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Fantasy top 60 'D': Hidden gems for second half

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

The All-Star break is typically looked at as the halfway point of the season, but in reality most teams are already closer to 50 games played. With that in mind, it is time to start taking a hard look at your fantasy rosters and identifying areas you can shore up via trade and/or waiver wire pick-ups.

Believe it or not, you can find significant value this late in the season if you know where to look for it. There are players that might have dealt with injuries through the first half who are getting healthy, or those who will change zip codes via trade.

Defensemen can sometimes slip through the cracks a bit more than forwards or goalies since not as many are started from team-to-team. One example of this occurred back in 2010-11 when Grant Clitsome burst onto the scene after being called up by the Columbus Blue Jackets after he had 15 points in 32 games with Springfield of the American Hockey League.

Clitsome currently averages .35 points per game over the course of his 205 career NHL games, but that 2010-11 season was magical for him and the fantasy owners that took a chance on him. He had 19 points in 31 games as the Blue Jackets came down the stretch. That .61 points-per-game average was a career high and still comes up when folks talk of late-season value picks.

Here are a few players you should target who might give you a boost moving through the second half of your schedule.

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

Trouba, who turns 21 in February, got off to a slow start with 11 points in his first 31 games. That production was shocking because he set expectations high for himself by averaging .44 points per game a season ago. Things got even more disappointing when he was lost to an upper-body injury for 18 games. The good news is Trouba is back in the lineup and has a goal and an assist over his past two games. He was particularly impressive Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, collecting the aforementioned goal and attempting nine shots, with four making it to the net. He had four hits and three blocked shots and looks like a guy who is primed for a nice second half with a team that has been one of the hottest in the Western Conference. He is currently owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo Standard leagues.

Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

Ryan Suter
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 28 GAMES
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 25
SOG: 92 | +/-: -8
Suter has not had a very effective season, at least according to his standards. He has been particularly disappointing in terms of his plus-minus and that has scared owners off a bit. He is still owned in 91 percent of Yahoo Standard leagues, but could be a nice buy-low option for the second half. When things are going well for Suter, he is able to produce solid totals in virtually every fantasy category, which is why the All-Star events might have been good for him. He got to relax and focus on having fun and rolling up the offense, rather than dwelling on the trials of tribulations of his team and his season. He had up a goal and an assist as a member of Team Toews and that came on the heels of a two-assist game right before the break. Call it a hunch, but Suter is averaging .60 points per game thus far and we think he's in store for a nice second half.

Andrej Sekera, Carolina Hurricanes

Andrej Sekera
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 28 GAMES
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 15
SOG: 58 | +/-: -6
Sekera always showed some offensive upside, but finally broke out with a career-high 44 points last season. That had many clamoring for a repeat, but it has yet to happen. Part of the problem has been the Hurricanes themselves, wallowing near the bottom of the League standings all season. Sekera gets plenty of ice time on the top pairing with Justin Faulk and time on the power play, but has yet to reward owners who have hung in there with him. While there is speculation the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent would like to re-sign in Carolina, there is just as likely a chance he'll be traded at or before the NHL Trade Deadline. That could be just what the doctor ordered, as he'd likely be on the move to a contender. It might be worth stashing him away so that one could reap the benefits of a new locale. Sekera is owned in 13 percent of Yahoo Standard leagues.

Michael Del Zotto, Philadelphia Flyers

Del Zotto was a fantasy darling as recently as 2011-12 when he put up 10 goals and 41 points for the New York Rangers. His production dried up over the past few seasons, which resulted in his bouncing from New York to Nashville to Philadelphia. He isn't quite back to his previous levels, but he has shown he's taking the game seriously and has been a big contributor for the Flyers this season. He has three goals and 14 points in 36 games, and has been particularly hot of late, with points in four straight games. He's scored two goals and had three assists over that span and is getting more responsibility on a nightly basis. He has played over 20 minutes in all but two January games and is getting 1:47 per night on the power play. Del Zotto looks like a great second-half play. He is owned in 12 percent of Yahoo Standard leagues.

