On the 'D'-fence: Remembering the season that was

Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 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.

Where did the time go?

It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that we were talking about the end of the lockout, training camps opening and preparing for hastily-planned fantasy drafts -- apparently what happens when you cram 48 games into a 99-day window.

The season has been a wild one in terms of defensemen.

We saw last year's Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson, suffer a horrific injury back on Feb. 13 when his Achilles tendon was severed by the skate blade of Matt Cooke. The situation might have been even more devastating to fantasy owners who invested a top draft pick in the young Swede than for the Ottawa Senators, as there wasn't a quick fix on the waiver wire to replace his otherworldly production.

P.K. Subban exploded onto the scene, taking over the top spot in our rankings with a mixture of power-play prowess, goal-scoring ability and all-round category coverage not often found in the defensive ranks.

Ryan Suter got out of Shea Weber's shadow as he moved on to a new opportunity and earned every penny of his huge free-agent deal with the Minnesota Wild, maybe even surpassing his old Nashville Predators partner in the process.

With most fantasy seasons already in the books, or ending in days, it's time to hop in our "way-back" machine to take a look at where we've been and to contemplate where things might be moving forward.

When viewing our rankings, keep in mind they aren't going to go hand-in-hand with the ones you saw last week, as they are more a look at where things will be heading into next season.

A LOOK AT THE TOP

Who gets the honor of holding down the No. 1 ranking throughout the offseason? How about who's second, third and in this case fourth? Let's have a look ...

Subban took over the top spot in our rankings on April 4 and barring a major shake-up of some kind, will begin next season there. The talented youngster leads all defensemen in goals (11), points (36), and power-play points (25). He is in the top five in shots on goal (116), ranks 10th in PIM (53) and sits third in assists (25).

Subban will be chased for the top spot by a three-headed monster made up of Karlsson, Kris Letang and Suter. We would be comfortable drafting any of the three next season.

Karlsson, who picked up 10 points (six goals) in 14 games prior to his injury, showed the hockey world what he could do last season when he scored 78 points (19 goals), led the position in shots on goal (261) and was a force on the power play, picking up 28 points with the extra man. He'll head into the offseason as our No. 2-ranked defenseman.

Letang ranks third heading into the offseason and could feasibly wind up as the top-ranked rearguard before all is said and done next season. His biggest issue has been staying healthy, as he has been in and out of the lineup all season with a variety of ailments ranging from lower-body injuries to food poisoning. He gets to play with two of the top-four rated forwards in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which helped him average over a point per game this season, picking up 35 points (five goals) in just 33 games. He boasts a strong plus-13 rating, but sputters in terms of shots on goal, PIM and plain old goals.

Suter took a while to get his legs under him in Minnesota, picking up just four points in his first 10 games, but then picked up 28 points over his next 35 games. That is above average production for a defenseman if we've ever seen it. He is deficient in the same areas as Letang, in that he doesn't shoot the puck enough, which in turn hurt him in the goal-scoring department.

MOVIN' ON UP

This season brought about many great surprises at the defense position (Jake Muzzin and Patrick Wiercioch to name a few), but here's a look at three players that outperformed expectations this season that we believe can sustain -- or better -- their production next season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04 and one of the biggest contributors to their success has been Cody Franson.

Franson, who likely went undrafted in most Yahoo! standard fantasy hockey leagues, put up 27 points (four goals), 12 power-play points, 67 shots on goal and a plus-6 in 42 games to this point in the season. That will likely rise as the Leafs and Franson continue to grow in the coming seasons.

On average, the Los Angeles Kings' Slava Voynov, was selected in the 15th round of Yahoo! leagues, though he's produced like a player who should have been taken much earlier. Voynov notched 24 points (five goals), eight power-play points, 71 shots on goal and registered a plus-8.

