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.
Heading into the 2002 NHL Draft scouts were drooling over a 6-foot-4, 204-pound defenseman named Jay Bouwmeester who had notched an impressive 114 points (25 goals) over his final 122 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League.
Bouwmeester was selected by the Florida Panthers with the third selection in the draft and debuted with the team the next season, playing in all 82 of their games and notching 16 points along the way.
That production wasn't on par with what Bouwmeester had done at the WHL level and it would actually take him a few years to get going offensively in the NHL, but over a four-year span between the 2005-06 and 2008-09 seasons he would notch 167 points (47 goals) in 328 games. He also averaged 2.22 shots on goal and .19 power-play points per game over that span.
He managed to score 12 or more goals in three of those seasons, earning him a lucrative free-agent contract with the Calgary Flames in 2009.
Bouwmeester's production dropped from .51 points per game over that four-year span in Florida to.35 points per game in Calgary. He saw his shots per game drop to 1.48 and his power-play points to .16. Some began to wonder if the production we saw from him in Florida was a fluke.
He was still capable of playing big minutes in the League and St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong had faith he would be a more than capable partner on his top pairing alongside our third-ranked defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
Armstrong pulled the trigger on a trade to acquire Bouwmeester at last season's deadline and it has been nothing short of a home run thus far.
Bouwmeester is averaging over 24 minutes per night in St. Louis and has seen his points per game and power-play points leap to career highs of .68 and .26 respectively over the 34 games he has played with the team through Tuesday night.
His shots on goal are still not back to the level they reached in Florida, but he has seen his average rise to 1.94 since joining the Blues.
Bouwmeester is currently riding a five game point streak that has seen him score one goal with five assists. His 16 points and plus-10 rating both rank eighth out of all defensemen in the League. If things continue as they have, he should be able to set career highs in terms of assists and plus-minus.
Teammates Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk get all the fantasy attention, but Bouwmeester is someone who should be on the radar of all owners this season. He is owned in just 76 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues, so check your waiver wire for what could be a real fantasy gem.
Mike Green, Washington Capitals -- Green has been dealing with a lower-body injury that forced him to miss the past two games. He could return Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which would be great news for fantasy owners. Monitor the situation and get him activated if he dresses. He had picked up six points in nine games before leaving the lineup.
Slava Voynov, Los Angeles Kings -- Voynov scored just three points in his first 13 games this season, which scared some owners off. He has quietly been picking up where he left off during last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs, notching six points over his past six games and now has 10 points on the season. He's fired 47 shots on goal and is a plus-2. He is owned in just 62 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks -- After scoring just six points over his first 17 games, Bieksa has quietly notched five over his past six games, pushing his season total to 11. Though the Canucks have gone 0-3-2 in over their past five, Bieksa has made himself a viable fantasy option. He is owned in just 61 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers -- As teammate Ryan McDonagh rises up our ranks, Del Zotto slips further down each week. He was a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday night and has been the subject of rampant trade speculation. The talk is he has some work to do to convince coach Alain Vigneault to put him back in the lineup. He has just four points, eight shots on goal and a minus-4 in 16 games. It is time to move on in standard leagues and to stash him on the bench in keeper/dynasty situations.
Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Johnson has had plenty of issues living up to the reputation that was built when he put together back-to-back seasons in Los Angeles of 36 and 42 points respectively. Since then he has seen his points drop to 24, 14, 19 and then to a low-water mark of five this season over 20 games. He is also a minus-7. He is always going to be intriguing because of the shot he possesses, but for now look elsewhere.
Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers -- Kulikov has fallen far from the player who posted 28 points over 58 games just two seasons ago. This season he has picked up three points (one goal) over 22 games. He has yet to log a power-play point. His minus-9 rating is also a tough burden for fantasy owners to carry. Kulikov should only be rostered in the deepest of leagues.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Michael Stone, Phoenix Coyotes -- Stone is overshadowed by his teammates Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and even Derek Morris when he is healthy, but you should be paying attention to him. The 2008 third-round pick has four goals in his past five games and nine shots on goal in his past two. He is skating over 23 minutes per night, with 1:18 of that time coming on the power play, and is owned in just three percent of Yahoo leagues.
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. Erik Karlson, Senators (same)
2. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (same)
3. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
4. Shea Weber, Predators (same)
5. Ryan Suter, Wild (same)
6. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+1)
7. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+1)
8. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+1)
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+1)
10. Kris Letang, Penguins (-4)
11. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (same)
12. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+1)
13. Mike Green, Capitals (-1)
14. Drew Doughty, Kings (+2)
15. Niklas Kronwall, Red WIngs (+2)
16. Brian Campbell, Panthers (+2)
17. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-3)
18. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+2)
19. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (-4)
20. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (+1)
21. Dennis Wideman, Flames (-1)
22. Dan Boyle, Sharks (same)
23. Justin Schultz, Oilers (NR)*
24. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (-1)
25. Slava Voynov, Kings (+1)
26. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (+15)
27. Jason Garrison, Canucks (-3)
28. John Carlson, Capitals (same)
29. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (+3)
30. Alexander Edler, Canucks (-5)
31. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (-1)
32. Matt Carle, Lightning (-1)
33. Paul Martin, Penguins (NR)*
34. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Sharks (-5)
35. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+2)
36. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (-2)
37. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (-10)
38. Mark Streit, Flyers (-3)
39. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (-1)
40. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (-1)
41. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-1)
42. Torey Krug, Bruins (same)
43. Cam Fowler, Ducks (same)
44. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (same)
45. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (+2)
46. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+3)
47. Jake Muzzin, Kings (NR)
48. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (-3)
49. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (-3)
50. Kris Russell, Flames (+2)
51. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-14)
52. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (-18)
53. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-5)
54. Sergei Gonchar, Stars (-4)
55. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (-4)
56. Seth Jones, Predators (-1)
57. Jonas Brodin, Wild (-4)
58. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+1)
59. Jared Spurgeon, Wild (-1)
60. Tom Gilbert, Panthers (NR)
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