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 New York Rangers came into the season ready for a fresh start. They were led by new coach Alain Vigneault, who was implementing a system that would allow their offensive players to open the game up a bit more than they were able to under John Tortorella.
That was great news for a defenseman like Ryan McDonagh. Unfortunately things didn't go as anticipated, at least in the early going. McDonagh stumbled out of the gates, collecting just three points over his first 10 games, and the team found itself sitting at 3-7-0.
That all started to change on Oct. 29 as the Rangers pulled off a come-from-behind victory over the New York Islanders. McDonagh scored the game-tying-goal and he and the team went on a 6-2-0 run over their next eight games.
Though there have been a lot of variables in the Rangers' turnaround, McDonagh has been a big part of it and is building upon the success of his first three seasons in the NHL.
The Minnesota native has taken steps toward becoming a very effective fantasy defenseman over the past two seasons, and even after starting slowly this season is currently producing .58 points per night, which continues his trend upward from .39 in 2011-12 and .40 in 2012-13.
One big change this season is he's getting significant time on the power play, something that didn't happen much in the past. He has logged an average of 2:02 with the extra man this season after posting averages of 38, 37 and six seconds per night over the past three seasons. He is taking advantage of that time as well, picking up three power-play points on the season. He had just three power-play points over the previous three seasons.
If there is one area of concern in owning McDonagh at this point, it comes in the form of his plus-minus. He currently sits at minus-1 for the season, but has been a minus player in four of his past five games. The good news is he's riding a four-game scoring streak that has seen him collect five points over that span. He has eight points in eight games since collecting that tying goal on Oct. 29.
The Rangers' start has formed a perception that McDonagh is having a bad season and it has caused his ownership to plummet to just 43 percent in Yahoo leagues. Owners haven't taken notice of his eight-game streak, but you should jump on it and reap the rewards of what has quietly been the finest offensive start of his career.
Philip Larsen, Oilers -- The Oilers acquired Larsen from the Dallas Stars in the Shawn Horcoff deal and didn't really have a spot for him. That changed when Justin Schultz hit injured reserve and the team called up the offensive-minded defenseman. Larsen is taking full advantage of his opportunity and has posted points in three of the five games he has played since Nov. 2, including three assists Sunday in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Larsen was nondescript in his first game up, but has played over 22 minutes each night, collecting one goal, four assists and firing 12 shots on goal. He is currently owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues.
Grant Clitsome, Jets -- Clitsome was a fantasy darling following a 2010-11 season that saw him put up 19 points in 31 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has been serviceable since, but didn't really take the anticipated next step. That could be changing this season. He didn't post a point over his first five games, but has since put up six in his past 11, including four points in his past three. For the year he has six points (two goals), eight penalty minutes and 19 shots on goal. His minus-8 rating is a bit tough to handle, but he is definitely worth owning in deeper leagues. He is currently owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues.
Zach Bogosian, Jets -- Bogosian ended an eight-game scoreless drought Tuesday by scoring his first goal of the season, but that was just his fourth point. He has been great in terms of his “real-life” performance and has been one of the Jets best defenders, but that doesn't do it in the fantasy realm. Seek help elsewhere for now, but be ready to pounce on Bogosian if he heats up as he did late last season when he scored seven points over his final four games.
Patrick Wiercioch, Senators -- Wiercioch has not delivered what owners had anticipated this season mainly due to the fact he has found himself in the press box on more than one occasion. He has been able to collect six assists in the 13 games that he has played, but you simply cannot roster players who aren't consistently in the lineup.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Eric Gelinas, Devils -- The 2009 second-round draft pick has been a pleasant surprise for the Devils. He has collected three points over his past four games and five points in nine games this season. He has fired 23 shots on goal and is a plus-1. Four of his points have come on the power play. He did leave the game Tuesday after taking a puck to the ear, but doesn't seem to have a serious injury. He is owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues.
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