Paul Martin was almost run out of town by Pittsburgh Penguins fans after a horrid 2011-12 season, but he chose to stick it out. All he did was become one of the most consistent players on the roster this season. Prior to a wrist injury that has had him out for close to six weeks, he notched 21 points (six goals), eight power-play points and a solid plus-12 rating. That will only continue next season with a talented Pittsburgh team.

BOUNCE-BACK CANDIDATES

Pretty straight forward -- these guys all had rough seasons in 2012-13, but I believe they could put up big numbers in 2013-14:

For all of the successes that the Anaheim Ducks had this season, one member of their team suffered throughout: Cam Fowler.

Fowler has had owners scratching their collective heads for two seasons, as he regressed from 40 points as a rookie, to 29 last season, all the way down to a dismal nine points in 35 games this season. He has seen his power-play productivity shrink as well, falling from 23 points two years ago, to just four this season. He has all the talent to be a huge fantasy contributor, which is why we feel he is primed for a bounce-back next season. Owners will forget about him, so he'll likely be a great sleeper pick later in drafts.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Myers, Dmitry Kulikov

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Whether it's a rookie (Justin Schultz) or just a young player that outperformed our greatest hopes (Oliver Ekman-Larsson), fantasy owners always end up with at least one talented kid on their squad that provides some unexpected value. Here's a look at a couple players you should keep an eye that could fill this role next season:

Jonas Brodin already played a pretty big role for the Wild this season, but could be an impressive fantasy player moving forward. The 19-year-old averaged 23:07 TOI, picked up 10 points (two goals), two power-play points and registered a plus-5. He has been undaunted in any situation and will continue to improve.

TJ Brodie has been a bright spot for the Calgary Flames since they traded captain Jarome Iginla. He has collected six points (one goal) over his last seven games, which came close to doubling his total from his first 37 games. Brodie has six power-play points, 40 shots on goal, 71 blocks, 20 hits, and at just 22 years old still has room to develop.

Honorable Mention: Justin Faulk, TJ Brennan

TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These are the final fantasy defensemen rankings for the 2012-13 NHL season -- including players that are or were injured. They are based on how they performed during this season and expectations of how they will perform next season.

1. P.K. Subban, Canadiens

2. Erik Karlsson, Senators

3. Kris Letang, Penguins

4. Ryan Suter, Wild

5. Shea Weber, Predators

6. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues

7. Zdeno Chara, Bruins

8. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets

9. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings

10. Keith Yandle, Coyotes

11. Tobias Enstrom, Jets

12. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues

13. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers

14. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs

15. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes

16. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks

17. Brian Campbell, Panthers

18. Alexander Edler, Canucks

19. Dan Boyle, Sharks

20. Andrei Markov, Canadiens

21. Mark Streit, Islanders

22. Drew Doughty, Kings

23. Slava Voynov, Kings

24. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers

25. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs

26. Mike Green, Capitals

27. Justin Shultz, Oilers

28. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres

29. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks

30. Sergei Gonchar, Senators

31. Marek Zidlicky, Devils

32. Alex Goligoski, Stars

33. Sheldon Souray, Ducks

34. Victor Hedman, Lightning

35. John Carlson, Capitals

36. Dennis Wideman, Flames

37. Brent Burns, Sharks

38. Jason Garrison, Canucks

39. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks

40. Paul Martin, Penguins

41. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets

42. Mark Giordano, Flames

43. Matt Carle, Lightning

44. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers

45. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders

46. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes

47. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins

48. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks

49. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets

50. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks

51. Tyler Myers, Sabres

52. Jared Spurgeon, Wild

53. Raphael Diaz, Canadiens

54. Jake Muzzin, Kings

55. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks

56. Roman Josi, Predators

57. Patrick Wiercioch, Senators

58. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues

59. Cam Fowler, Ducks

60. Matt Niskanen, Penguins

Just Missed: Zach Bogosian, Fedor Tyutin, T.J. Brodie, Marc Staal, Joni Pitkanen, Simon Despres, Matt irwin, Tyson Barrie, Trevor Daley, Jonas Brodin

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