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Fantasy D-men: Circumstances alter value

Fowler, Hutton among stretch-run options; top 60 'D'

by Brian Metzer / NHL.com Correspondent

Boychuk lights the lamp

LAK@NYI: Boychuk beats Enroth to open the scoring

2/11/16: Johnny Boychuk hammers the feed from John Tavares off the post and past Jhonas Enroth, giving the Islanders an early 1-0 lead

  • 01:04 •

Building a winning fantasy hockey team is tireless work. The draft is an all-important step in the process, but it's just an action that lights the fuse. To get full bang for your fantasy buck, you'll likely spend lots of time between October and April monitoring hundreds of players, transactions and the changing circumstances of each and every NHL club. 

The difference between winning and losing isn't just realizing that a guy like Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres is having a breakout season with eight goals and 25 assists in 58 games. It's also taking the time to know that he has two points in his past 12 games and that his biggest value now might be in a trade to an owner who only figured out part one of this equation. 

You might choose to hold onto him, and no one would question the decision because he's been productive and he'll likely be so again, but knowing all the data is important. Knowing when your players are riding peaks and valleys helps you know when you have to offset a statistical category or plug a hole with a streaming option off of the waiver wire, and it helps you decide when you should move on. 

Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at four players who have recently seen something change with their circumstances. Two have recently returned from injury and have seen spikes in production, another has been elevated on the depth chart due to a teammate being injured and one has seen a door swing further open after a teammate was traded. 

We'll give you the data on each circumstance, whether we're buying or selling based on the evidence and whether a roster spot should be devoted or if he should be considered a streaming option. 

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks 

Fowler is owned in just 29 percent of Yahoo leagues, not all that shocking when you consider his recent history of frustrating fantasy performance. He had an outstanding rookie season in 2010-11 with 10 goals and 30 assists in 76 games. He dipped in his next two seasons, but bounced back with a 36-point campaign in 2013-14. Unfortunately he's seen his points per game fall from .51 during his bounce-back season to .43 last season to .40 through 43 games this season. Some think his numbers dipped with the emergence of Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, but he's still averaging more power play time (2:56 minutes) than Vatanen (2:47 minutes) and Lindholm (1:59 minutes) and is on Anaheim's top pairing. 

Fowler missed 13 games with an injury and after returning on Feb. 2 went scoreless in six games before breaking out with five assists in his past three games. That could be the byproduct of more shots on goal; he averaged 1.61 SOG per game during his rookie campaign, but is averaging 1.72 this season, with 1.67 since returning to the lineup. It's doubtful he'll pick up five points for every three games he plays the rest of the way, but he could remain productive, especially considering how good the Ducks have been. They're 12-2-1 in their past 15 games and have scored 59 goals over that span, good for 3.93 goals per game. Fowler is a cautious buy, but should definitely be rostered in deep formats. 

Ben Hutton, Vancouver Canucks 

Hutton was a fantasy darling earlier this season when he surprisingly earned a roster spot out of training camp. He burst out of the gate with eight points in his first 16 games before recording three in his next 25. But his circumstances changed when Alexander Edler was lost to a fibula fracture on Feb. 9. Coach Willie Desjardins opted to put Hutton on his top pairing with Chris Tanev and made Hutton a staple on his top power-play unit. 

Hutton has one assist in the three games he's played since Edler went down, but set a new career mark for ice time twice over that span, logging 23:14 minutes against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 10 and then topping that with 23:16 minutes on Monday against the Minnesota Wild. 

His assist came on the power play Monday and he was on the ice for second power-play goal, as the Canucks went 2-for-4 on the night. He's averaging 1:50 on the power play per game for the season, but has logged 4:17, 2:20 and 3:35 in his past three games. He's also seen his season average of 1.47 shots per game jump to 1.67 without Edler in the lineup. Hutton is owned in one percent of Yahoo leagues and although that will rise slightly in the coming days, we'd consider him just a streaming option for now. 

Video: TOR@EDM: Gardiner's pass deflects past Talbot in 2nd

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs 

Clearing out a minute muncher like Dion Phaneuf is always going to create some opportunities for others, and that is the case here. Many have shouldered a bigger load since the Maple Leafs traded their captain to the Ottawa Senators, but our focus is on Gardiner. He's well-known to fantasy owners, especially after breaking the 30-point plateau twice in his career, but he hasn't been heavily owned and is only on five percent of Yahoo rosters. That is probably because his points-per-game average dropped from .40 during his first full season in the league to .39 and then to .30 last season. The good news is he has it back up to .38 this season, and it could be bound for greater heights minus Phaneuf. He's been given a bigger slice of the pie, especially on the power play, where he averaged 2:06 per game this season. That's spiked to 3:12 per night in the four games since the trade. He's also managed to get more involved in the offense at even strength, with two goals, two assists and eight shots on goal. This is a good time to buy into Gardiner. 

