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 Anaheim Ducks are cruising along with the second-best record in the Western Conference. Their 21-7-5 mark is actually good for second in the overall NHL standings as well. That is great news for the franchise, but their success has also paid huge dividends for fantasy owners.
Our Matt Cubeta took a look at their dynamic group of forwards in his "The Front Line" column on Tuesday and today we'll be talking a lot about one of their talented young defenseman who seems primed for a big step forward after a couple of down years: Cam Fowler.
Fowler burst onto the scene during the 2010-11 season after being selected with the 12th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. He made the lineup out of camp and went on to put up 40 points (10 goals) over 76 games. His plus-minus was an unpalatable minus-25, but for the most part he was a must-own defenseman that season, putting up 123 shots on goal and 20 penalty minutes. He also notched three game-winning goals.
However, he wouldn't be able to maintain those numbers over the next couple of seasons, as he regressed to just 29 points (five goals) in 82 games during the 2011-12 season and 11 points (one goal) during the lockout shortened season in 2012-13.
That last season really seemed to scare fantasy owners and it caused his ownership to plummet heading into drafts this year. He was not selected in the mock draft that was conducted by our team of experts at NHL.com and only recently has seen his ownership slide up to 61 percent in Yahoo fantasy leagues based on some strong play over his past 20 games.
Hopefully you were one of the owners who thought enough of the 22-year-old to either stay patient with him or to grab him off of the waiver wire in early November when he started to heat up, because he has been paying big dividends ever since.
After a forgettable October that saw Fowler put up just four points, he had 10 points (two goals) in 15 November games. He has stayed hot in December, with five points in just four games. He now has 15 points (five goals) over his past 19 games and he is really reaping the benefits of playing upwards of 25 minutes per game for a team that boasts the very productive trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Cory Perry and Dustin Penner.
He has pushed his season totals to 19 points (three goals), 51 shots on goal and 11 power-play points.
Fowler is averaging .58 points per game, .33 power-play points per game and 1.55 shots per game, which have him primed to put up career totals in all three categories. The most impressive thing is that he is a plus-6, notable because he has never finished with better than a minus-4 rating in any season.
Fowler is finally living up to the high standards his rookie year set for fantasy owners. In fact, he'll likely surpass them. Now is the time to snag him from the wire or attempt a trade, especially in keeper/dynasty leagues, since word of his accomplishments are spreading.
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks -- Seabrook gets a bit overshadowed in terms of fantasy value by his teammate Duncan Keith, but he is no slouch. Seabrook has three points (one goal) over his past two games, five points over his past five games and now sits at 19 points for the season. He's had scoring streaks of two games on two occasions, a streak of three games and a streak of four games. He is owned 86 percent of leagues, so there's a chance he could be available in yours.
Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars -- Goligoski is starting to show signs of fantasy life with three points in his last three games. He may never be as offensively productive as he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he could provide some nice depth scoring if he can add some consistency to his game. He is up to nine points on the season, is a plus-3 and has launched 44 shots on goal. He is owned in just 38 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames -- Giordano returned from a broken ankle last week and immediately paid dividends with a goal and an assist in his first game. He didn't get on the board in his next two, but picked up an assist Tuesday night, giving him three points in four games since returning. He has 11 points (three goals) on the season and plays 20-plus minutes per night, including time on the power play. He can definitely help teams, though he may need a little more time to round into form. He is owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Phaneuf is still a must-own player in our opinion, especially when you consider hits and blocked shots, but he is going to be serving a two-game suspension over this scoring period and that simply doesn't help fantasy owners. Look for other options in the interim.
Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets -- Enstrom had seven points in his first eight games, but has really been a fantasy disappointment since. He has just two points in his past 24 games and that drought doesn't look to be ending anytime soon. Enstrom has all the talent to be a premier rearguard, but we suggest you look elsewhere for production now.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins -- Hamilton will be out of the Bruins lineup for the next 2-4 weeks. He might not have been as productive as we would have liked this season, but he did have seven points and a plus-9 rating in 28 games. If you have an injured reserve slot, stash him there.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Dylan Olsen, Florida Panthers -- Olsen, taken in the with the 28th pick in the 2009 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, is known more for his physicality in front of the net, but he is flashing some offense since joining the Panthers on Nov. 25. He put up just one point in his first four games, but has notched five points (two goals) over his last four games. He is a plus-2 with two penalty minutes and 14 shots on goal.
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. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+1)
3. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (-1)
4. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (same)
5. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+1)
7. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+1)
8. Ryan Suter, Wild (-2)
9. Shea Weber, Predators (same)
10. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+3)
11. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (-1)
12. Kris Letang, Penguins (-1)
13. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (-1)
14. Mike Green, Capitals (+1)
15. Drew Doughty, Kings (-1)
16. Brian Campbell, Panthers (+1)
17. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+1)
18. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+3)
19. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (+3)
20. Jason Garrison, Canucks (+4)
21. Justin Schultz, Oilers (+2)
22. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (+4)
23. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-7)
24. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+1)
25. Dan Boyle, Sharks (+2)
26. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (-6)
27. John Carlson, Capitals (+1)
28. Slava Voynov, Kings (+1)
29. Marc-Edourard Vlasic, Sharks (+3)
30. Cam Fowler, Ducks (+6)
31. Mark Streit, Flyers (+2)
32. Matt Carle, Lightning (+2)
33. Torey Krug, Bruins (+2)
34. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (+3)
35. Andrej Sekera, Hurricanes (+3)
36. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+2)
37. Derek Morris, Coyotes (+2)
38. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (+3)
39. Eric Gelinas, Devils (+3)
40. Alex Goligoski, Stars (+5)
41. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (+2)
42. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (+2)
43. Jason Demers, Sharks (NR)
44. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (+4)
45. Jake Muzzin, Kings (+2)
46. Andre Benoit, Avalanche (same)
47. Mark Giordano, Flames (NR)*
48. Kris Russell, Flames (+1)
49. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+1)
50. Andy Greene, Devils (+2)
51. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (+2)
52. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+3)
53. Jonas Brodin, Wild (+1)
54. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (+3)
55. Seth Jones, Predators (+1)
56. Hampus Lindholm, Ducks (+2)
57. Sergei Gonchar, Stars (+2)
58. TJ Brodie, Flames (NR)
59. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks (NR)
60. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (same)
* appeared on injured list last week
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