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Fantasy hockey is all about offense, which causes many folks to discount the value of defensemen. Don't fall into that trap, as having a good crop of blueliners is vital to securing victory. If you were to look at our top-60 defensemen on the final week of last season, you'd see that they contributed an average of 34 points each, which shows some significant offensive depth at the position.
Most seasons boast two or three players who are jockeying for the top spot in the rankings, but this year's No. 1 earned his spot last November. That's when Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (19 goals, 59 assists) took over the top spot, and he'll stay there now. The Landsbro, Sweden native outscored all other defensemen by 25 points and he has a chance to do it again as he'll quarterback the power play and skate 25-plus minutes per night. Zdeno Chara (12 goals, 42 assists) and Shea Weber (19 goals, 30 assists) round out the top three -- each can be counted on to notch 45-plus points, 230 shots on goal and to quarterback their team's No. 1 power-play unit. Weber could lead the position in goals when all is said and done.
Some folks might be surprised to see Joni Pitkanen and Cam Fowler ranked ahead of a player like Mike Green, but each could be in store for big offensive numbers. Pitkanen is coming off of a year in which he played just 30 games due to a variety of injuries, but he still managed to notch 17 points. That total will grow with the arrivals of Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. Fowler will benefit by the exit of Lubomir Visnovsky and will likely get a chance to quarterback the first unit and be the chief source of offense from the blue line.
There are a handful of players toward the bottom of our rankings or just outside of the top-60 that could be steals come draft day. Brendan Smith, Nikita Nikitin, Ryan Ellis and Jared Spurgeon might be forgotten by many of the owners in your draft as they all have higher-profile teammates. Each of the four could pay huge dividends, with Nikitin possibly leading his team in defensive scoring. You'd also be wise to keep an eye on Stefan Elliott, Jake Gardiner and Travis Hamonic, as they will all be playing regular NHL minutes on improving teams.
Though the bulk of your scoring punch is likely to come from your forwards, there are as many as 75 defensemen who have the ability to make a meaningful contribution to a winning fantasy team. So make sure to incorporate that depth into your drafting strategy as it will definitely pay off in the end.
RANKINGS: Top-175 | Center | Left Wing | Right Wing | Goalie
NOTE: Positional ranking based on combination of last season's Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey position assignments and NHL.com's 30 in 30 lineup projections. Ranking reflects each player's fantasy value, taking into account statistical history, performance in default Yahoo! categories (G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG) last season, potential future lineup placement, strength of projected linemates and our expectations of how they will perform this coming season.
|13.||Michael Del Zotto|
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