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.
Andrew MacDonald may never win a Norris Trophy or finish as the NHL's leading defensive scorer, but he is proving to be a very valuable commodity to not only the New York Islanders but for fantasy owners.
His high-water mark in terms of scoring came back during the 2010-11 season when he averaged .45 points per game, picking up 27 points (four goals) in 60 games. He managed 12 power-play points, posted a decent plus-9 rating and fired 72 shots on goal, all of which got folks thinking he might be a sleeper pick in fantasy leagues heading into 2011.
However, MacDonald would notch just 19 points in 75 games during the 2011-12 season and he began to slide off of the fantasy radar. He would show signs of his prior production periodically, but really never got over the hump in terms of becoming a regular offensive contributor.
That all changed heading into this season when the Islanders lost Mark Streit to free agency and later Lubomir Visnovsky to a concussion. Those personnel changes provided MacDonald with the opportunity to play upwards of 26 minutes per night, including an average of 3:12 on the power play with a pretty formidable group of forwards such as John Tavares, Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo.
The 27-year-old is taking full advantage of his opportunities and has notched 22 points (three goals), 10 of which have come on the power play. He is just five points away from setting a new career high in total points and is just three goals away from setting a new mark in goals.
MacDonald is producing .50 points per night and is on pace for 41 points. This spike in production couldn’t have come at a better time for him either, as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
The Judique, Nova Scotia native is currently making $550,000 and there are already whispers that the Islanders do not want to risk losing him to free agency as they did Streit last summer. That could have MacDonald on the move at the trade deadline and depending on where he ends up he could be an even more attractive fantasy performer.
The bottom line is MacDonald is owned in just 22 percent of Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues and is currently riding a hot streak that has seen him put up eight points in his past six games. That kind of production may not continue, but he is showing he can be a great depth get for your team, so why not grab him now and reap the benefits of a possible trade later in the season.
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks -- Seabrook was a notable snub by Hockey Canada on Tuesday when they announced their 25-man roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. That could be a good thing for fantasy owners, as Seabrook was already having a fine season and may want to prove them wrong. He has rolled up 31 points (five goals) on the season, has seven points over his past seven games and is especially valuable in leagues that give credit for hits (108) and blocked shots (76).
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild -- Everyone knows Suter is a must-own fantasy player, however he has been criticized a bit in fantasy circles for his lack of offensive production. Well, he turned it up recently to the tune of 11 points (five goals) since our last column before the holidays. He has 14 points in his past 12 games and is playing more than 30 minutes per night more times than not. Get in on Suter while you still can.
Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames -- Wideman finally returned to the Flames lineup on Jan. 3 after missing roughly a month with a broken hand. His ownership has fallen to just 40 percent while he was on the shelf and he could be a sneaky grab for owners. He plays an average of 3:47 on the power play each game and is averaging .50 points per game. That could be on the rise. We’d suggest taking a flyer on this Flame.
Sergei Gonchar, Dallas Stars -- As you know, we were high on Gonchar prior to his injury, but we are downgrading him for now. It is hard to tell how he will respond during his return to the lineup, which took place on Monday. He skated 18:35 in that game and was a minus-2, with no points and one shot on goal. He was also a notable snub from the Russian Olympic team on Tuesday. Monitor this situation before jumping back in on Sarge.
Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Every time we think Gardiner might be taking a step forward he takes a few back, and he should only be used in the deepest of leagues at the moment. He has logged just two points (one goal) over his past 10 games. He is averaging 21:39 minutes per night and has taken 63 shots, but the offense is just not there right now.
Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings -- Muzzin may have 14 points on the season, but that is a bit misleading to fantasy owners. He has actually gone without a point in 11 games, with his last points coming back on Dec. 14 against the Ottawa Senators. Since that time he has been riding the aforementioned scoreless drought, is a minus-1 and has logged 27 shots. We’d look elsewhere for production at this point.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Maatta has been impressive all season long for the Penguins and has earned a spot on Finland’s Olympic team. He was recently a healthy scratch, but that was merely a chance to recharge the batteries. There have been dips in his play from time to time, but he is providing some nice depth scoring for fantasy owners by logging six points (one goal) over his past nine games, which has pushed his season total to 13 points (three goals), a plus-3 rating, eight penalty minutes and 69 shots on goal. Maatta is owned in just four 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. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (same)
2. Erik Karlsson, Senators (same)
3. Ryan Suter, Wild (+4)
4. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (-1)
5. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (-1)
6. Shea Weber, Predators (+2)
7. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (-2)
8. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (same)
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (-3)
10. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (same)
11. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+4)
12. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+1)
13. Drew Doughty, Kings (same)
14. Kris Letang, Penguins (NR)
15. Mike Green, Capitals (-3)
16. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (-2)
17. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (-1)
18. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (same)
19. Jason Garrison, Canucks (-1)
20. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (+2)
21. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (NR)
22. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-3)
23. Dan Boyle, Sharks (-3)
24. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (-1)
25. Andrew MacDonald, Islanders (NR)
26. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-5)
27. Cam Fowler, Ducks (+3)
28. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-4)
29. Andrej Sekera, Hurricanes (+4)
30. John Carlson, Capitals (-5)
31. Slava Voynov, Kings (-5)
32. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (+2)
33. Matt Carle, Lightning (-2)
34. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (-7)
35. Mark Streit, Flyers (-6)
36. Marc-Edourard Vlasic, Sharks (-8)
37. Torey Krug, Bruins (-5)
38. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (-3)
39. Dennis Wideman, Flames (NR)
40. Chris Ehrhoff, Sabres (-4)
41. Victor Hedman, Lightning (NR)
42. Derek Morris, Coyotes (-4)
43. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (-4)
44. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (-4)
45. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (-4)
46. Mark Giordano, Flames (-2)
47. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-5)
48. Jason Demers, Sharks (-1)
49. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (+3)
50. Eric Gelinas, Devils (-13)
51. Jake Muzzin, Kings (-8)
52. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (-7)
53. Andre Benoit, Avalanche (-7)
54. Andy Greene, Devils (-4)
55. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (-6)
56. Roman Josi, Predators (-5)
57. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (-2)
58. Jonas Brodin, Wild (-2)
59. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-2)
60. Hampus Lindholm, Ducks (-2)
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