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On the 'D'-fence: St. Louis young guns stepping up

Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 11:52 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-fence: St. Louis young guns stepping up
A pair of St. Louis defensemen, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, have seen their games take off to another level since Ken Hitchcock took over, raising their fantasy value.
Every Tuesday 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 expert all season long.

The 2011-12 NHL season has provided a number great stories, including the return of the Winnipeg Jets, the resurgence of the Florida Panthers and one of our favorites here at "On the 'D'-fence," Erik Karlsson's meteoric rise to stardom, but the most impressive might be the season the St. Louis Blues have put together.
 
The Blues didn't start the way that they wanted, but a coaching change back on Nov. 6 that saw Ken Hitchcock enter the fold kicked off an impressive 39-11-7 stretch that has them sitting on top of not only the Central Division but the entire League.

No skaters on the Blues roster have benefitted more from Hitchcock's arrival than Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, who have each spent the season becoming more complete players and adding to the already impressive resumes they had accumulated over the past couple of seasons.

After being selected with the fourth pick by the Blues in 2008, Pietrangelo took a little bit of time to develop, but he burst onto the scene last season, notching an impressive 43 points (11G, 32A), 161 shots on goal, 14 power-play points and registering an impressive plus-18 in 79 games. His .54 points per game combined with 2.04 shots per game made him a very attractive fantasy player.

TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
*previously listed on injured list

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Erik Johnson, Paul Martin

Injured: Kris Letang (DTD), Nicklas Lidstrom (DTD), Kimmo Timonen (DTD), Andrej Meszaros (DTD), Marc-Andre Bergeron (IR), Chris Pronger (IR), Joni Pitkanen (IR), Dmitry Kulikov (IR)
The King City, Ontario, native didn't start off the this season the way that the last ended and was able to notch only 11 points (5G, 6A) through the first 37 games of the season, but that all changed on Jan. 1. Since the new year began, Pietrangelo has been one of the hottest defensemen in the League, notching an impressive 32 points (6G, 26A) in 32 games. That 2012 point-per-game pace has pushed his season totals to 43 points (11G, 32A), 172 shots on goal, 21 power-play points and a plus-15 rating.

He has matched his point total from last season in 10 fewer games and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. He has raised his full season points and shots per game to .62 and 2.49 respectively, and he should be starting in your lineup on a nightly basis.

Shattenkirk entered the League as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, who chose him with the 14th selection in 2007. Though he was the fifth defender taken in that draft, many thought he was one of the most offensively gifted players available. It didn't take him long to show off that skill upon arriving in Denver last season.

The Greenwich, Connecticut native posted 26 points (7G, 19A), 10 of which came on the power play, in 46 games for the Avalanche before being shipped to St. Louis in a package for the No. 1 pick in 2006, Erik Johnson. Shattenkirk finished the season strong with the Blues, posting 17 points (2G, 15A), 41 shots on goal and registering a plus-7 in 26 games.

His numbers might not be as eye-popping as Pietrangelo's in the second half, but in the big picture, they aren't far behind. He has been one of the most consistent players on the Blues roster this season and posted 37 points (9G, 28A), 150 shots on goal, 15 power-play points and has registered a robust plus-27. He has pushed his points per game over his young career to .57 and has launched 1.82 (2.17 this season) shots per game. Like Pietrangelo, he should be starting nightly.

Though trade deadlines are far behind most of us, you could still feasibly have a crack at one or both of these dynamic offensive talents as neither is owned in 100 percent of Yahoo! Standard leagues. Pietrangelo is held in 92 percent, while Shattenkirk is owned in just 84 percent. Get to your waiver wires and check out the situation, as either guy would really bolster your stretch drive and playoff run.

TRENDING UPWARD

P.K. Subban -- We have been pretty tough on Subban this season, but he is finally showing off some of the offensive skill that had fantasy owners drooling a couple seasons back. Subban has picked up 7 points (3G, 4A), 15 shots on goal and registered a plus-3 over his last six games. Getting Andrei Markov back will only help his cause, as the spotlight will shift off of him a bit and he can just relax and play the game.

Andrei Markov -- Speaking of Markov, though we thought this was going to happen months ago, he has finally made his long-awaited return to the ice. Though it is going to take him a little bit of time to bounce back, he has picked up an assist and fired 4 shots on goal through two games. Though he did register a minus-2 in his last game, he and his career .59 points per game can make a big difference down the stretch if he gets it going.

Tobias Enstrom -- Though Enstrom had only notched 2 points in February, he has seemingly turned the page entering March. The talented Swede might have had owners pulling their hair out earlier this year, but he now has 5 points (1G, 4A), 8 shots on goal and a plus-5 over his last four games. It just might be time to consider him a regular play again.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Paul Martin -- We know we just suggested him as an option last week, but he has since gotten ill, missed a handful of games and has the return of Kris Letang looming on the horizon. He could still have some value in deeper leagues, but it is probably time to look elsewhere.

Erik Johnson -- It is pretty interesting to see Kevin Shattenkirk having so much offensive success, while Johnson sits at the other end of the spectrum. Johnson has no points since Feb. 24 and just 5 since Jan. 21. That isn't to say that he hasn't been an effective player on the ice, but you don't get points for solid "real life" play in fantasy hockey. Look elsewhere.

Kurtis Foster -- Well, the Foster experiment has yet to pay any dividends for Mike Yeo, Chuck Fletcher or the Wild's power play. He has no points and just 5 shots on goal in six games since joining the team. It may be time to cut bait and add the player he was traded for, Marek Zidlicky, who finally looks comfortable in New Jersey and has 5 points (1G, 4A) in his last three games.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Dmitry Orlov -- The Capitals are in the middle of a fairly disappointing season, but one bright spot has been the play of their young Russian rearguard. He has posted a respectable 16 points (2G, 14A), a plus-2 rating and 47 shots over 50 games this season. He has notched 4 points in his last four games and will get to play in some bigger situations as Mike Green serves his three-game suspension. He is especially valuable in keeper or dynasty formats, but could help now in deeper leagues.
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