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.
We are one day away from the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which provides the nation a chance to reflect on all of the things for which they are thankful.
While appreciating our health, prosperity, friends and family is at the heart of the day, we also see large gatherings in which everyone brings something to the table to aid in the celebration.
Today the defensemen of the National Hockey League come together to give you a fantasy feast!
This feast may not provide turkey legs, sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce, but the boys have covered dishes full of goals, assists, shots on goal and all of the other statistics you need to win your league.
Our top-rated defenseman, Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), provides the main course in the form of goals. He is joined by Shea Weber (Nashville Predators) and a couple of youngsters who won't be sitting at the kiddies' table, Torey Krug (Boston Bruins) and Michael Stone (Phoenix Coyotes), all of who have seven lamp-lighters on the season.
Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks lends a helping hand in our fantasy kitchen with 19 assists, while Karlsson, Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues) and P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens) provide 17 each to add to the fantasy feast. The four of them have combined to score a total of 82 points on the season, which has filled fantasy pantries around the league.
Plus-minus is often overlooked when considering viable fantasy options, but it is a part of our meal. Justin Braun (San Jose Sharks) and Hampus Lindholm (Anaheim Ducks) have come all the way from the West Coast bringing with them red-hot ratings of plus-16 and plus-14 respectively.
Hits might be the cranberry sauce of this meal, in that everyone doesn't want or need it to enjoy the day, but more and more leagues are counting them. If that's the case in your league, Radko Gudas (Tampa Bay Lightning) could be your guy, having posted 88 hits on the season to go with his six points and 68 penalty minutes. A more conventional option could be Cody Franson (Toronto Maple Leafs), who has 78 hits on the season along with 12 points.
Like hits, many leagues are starting to count blocked shots, so this meal provides you with a heaping helping of those as well.
Andrew MacDonald (New York Islanders) leads all blueliners with 87 blocks on the season and has even chipped in seven points, which gives you a little added incentive to incorporate him on your rosters. If you want a little more offensive upside while still getting decent block production, look towards Kris Russell (Calgary Flames), who has posted 12 points (three goals) and 59 blocks.
No meal is complete without dessert -- or in this case, power-play points. Keith Yandle (Phoenix Coyotes) leads all defensemen with 11 of them. He is also among the League leaders with 17 total points and 54 shots on goal.
If there is one guy out there that allows you to roster one player while partaking in a little bit of all of the available fantasy feast items, it is Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets). He is shooting up our rankings and now has 21 points (six goals), 38 penalty minutes, 45 hits, 45 blocked shots, 10 power-play points and 87 shots on goal.
Though Byfuglien allows you to nibble each category, each player mentioned in the fantasy feast can help your team. Hopefully you will be able to utilize some or all of them; you'll be thankful that you did.
Andrej Sekera, Carolina Hurricanes -- Sekera might not be the type of player that gets on the score sheet on a nightly basis, but he is a capable offensive performer and he is currently heating up. He is scoring at a higher rate than at any time during his career, notching .46 points per game. He has notched three goals over his past three games and now sits at 11 points on the season. His minus-4 is a bit concerning, but he is making up for by scoring on the power play (four points) and shooting the puck a lot. He is owned in just four percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues and can provide some nice depth.
Andre Benoit, Colorado Avalanche -- Benoit, like many of the blueliners in Colorado, may be overachieving a bit, but you should take advantage of his current hot streak. Benoit has picked up four points (one goal) over his past three games, pushing his season total to 11 points. He has 33 blocked shots, nine hits and four power-play points. He has also added 29 shots on goal. If you play in a deep league, Benoit could be a great addition to your lineup. He is owned in just three percent of Yahoo leagues.
Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders -- Hamonic is one of those guys who tantalizes with a nice offensive game from time to time, but his main value is in real life, on the ice for his team. He hasn't picked up a point in 10 games and has just two assists in November, each of which came back on Nov. 2. He has seen his plus-minus fall to a minus-3 and fallen out of our rankings.
Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers -- Del Zotto finally got back in the lineup after spending several games in the press box as a healthy scratch. Sadly, the results haven't changed much as he didn't pick up a point during his three games back in the lineup, took just three shots on goal and finished with a minus-2 rating. It's safe to say it is time for fantasy owners to move on.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Corey Potter, Edmonton Oilers -- Potter was a fantasy darling during the 2011-12 season when he picked up 21 points in 62 games for the Oilers. The bottom eventually fell out and he was passed by several players on the depth chart, which landed him in Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League. He was recalled to the parent club last week and has played in six games. He has logged two assists over his past three games and has launched 11 total shots on goal. He could be a viable option if you need some depth in deeper 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 Karlsson, Senators (same)
2. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+4)
3. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (-1)
4. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (-1)
5. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+2)
6. Ryan Suter, Wild (-1)
7. Shea Weber, Predators (-3)
8. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (same)
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (same)
10. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+1)
11. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+1)
12. Kris Letang, Penguins (-2)
13. Drew Doughty, Kings (+1)
14. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+1)
15. Mike Green, Capitals (-2)
16. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (+1)
17. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-1)
18. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (+2)
19. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (same)
20. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (-2)
21. Justin Schultz, Oilers (+2)
22. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+2)
23. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (+3)
24. Dennis Wideman, Flames (-3)
25. Dan Boyle, Sharks (-3)
26. Slava Voynov, Kings (-1)
27. Jason Garrison, Canucks (same)
28. John Carlson, Capitals (same)
29. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+2)
30. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (-1)
31. Alexander Edler, Canucks (-1)
32. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+3)
33. Matt Carle, Lightning (-1)
34. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (same)
35. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (+1)
36. Mark Streit, Flyers (+2)
37. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+3)
38. Torey Krug, Bruins (+4)
39. Cam Fowler, Ducks (+4)
40. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (-3)
41. Alex Goligoski, Stars (same)
42. Derek Morris, Coyotes (NR)*
43. Andrej Sekera, Hurricanes (NR)
44. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (same)
45. Andre Benoit, Avalanche (NR)
46. Eric Gelinas, Devils (NR)
47. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (-3)
48. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (-2)
49. Jake Muzzin, Kings (-2)
50. Kris Russell, Flames (same)
51. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (+1)
52. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (-4)
53. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (-4)
54. Jonas Brodin, Wild (+3)
55. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-2)
56. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+2)
57. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-6)
58. Seth Jones, Predators (-2)
59. Sergei Gonchar, Stars (-5)
60. Tom Gilbert, Panthers (same)
* Appeared on injured list last week
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