Skip to main content

Fantasy top 60 defensemen: Klingberg in lofty territory

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.


Nicklas Lidstrom entered the NHL Hall of Fame on Monday night and it got this fantasy writer, who specializes in the coverage of defensemen, feeling nostalgic. After all, Lidstrom wasn't just one of the best defensemen on the ice, but one of the best in terms of pure, unadulterated fantasy production.

That production, especially a season like he had in 2005-06, when he scored 80 points and won one of his seven Norris Trophies, has not been duplicated since.

The good news is there are several players who grew up watching the Detroit Red Wings phenom that could be heirs to his fantasy throne, and it is no small coincidence they brandish a flag bearing blue and yellow. Yes, they are Lidstrom's countrymen Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning) and the focal point of this column, John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars.

There must be something in the water in Sweden, because all of the aforementioned players are wizards with the puck and possess more offensive abilities than many of the forwards in the NHL. Not coincidentally, Klingberg, who leads defensemen in scoring with 15 points in 16 games this season, is a converted forward who grew up idolizing Peter Forsberg.

The fact Klingberg is playing at such a high level is amazing, especially considering he has only played defense for eight years.

"He's been awesome," defense partner Alex Goligoski told the Stars website. "He's been as good as he was last year, so I don't think it's a real revelation. He's just that good of a player and he's played the way he can."

To think Klingberg has been better than he was a season ago is scary for opposing teams. He scored .62 points per game as a rookie, with 11 goals, 40 points and 98 shots on goal. He had 12 power-play points and three game-winning goals.

This season has been even better, as Goligoski said.

Klingberg is scoring at a pace of .94 points per game, with a plus-7 rating, and has been outstanding on the power play, where he has one goal and six assists.

He averages 23:17 of ice time per night, 3:15 of that coming with the extra man. He is still developing in the defensive zone a bit, but for our purposes that isn't of consequence. Right now all we need to know is he's a gifted offensive player getting lots of time with the likes of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp.

"[Klingberg], you want the puck in his hands out there when you are trying to score," Sharp told the Stars website. "He's so crafty, and he makes things happen."

He's making it happen 5-on-5, where heading into the Stars game Tuesday he was averaging 1.5 points per 60 minutes for the season. He is even better on the power play, where he was averaging an impressive 7.61 points per 60. There is no doubt Klingberg will use his power-play acumen to stay at or near the top of the scoring list for defensemen.

He still has a long way to go if he wants to reach the heights of Lidstrom, but it's an easy comparison to make.

Lidstrom was just 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and was never an imposing physical specimen, but managed to become one of the best ever at his position. The same can be said for the 6-2, 180-pound Klingberg, but after scoring 13 goals and 55 points in his first 80 NHL games, he might be following in Lidstrom's footsteps.

It could result in his being the highest-scoring Stars defenseman since Sergei Zubov had 71 points back in 2005-06, outstanding news for fantasy owners.

Klingberg is owned in 91 percent of Yahoo leagues, but should be a trade target for owners in all formats.

TRENDING UP

Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks

Seabrook has been amazing since Duncan Keith went down and has been chipping in on both sides of the puck. Fantasy owners are only concerned with what he has done on the scoresheet and it has been impressive. He kicked off a seven-game scoring streak on Oct. 22, the first game the Blackhawks played without Keith, and had three goals and 10 points over that span. He had that streak snapped on Nov. 6, but added an assist in the Blackhawks most recent game. Seabrook has 37 shots on goal and is carrying a plus-2 rating. He's also great in leagues that give credit for blocked shots and hits, with 26 and 23 respectively. The 30-year-old is playing over 23 minutes per night and is a must-use fantasy asset. The good news is he's still available in nine percent of Yahoo leagues.

TRENDING DOWN

Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

The hope was a coaching change could get Johnson and the Blue Jackets going. The team itself has been better under John Tortorella, but Johnson has yet to reward his fantasy owners. He has two points on the season and one assist over his past nine games. He is chipping in some shots on goal, 28 so far, but beyond that has been an ineffective fantasy player. His ownership stands at 27 percent in Yahoo leagues and is dropping by the day. It would be wise to keep an eye on him because he does get power-play time and lots of minutes, but we'd look elsewhere until he shows signs of producing as he did in previous seasons.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton Oilers

Klefbom is no stranger to fantasy owners, but he started a bit slow this season and that has him available in 95 percent of Yahoo leagues. He is quickly heating up and has points in five of seven games, including a laser-beam goal scored against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Friday. He is getting time on the No. 1 power-play unit, and though the Oilers have been hurt by the loss of Connor McDavid, they're still stocked with plenty of young guns. If you need defensive help, look into Klefbom who has two goals, five assists, 18 shots on goal and three power-play points. If there is a concern, it is his minus-5 rating, but he's been a minus just three times in 12 games this season.


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

Dropped out: Travis Hamonic, Jack Johnson

Key injuries: James Wisniewski, Duncan Keith, Kyle Quincey

---

View More