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On the 'D'-fence: Karlsson charges to top of ranks

Wednesday, 11.06.2013 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-fence: Karlsson charges to top of ranks
The young Ottawa Senators defenseman may be struggling a little with the expectations placed on him, but Erik Karlsson is living up to them and re-establishing himself as fantasy hockey's No. 1 defenseman.

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.


There's a legend round these parts about a young defensemen who exploded onto the scene with 78 points in 81 games at the tender age of 21. That total was good enough to put him in a 10th-place tie in the NHL's scoring race during the 2011-12 season.

They say he fired 261 shots on goal, with 19 of them finding pay dirt. He even managed to roll up an impressive plus-16 rating, 28 power-play points and five game-winning goals.

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. Erik Karlsson, Senators (+1)
  • 2. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (-1)
  • 3. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
  • 4. Shea Weber, Predators (same)
  • 5. Kris Letang, Penguins (+2)
  • 6. Ryan Suter, Wild (-1)
  • 7. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (-1)
  • 8. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+1)
  • 9. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+2)
  • 10. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+2)
  • 11. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-3)
  • 12. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (-2)
  • 13. Mike Green, Capitals (same)
  • 14. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+1)
  • 15. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+1)
  • 16. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (-2)
  • 17. Drew Doughty, Kings (+1)
  • 18. Dennis Wideman, Flames (+3)
  • 19. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-2)
  • 20. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (-1)
  • 21. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-1)
  • 22. Alexander Edler, Canucks (same)
  • 23. Jason Garrison, Canucks (same)
  • 24. Slava Voynov, Kings (same)
  • 25. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (+3)
  • 26. Dan Boyle, Sharks (NR)
  • 27. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (same)
  • 28. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (-2)
  • 29. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (same)
  • 30. John Carlson, Capitals (+2)
  • 31. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Sharks (same)
  • 32. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (+2)
  • 33. Paul Martin, Penguins (same)
  • 34. Matt Carle, Lightning (-4)
  • 35. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+1)
  • 36. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (-1)
  • 37. Mark Streit, Flyers (-11)
  • 38. Alex Goligoski, Stars (same)
  • 39. Victor Hedman, Lightning (same)
  • 40. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (-3)
  • 41. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (same)
  • 42. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (same)
  • 43. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (same)
  • 44. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (+1)
  • 45. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (+1)
  • 46. Torey Krug, Bruins (+2)
  • 47. Cam Fowler, Ducks (+2)
  • 48. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (-4)
  • 49. Sergei Gonchar, Stars (-9)
  • 50. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (+1)
  • 51. Kris Russell, Flames (+2)
  • 52. Derek Morris, Coyotes (+4)
  • 53. Jonas Brodin, Wild (NR)
  • 54. Seth Jones, Predators (+1)
  • 55. Dmitry Kulikov, Panthers (-8)
  • 56. Patrick Wiercioch, Senators (-2)
  • 57. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Blackhawks (+2)
  • 58. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+2)
  • 59. Jared Spurgeon, Wild (-7)
  • 60. Zach Bogosian, Jets (-4)

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Dan Hamhuis, TJ Brodie

Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky, Mark Giordano, Joni Pitkanen, Roman Josi, Jonathan Ericsson, Jacob Trouba

The numbers were otherworldly for a defenseman -- some would even call them godlike -- and they earned the young man the Norris Trophy, identifying him as the finest blueliner in all the land.

That kind of productivity brings with it a certain set of expectations.

Those expectations can be burdensome for a player, especially one like the Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson, who now at 23 is trying to bounce back from a serious injury that cost him all but 17 games of what was supposed to be a second Norris-caliber season.

The expectations seemed to get to Karlsson a bit last week and his emotions boiled over a bit.

"You guys have lifted up the expectations pretty high," Karlsson said to a group of reporters including Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun. "You talk about me like I was some … god or something.

"It's not easy to live up to that."

Interestingly enough, something happened while Karlsson was struggling with that burden: He was living up to expectations, at least in terms of fantasy hockey where he has been fantastic.

The Landsbro, Sweden native is riding a five-game scoring streak that started the night before he made the comments above, and he has notched nine points (four goals) over that span. Two of those goals came Tuesday night and pushed his League-leading scoring total to 17 points.

He now has a two-point lead on last season's Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, and his 1.13 points-per-game average has him on pace to shatter the numbers he put up during his aforementioned run to the hardware.

Karlsson may still be working some kinks out of his defensive game, but his six goals, 17 points, plus-1 rating and 52 shots on goal have earned him something he hasn't had since the early part of the 2012-13 season -- the No. 1 spot in our rankings.

He previously earned that No. 1 spot on Nov. 15, 2011 and pretty much held it until Feb. 20, 2013, when we named a new No. 1 following his Achilles injury. How long will he hold the position this time? Time will tell, but Subban and a host of others will be trying to make his stay at the top a much shorter one this time around.

TRENDING UPWARD

Torey Krug, Bruins -- Krug was the darling of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as he seemed to do something spectacular on a nightly basis as the Bruins made a run to the Stanley Cup Final. He has picked up where he left on then and now has eight points (five goals) on the season, with three of those points coming over his past five games. He logs plenty of ice time with the Bruins' No. 1 power-play unit and is skating upwards of 19 minutes per night. He is owned in just 49 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues, but that is sure to change as he adds to his five-power play points and plus-2 rating.

Kris Russell, Flames -- Russell saw a four-game scoring streak come to an end Tuesday night, but he has been hot lately. He notched an overtime game winner on Sunday night, pushing his year-to-date points total to eight (two goals). He's put up 29 shots on goal, four penalty minutes and has logged a plus-3 rating. He may not challenge guys like Karlsson and Subban for a spot on your roster, but you should be riding this hot streak. He is owned in just seven percent of Yahoo leagues.

Dan Boyle, Sharks -- Boyle returned to the lineup on Saturday night, notching a goal in the process. He added an assist Tuesday night, pushing his season totals to four points (two goals) in eight games. Boyle may be 37, but he knows how to play the offensive game. He has seen his ownership fall to 84 percent in Yahoo leagues, so he may be out there in yours. Get him while you can.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Sergei Gonchar, Stars -- Gonchar has long been one of our favorite fantasy defensemen, but he just isn't getting it done this season. He has just one assist on the season and it was collected back in his third game. He is riding a 12 game scoreless streak, has just 19 shots on goal and is a minus-6. Move on.

Kimmo Timonen, Flyers -- Timonen is no longer a fixture on the Flyers' top power-play unit, his health isn't quite 100 percent and he just picked up his first point of the season Tuesday night. Sadly, unless the Flyers get themselves turned around in a hurry, there aren't going to be many fantasy options on their roster. Feel free to move off of this one.

Dmitry Kulikov, Panthers -- Kulikov just hasn't been the same offensive catalyst that he has been at times earlier in his career. He just picked up his third point of the season Tuesday night, he's posted a minus-5 rating and just 19 shots on goal. He could turn it around at any moment, but if the team keeps losing, he isn't going to give owners much value.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Danny DeKeyser, Red Wings -- With Brendan Smith out of the lineup, DeKeyser will certainly log more minutes than he typically would have. He is getting just over 30 seconds on the power play each night and killing penalties. Most importantly here -- he's logged four points in his past five games, giving him five points on the year. He has 22 shots on goal, a plus-5 rating and 10 penalty minutes. He is owned in just three percent of Yahoo leagues.

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