With the 2014-15 NHL season inching closer by the day, NHL.com has you covered with positional fantasy rankings. Based on Yahoo eligibility, projected lineups, past performance, injury history and each insider's opinion, Matt Cubeta (centers), Matt Sitkoff (left wings), Pete Jensen (right wings), Brian Metzer (defensemen) and Justin Goldman (goalies) bring you up to speed by identifying all the players worth targeting at each position in your upcoming drafts.
By nature, defensemen are designed to prevent teams from scoring goals, but a subsect of the gene pool has seen their DNA evolve. This group is just as adept at rolling up offense as it is in preventing it.
One of the evolved, Alec Martinez, scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Los Angeles Kings less than three months ago. The good news is that it's time to regroup and reload for another trip up the mountain towards fantasy glory. That trip gets a lot easier when properly utilizing a defenseman and this should help you gain a better understanding of who you should target.
In putting together these pre-season rankings, we looked back at goals, assists, points, power-play points, plus-minus and shots on goal over a three-season span to better assess who is on the rise and who is on the decline.
The results were interesting in that no defenseman finished in the top 10 in all six standard scoring categories; however four of them, Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens), and Keith Yandle (Arizona Coyotes) finished in the top 10 of five of them.
NHL.com fantasy insider Brian Metzer says P.K. Subban should be the first defenseman off the board on draft day. (Photo: Getty Images)
Of those four, Subban and Karlsson slot one and two in our rankings and should be among the first defensemen selected in your league. Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators ranked in only four of the categories, but his team improved offensively, which helped him edge Byfuglien for the No. 3 spot. But do not forget that the latter will qualify as both a defenseman and a right wing in Yahoo Standard leagues.
You should also pay close attention to the next tier featuring guys such as Yandle, who ranked third in shots on goal with 567 over the past three seasons, Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins), who ranked second only to Karlsson in points per game over that span, and of course Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), who isn't far removed from staking a claim to a spot in our top three.
Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames), who scored .73 points per game over 64 games last season, is also extremely valuable, but only if he stays healthy. Mark Streit (Philadelphia Flyers) logged the ninth-highest point total over the past three seasons with 118, and Brian Campbell (Florida Panthers) managed to finish in the top 10 in points, assists and power-play points over that stretch.
Matt Niskanen, Christian Ehrhoff and Michael Del Zotto found new homes in Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia respectively, which could help all three of them build upon past successes or, in the case of Del Zotto, find new ones.
It seems it's mentioned on a yearly basis, but it is probably safe to say that the first defenseman in a 10-team standard league will come off the board during the second round, and it's a good idea to acquire at least one of the top-five defensemen during the first three rounds.
You should also hope to have two defensemen selected by the seventh round. Grabbing a defenseman every three or four rounds helps keep your production evenly distributed throughout your lineup and prevents you from scouring for options in the final rounds.
MOCK DRAFT: Results, analysis of NHL.com's 12-team, 16-round simulation
RANKINGS: Top 50 breakdown | Center | Left Wing | Right Wing | D-men | Goalies
SLEEPERS: Cubeta | Jensen | Sitkoff
NOTE: NHL.com's fantasy staff has determined that the primary position of the players listed below is defense. Each of these players is D-eligible in Yahoo leagues. These are Brian Metzer's defenseman rankings and may not reflect the order of NHL.com's aggregate top 275 overall fantasy rankings.
Just missed: Andy Greene
, Kevin Bieksa
, Nick Holden
, Morgan Rielly
, Aaron Ekblad
, Danny DeKeyser
, Michael Del Zotto
, Sami Vatanen
, Eric Gelinas
, Nick Leddy
*Player has dual-position eligibility in Yahoo leagues