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Week 1: Fantasy top 50 defenseman rankings for 2017-18 lists most valuable standard-league assets for rest of season

by Brian Metzer / Fantasy Correspondent

Each week during the regular season, has you covered with an overview of the fantasy defenseman landscape. With production trends, injury news and top 50 rankings based on performance and upside in standard Yahoo leagues, fantasy owners should use this information as a basis for roster decision-making. 


MORE FANTASY RANKINGS: Top 100 forwards | Top 25 goalies



Nikita Zaitsev, TOR (53 percent owned): Don't sleep on Zaitsev in his second NHL season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He isn't getting nearly as much power-play time (0:08 per game) as his rookie season (2:00), but he's benefited from even-strength exposure to the highest-scoring team in the League (6.33 goals per game). He has four points (two goals, two assists) through three games and is thriving on a defense pair with Jake Gardiner, another fantasy-relevant defenseman. Zaitsev, 25, was the third leading scorer among rookie defensemen last season (36 points in 82 games) but was a plus/minus liability (minus-22). He's plus-6 this season and can match or exceed his rookie point total surrounded by forwards like Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and James van Riemsdyk.

Jan Rutta, CHI (15 percent owned): This 27-year-old is making the most of his chance with the Chicago Blackhawks. Rutta, who played in the Czech Republic last season, has found a home on Chicago's third pair with Gustav Forsling and has points in three of his first four games (two goals, two assists, one power-play point). Sure, some of that production is tied to the fact that the Blackhawks scored 15 goals in their first two games, but Rutta then had a two-point game in Chicago's 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday. He doesn't have many shots on goal (five) so far, but his category coverage has been just fine (plus-7, four penalty minutes).

Nate Schmidt, VGK (4 percent owned): It's always intriguing to see how an NHL Expansion team fares out of the gate, and the Vegas Golden Knights have been better than we could have imagined so far. They have started 3-0-0, and Schmidt has made an immediate offensive impact. With Shea Theodore assigned to Chicago of the American Hockey League, Schmidt has seized a top-four and power-play role, averaging 20:47 per game and 4:16 with the man-advantage. He has three points (one goal, two assists), a plus-2 and seven SOG in three games, finding fantasy relevance in deeper leagues.



Brent Burns, SJS: The San Jose Sharks are off to a 0-2-0 start and have been outscored 9-4. That has hurt the value of some of their key fantasy performers, most notably the top-ranked fantasy defenseman. Although Burns still has an elite shot volume (eight), he has no goals, one power-play assist and is minus-5. He's averaging 5:14 per game on the power play and is still the most important component of the Sharks offense, so he should eventually return to form. But the Sharks have not instilled much confidence around him early on, meaning he could regress after back-to-back 70-point seasons. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, another 70-point scorer (72) from last season who plays for the more stable offensive team, takes over the top spot with Erik Karlsson (foot) sidelined.

Kris Letang, PIT: The Pittsburgh Penguins' top defenseman is fully healthy, but the early returns haven't matched high fantasy expectations (Yahoo average draft position: 38.5). Letang has no points and is minus-5 through three games. He is still helping fantasy owners with 12 shots goal, is getting a ton of power-play time (3:09 per game), and was plus-2 against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Most of the bad with Letang can be tied to the Penguins' unusually rough start over their first two games. If their third game is any indication, Letang could revert back to normal in the near future. For now, Olli Maatta (26 percent owned) has emerged as a scoring threat with three points (two goals, one assist) in as many games.



Standard Yahoo categories include goals, assists, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP and SOG for skaters. ... Value has been quantified based on factors including but not limited to past production, defense pairs, power-play usage, team's offseason changes, injury history, age, sleeper, bounce-back or breakout potential, anticipated regression, contract status, Yahoo ADP and overall upside for the rest of the season. ... Any players with day-to-day injury concerns (DTD) are noted.

1. Victor Hedman, TBL (+1)
2. Brent Burns, SJS (-1)
3. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (DTD)
4. Roman Josi, NSH (DTD)
5. Duncan Keith, CHI (+2)
6. P.K. Subban, NSH (+2)
7. Kevin Shattenkirk, NYR (+3)
8. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (+1)
9. Zach Werenski, CBJ (+2)
10. John Klingberg, DAL (+2)
11. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (+5)
12. Kris Letang, PIT (-6)
13. Shea Weber, MTL (SAME)
14. Drew Doughty, LAK (SAME)
15. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (SAME)
16. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (SAME)
17. Torey Krug, BOS (+1)
18. John Carlson, WSH (+5)
19. Ryan Suter, MIN (SAME)
20. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (+7)
21. Mark Giordano, CGY (+1)
22. Justin Schultz, PIT (-2)
23. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (+1)
24. Justin Faulk, CAR (-3)
25. Colton Parayko, STL (+3)
26. Jake Gardiner, TOR (+4)
27. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (-2)
28. Oscar Klefbom, EDM (-2)
29. Brent Seabrook, CHI (+5)
30. Seth Jones, CBJ (-1)
31. Keith Yandle, FLA (SAME)
32. Cam Fowler, ANA (+1)
33. Jaccob Slavin, CAR (+3)
34. Ivan Provorov, PHI (+3)
35. Charlie McAvoy, BOS (+3)
36. Jacob Trouba, WPG (-4)
37. Tyson Barrie, COL (+2)
38. Jared Spurgeon, MIN (-3)
39. Will Butcher, NJD (NEW)
40. Jan Rutta, CHI (NEW)
41. Matt Dumba, MIN (SAME)
42. Nikita Zaitsev, TOR (+5)
43. Nate Schmidt, VGK (NEW)
44. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (-4)
45. Matt Niskanen, WSH (-2)
46. Olli Maatta, PIT (NEW)
47. Jake Muzzin, LAK (-3)
48. Nick Leddy, NYI (-2)
49. Mattias Ekholm, NSH (-1)
50. Josh Manson, ANA (-1)

Dropped out: Zdeno Chara, BOS; Shea Theodore, VGK; Dmitry Orlov WSH

Key injuries: Erik Karlsson, OTT - dropped out; Ryan Ellis, NSH; Alec Martinez, LAK; Sami Vatanen, ANA; Ian Cole, PIT; Hampus Lindholm, ANA; Andrej Sekera, EDM


READ: September's Top 50 defenseman rankings

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