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Fantasy defenseman takeaways from preseason

Alexander Edler, Nathan Beaulieu boost stock with impressive showings

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Anything witnessed during the preseason should be taken with a grain of salt. But from a fantasy perspective, it paints a clearer picture of what to expect heading into the regular season, which begins Wednesday.

How certain players perform in the preseason isn't always an indicator of how they'll play in a week, a month or for a full season. But what it does tell us is where that player might end up playing to start the season and if that situation is enough to warrant fantasy draft or waiver wire consideration.

MORE PRESEASON TAKEAWAYS: FORWARD | GOALIE

Gauging the productivity of defensemen is difficult enough, and using the preseason as a precursor for success is a risky move, but fantasy hockey is all about speculation. The information we're able to gather during the preseason can only benefit us on Oct. 12 and beyond.

Here are some defensemen who improved their fantasy stock this preseason: 

Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks
Preseason stats: Seven assists in five games

Edler has struggled the past couple of seasons while the Canucks have gone through some tough times. But the 30-year-old has shown in the past that he can be one of the top fantasy defensemen in the right situation. He had a career-high 11 goals, 38 assists and 22 power-play points with Vancouver in 2011-12. Though that was five seasons ago, Edler could return to prominence if the Canucks offense begins to click. Vancouver's top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson should improve its power play, where Edler will be featured. Edler is more than capable of outperforming his Yahoo average draft position (170.4).

Video: VAN@OTT: Eddler notches PPG late in regulation

Nathan Beaulieu, Montreal Canadiens
Preseason stats: One goal, seven assists in five games

You may be shocked to hear Beaulieu led the NHL in scoring this preseason. The 23-year-old defenseman had eight points and was a plus-7 with 10 SOG. Beaulieu, not veteran Andrei Markov, has been playing with new addition Shea Weber on the Canadiens' top defensive pair and has flourished. He's even going undrafted on average in Yahoo. Again, it's just the preseason, and to pick up Beaulieu today might be foolish, but if he carries this into the regular season, don't hesitate to add him.

Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers
Preseason stats: Two assists in six games

The 19-year-old rookie was already on his way to securing a roster spot for opening night, but the injury to defenseman Michael Del Zotto ensured Provorov will play a prominent role for the Flyers. He played big minutes on Philadelphia's top pair with Mark Streit during the preseason and could be on the first power-play unit next to Shayne Gostisbehere. Provorov is beginning to gain some late attention in fantasy drafts; he has an ADP of 170.1. But, like with Beaulieu, it may be best to give him a few games before putting in a waiver claim.

Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
Preseason stats: One goal, two assists in four games

All the hype surrounding Werenski and Provorov is coming to fruition. Werenski, also 19, has played on the third and first defense pairs for Columbus, with Dalton Prout and Seth Jones, respectively. He should see time on the power play either way, and the Blue Jackets offense shouldn't be as disappointing as it was last season.

Alex Goligoski, Arizona Coyotes
Preseason stats: Four assists in three games

Playing for one of the top offenses (Dallas Stars) the past three seasons, Goligoski averaged 38.3 points per season. The Coyotes don't have nearly as much firepower, but they are certainly an offense on the rise; Arizona was 5-1-2 and averaged 2.88 goals per game this preseason. The Coyotes will likely split up Goligoski and Oliver Ekman-Larsson at even strength, but Goligoski should see power-play minutes - especially with Michael Stone injured. Goligoski may be a hot commodity after a few games, so adding him before the season wouldn't hurt.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm5: Goligoski goes top-shelf to even score

Yohann Auvitu, New Jersey Devils
Preseason stats: Six assists in five games

Never heard of Auvitu? Now might be the time to familiarize yourself with the Ivry-sur-Seine, France, native. The Devils signed Auvitu to a one-year contract on May 27 after playing the past six seasons in Liiga (Finland's top professional league). He had 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 48 games and 13 (six goals, seven assists) in 18 playoff games last season. Auvitu led the Devils in scoring this preseason and an injury to Jon Merrill has opened up a spot on defense. New Jersey lacks a true offensive defenseman, a role that Auvitu could fill while playing significant time on a Devils power play that ranked ninth (19.9 percent) last season.

Other preseason standouts to consider: Noah Hanifin (CAR), David Schlemko (SJS), Johnny Boychuk (NYI), Oscar Klefbom (EDM)

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