On the 'D'-fence: Gonchar great despite no Karlsson

Wednesday, 03.27.2013 / 12:00 PM
Brian Metzer  - NHL.com Correspondent

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.

Most people figured that the Ottawa Senators were finished the moment Erik Karlsson was lost for the season back on Feb. 13. They were already missing Jason Spezza and Jared Cowen, which would have been tough to overcome by itself, but mix in the loss of the reigning Norris Trophy winner? No chance.

All the Senators have done since that fateful February day is go 11-4-4 and keep pace with both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division. One of the main catalysts for their success has been Sergei Gonchar.

Gonchar, who turns 39 years old in less than a month, has been nothing short of amazing for the Senators and has done a masterful job of offsetting the loss of Karlsson.

The native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, is producing at a pace reminiscent of his days with Washington and Pittsburgh. He is collecting .73 points per game, which is his highest point per game average since the 2009-10 season.

He recently had an assist streak snapped that saw him record assists in 10 consecutive games.

The streak was the longest of his career and good enough to set an Ottawa franchise record. It was also the first time that a defenseman recorded an assist in 10 or more consecutive game since Garry Galley did it in 11 straight games for Philadelphia back in 1993-94.

Gonchar currently ranks fifth in the League in defensive scoring with 22 points (2G-20A), has registered a plus-four rating, has 55 shots on goal and has 10 power play points.

Sarge, as his teammates call him, plays in all situations, logging over 24 minutes per night. He skates an average of 3:23 TOI with the extra man, kills penalties and is on the ice late in games. He rarely makes a mistake and serves as a calming influence for teammates, especially younger players, which helps him mesh well with the current roster in Ottawa.

He may not be a great asset in a keeper league based on his age, but there is no reason to think he can't be a very effective performer down the stretch with the fantasy playoffs looming.

If you need to bolster your blue line, you may be able to find an owner who is willing to move him on the cheap, or if you're lucky he could be sitting on the waiver wire. Gonchar is owned in just 77 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues, so go out and grab him.

TRENDING UPWARD

Ryan Suter, Wild -- Suter just keeps getting better as the season rolls on. It took him a while to get it going upon arrival in Minnesota, but he has been one of the best fantasy defensemen in the game over the last month. He has 14 points (2G-12A) over his past 12 games and is finding his way onto the score sheet on a nightly basis. He quarterbacks the power play and logs over four minutes with the extra man each game. He is definitely earning his big contract on a nightly basis and has the Wild primed for a playoff berth.

Tobias Enstrom, Jets -- Enstrom is back! He is was off to a tremendous start this season before missing a chunk of time with a shoulder injury and looks to be picking up where he left off. He has goals in back-to-back games and now has 14 points (3G-11A) in just 15 games. Enstrom is owned in just 79 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy hockey leagues, so you just may luck out and find him lingering on the waiver wire.

Alex Goligoski, Stars -- Since his arrival in Dallas, Goligoski has been one of the most frustrating fantasy players to own. He shows flashes of being a stud blueliner and then regresses to the point of becoming a healthy scratch. He is currently in the middle of a semi-hot streak that has seen him log points in four consecutive games, and five of seven. He has upped his season totals to 17 points (1G), 51 shots on goal and 8 point play points. He is also a plus-1 after spending some time on the minus side of that stat this season.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Alex Pietrangelo, Blues -- The Blues have won just three of their past seven games and those struggles have caught up to their young defenseman. Pietrangelo has picked up just one assist and is a minus-two over that span. He also had an eight-game scoreless drought to end the month of February. He is definitely worth owning, but he isn't an every-night start at this stage of a shortened season. Monitor his matchups and slip him in against lesser opponents.

Kevin Bieksa, Canucks -- Bieksa has broken the 40-point plateau three times in his career, including 44 points last season. Sadly this season is not one of them. Bieksa has seven points through 25 games, and just three over his last 14 games. Unless you are in a keeper or dynasty league, it may be time to cut him.

Justin Faulk, Hurricanes -- Faulk was riding a six-game scoreless streak when he suffered a sprained knee. He will be out for upwards of four weeks, which will likely render him useless for the rest of the fantasy season. He is definitely worth stashing away in keeper leagues, but in single season situations feel free to move on.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Kevin Klein, Predators -- Klein, who picked up a career-high 21 points in 66 games last season, has been a bit of a disappointment this season, but he is showing signs of life lately. Klein has picked up three points over his past three games and now has nine points on the season. He isn't going to challenge for the defensive scoring lead anytime soon, but he could be a nice depth acquisition for the fantasy playoffs.

TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. 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. Kris Letang, Penguins (same)**

2. Shea Weber, Predators (same)

3. Ryan Suter, Wild (+5)

4. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+2)

5. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (+5)

6. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (-1)

7. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+2)

8. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (-5)

9. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (NR)*

10. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (-6)

11. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-4)

12. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+1)

13. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-1)

14. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+1)

15. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (+3)

16. Alexander Edler, Canucks (-4)

17. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (same)

18. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+1)

19. Dan Boyle, Sharks (-3)

20. Mark Streit, Islanders (-6)

21. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-1)

22. Slava Voynov, Kings (-1)

23. Drew Doughty, Kings (same)

24. Paul Martin, Penguins (same)

25. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (+2)

26. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-4)

27. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (-1)

28. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (+4)

29. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (same)

30. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-5)

31. Alex Goligoski, Stars (+2)

32. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders (-1)

33. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (-5)

34. Dennis Wideman, Flames (-4)

35. John Carlson, Capitals (+1)

36. Brent Burns, Sharks (+1)

37. Victor Hedman, Lightning (-3)

38. Matt Carle, Lightning (-3)

39. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (same)

40. Jason Garrison, Canucks (-2)

41. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (same)

42. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+4)

43. Joni Pitkanen, Hurricanes (+2)

44. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks (same)

45. Mark Giordano, Flames (-2)

46. Jake Muzzin, Kings (+1)

47. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (-5)

48. Roman Josi, Predators (+5)

49. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (same)

50. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (same)

51. Cam Fowler, Ducks (same)

52. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (-4)

53. Patrick Wiercioch, Senators (+7)

54. Sami Salo, Lightning (-2)

55. Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs (-1)

56. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (same)

57. Jared Spurgeon, Wild (same)

58. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (-3)

59. Matt Irwin, Sharks (same)

60. Ryan Whitney, Oilers (-1)

** Kris Letang was placed on IR Tuesday

* Was listed on IR in last week's rankings

Injured: Erik Karlsson, Justin Faulk, James Wisniewski, Marc Staal, Raphael Diaz, Kyle Quincey, Ryan Wilson

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