With the 2013-14 NHL season inching closer by the day, NHL.com has you covered with positional fantasy rankings. Based on projected lineups, potential Yahoo! position eligibility, past performance, injury history and each insider's opinions, Matt Cubeta (centers), Matt Sitkoff (left wings), Pete Jensen (right wings), Brian Metzer (defensemen) and Justin Goldman (goalies) bring you up to speed by identifying all the players worth targeting at each position in your upcoming drafts.
There are many different weapons you can wield when heading into a fantasy hockey battle; the defenseman is just one of them. Sure, the forward is the most formidable, but the defenseman is the wild card, the factor that can make the difference between coming in second and hoisting the fantasy crown!
Here is our creed.
These are our fantasy defensemen rankings. They can be your best friend, as fantasy championships aren't won without blueliners. You must draft defensemen before "he" drafts defensemen, and you must do so with faith that these selections will ring true as assets that will separate you from those who shun the defensemen.
As years go by, defensemen get more valuable. Gone are the days of one guy rising above the group and everyone else just sort of stepping in line. We're in an era that features a number of dynamic options, and this year any of P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson or Kris Letang could have claimed the top spot. Each player has the ability to score at a point-per-game pace or to at least come close to it, as they put up .90, .82 and 1.09 points per game respectively last season.
Scouts often talk about the fact it takes defensemen a bit longer to develop, and that echoes in that 35 of our top 60 players are age 26 or older, but there are a number of youngsters that can bolster your attack. Players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who saw his points-per-game jump from .39 to .50 at the age of 22, and Michael Del Zotto, who could benefit greatly from a coaching change that saw John Tortorella replaced by Alain Vigneault.
Edmonton's Justin Schultz admittedly hit a wall last season after playing more hockey than at any point during his young career, which forced a dip in his production and in turn could leave him on the board longer than he should be. He is sure to build upon the .56 points per game he posted last season playing with a talented group of forwards headlined by Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Lastly, there are a number of veterans that have slid down our list this year, mainly due to the youth that has developed around the League, but they can still pay huge dividends. Players like Sergei Gonchar, who landed in Dallas, Montreal's Andrei Markov and San Jose's Dan Boyle could all produce upwards of .50 points per game.
As you know, forwards will provide the bulk of your fantasy punch, but do not neglect your blue line when drafting, because defensemen are scoring more than ever and can mean the difference between winning your league and finishing in the middle of the pack.
FANTASY FACEOFF -- DEFENSE: P.K. Subban vs. Erik Karlsson
RANKINGS: Top 200 Overall | Center | Left Wing | Right Wing | Goalies | Top 50 Analysis
2013-14 FANTASY SLEEPERS: Cubeta | Jensen | Sitkoff
NOTE: Positional rankings do not necessarily reflect the order of NHL.com's top 200 overall rankings, which are compiled based on the individual rankings of the four NHL.com insiders whose opinions were taken into account.
Just Missed: Nick Leddy, Seth Jones, Danny DeKeyser, Zach Bogosian, Torey Krug, Jake Muzzin, Erik Johnson, Tyler Myers, Sami Vatanen, Raphael Diaz