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Fantasy: Stone part of Coyotes' foundation

Plays power play with Ekman-Larsson; 15 percent owned

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

The Arizona Coyotes have been known to employ two defensemen on their top power-play unit. For years, it was Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson as upper-tier fantasy assets from their blue line. 

But since the Coyotes traded Yandle last season for a package that included forward Anthony Duclair, Ekman-Larsson has remained among the elite at his position and taken Michael Stone along for the ride. Although these two don't play together much at even strength, they have manned the No. 1 power-play unit in the desert for much of this season.

Arizona's top power-play unit rotates its forwards, but has most frequently featured Duclair, Max Domi and Martin Hanzal (when healthy), with Ekman-Larsson and Stone setting the table. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Ekman-Larsson and Stone have combined for 24 power-play assists -- tied for third in the League among defensemen teammates behind P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens (30) and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks (25). 

Stone, 25, ranks 38th in Yahoo's rankings based on standard-category performance this season, excelling in points (24; career high), power-play points (10; career high), penalty minutes (44) and shots on goal (118) through 57 games. If your fantasy league counts hits and/or blocked shots, you're in luck: Stone is one of 10 defensemen with 100 or more blocked shots and hits this season. 

He has exceeded expectations and continues to be one of the most undervalued fantasy defensemen in the game at 15 percent owned. He scored a goal on five shots on goal in the Coyotes' home win against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, which kept them within striking distance of the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators for the wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Arizona has three games in hand on the Avalanche and one in hand on the Predators. Remember, games in hand offer added flexibility with fantasy playoffs on the horizon. 

The only other top-50 fantasy defensemen who, like Stone, are owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues are Mattias Ekholm (16 percent) of the Nashville Predators and Matt Dumba (17 percent) of the Minnesota Wild. Dumba has come alive lately, with six of his eight points this month on the power play, but Stone has better numbers than Dumba on the season. 

Video: DAL@ARI: Stone's shot redirects past Niemi for tie

Stone scored eight goals in 70 games in 2013-14, shooting 7.6 percent, but has shot at a lesser rate the past two seasons (2.1 in 2014-15; 3.4 in 2015-16). He has greater exposure to high-end scoring situations these days, so positive regression could be on his side down the stretch. His goal Thursday was his fourth of the season. He still does not have a power-play goal this season despite 2:38 of power-play ice time per game. 

Ekman-Larsson, meanwhile, is the fourth-best fantasy defensemen behind Erik Karlsson, Subban and Brent Burns and ranks 15th among all players in Yahoo. He leads all defensemen in goals the past two seasons (40) and is tops at his position in PPP this season (25). 

The Sweden native has become the prototypical modern-era defensemen, with smooth skating ability, constant offensive involvement and ever-improving defensive responsibility. With Yandle out of the equation and the Coyotes shifting into a high-gear rebuild with so much young talent, Ekman-Larsson, 24, has helped Stone take the next step in his career. 

If you're looking for a knock on Stone's game, it can be found in his split stats. He has 20 points in 31 games at home, compared to four points in 26 games on the road. He also has 15 points with a plus-11 in 27 wins and three points with a plus-1 in six overtime/shootout losses for the Coyotes, but only six points with a minus-21 in 24 regulation losses. 

The Coyotes have a tough draw with 10 home games and 15 road games remaining in the regular season, but Stone is at least worth adding and starting in each of the home games. Bench him for daunting road games, such as when they visit the Washington Capitals on Feb. 22 and the Chicago Blackhawks on Apr. 5. 

Arizona was not expected to compete for a playoff spot and Stone was not expected to be fantasy relevant. But the bottom line is Stone is one of the most serviceable defensemen on the fantasy waiver wire these days because of his well-rounded category coverage.

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