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Fantasy top 60 'D': Replacing Pens' Letang from within

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 Pittsburgh Penguins boast some of the most dangerous offensive players in the NHL, and that makes them very popular with fantasy owners. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are among the first players drafted in Yahoo Standard leagues and when defensemen start going, it doesn't take long for Kris Letang to fall into the drafted queue.

The problem with these Penguins stars is they all come with their share of injury risk, and Letang might be the riskiest.

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The 27-year-old has played a full complement of games just one time over the course of his nine-year career, and that came in 2010-11 when he put up a career-high 50 points. That was just a glimmer of what was to come and his .61 points per game had owners believing he was on his way toward becoming one of the elite fantasy defensemen.

Letang has become one of the elite and seen his points per game rise to .83 over the course of the past four years. The problem lies in the fact he's played just 145 of 236 games over that span and he is currently out of the lineup again.

The Penguins placed Letang on injured reserve Tuesday after he sustained a lower-body injury in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes last Friday. He has been out of the lineup since, missing two games and leaving his owners scrambling to replace his production.

He has appeared in 22 games this season, rolling up four goals, 18 points, 14 penalty minutes, 70 shots on goal and a plus-1 rating. The most intriguing aspect of Letang's game has been his improved power-play production, where he already had 11 points. He was doing a better job of getting pucks to the net and was getting all of the ice time with the top unit featuring Crosby, Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz.

The good news for fantasy owners is they might be able to offset the loss of Letang in much the same way that the Penguins are doing so, with Olli Maatta, Christian Ehrhoff and Paul Martin.

Maatta got the first chance to fill in for Letang on the power play Saturday, skating 3:39 of his 24:49 with the extra man. That was a high water mark for Penguins defensemen that night, with Ehrhoff and Martin skating 1:13 and 47 seconds respectively on the power play.

Christian Ehrhoff
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 3 GAMES
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 8
SOG: 45 | +/-: 15
Coach Mike Johnston made a more concerted effort to spread the power-play ice time Tuesday, as Ehrhoff led the way with 2:22, Maatta 2:07 and Martin 1:53. All three players were over 20 minutes for the game, with Ehrhoff skating 24:06.

All three are capable of putting up offensive numbers, but we'd suggest trying to acquire them in this order: Ehrhoff, Maatta, Martin. But with the offensive talent that surrounds them, any could be a viable fantasy option.

Ehrhoff, who is owned in 74 percent of leagues, has picked up one goal, seven assists, eight penalty minutes, 1 power-play point, 45 shots on goal and a very attractive plus-15 rating. Maatta is owned in 20 percent of leagues and has collected one goal, seven assists, 10 penalty minutes, 1 power-play point, 22 shots on goal and a plus-1 rating. Martin has six points, 10 penalty minutes, 19 shots on goal and a plus-8 rating.


John Carlson
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 3 GAMES
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 18
SOG: 59 | +/-: 3
TRENDING UP

John Carlson, Washington Capitals

We mentioned Carlson here a few weeks back, but he is still probably a bit under-owned in Yahoo standard leagues. He is currently riding a three-game scoring streak that has seen him pick up two goals and four assists. He has nine shots on goal over that span, along with 10 hits and a plus-5 rating. He has pushed his season totals to 18 points (four goals), 59 shots on goal, and a plus-3 rating and is owned in just 80 percent of leagues.

TRENDING DOWN

Andrej Sekera, Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have had a rough go early this season and many of their players are suffering for it. Sekera is one of the guys who aren't providing the value owners thought they would get when they drafted him. He has just two points over his past seven games and none in five. He is also a minus-4 over that span. He still has the ability to contribute, but we would advise against making him a chief source of production from your blue line.

Danny DeKeyser
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 3 GAMES
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 10
SOG: 33 | +/-: 0
KEEP AN EYE ON

Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings

DeKeyser has been around long enough to get comfortable on the defensive side of the puck and his offensive game is rounding into form. He has picked up one goal (a game-winner), six points and 16 shots on goal over his past nine games. He is owned in just six percent of Yahoo standard leagues and could help your team while the Red Wings stay hot.


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

Dropped out: Michael Del Zotto

Key injuries: Kris Letang, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mike Green, Tobias Enstrom, Ryan Murray, Kimmo Timonen, Alec Martinez

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

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