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Fantasy top 60 'D': Ristolainen, Gostisbehere thriving

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.


Fantasy leagues are not often won with the picks that you make in the first, second or even third rounds. More times than not, it's the players you draft in the late rounds or pick up on the waiver wire that carry you to a championship.

That's where you identify and take a chance on rookies, injury replacements and players primed for a breakout, players such as Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers and Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres.

Each of these young defensemen fall into those categories, and are helping savvy owners win categories and match-ups on a weekly basis.

Ristolainen is in the middle of a breakout season. Coach Dan Bylsma has given him a ton of responsibility and he is thriving. The Sabres and fantasy owners have been waiting for this performance since the 21-year-old was selected eighth in the 2013 NHL Draft. Judging by the fact that he was drafted in four percent of Yahoo standard leagues, not many owners expected it to happen this season.

He has since seen his ownership leap to 61 percent on the strength of his four goals and 18 points in 28 games. That has him tied for 10th in scoring among defensemen and tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference. He averages more than 24 minutes of ice time per game, which includes more than two minutes per night on the power play and the penalty kill. He has been held off of the score sheet in his past two games, but had six points in five games ahead of this mini-drought.

The 6-foot-4, 207-pound Finnish product is also a must own in leagues that credit hits and blocked shots. He has 48 and 46, respectively.

The interesting thing about Ristolainen is that he is a minus-three for a rebuilding team that's lost nine of its past 12 games. That's very manageable he's been even or better in 11 of his past 14 games.

Gostisbehere, 22, was recalled from the American Hockey League and pressed into duty when Mark Streit went on injured reserve. He's since been handed the reins to the Flyers' top power-play unit and is logging more than three minutes per game with the man advantage. He's also scored four goals and eight points in 12 games, including five on the power play and two game winners, and has 27 shots on goal and a plus-three rating.

"The Ghost" is just that on many fantasy rosters right now and that shouldn't be the case. Anytime you can get a player who is averaging .67 points and .42 power-play points per game off of the waiver wire you need to do it.

Gostisbehere might not stay in his current role when Streit returns to the Flyers lineup, but that isn't happening in the very near future, so take advantage of his 31 percent ownership and bring him into the fold.


TRENDING UP

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 18
SOG: 69 | +/-: -6
Weber is likely owned in your league, but I've seen him dropped over the past month after he had 10 points in his first 23 games. That wasn't very Weber-like and it scared owners. We've seen the same thing with several other star defenders in the early going, which made Weber's breakout this week an affirmation for being patient with struggling stars.

The typically high-scoring Weber has three goals and five assists in his past five games. He put up 12 shots over that span and collected five of those points on the power play. He's also sparked defensive partner Roman Josi, who has three goals and four assists in his past five games.

Weber was held scoreless Tuesday in Nashville's 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, but it appears that he is ready to return to his usual form.

TRENDING DOWN

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs

Rielly is definitely a player you want to have in a dynasty or keeper league. He has a ton of offensive upside and could one day be someone who ranks in the top five scorers among his position. That could happen later this season if he heats up, but the bulk of his 14 points came during a nine-game stretch between Oct. 24 and Nov. 10 that saw him score three goals and six assists.

Since then he has three points in his past 13 games. That isn't the kind of production that presses owners to use him on a nightly basis. We'd suggest looking elsewhere for production until he starts to heat up again.

KEEP AN EYE ON

John Moore, New Jersey Devils

Moore has never exceeded four goals or 15 points in a season, but that could be changing with the surprising Devils. After scoring a goal and five assists in his past seven games, he's pushed his 27-game total to two goals and nine assists. He's playing more than 19 minutes per game, including an average of 1:01 on the power play. He's skating on the Devils' second pair with Damon Severson and seems to be activating in the offensive zone much more than any time in his career.

Moore is owned in one percent of Yahoo leagues, so if you need some defensive support he'd be an interesting pick up.


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

Dropped out: Alec Martinez

Key injuries: Mark Streit, James Wisniewski, Kyle Quincey

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