned. The veteran has very quietly put up 12 points this season, with six coming in his last four games. He has registered an impressive plus-13, has blocked 36 shots and has 26 shots on goal. He is owned in just 51 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues and could bolster your line-up while he stays hot.
Joe Corvo, Hurricanes -- Corvo jumped into our rankings last week and quickly fell back out after going scoreless in four games. He does hold some value in leagues that award points for blocked shots, as he has registered seven in his last five games, but you should move on in most standard formats.
Dennis Wideman, Flames -- Big things were expected when the Flames acquired Wideman and signed him to a lucrative contract this past summer. He does have 10 points for the team, but isn't yet performing like the offensive juggernaut that they team thought they were getting. Wideman has no points in his last four and has registered a minus-four over that stretch. Reserve him until he starts producing regularly again.
John-Michael Liles, Maple Leafs -- Liles has been a healthy scratch for five consecutive games. He is still an effective puck mover and power-play quarterback, but can't help your team while sitting in the press box. Monitor this situation as the League's trade deadline approaches, his situation could change quickly if dealt.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Roman Josi, Predators -- Big things were expected of Josi when the Predators lost Ryan Suter but he seemed a bit overwhelmed early in the season. He has since started to look much more comfortable and now has six points in his last six games including four (two goals) in the Predators 5-4 victory over Dallas on Sunday. Josi is owned in just 7 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues and could provide a boost while he is hot.
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