Seth Jones, Nashville Predators

Seth Jones
STATS PRIOR TO JAN. 28 GAMES
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 15
SOG: 60 | +/-: 11
When folks think of fantasy production from the Predators blue line they typically focus on Shea Weber, Roman Josi and even the injured Ryan Ellis, but one of their newer kids on the block is starting to heat up. Second-year sensation Jones has done lots of good things over the course of his time in the League, but it looks like the offense is starting to come. The 20-year-old has five points (one goal) over his past five games and nine points over his past 15. For the season he is up to 15 points (three goals), he's posted a plus-11 rating, has 37 hits and has 51 blocked shots. He has one goal and six assists on the power play. He is playing on a good team and skating well over 20 minutes on most nights. He is owned in 20 percent of Yahoo Standard 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 Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (SAME) 31 Torey Krug, BOS (+2)
2 Mark Giordano, CGY (SAME) 32 James Wisniewski, CBJ (-1)
3 Brent Burns, D/RW, SJS (SAME) 33 Dennis Wideman, CGY (-1)
4 Kris Letang, PIT (+2) 34 Jake Muzzin, LAK (SAME)
5 Shea Weber, NSH (-1) 35 Tobias Enstrom, WPG (+1)
6 Erik Karlsson, OTT (-1) 36 Justin Faulk, CAR (+3)
7 Dustin Byfuglien, D/RW, WPG (+3) 37 Trevor Daley, DAL (NR - IR)
8 Keith Yandle, ARI (SAME) 38 Nick Leddy, NYI (-1)
9 P.K. Subban, MTL (-2) 39 Aaron Ekblad, FLA (-1)
10 Sami Vatanen, ANA (-1) 40 Christian Ehrhoff, PIT (-5)
11 TJ Brodie, CGY (SAME) 41 Mike Green, WSH (+3)
12 Duncan Keith, CHI (SAME) 42 Marek Zidlicky, NJD (-2)
13 Mark Streit, PHI (SAME) 43 Jason Garrison, TBL (-1)
14 Victor Hedman, TBL (SAME) 44 Anton Stralman, TBL (-1)
15 Alex Pietrangelo, STL (SAME) 45 Dougie Hamilton, BOS (SAME)
16 Drew Doughty, LAK (SAME) 46 Jacob Trouba, WPG (NR - IR)
17 John Carlson, WSH (SAME) 47 Hampus Lindholm, ANA (+1)
18 Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (SAME) 48 Michael Del Zotto, PHI (NEW)
19 Niklas Kronwall, DET (SAME) 49 Justin Schultz, EDM (-3)
20 Tyson Barrie, COL (SAME) 50 Danny Dekeyser, DET (-1)
21 Johnny Boychuk, NYI (+1) 51 Matt Niskanen, WSH (-1)
22 Ryan Suter, MIN (+1) 52 Zach Bogosian, WPG (-1)
23 Roman Josi, NSH (-2) 53 John Klingberg, DAL (-1)
24 Andrei Markov, MTL (SAME) 54 Brian Campbell, FLA (SAME)
25 Zdeno Chara, BOS (SAME) 55 Jack Johnson, CBJ (SAME)
26 Ryan McDonagh, NYR (SAME) 56 Andrej Sekera, CAR (SAME)
27 Cam Fowler, ANA (SAME) 57 Alexander Edler, VAN (SAME)
28 Brent Seabrook, CHI (SAME) 58 Kevin Klein, NYR (-5)
29 Cody Franson, TOR (SAME) 59 Jared Spurgeon, MIN (-1)
30 Alex Goligoski, DAL (SAME) 60 Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (-1)

Dropped out: Marco Scandella

Key injuries: Dion Phaneuf, Erik Johnson, Ryan Ellis, Olli Maatta, Ryan Murray, Kimmo Timonen, Damon Severson, Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Carle

*NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury

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