Fantasy defensemen: All-stars for each category

Wednesday, 01.27.2016 / 12:00 PM
Brian Metzer  - Correspondent

The NHL All-Star break begins Thursday and all eyes will be on Nashville, where a variety of events will play out as part of the League's All-Star Weekend. With that in mind, it seemed a good time to look at some surprises, or shall we call them all-stars, in each of the standard scoring categories in Yahoo Fantasy Leagues.

Standard scoring formats typically call for tracking goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal. We'll be looking at each of them, but have also included hits, since more and more formats have started to include the category.

Nothing ever seems as valuable in fantasy leagues as straight goals and assists, so it's been very interesting to see nine defensemen have already scored 10 or more goals on the season. That list includes Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes, who might be the biggest goal-scoring surprise at the position this season.

Faulk has scored 14 goals in 50 games this season, one less than he scored in 82 games last season. He's improved his goals per game average from .18 to .28, getting a boost from his increase in shots per game. He was averaging 2.90 shots per game last season and has seen that jump to 3.02. He's also logging 3:19 minutes per night on the power play, where he has 12 goals and four assists. All of that has helped push his points per game from .59 last season to .66 today.

The Buffalo Sabres' Rasmus Ristolainen has been a surprise for a number of reasons, but his assist production might be the most impressive. He's seen steady gains in terms of straight points over the past three seasons jumping from four, to 20, to 31 through 49 games this season. That number is buoyed by his 23 assists, which rank him seventh among all defensemen. His 31 points rank 10th at the position. He's averaging .63 points per game and has 14 points on the power play. He also has 117 shots on goal and 79 hits. He's still under-owned and available in close to 30 percent of Yahoo Leagues.

There are two players who have impressed with their plus-minus totals through the first half, Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers and Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues. Ekblad, who has two points and a plus-2 rating in his first three games since returning from a concussion, leads defensemen with a plus-19 rating. That wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility this season, based on his plus-12 during an outstanding rookie campaign, but you never know how a 19-year-old will react in his second year. He's carrying a plus-8 over his past nine games.

Parayko, who is still available in 36 percent of Yahoo leagues, might not be scoring like he did while Kevin Shattenkirk was out of the Blues lineup, but he's still a very helpful commodity. He's plus-18, aided by the plus-8 he’s put up over his past 10 games.

It is always good to identify a skilled player who is going to spend some time in the penalty box when you want to bolster PIMs. It doesn't pay to have a straight bruiser, because he's not chipping in in any other way and they tend to get minimal minutes. Enter the Arizona Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson. "OEL," as we like to call him, has been feisty this season and managed to amass 48 penalty minutes in addition to scoring 14 goals and 34 points. He's sure to shatter his career high of 50 PIMs, which he picked up back in 2013-14, as he's jumped from an average of about .50 minutes per game to one full minute per night this season. This is one player who brings category coverage to a new level.

The Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook is providing some great bang for your fantasy buck in terms of his power-play production. Seabrook had 20 power-play points during his career-best season in 2010-11. He had .24 power-play points per game, as part of his .60 points per game that season. He has .26 points per game on the power play this season and his overall scoring pace of .596 per game is just a tick under that of his aforementioned 48-point season.

When it comes to shots on goal, we have to talk about the San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns. It is no secret he's having an epic season with his 18 goals and 41 points, but no one could have predicted his shot production. He is coming off of back-to-back seasons of 245 shots, a feat he accomplished in 2013-14 in 69 games. He had an impressive 3.55 shots per night that season, but he's crushing that right now. He is putting up 4.32 shots per night and trails only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals in the category. Burns has five or more shots in a game 18 times this season and has logged seven or more nine times.

We cannot forget to include a surprise in the hits department and that comes in the form of the Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden. Holden has been getting fantasy attention lately based on his picking up six points in his past 10 games, but we love his hit production. He has 143 on the season, fourth at his position. That's a nice addition to his 18 points and makes him an intriguing fantasy prospect.


Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers

Gostisbehere has been a very pleasant surprise this season and though he's had a couple of small scoring droughts, he seems to be heating up again. He has one goal and three assists in his past three games. Three of those points have come on the power play and he's added three hits and eight shots on goal over that span. Gostisbehere's 20 points rank him 10th in the rookie-scoring race and he's accomplished that total in 28 games. His .71 points per game ranks third behind forwards Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin. He's owned in 48 percent of Yahoo Standard leagues.


Torey Krug, Boston Bruins

Krug is still a must-own player, but he's stuck in a bit of a scoring funk and it's making it hard to play him from night to night. He has two assists over his past 10 games and five over his past 19. He does have 63 shots on goal over that span, which could eventually start to turn into points with a little bit of puck luck. Play the matchups and hope he breaks out, but it could be a good time to acquire him in deep, keeper or dynasty formats so that you have him once he finally gets going again.


Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings

DeKeyser's fantasy value has gone up and down throughout his NHL career and after he had 31 points last season it seemed he could be a mainstay on fantasy rosters. Unfortunately he never really seemed to get his offensive legs under him, but that could be changing. After averaging 21:13 minutes per game and 29 seconds per night on the power play over the course of his first 42 games, he's seen over 23 minutes in two of his past three. He's also received a boost in his power-play time logging 1:37 and 3:34 minutes in recent games against the Sabres and Anaheim Ducks. The uptick in ice time saw him get two goals, an assist and five shots on goal over that span. He could be a nice fill option and is owned in five percent of Yahoo Leagues.


-- John Carlson could return Wednesday for the Washington Capitals after a 12-game absence. Pete Jensen has the fantasy spin on this development, including the potential impact on Matt Niskanen.


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