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Fantasy D-men: Must-have Ducks' options

Vatanen, Fowler key in Anaheim's run; updated top 60 rankings

by Brian Metzer / Correspondent

The Anaheim Ducks looked like a team that could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs as recently as late December. They entered the Christmas holiday break last in the Pacific Division, but they have been rising ever since.

Since the holiday break, they are a League-best 25-4-3. They've been even more impressive since January 20, going 18-1-2. That run includes an 11-game winning streak, which ended in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday.

Many things have played into their turnaround. They have seen leaders such as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry break out of early-season slumps. They've built three forward lines that have been productive and they've gotten outstanding play from goaltenders John Gibson and Frederik Andersen.

Something that has not gotten as much attention is the play of their defensemen and how they have contributed offensively, driven their power play and helped them win games. This also is a defense corps that can help you down the stretch in your fantasy league.

For the sake of this discussion, let's look at the past month, from Feb. 9 to Anaheim's loss against Washington. In that span, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and their fellow blue liners have the Ducks leading the League in defensemen scoring.  

As a group, Anaheim's defensemen have 44 points in the span, seven ahead of the Calgary Flames defense (37; 2nd). The Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks are tied for third with 35.

The Ducks defense also leads in power-play points during that span with 27. Their closest competitor, the Chicago Blackhawks, have gotten 16 PPP from their defensemen during that span. The Ducks have scored on 37.0 percent (20-for-54) of their opportunities since Feb. 7. They also scored two or more power-play goals in a game five times.

How can this help you? You might think it's all coming from Vatanen, who is owned in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues and is likely not available in yours. Vatanen has three goals, 13 points, 10 PPP, 35 shots on goal and a plus-4 rating in 15 games since Feb. 7.

But here's where it gets interesting. There are players that may be lurking on your waiver wire that can help in standard leagues and a few who most definitely are there that can help in deeper leagues.



Cam Fowler (40 percent owned)

Fowler is skating on the Ducks' top defense pairing. After going without a point in his first six games back from injury, he's started to look like the player who had 40 points in 76 games as a rookie in 2010-11.

He has one goal and 11 points in his past 12 games. Nine of those points have come on the power play and he's put up 21 SOG and a plus-4 rating. He's 10th in scoring among defensemen since Feb. 7.

Fowler has been inconsistent at times during the past several seasons, but he definitely has value as long as the Ducks continue their hot play.

Video: ANA@ARI: Fowler pushes the Ducks' lead to three goals

Hampus Lindholm (44 percent owned)

Lindholm is on pace for 28 points this season, which is six less than last season. That is disheartening, as is his minus-1 rating. Fantasy owners were hoping he'd build on the combined plus-54 he had in his first two NHL seasons.

That picture doesn't scream waiver wire commodity, but his numbers during the past month just might. He has up two goals, eight points, six PPP, 24 SOG and a plus-3 rating in his past 15 games.

He doesn't see as much power play time as Vatanen or Fowler, but he's still averaging 2:04 per game. He's second among Ducks defensemen in average time on ice per game, so he'll get his chances to add to his totals.

It's also worth noting that he has 20 blocked shots in the past 30 days and 100 for the season.



Kevin Bieksa (7 percent owned)

Bieksa is skating on the Ducks' top defense pairing with Fowler and averaging 21:16 per game. He's getting 1:31 minutes per game on the power play, and he's using that time to chip in with some modest offensive totals.

He has two goals and four points in 15 games since Feb. 7, with two of those points coming on the power play. He also has a plus-1 rating and 30 SOG in that time.

He also brings the element of penalty minutes. Bieksa has 34 since Feb. 7 and 97 for the season. He also leads the Ducks with 143 hits.

Video: CGY@ANA: Bieksa adds to lead on the power play

Simon Despres (2 percent owned) or Josh Manson (1 percent owned)

Manson and Despres likely qualify as pickups in the deepest of formats. But when a team is rolling the way the Ducks are, everyone needs to be under a magnifying glass.

Manson has two goals and five points since Feb. 7. He won't contribute anything in terms of the power play but he is a plus-5 with 14 SOG in the past month. That can help in very deep leagues at the bottom of your roster.

Despres is trying to gain a permanent spot in the lineup since he returned from a concussion Jan. 26; he's been alternating with Clayton Stoner. In 13 games since Feb. 7 he has three assists, a plus-4 rating 17 SOG.



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, PPP and SOG).

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

Dropped out: Dmitry Orlov, Olli Maatta, Jared Spurgeon

Key injuries: Justin Faulk, John Carlson, Jason Demers, Alexander Edler, Oscar Klefbom, James Wisniewski

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