Johnny Boychuk, New York Islanders 

Boychuk is the most heavily owned of this group, being rostered in 63 percent of Yahoo leagues, but he could be acquired via trade in many leagues or found on waivers in shallow formats. He's not showing any signs of rust since returning to the lineup after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury and has notched two goals and three assists in six games. He also has 14 SOG and a plus-4 rating over that span alongside Nick Leddy. He is the safest grab of the players mentioned here, and we'd advise you to pursue his services in fantasy. 

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TRENDING UP 

Video: STL@FLA: Huberdeau tallies off Campbell's pretty feed

Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers 

If you are looking for a steady veteran defenseman to help bolster your blue line, Campbell could be your man. The 36-year-old looks to be feeding off of the youthful exuberance of 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr and has three goals and 10 points in his past 12 games. He has 16 shots on goal and a plus-9 rating over that span and has pushed his season totals to five goals, 24 points, 73 shots on goal and a hearty plus-21 rating. Campbell is owned in just 33 percent of leagues. 

TRENDING DOWN 

Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche 

Beauchemin can still help fantasy teams in SOG (93) and blocked shots (182), but he hasn't been very helpful in terms of goals and assists. He does have seven goals and 26 points, which shows he is capable of heating up, but he has four points over his last 18 games. He's still owned in 54 percent of leagues, but it may be time to seek more productive options. 

KEEP AN EYE ON

Video: MIN@STL: Dumba gets the Wild on the board

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild 

The seventh pick in the 2012 NHL Draft is quietly popping up in fantasy conversations. He has been held off the board in back-to-back games, but recently had a five-game scoring streak (two goals, four assists). That pushed his season totals to seven goals and 17 points, 10 of which have come on the power play, and 112 shots on goal. If he finds a way to produce as he did over his past seven games, Dumba could become very fantasy relevant. He's owned in 16 percent of leagues.   

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TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN 

These rankings are based on expectations for the rest of the season. Value is quantified by defense pairings, power-play usage, past performance and overall upside in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal). 

1. Erik Karlsson, OTT 
2. Brent Burns, SJS 
3. John Klingberg, DAL (+1) 
4. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (+1) 
5. P.K. Subban, MTL (-2) 
6. Duncan Keith, CHI 
7. Roman Josi, NSH (+1) 
8. Kris Letang, PIT (-1) 
9. Victor Hedman, TBL (+4) 
10. Shea Weber, NSH (-1) 
11. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (-1) 
12. Tyson Barrie, COL (-1) 
13. Drew Doughty, LAK (-1) 
14. Ryan Suter, MIN (+3) 
15. Brent Seabrook, CHI (+1) 
16. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (-2) 
17. John Carlson, WSH (+3) 
18. Jake Muzzin, LAK (+1) 
19. Justin Faulk, CAR (-4) 
20. TJ Brodie, CGY (+1) 
21. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (NR - INJ.) 
22. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (-4) 
23. Keith Yandle, NYR (-1) 
24. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (+4) 
25. Mark Giordano, CGY (-1) 
26. Andrei Markov, MTL (-1) 
27. Sami Vatanen, ANA (-1) 
28. Dion Phaneuf, OTT (+1) 
29. Anton Stralman, TBL (-6) 
30. Torey Krug, BOS (-3) 
31. Johnny Boychuk, NYI (+2) 
32. Jason Demers, DAL 
33. Erik Johnson, COL (+1) 
34. Andrej Sekera, EDM (+1) 
35. Zdeno Chara, BOS (+2) 
36. Nick Leddy, NYI (+2) 
37. Mike Green, DET (-6) 
38. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (+1) 
39. Francois Beauchemin, COL (-9) 
40. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (+4) 
41. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (+1) 
42. Alex Goligoski, DAL (+1) 
43. Seth Jones, CBJ (+3) 
44. Mattias Ekholm, NSH (+3) 
45. Morgan Rielly, TOR   
46. Brian Campbell, FLA (+12) 
47. Matt Niskanen, WSH (-7) 
48. Mark Streit, PHI (-7) 
49. Cam Fowler, ANA (+2) 
50. Ryan Ellis, NSH (+2) 
51. Trevor Daley, PIT (-15) 
52. Alec Martinez, LAK (+1) 
53. Colton Parayko, STL (+2) 
54. Cody Franson, BUF (-6) 
55. Olli Maatta, PIT (-6) 
56. Jared Spurgeon, MIN 
57. Michael Stone, ARI 
58. Nick Holden, COL (-4) 
59. Jake Gardiner, TOR (NEW) 
60. Tyler Myers, WPG (-1) 

Dropped out: Dmitry Orlov  

Key injuries: Alex Pietrangelo, Niklas Kronwall, Alexander Edler, Michael Del Zotto, Jason Garrison, Jeff Petry, Oscar Klefbom, James Wisniewski  

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