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On the 'D'-fence: All hail King Karlsson

Wednesday, 03.26.2014 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-fence: All hail King Karlsson
With 69 points in 71 games, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has clearly earned his No. 1 ranking among fantasy defensemen this season.

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.


Entering this season, we penned a fantasy faceoff breaking down the merits of owning the Montreal Canadiens' P.K. Subban against those of owning the Senators' Erik Karlsson. While we explained it was more about preference when determining which of those two defensemen to draft, we pointed you in the direction of Subban based on the fact Karlsson didn't quite look like himself at the end of the last season upon returning from injury.

In fact, on Sept. 5, 2013, we said "though Karlsson made it back late in the season and still managed to post .82 points-per-game, he just didn't look comfortable. Speed and agility are such an important part of his game and it just wasn't there as he seemed to be dealing with the lingering effects of the severed Achilles."

Well, today, we admit that was a load of hogwash and shout from the rooftop of our secret fantasy headquarters, "All Hail King Karlsson!"

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 (same)
  • 2. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (same)
  • 3. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (same)
  • 4. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
  • 5. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+1)
  • 6. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (-1)
  • 7. Shea Weber, Predators (same)
  • 8. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (same)
  • 9. Ryan Suter, Wild (+1)
  • 10. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (-1)
  • 11. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+1)
  • 12. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (-1)
  • 13. Drew Doughty, Kings (+1)
  • 14. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (+2)
  • 15. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+2)
  • 16. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (-1)
  • 17. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (-4)
  • 18. Matt Niskanen, Penguins (same)
  • 19. Andrej Sekera, Hurricanes (+1)
  • 20. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (-1)
  • 21. Mark Giordano, Flames (+3)
  • 22. Torey Krug, Bruins (-1)
  • 23. Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (+2)
  • 24. Jason Garrison, Canucks (-2)
  • 25. Brian Campbell, Panthers (-2)
  • 26. John Carlson, Capitals (+1)
  • 27. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (+1)
  • 28. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+1)
  • 29. Mike Green, Capitals (-3)
  • 30. Slava Voynov, Kings (+3)
  • 31. Matt Carle, Lightning (+3)
  • 32. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-2)
  • 33. Andrew MacDonald, Flyers (-2)
  • 34. Dan Boyle, Sharks (-2)
  • 35. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (+1)
  • 36. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (-1)
  • 37. Mark Streit, Flyers (+1)
  • 38. Jacob Trouba, Jets (-1)
  • 39. Alex Goligoski, Stars (+1)
  • 40. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Sharks (+1)
  • 41. Olli Maatta, Penguins (-2)
  • 42. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (same)
  • 43. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (same)
  • 44. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (+1)
  • 45. Alexander Edler, Canucks (+2)
  • 46. Roman Josi, Predators (same)
  • 47. TJ Brodie, Flames (+5)
  • 48. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (same)
  • 49. Tyson Barrie, Avalanche (same)
  • 50. Andy Greene, Devils (+3)
  • 51. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+3)
  • 52. Jake Muzzin, Kings (-2)
  • 53. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (-2)
  • 54. Hampus Lindholm, Ducks (+2)
  • 55. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+3)
  • 56. Jason Demers, Sharks (-1)
  • 57. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (same)
  • 58. Eric Gelinas, Devils (NR)
  • 59. Tom Gilbert, Panthers (same)
  • 60. Kris Russell, Flames (same)
Injured: Kris Letang, Cam Fowler, Dennis Wideman, Tyler Myers, Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Joni Pitkanen

Sure owning Subban, who has 50 points in 73 games, isn't hurting your team, but it isn't helping as much as if you had drafted the leading scorer at the position, Karlsson.

The Landsbro, Sweden native is currently riding an eight-game scoring streak which has seen him record three goals and nine assists, bringing him to 69 points in 71 games.

That puts Karlsson in position to eclipse the 70-point plateau for the second time in his young National Hockey League career. He managed 78 points during the 2011-12 season en route to winning his first Norris Trophy as the League's top defenseman.

Karlsson is averaging a little less than a point per game, notching .96 points per outing. He has added 28 points on the power play and is playing more than 27 minutes per night. He has already set a new career mark in goals with 20 and has a chance to make a run at his high-water mark in assists (68).

He's already has 230 shots on goal and based on his average of 3.24 shots per game, he should be able to post roughly 32 more during his final 10 games, which would surpass his career high in that category as well.

Folks are criticizing him for his plus-minus, as he has regressed a bit in that category. He posted a combined plus-24 during the past two seasons, but sits at minus-17 for this season.

That number is a whole lot more palatable when its owner leads his position in scoring and seemingly picks up points on a nightly basis. It isn't all that dissimilar to putting up with the plus-minus of Alex Ovechkin based on reaping the rewards of his goal scoring and ability to pile up points on the power play.

It is also worth noting Karlsson is even or better in plus/minus rating in 12 of his past 17 games.

Karlsson is also in the middle of his most productive month of the season and it is coming right in time for the fantasy playoffs. His 1.17 points per game in March ranks first ahead of the 1.08 points per game posted in January and the 1.07 posted in November.

So today, we don't ask the question we posed back in September, so much as tell you that the answer is Erik Karlsson -- King of the fantasy defensemen.

TRENDING UPWARD

Slava Voynov, Los Angeles Kings -- Voynov has been one of those players we have all been waiting to enjoy a big breakout, especially after the work that he did during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, recording six goals and seven assists in 18 games. He showed signs of it this season, but hasn't been the most consistent performer. The good news is that he is heating up a in time for the fantasy playoffs. The 24-year-old has picked up six assists, 18 shots on goal, and three power-play points during his past 10 games. He is also has an even rating during that span. He is playing more 22 minutes per night and logs time on the Kings top power-play unit with Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik. Voynov is owned in just 56 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks -- Edler is one of the most head-scratching defensemen we have monitored this season. He has a ton of offensive upside, he's posted two 30-plus point campaigns and two 40-plus point campaigns, yet that hasn't really translated into production this season. Well, he has shown some signs of life as of late and during the Canucks recent 3-1-0 streak, he has posted one goal and two assists on the power play, to go with 16 shots on goal and nine hits. That is modest production, but it is the kind of production that could help you win a power-play points category in your playoffs. Edler is owned in just 54 percent of Yahoo leagues.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Maatta has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but he seems to be wearing down a bit. The youngster hasn't picked up a point in eight games, which is his second-longest scoring drought of the season. He has also posted a minus-four during that span. It is worth noting he has been plugged in on the Penguins' top power-play unit with Evgeni Malkin on the shelf with a foot injury, but we would advise looking elsewhere for production until you see him swing back in the other direction.

Andrew MacDonald, Philadelphia Flyers -- It might have been a bit crazy, but we had such high hopes for MacDonald upon his arrival in Philadelphia. Sadly, his fantasy value is diminishing. He has picked up just one point since being dealt to the Flyers and never got the additional power-play time that we hoped would come. He is still leading the League in blocked shots, which is a definite benefit to his owners and has been even or better in plus/minus in all but three of his nine games played with the team. He should only be used in leagues that give credit for secondary categories such as blocks and hits.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins -- Hamilton has been in and out of our rankings throughout this season, but it is time to take notice of what the youngster has been doing lately. Hamilton has five points during his past six games, four of which have come in his past three games. He has fired 11 shots on goal during his past seven games and is looking very comfortable with the red-hot Bruins. He is owned in just 31 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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