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Fantasy top 60 defensemen: Zidlicky leads Islanders

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.


Marek Zidlicky had options for this season, but the 12-year-veteran didn't take the first or even the second offer that came along during unrestricted free agency.

That patience could have been detrimental, but it finally paid off when Garth Snow and the New York Islanders offered a one-year contract and another chance to chase a Stanley Cup.

"I'm happy I can play one more year and we'll see after that what happens," Zidlicky told NorthJersey.com upon signing his contract late in September. "I said right away after the season it could be possible I will retire or we will see. You never know. It's tough for everybody. It doesn't matter if you are 38 or 28. That's the business right now."

Zidlicky may be 38 and might not possess the spry first step of a younger player, but he's already showing he can help the Islanders, specifically on the power play.

The same can be said for fantasy owners, and considering he is owned in 39 percent of Yahoo standard leagues, you should be paying attention.

Zidlicky has long been an underrated source of production for his NHL teams and his owners as he put up a career-high 53 points as a rookie, has six times broken the 40-point plateau and eight times broken the 30-point plateau.

Much of that production has come via the aforementioned power play.

Zidlicky has 215 of his 403 points on the power play, good for 53 percent of his total production. That, combined with his total package of 5-on-5 ability and knack for playing with skilled players, should help him mesh well with a talented and deep group of forwards led by John Tavares.

He started the season on the Islanders' third pairing next to Brian Strait, but has seemingly leapfrogged Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy in the pecking order in terms of power play time.

Marek Zidlicky
Defense - NYI
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1
Through three games he is averaging 16:06 of ice time but is getting close to one-fourth of that on the power play. His total power play TOI of 11:11 ranks him fifth in the League behind only P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson, Andrei Markov and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

He might not be the player that he was five years ago, but as he showed during a 21-game stint with the Detroit Red Wings last season that saw him score at a .52 points-per-game pace, he has value.

Two other defensemen have seen their situations and or scenery change this season and it's translated into early success.

Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen has seen more power-play time now that Mike Green is in Detroit. He is averaging 2:08 TOI per game, which ranks just behind John Carlson. He's owned in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues, but could be a sneaky grab if available in your league.

Francois Beauchemin, who joined the Colorado Avalanche this summer, has exploded out of the gates with five assists in his first two games. He's on the top pairing next to Erik Johnson and is getting 3:18 TOI on the power play per game. He's owned in just 39 percent of leagues.


TRENDING UP

Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs

Dion Phaneuf
Defense - TOR
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 3
SOG: 8 | +/-: 1
Phaneuf has slipped off the collective radar of fantasy owners over the past 12 months, but that might have been premature. New Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has not been afraid to use him in the early going and he is averaging over 22 minutes of ice time per night. He is skating on Toronto's top pair with Jake Gardiner and manning the point on the top power-play unit. Through three games he has three assists, six penalty minutes, two power-play points and eight shots on goal. He has stayed in the black through three losses and is carrying a plus-1 rating. If you need some blue line support he's still available in over 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.

TRENDING DOWN

Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins

Maatta was slated to open the season next to Kris Letang on the Penguins' top pair and that saw his ownership leap to 68 percent in Yahoo standard leagues. Unfortunately it didn't happen as coach Mike Johnston shuffled his pairings, knocking Maatta onto the second pair alongside Ian Cole. He's got zero points, three shots on goal, and a plus-1 rating through three games, and when you combine that with the fact the Penguins have scored three goals, his value has taken a hit. The Penguins are always a threat with the firepower they have, but until they start to get their offense in order we'd look elsewhere for production.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres

Rasmus Ristolainen
Defense - BUF
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: 0
Ristolainen, selected eighth by the Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft, has taken steps forward over the past two seasons and looks primed to break out in 2015-16. Yes, the Sabres are sure to go through some growing pains this season, but they look like a squad that will score their fair share of goals. Ristolainen is skating on the second pair next to Josh Gorges and is getting No. 2 power-play time. He picked up a power-play goal and an assist on Monday in a 4-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets and that success should continue. He's owned in eight percent of Yahoo 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 31 Cody Franson, BUF
2 P.K. Subban, MTL 32 Erik Johnson, COL
3 Dustin Byfuglien, D/RW, WPG 33 Anton Stralman, TBL
4 Kevin Shattenkirk, STL 34 Cam Fowler, ANA
5 Brent Burns, D/RW, SJS 35 Jake Muzzin, LAK
6 Victor Hedman, TBL 36 Ryan Suter, MIN
7 Kris Letang, PIT 37 Marek Zidlicky, NYI
8 Mark Giordano, CGY 38 Trevor Daley, CHI
9 Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI 39 Olli Maatta, PIT
10 Roman Josi, NSH 40 Aaron Ekblad, FLA
11 Shea Weber, NSH 41 Nick Leddy, NYI
12 Duncan Keith, CHI 42 Dion Phaneuf, TOR
13 Keith Yandle, NYR 43 Jason Garrison, TBL
14 Alex Pietrangelo, STL 44 Alex Goligoski, DAL
15 John Carlson, WSH 45 Brent Seabrook, CHI
16 Justin Faulk, CAR 46 Andrej Sekera, EDM
17 Tyson Barrie, COL 47 Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF
18 John Klingberg, DAL 48 Jacob Trouba, WPG
19 Drew Doughty, LAK 49 Michael Del Zotto, PHI
20 Dougie Hamilton, CGY 50 Jack Johnson, CBJ
21 Andrei Markov, MTL 51 Seth Jones, NSH
22 Mark Streit, PHI 52 David Savard, CBJ
23 Sami Vatanen, ANA 53 Matt Niskanen, WSH
24 Ryan McDonagh, NYR 54 Zdeno Chara, BOS
25 Torey Krug, BOS 55 Hampus Lindholm, ANA
26 Francois Beauchemin, COL 56 Tobias Enstrom, WPG
27 Mike Green, DET 57 Travis Hamonic, NYI
28 Dennis Wideman, CGY 58 Trevor van Riemsdyk, CHI
29 Niklas Kronwall, DET 59 Justin Schultz, EDM
30 Johnny Boychuk, NYI 60 Ryan Ellis, NSH

Key injuries: TJ Brodie, James Wisniewski, Danny DeKeyser

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