Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.
It isn't often that the reaction to an event in the Star Wars universe can perfectly capture the essence of something that occurs in the universe of fantasy hockey, but that is what happened one week ago in Pittsburgh.
TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
- 1. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+2)
- 2. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (same)
- 3. Kris Letang, Penguins (+1)
- 4. Alexander Edler, Canucks (+1)
- 5. Shea Weber, Predators (+6)
- 6. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (+2)
- 7. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (+2)
- 8. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (-1)
- 9. Brian Campbell, Panthers (+1)
- 10. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (+3)
- 11. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (+4)
- 12. Dan Boyle, Sharks (same)
- 13. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (+1)
- 14. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (+4)
- 15. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (+4)
- 16. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (+5)
- 17. Ryan Suter, Wild (-1)
- 18. Mark Streit, Islanders (-1)
- 19. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (+5)
- 20. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (+3)
- 21. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (+5)
- 22. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+6)
- 23. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+4)
- 24. Drew Doughty, Kings (-4)
- 25. Lubomir Visnovsky, Islanders (+4)
- 26. Dennis Wideman, Flames (+4)
- 27. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-5)
- 28. James Wisniewski, Blue Jackets (+4)
- 29. Matt Carle, Lightning (+7)
- 30. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (+5)
- 31. Raphael Diaz, Canadiens (+7)
- 32. Brent Burns, Sharks (-1)
- 33. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+9)
- 34. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (+9)
- 35. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-2)
- 36. Dmitry Kulikov, Panthers (-1)
- 37. Mark Giordano, Flames (-3)
- 38. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+2)
- 39. Mike Green, Capitals (same)
- 40. Jason Garrison, Canucks (+1)
- 41. John-Michael Liles, Maple Leafs (+4)
- 42. Slava Voynov, Kings (+2)
- 43. Paul Martin, Penguins (+11)
- 44. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+7)
- 45. Tyler Myers, Sabres (+2)
- 46. Andy Greene, Devils (same)
- 47. John Carlson, Capitals (+9)
- 48. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (+9)
- 49. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (-1)
- 50. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (-1)
- 51. Dan Girardi, Rangers (-1)
- 52. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (same)
- 53. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (same)
- 54. Cody Franson, Maple Leafs (NR)
- 55. Stephane Robidas, Stars (NR)
- 56. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (+3)
- 57. Joe Corvo, Hurricanes (NR)
- 58. Marc Staal, Rangers (+2)
- 59. Francois Beauchemin, Ducks (NR)
- 60. Tyson Barrie, Avalanche (NR)
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Tom Gilbert, Ian White
Injured: Erik Karlsson, Tobais Enstrom, Cam Fowler, Joni Pitkanen, Erik Johnson, Brendan Smith, Jake Gardiner, Andrej Meszaros, Ryan Wilson
When Erik Karlsson was lost for the season, fantasy owners felt a great disturbance in the force similar to the one that Obi-wan experienced when the Galactic Empire destroyed the planet Alderaan in Episode IV: A New Hope.
"I felt a great disturbance in the Force," Kenobi says in the aftermath of that cinematic event. "I fear something terrible has happened."
There aren't many other ways to describe the injury to Karlsson, who has held the top spot in our rankings since Nov. 15, 2011, but that "something terrible" doesn't have to be the event that ruins your fantasy season.
No player in the league is going to offset the numbers that Karlsson puts up on a regular basis, but there are defensemen available via trade or on the waiver wire that might help ease the pain a bit.
After a slow start this season, Keith Yandle is a guy you may be able to pry away from a rival owner. He has collected four points (1G) over his last two games and now has 10 points on the season, but the most intriguing part of his stat line and the one that makes him the best suited to slide into Karlsson's shoes are his 47 shots on goal. He picked up 14 of them over his last two games and no other defenseman, aside from Karlsson, has more shots to this point in the season.
The Washington Capitals' John Carlson, owned in just 44 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, is probably lurking on the waiver wire after an abysmal January. Like most of the Capitals, he started slowly coming out of the lockout, but he looks like he might be turning it around with five points (2G) in eight February games. Carlson is also shooting the puck a ton, logging 38 shots on goal this season.
Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks might not light up the scoreboard nightly, but he is the perfect guy to level out a plus-minus that was turned upside down without Karlsson. The wily veteran leads all defensemen in the category with a plus-14. He has picked up six points over his last eight games and has taken 20 shots on goal to this point in the season. Beauchemin will also provide help in categories such as blocked shots (33) and hits (25). He is owned in just 30 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin was in the building when Karlsson was lost and he could be the perfect guy to help power-play numbers that are sagging without the young Swede. Martin is now manning the point on a top unit that features Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz. Martin has picked up nine points through 16 games this season. He did not register his ninth point last season until his 33rd game.
Losing a player like Karlsson for the season is tough for any team to overcome, but as you can see above, there are options available to help bring balance back to your fantasy force.
Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres -- The Sabres have gotten most of their offense this season from their top line of Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson, but another guy has been chiming in as of late: Ehrhoff. The German rearguard has three points (1G) in his last three games and now has 10 points for the season. He is quarterbacking the power play and has a shot that seems to result in plenty of rebounds. Those rebounds are resulting in goals and power-play points. He has launched 33 shots and goal and is owned in 85 percent of Yahoo! Leagues; you just may luck out and find him on your waiver wire.
Justin Faulk, Hurricanes -- Faulk has a ton of offensive upside and will finally get a chance to show that off with Joni Pitkanen on the shelf. He is just 20 years old, so there is some inconsistency in his game, but he plays with dynamic forwards such as Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner. He's not scoring nightly, but has logged six points (2G), 23 shots on goal and is a plus-4 on the season. He is owned in just 29 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, but that number is sure to rise.
Victor Hedman, Lightning -- Hedman's offensive game has matured greatly this season. The monstrous rearguard seems to have learned when to jump into the play and when to stay back, and he has already logged nine points (4G), 24 shots on goal and a plus-11 rating in just 15 games. He plays with a group of very talented forwards and could see his point totals grow even higher. Grab him now if you can.
Mark Giordano, Flames -- Giordano's 43-point 2010-11 season is in the rearview mirror and he is getting further away from it each day. He has logged just three points (1G), 24 shots on goal and a minus-4 to this point, and has shown no signs of turning it around. The Flames have also struggled as a group, so unless we see a marked improvement from them, there are more effective options on the waiver wire.
Justin Schultz, Oilers -- Make no mistake, we aren't saying that you should drop Schultz, but as with all young players making their NHL debuts, his performance has dipped a bit. He has just one assist in his last four games and just three points in his last eight. He'll bounce back, but he isn't an automatic play on a nightly basis at this point. Play matchups and/or reserve him until his production spikes back up.
Tom Gilbert, Wild -- Gilbert has just one goal in eight February games after picking up six points in four games to end the month of January. The return of Jared Spurgeon from injury could also cut into his offensive looks, so monitor his progress, but it is probably safe to move on from Gilbert at this point.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Tyson Barrie, Avalanche -- NHL.com contributor Matt Sitkoff mentioned him on Monday and we're doing the same today. Barrie is taking advantage of injuries on the Avalanche blue line to carve out a niche for himself and has picked up four points (1G) in his last three games. He isn't going to be a top producer, but he is getting over three minutes per night on the power play. If you are in a deeper league and need some support, he could be your guy.