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Fantasy top 60 'D': Faulk rising in the ranks

by Brian Metzer / NHL.com

Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with in-depth defensemen analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer will be your go-to guy for fantasy blue line advice all season long.

UPDATED TOP 60 DEFENSEMEN RANKINGS

Coming into each fantasy season there are always a couple of players that are primed for a breakout. Maybe they finished the prior season on a hot streak. Maybe they moved to a new team, or in the case of the Carolina Hurricanes' Justin Faulk, they just have all the tools to be an impact offensive player.

Harnessing those tools sometimes takes some effort and that is what we have seen with Faulk during his career.

He managed to show them during a season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2010-11, when he had eight goals and 33 points in 39 games and helped UMD win an NCAA championship, after which he signed his entry-level contract with the Hurricanes.

As a rookie in 2011-12, he had eight goals and 14 assists in 66 games with the Hurricanes. His 0.33 points-per-game average got fantasy owners talking and he has been labeled as a must-have players ever since.

The only problem is that while he has tantalized from time to time during the past three seasons, he hasn't separated himself from the pack. He has made steady increases in terms of points per game, climbing from 0.33 to 0.39 to 0.42 last season. But that hardly made him a must-own player, especially with so many other options.

Through all of that he has had his ardent supporters and if you are one of them you are being rewarded this season.

The 22-year-old is one of five defensemen to lead or be tied for his team's scoring lead entering the holiday break, joining Keith Yandle of the Arizona Coyotes, Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames, Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers (tied), and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (tied).

Faulk has not yet found himself into the top 10 in any scoring categories among defensemen, but he is tied for eighth in the League among defensemen with 92 shots on goal. He is in the top 20 in all other offensive categories: tied for 14th in goals (six), tied for 20th in assists (14) and tied for 17 in points (20).

He also is helping his owners in some secondary categories, with seven power-play points, two shorthanded goals, 44 blocked shots and 56 hits.

If there is something that is a bit of an eyesore in his stat line it's his minus-13 rating, which is the seventh-worst among defensemen who have played at least 30 games.

Faulk is owned in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues, but now might be the time to try and snag him from a fellow owner or the waiver wire. He is showing signs of having a career season, as he's on pace for 47 points, but there are some other positives.

Justin Faulk
Defense - CAR
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 20
SOG: 92 | +/-: -13
Speculation is running rampant that the Hurricanes could be listening to offers on Andrej Sekera, who currently plays one of the points on the Hurricanes' top power-play unit. If he were to move, Faulk certainly would slide into that slot.

Carolina also is anticipating the return of Jordan Staal next week, which will make the team better as a whole. That move could impact the power play, the Hurricanes' ability to score goals and their ability to stop them, thus helping the plus/minus situation. 

TRENDING UP

Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins -- Hamilton had two points during his first nine games this season, but he has 18 points in his past 26. He was had a five-game scoreless streak before he had two goals and one assist against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, but he is a threat to pick up points on a nightly basis. The three-point game could be the start of another hot streak for the youngster, who is skating on the Bruins' top pairing getting power-play time. Hamilton is owned in 72 percent of Yahoo Leagues.

TRENDING DOWN

Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Stralman was a fantasy darling while Victor Hedman was out of the lineup, but his offensive opportunities have dried up since Hedman has returned. Stralman has just one assist in his past 12 games and has been shifted off the top power-play unit. His value now lies in his plus/minus, but he's dipped there as well; he's a plus-1 in his past 12 games.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Derrick Pouliot, Pittsburgh Penguins -- There is no indication of how long Pouliot will be in Pittsburgh, but after scoring on his first shot in his first game Saturday, he had an assist Monday in his second game. Pouliot was leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League in scoring with 20 points (seven goals) prior to his call-up. He is playing on the Penguins' third pairing with Rob Scuderi and getting power-play time with the second unit. He is owned in four percent of Yahoo Leagues.


TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These rankings are based on expectations for the season ahead. Value is quantified by defense pairings, overall upside and past performance in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal). NOTE: Players with D/RW eligibility in Yahoo leagues (Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Burns) have been ranked as defensemen.

1 Mark Giordano, CGY (SAME) 31 Alex Goligoski, DAL (-2)
2 Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (SAME) 32 Roman Josi, NSH (+2)
3 Brent Burns, D/RW, SJS (+1) 33 Marek Zidlicky, NJD (-2)
4 Erik Karlsson, OTT (+2) 34 Lubomir Visnovsky, NYI (-1)
5 Kris Letang, PIT (+1) 35 Dennis Wideman, CGY (SAME)
6 P.K. Subban, MTL (-2) 36 Trevor Daley, DAL (+1)
7 Shea Weber, NSH (+2) 37 Nick Leddy, NYI (+1)
8 Ryan Suter, MIN (+2) 38 Matt Niskanen, WSH (-2)
9 Keith Yandle, ARI (-2) 39 Jake Muzzin, LAK (SAME)
10 Victor Hedman, TBL (-2) 40 Justin Schultz, EDM (+1)
11 Duncan Keith, CHI (+1) 41 Aaron Ekblad, FLA (-1)
12 TJ Brodie, CGY (-1) 42 Erik Johnson, COL (NR)
13 Sami Vatanen, ANA (-1) 43 Torey Krug, BOS (+2)
14 Alex Pietrangelo, STL (SAME) 44 Dion Phaneuf, TOR (-2)
15 Dustin Byfuglien, D/RW, WPG (SAME) 45 Hampus Lindholm, ANA (-2)
16 Tyson Barrie, COL (+2) 46 Dougie Hamilton, BOS (+5)
17 Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (SAME) 47 Justin Faulk, CAR (+5)
18 Drew Doughty, LAK (+1) 48 Andrej Sekera, CAR (-2)
19 Niklas Kronwall, DET (-3) 49 Anton Stralman, TBL (-5)
20 Zdeno Chara, BOS (+2) 50 Danny DeKeyser, DET (SAME)
21 John Carlson, WSH (SAME) 51 Jack Johnson, CBJ (-2)
22 Andrei Markov, MTL (+1) 52 Brian Campbell, FLA (-5)
23 Cam Fowler, ANA (-3) 53 Mike Green, WSH (SAME)
24 Mark Streit, PHI (+1) 54 Jared Spurgeon, MIN (-6)
25 Ryan McDonagh, NYR (-1) 55 Marco Scandella, MIN (SAME)
26 Johnny Boychuk, NYI (NR) 56 Kevin Klein, NYR (SAME)
27 Cody Franson, TOR (+1) 57 John Klingberg, DAL (SAME)
28 Brent Seabrook, CHI (+2) 58 Alexander Edler, VAN (SAME)
29 Jason Garrison, TBL (-3) 59 Ryan Ellis, NSH (+1)
30 James Wisniewski, CBJ (-3) 60 Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (NR)

Dropped out: Dan Boyle

Key injuries: Olli Maatta, Toby Enstrom, Ryan Murray, Kimmo Timonen, Jacob Trouba, Zach Bogosian, Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, Damon Severson

*DTD: Day-to-day; NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

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