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.
It seems like the National Hockey League season just got under way, but we are nearing its conclusion.
NHL teams are looking at 10 or less games to go on their schedules, which means that the fantasy hockey playoffs are under way or will be starting soon.
During the playoffs, especially in head-to-head leagues, every category gets magnified significantly. Suddenly, a player who specializes in winning faceoffs or logs a ton of hits can mean the difference between winning and losing not only a category but a match.
Two categories that tend to be ignored, at least until an owner realizes that he is trailing during a scoring period, are PIMs and shots on goal.
Here are a handful of options that are available in most Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues that can bolster your PIMs or shots on goal, while at the same time contribute to other areas that help make them more viable for a roster.
These players are also great candidates to pick up for a game or two during the scoring period to play on nights when more productive options are idle.
Dallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon might not be an offensive juggernaut, but he is second among all rearguards in PIMs with 59. He also ranks in the top 25 at his position in shots on goal with 63. He chips in the occasional goal or assist, as evidenced by his seven points (three goals, four assists), and at just 11 percent ownership, makes for a great mid-period pick-up.
Mark Fraser, who skates a regular shift with Cody Franson with the Toronto Maple Leafs, doesn't often stand out, but his 56 PIMs and plus-14 make him a very valuable add during a tight matchup. He is owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues, low for a guy who has also contributed seven assists and 25 shots on goal.
Though Los Angeles Kings fans have been celebrating the emergence of Slava Voynov, the guy who should be added at this point is Jake Muzzin. Muzzin, who is a bit of a late-bloomer, has been tremendous for the Kings this season. His 59 shots on goal get him on this list, but he has also contributed 14 points (six goals, eight assists), 33 PIMs and a plus-15. He is owned in just 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Zach Bogosian is often forgotten when discussing Jets defensemen based on the players ahead of him on the depth chart, but he has logged 74 shots on goal in just 28 games this season. He has added seven points, all on the power play, and 27 PIMs. Bogosian is owned in just 18 percent of Yahoo! leagues and could be in line for more responsibility with the Jets recently juggling Dustin Byfuglien around their lineup.
Lastly, Travis Hamonic and the New York Islanders are pushing for their first Stanley Cup Playoffs berth since 2006-07, and he can do the same for you. Hamonic has picked up 70 shots on goal, 10 points, three of which came on the power play and is owned in just 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Kris Letang, Penguins -- Letang was our top-rated defenseman prior to exiting the Penguins' lineup with injury. He is close to getting back and will provide immediate help to a lineup that has struggled to break out of the defensive zone since losing him and Paul Martin. He is traveling with the team and could be back in uniform as soon as this weekend.
Matt Carle, Lightning -- Carle has not really produced at a pace consistent with his contract this season, but that has changed over the past six games. He recently saw a five-game scoring streak snapped, but has six points (one goal) and eight shots on goal while registering a plus-5 over his last six games. Carle, who pushed his season point total to 18, skates over 23 minutes per game and is owned in just 51 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Sheldon Souray, Ducks -- Souray missed the Ducks' last game, but he has still been red-hot in April. He has picked up four assists, one power-play point, and five shots on goal over his last four games. He has also registered a plus-2 rating over that stretch.
Dustin Byfuglien, Jets -- Byfuglien owners have got to be pulling their hair out. Jets coach Claude Noel recently flipped Byfuglien up to the wing in hopes of jump starting the offense. Byfuglien struggled mightily in the role. Though he is expected to be back on the blue line, he has been cold as of late, notching just one assist and registering a minus-6 over his last seven games. He is still a must-own, but he might not be an auto-start in a tight playoff matchup. Monitor matchups and wait for signs of life.
Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders -- Visnovsky has been shockingly cold lately. The veteran rearguard has picked up just one point over his last 10 games and is no longer a top-flight fantasy option. He should be on rosters, but don't count on him to be the guy who scored 68 points back in 2010-11.
Patrick Wiercioch, Senators -- Wiercioch has cooled significantly as of late. He has picked up just one point over his last seven games and has seen his ownership slip to 25 percent in Yahoo! leagues. We'd advise holding onto him if he is already on your team, as he could heat up, but if he is sitting on the wire, leave him there.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Erik Karlsson, Senators -- Strange seeing this name here, but he should be on your radar for two reasons. One, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, roster him now and hold him, since he'll still be a top-three defenseman next season. Two, he has very quietly started skating again as part of his rehab. There are whispers, albeit very quiet whispers, that he might be on the ice again before the end of the season. No timetable, but he'd be one heck of a pick-up if it happened during the final weeks of 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. P.K. Subban, Canadies (same)
2. Ryan Suter, Wilds (same)
3. Shea Weber, Predators (same)
4. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+2)
5. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+2)
6. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (-1)
7. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (+2)
8. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (same)
9. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (-5)
10. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+2)
11. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
12. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+1)
13. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+3)
14. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (-4)
15. Dan Boyle, Sharks (+3)
16. Kris Letang, Penguins (NR)*
17. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (-3)
18. Alexander Edler, Canucks (-3)
19. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (-4)
20. Mark Streit, Islanders (+1)
21. Slava Voynov, Kings (+1)
22. Drew Doughty, Kings (+1)
23. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-4)
24. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-2)
25. Justin Schultz, Oilers (+1)
26. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (-1)
27. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (+3)
28. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+1)
29. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (-5)
30. Brent Seabrook, Chicago (-2)
31. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-2)
32. Brent Burns, Sharks (+2)
33. Matt Carle, Lightning (+2)
34. Dennis Wideman, Flames (-3)
35. John Carlson, Capitals (-2)
36. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+2)
37. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders (-5)
38. Victor Hedman, Lightning (-2)
39. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (-2)
40. Jason Garrison, Canucks (same)
41. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (same)
42. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (-3)
43. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks (same)
44. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (same)
45. Mike Green, Capitals (same)
46. Mark Giordano, Flames (+1)
47. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+1)
48. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (+1)
49. Jake Muzzin, Kings (-3)
50. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (NR)
51. Cam Fowler, Ducks (same)
52. Jared Spurgeon, Wild (+2)
53. Roman Josi, Predators (-3)
54. Sami Salo, Lightning (+1)
55. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (+2)
56. Ryan Whitney, Oilers (+3)
57. Patrick Wiercioch, Senators (-5)
58. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (same)
59. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (-6)
60. Matt Irwin, Sharks (same)
Dropped out of previous rankings: Jake Gardiner
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