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 insider all season long.
The Minnesota Wild aren't the first team that comes to mind when thinking of units that are offensively dominant, but that is starting to change. They have seen their goals-per-game creep up from 2.02, which ranked dead last in the NHL three seasons ago, to 2.67 this season.
That may place them just 16th overall, but it's progress.
Left wing Matt Cooke surprisingly leads the team in scoring to this point in the season, but their defensemen have been a huge catalyst for that newfound production.
Norris Trophy finalist Ryan Suter, who has collected three assists (all on the power play) over his first six games, is a big part of that increase in productivity.
Suter, who has added 12 shots on goal and is logging 28:40 of ice time each night, was the third defenseman selected in most Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues, being drafted on average with the 52nd overall pick, so he's performing to expectations. What wasn't expected was that he would rank third on his own team in defensive scoring through the first weeks of the season.
Spurgeon, who is owned in just five percent of Yahoo leagues, is taking full advantage of being healthy, something he couldn't often do in seasons past as he has dealt with a variety of injuries.
The 23-year-old is skating over 20 minutes per night with 2:59 of that coming on the power play, and that has translated into a tremendous start. He has picked up four points (one goal), with three of those points coming with the extra man. If he can stay healthy, he might finish in the top 25 in defensive scoring before all is said and done.
Brodin has been an even bigger surprise. He has followed up an impressive rookie campaign by posting five points thus far to trail just Cooke for the team's scoring lead.
The 20-year-old shined while partnering with Suter on the team's top pairing last season, and is picking up where he left off. He is owned in just 28 percent of Yahoo leagues and has already matched last season's goal total of two. He is skating over 25 minutes per night and getting a healthy workload with the extra man, picking up two of his points on the power play.
Suter is still the man to have on this blue line, but the youth movement is on in the "State of Hockey" and you should take advantage of it.
Derek Morris, Phoenix Coyotes -- Morris hasn't been a huge fantasy factor in several seasons, but the 35-year-old is off to a great start. He missed Tuesday's game against the Ottawa Senators with an upper-body injury, but had points in three consecutive games to give him five points (two goals), six shots on goal, and one power-play point in five games this season. Morris is owned in just four percent of Yahoo leagues.
Sami Salo, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Salo was held off the board for two games in a row to start the season, but is now riding a three-game scoring streak that has seen him collect four points. Though his ice time has gone down a bit since the two games in which he was shut out, owners should ride his hot streak, especially because he is logging close to three minutes a night on a power play that features Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames -- Wideman may no longer be the guy that posted 50 points for the Bruins seven years ago, but he is logging close to 30 minutes a night for a team that really needs him to shine. He has collected three points (one goal) over his past two games and has fired 17 shots on goal this season. He has the potential to reach the 40-point plateau this season.
Nick Leddy, Chicago Blackhawks -- Leddy picked up a point in the second game of the season, but hasn't scored a point since. Though he occasionally shows flashes of being a viable fantasy option, he just isn't a must-play candidate and this season there are plenty of other options that should be in your lineup over the Minnesota native. His ice time looks to be dropping, as he skated just 13:25 on Tuesday night, and he has just three shots on goal over his last four games.
Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres -- Ehrhoff, like most of his teammates, has very little fantasy value at this point and that will remain the case until they start scoring some goals on a consistent basis. He did collect his first two assists of the season Tuesday night, but that isn't enough to keep him in your lineup at this point.
Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers -- Streit picked up two points over his first two games this season, but has since dried up offensively. He is now a minus-4 on the season, has just 11 shots on goal in seven games and has yet to become the power play conduit we all expected him to be when he was acquired by the Flyers.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks -- Lindholm didn't get in the Ducks lineup until their third game of the season, but he has been on board for three victories in a row since and is pulling his weight. The young Swedish d-man picked up his first two assists on Sunday, along with six shots on goal, and is skating roughly 18 minutes per night. His fantasy stock is on the rise.
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, Canadiens (same)
2. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+1)
3. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (+2)
4. Erik Karlsson, Senators (-2)
5. Ryan Suter, Wild (-1)
6. Shea Weber, Predators (same)
7. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (+1)
8. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+2)
9. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (+2)
10. Mike Green, Capitals (-3)
11. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+1)
12. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (-3)
13. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+1)
14. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+1)
15. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (-2)
16. Brian Campbell, Panthers (+2)
17. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (+2)
18. Justin Schultz, Oilers (+2)
19. Drew Doughty, Kings (-2)
20. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+3)
21. Slave Voynov, Kings (same)
22. Jason Garrison, Canucks (+2)
23. Dennis Wideman, Flames (+5)
24. Mark Streit, Flyers (-8)
25. Alexander Edler, Canucks (-3)
26. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (+3)
27. John Carlson, Capitals (-2)
28. Dan Boyle, Sharks (+3)
29. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-2)
30. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-4)
31. Sergei Gonchar, Stars (+1)
32. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+1)
33. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-3)
34. Paul Martin, Penguins (same)
35. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (same)
36. Matt Carle, Lightning (same)
37. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (same)
38. Mark Giordano, Flames (+2)
39. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+2)
40. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (-2)
41. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (-2)
42. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (same)
43. Cam Fowler, Ducks (+2)
44. Jonas Brodin, Wild (-1)
45. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks (-1)
46. Tyson Barrie, Avalanche (+1)
47. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders (-1)
48. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (same)
49. Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs (+1)
50. Dmitry Kulikov, Panthers (-1)
51. Marek Zidlickey, Devils (+2)
52. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (+2)
53. Torey Krug, Bruins (-2)
54. TJ Brodie, Flames (-2)
55. Zach Bogosian, Jets (same)
56. Derek Morris, Coyotes (NR)
57. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (same)
58. Patrick Wiercioch, Senators (same)
59. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Blackhawks (+1)
60. Sami Salo, Lightning (NR)
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