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On the 'D'-fence: Carle's in charge on Tampa blue line

by Brian Metzer /

Every Wednesday during the season, 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 insider all season long.


These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. 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.

Care to guess who the leading scorer among all defenseman over the past two weeks in the National Hockey League is?

Would you say Erik Karlsson or Duncan Keith? What about Ryan Suter or P.K. Subban?

Keep guessing.

In fact, you might never come up with the correct answer, since the player in question tends to fly under the radar. He simply goes out and does his job without much fanfare or notoriety and his team loves him for it.

The player in question is Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle, who had points in seven straight games before being shut out during the Lightning's 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. He had nine assists in that span to give him one goal and 22 assists in 47 games.

Carle goes about his business in a way that keeps him lurking in the shadows of fantasy hockey. Though he had been riding that scoring streak and was the leading scorer at his position during the past two weeks, he is owned in 51 percent of Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues.

He has four seasons of 35 or more points and likely would have gotten there last season had there been a full schedule. He also has two 40-point seasons but it rarely gets noticed.

Carle doesn't have the flash of some other players at his position but he almost always makes the smart play, throws the correct pass and puts his talented forwards on the rush better than many in the League.

His most successful season was 2006-07 with the San Jose Sharks, his first NHL season. In 77 games he had 11 goal and 42 points, with 26 of those points coming on the power play, where he averaged 4:36 of ice time that season.

Though he hasn't been able to get on the ice that often with the extra man again during his nine NHL seasons, he has evolved into a player that averages about 18 minutes of ice time per game with some power-play time.

He also skates those minutes with a talented group of forwards that includes Martin St. Louis, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Valtteri Filppula and soon Steven Stamkos. Playing with them has him averaging 0.49 points and 1.49 shots per game.

His current scoring pace has him finishing with 39 points, which would be the third-highest total of his career. He might not light the world on fire the rest of the way, but this is a player who is shooting the puck a lot, scoring above his career average and is under-owned.

It is time to change that. Grab Carle now while he remains available.


Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings -- Smith has had a tough go of it during the past two seasons but he looks like he finally might be ready to take a step forward for fantasy owners. He was quiet for most of the season and has one goal and 10 points in 36 games. However he has one goal and five points in the past nine games. We're not jumping in head-first on this one but he could provide some nice depth scoring.

Jason Demers, San Jose Sharks -- Demers is a very viable fantasy option this season. He has three goals and 22 points in 44 games, including six points in the past six games. He's provided nice scoring from the blue line, and has more points this season than better-known players like Zdeno Chara, Dion Phaneuf and Dan Boyle, just to name a few. Demers is owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo leagues.


Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers -- Streit did turn his season around from where it was in October and November but has been inconsistent for owners that have hung in with him. He has one point in his past five games and two points and a minus-5 rating in his past seven. He still possesses fantasy value, but make sure you can offset the plus/minus and have a few other options to lean on.

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks -- Fowler is having a nice season, made more so with his attractive plus-14 rating, but he has been held without a point in five games. It is worth noting that he was riding a four-game scoring streak prior to this dip in production. But going over a week without a point raises some level of concern. Use him, but pick and choose when.


Andrej Meszaros, Philadelphia Flyers -- Meszaros is making himself a viable commodity in terms of fantasy again, at least since Dec. 31, when he picked up the first of seven points in an eight-game span that continued Tuesday with an assist in the Flyers' 4-3 win at the Buffalo Sabres. He also has 15 shots on goal and a plus-4 rating in that span. If you are in a deep league and need some blue-line support, he could be a solid choice as he is averaging 16:50 of ice time per game.

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