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On the 'D'-Fence: Burns back ... but on the wing?

Wednesday, 03.13.2013 / 11:07 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-Fence: Burns back ... but on the wing?
Brent Burns could be gaining new eligibility...is he worth picking up?

To say that Brent Burns has frustrated fantasy owners this season would be an understatement. The talented defenseman has missed all but seven games due to injury. He missed the start of the season with a sports hernia, returned for six games in which he didn't register a point, and then was out with a lower-body issue before returning to the ice Tuesday night.

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. Kris Letang, Penguins (same)
  • 2. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (same)
  • 3. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
  • 4. Shea Weber, Predators (+1)
  • 5. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (+1)
  • 6. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+1)
  • 7. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+3)
  • 8. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (+5)
  • 9. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (-5)
  • 10. Ryan Suter, Wild (+5)
  • 11. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (+5)
  • 12. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (-1)
  • 13. Mark Streit, Islanders (-1)
  • 14. Alex Edler, Canucks (-5)
  • 15. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+3)
  • 16. Dan Boyle, Sharks (-2)
  • 17. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (same)
  • 18. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-10)
  • 19. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+1)
  • 20. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-1)
  • 21. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (+3)
  • 22. Justin Schultz, Oilers (same)
  • 23. Drew Doughty, Kings (-1)
  • 24. Slava Voynov, Kings (+4)
  • 25. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (+2)
  • 26. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders (same)
  • 27. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (-2)
  • 28. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (-5)
  • 29. Paul Martin, Penguins (same)
  • 30. Dennis Wideman, Flames (+1)
  • 31. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+1)
  • 32. Alex Goligoski, Stars (+1)
  • 33. Matt Carle, Lightning (-3)
  • 34. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+1)
  • 35. Jason Garrison, Canucks (+1)
  • 36. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (+1)
  • 37. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (+12)
  • 38. John Carlson, Capitals (+2)
  • 39. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (+7)
  • 40. Dan Hamhuis, Canucks (+1)
  • 41. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (+3)
  • 42. Mark Giordano, Flames (same)
  • 43. Brent Burns, Sharks (NR)
  • 44. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (-5)
  • 45. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (same)
  • 46. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+5)
  • 47. Cam Fowler, Ducks (-9)
  • 48. Andy Greene, Devils (same)
  • 49. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (-2)
  • 50. Jake Muzzin, Kings (NR)
  • 51. Tyler Myers, Sabres (-8)
  • 52. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (NR)
  • 53. Dan Girardi, Rangers (-3)
  • 54. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (same)
  • 55. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (same)
  • 56. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (+1)
  • 57. Jared Spurgeon, Wild (+3)
  • 58. Stephane Robidas, Stars (-6)
  • 59. Ryan Whitney, Oilers (NR)
  • 60. Tomas Kundratek, Capitals (NR)

Injuries have been the focal point of what should be a great NHL story. Burns, who was converted from forward to defense during his days with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League, has shown that he can be a very productive scorer. However, he has managed to play an entire season just once during his career.

Burns, who was drafted in 100 percent of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues, had an average draft position of 125.1, which would have placed him in the 11th round of most drafts. That slotting speaks to the fact that there are a number of owners who were left with a decent-sized hole on their blue line.

The Ajax, Ontario, native earned his draft position by tantalizing owners with a booming slap shot, great vision on the ice and the ability to mesh with talented forwards. His most effective fantasy season came in 2010-11 when he picked up 46 points (17 goals) in 80 games for the Minnesota Wild prior to being dealt to the San Jose Sharks.

Though he will always be a bit frustrating to own based on his injury history, the situation that he finds himself during his recent comeback makes him a very attractive addition to most fantasy teams. He skated a regular shift as a winger during last night's loss to the St. Louis Blues, which means if he sticks in that role, you can effectively deploy a forward in one of your designated defense roster spots.

Burns picked up a goal, three shots on net, and two hits in 18:21 TOI. He was also deployed on the power play, where he spent 2:41 TOI.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who spent time coaching in Houston, actually helped Burns make the transition to defense eight years ago, so it isn't a shock to see him make this change.

Burns has averaged .51 points per game over the past two seasons, scoring a combined 83 points in 161 games. He also launches a ton of shots on goal, picking up 1,008 in 541 career games.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound defenseman seems to be healthy now and could be a nice waiver-wire grab, as he has seen his ownership fall to just 31 percent. It isn't often you can grab a guy capable of putting up that type of offense or that can give you such roster flexibility.

It is worth noting that per Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey official rules, "There are no set criteria (minimum number of games, minutes at a new position, etc.) for position eligibility. A new position will be added when our data provider determines that a player's primary position has changed, or he is logging sufficient playing time at a secondary position to warrant adding that position to their eligibility."

So monitor Burns' eligibility if you have aspirations of deploying him as a forward. Either way, he is back and should be productive, so go and get him now.

TRENDING UPWARD:

Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs – It hasn't all been roses over the past week for Phaneuf, but he has managed to post five points over his past four games, all assists, pushing his season total to 15 points (four goals). He now has 10 power-play points on the season and has taken 50 shots.

P.K. Subban, Canadiens – Subban doesn't seem to have any rust left in his game at this point resulting from his contractual stalemate. He has posted points in six of seven games (three goals, seven assists), has taken 27 shots over that span, including a game in which he launched seven, and is rising up the leader board.

Jake Muzzin, Kings – We mentioned Muzzin last week as ‘One to Watch,' but feel he is worth noting again. He has posted four more points (one goal) since we mentioned him, eight more shots on goal and two power-play points. Ride this hot streak while you can.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Cam Fowler, Ducks – Fowler is a valuable player for the Ducks, but hasn't been for fantasy owners. He has a ton of offensive potential, but he hasn't been able to put it all together this season. He has just one assist in seven March games. That is actually the only point he has in his last 13 games. Look elsewhere until he starts producing.

Brian Campbell, Panthers – OK, we know Campbell is still among the leaders at his position, but he has no points over his last four games and has seen his plus-minus fall to a wretched minus-17. That is a bit easier to palate when he is scoring, but he and the Panthers are struggling. He has been a minus player in seven of ten games and the team has gone 2-6-2 in their last ten. Unless he's dealt, there are better options.

John-Michael Liles, Maple Leafs – We were pulling for Liles to get back in the lineup or to be traded, but it hasn't happened. Though he is a crafty offensive player, his style doesn't seem to mesh with coach Randy Carlyle's system and he has been a healthy scratch for 12 consecutive games. Stash him in hopes of a deal, but it's time to move on.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Steven Oleksy, Capitals – Most folks have seen the emergence of Tomas Kundratek, but might have missed out on Oleksy. The 27-year-old is taking advantage of some injuries and has posted four points (one goal) over five games since being signed and called up from Hershey. He has posted seven PIMs, five shots on goal and could be a decent depth signing while in the League.

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