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Fantasy top 60 'D': Penguins' options without Letang

by Brian Metzer / NHL.com

Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey contributor Brian Metzer provides in-depth defenseman analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer is your go-to guy for fantasy D-men advice all season long.


Things aren't going according to plan for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are outside the Stanley Cup Playoff picture in the Eastern Conference and have recently gone through a coaching change. Most of their problems can be tied to an inability to score goals, something that has left fantasy owners who used high draft picks on players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang feeling left out as well.

Crosby and Malkin have shown flashes of getting back to form, but Letang is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. That has his owners, 91-percent strong in Yahoo standard leagues, worried that the defenseman who they selected 55th on average will again spent time on the shelf.

Letang, who has a goal and 14 points in 25 games, isn't just hurting fantasy owners. He's left a pretty large hole on the Penguins' blue line as well. The Penguins don't have the depth to fill in for the 19:14 of even-strength ice time, and 4:20 on the power play, which the 28-year-old has left behind.

There might not be a single player on the Penguins roster that can do all of the things Letang does, but they has used a committee to try and offset the loss, including acquiring Trevor Daley from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Olli Maatta, who is owned in 44 percent of Yahoo leagues, has probably shouldered the biggest load while Letang has been out. The Penguins' first-round pick (No. 22) in the 2012 NHL Draft missed six games in mid-November through early December, but since returning to the lineup he has two goals and two assists in five games. He has four goals, eight points, a plus-nine rating and 29 shots on goal in 23 games. The 21-year-old is averaging 15:46 minutes per game at even strength, with 50 seconds coming on the power play.

The Penguins have also elevated Brian Dumoulin into a more high profile role and that began when Letang was still healthy. The young defenseman has five assists in his past six games and seven assists in 29 games. His average ice time (16:25 per game) has passed Maatta's with 40 seconds coming on the power play. He is available in almost every Yahoo standard league and is an intriguing pick up in deeper leagues.

One name that no fantasy owner was talking about even three weeks ago is David Warsofsky. He was recalled when Maatta was lost to a lower-body injury on Nov. 19, but didn't get into a game until Dec. 1. He was almost immediately given a chance on the power play and though he has no points in six games, he is skating 19:25 minutes per game, with 2:15 coming on the power play. He has 10 shots on goal over that span and is readily available in almost all Yahoo leagues.

Daley will probably leapfrog a few of the internal options when he dresses for his first game Wednesday against the Boston Bruins. It is safe to assume he'll get far more than the 13:12 at even strength he was averaging with the Blackhawks. Daley has six points in 29 games, but slow starts aren't all that out of character for him. Last season, one when he set career highs with 16 goals, 22 assists and 38 points, he had 12 points through his first 25 games, and finished with 20 over his final 29.

The Penguins employed two new-look power play units at practice Tuesday, one featuring Malkin and Warsofsky on the points and another with Dumoulin and Maatta. It is safe to assume that Daley will play next to Malkin at some point, thus pushing Warsofsky to the second unit.

What that means for Maatta and Dumoulin isn't very clear, but the fact that Sullivan has made some radical changes to his lineup ahead of the game in Boston suggests the hot hand will get a chance. All of the above mentioned defensemen would be tremendous streaming options moving forward based on info from that day's skate.


TRENDING UP

Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Giordano is not back to being who he was a season ago, but he has two goals and four assists in his past eight games. It is no small coincidence that his resurgence has translated into a 6-1-1 run for the Flames, including a current six-game winning streak.

He has provided some great category coverage for owners that hung in there with him over this span, something that we have been advising. This eight-game span has seen him accrue 10 hits, 17 blocked shots, two power-play points, a plus-two rating and 20 shots on goal.

If Giordano can be had cheaply, it might be time to try and acquire him from an owner who hasn't been paying attention over the past two weeks.

TRENDING DOWN

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues

Pietrangelo may be a great defenseman on a real sheet of ice for the Blues, but it is slightly confusing to see him owned in more than 90 percent of Yahoo standard leagues. Yes, he still gets more than 20 minutes of ice time per game, with 2:26 of that coming on the power play, but he has two goals and 11 points in 32 games.

That number gets even more surprising when you consider that he has two points in his past 17 games.

I know we just mentioned that manager in your league who might be taking a siesta, but now might be the perfect time to offer Pietrangelo in a trade to get the help you need at another position, because Kevin Shattenkirk is going to be the one getting all the points on the Blues back end.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Ron Hainsey, Carolina Hurricanes

It is always fun to see a veteran earn his way onto fantasy rosters in the middle of a season, especially one who comes out of left field. That is what Hainsey is doing right now. He has very quietly scored a goal and six points in his past eight games with 11 penalty minutes, 15 shots on goal and 12 hits. This could dry up at any point, but he might be worth consideration as an injury replacement and is owned in three percent of leagues.


TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

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

Dropped out: Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Key injuries: Kris Letang, Mark Streit, Kyle Quincey, James Wisniewski

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