All season long, NHL.com will rank the top 50 fantasy defensemen for standard Yahoo leagues (goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, power-play points, shots on goal). Players with long-term injuries have been removed from this list.
These rankings are based on expectations for the rest of the season. Value is quantified by defense pairs, power-play usage, past performance and overall upside in standard leagues. Changes in value each week are based on recent performance and/or lineup trends.
The Montreal Canadiens feature a group of talented defensemen that isn't shy to jump into the play. Their defensemen have combined for 97 points, second in the NHL behind the Philadelphia Flyers (100).
Veteran Andrei Markov helped those numbers with 21 points in 31 games, but he's been out since Dec. 17 because of a groin injury. He recently returned to practice but will not play against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, RDS, NHL.TV). Markov's injury absence, which will reach 11 games, has created an opportunity for Nathan Beaulieu.
MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: TOP 100 FORWARDS | TOP 25 GOALIES
The 24-year-old has taken advantage of the expanded role he's received with Markov out, jumping to 174th overall in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. He has seen an uptick in ice time, playing more than 21:00 in each game Markov has missed. He has exceeded 27:00 three times in the stretch and played an NHL career-high 28:22 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 23.
A production spike has come along with the increased usage for Beaulieu, who has seven points in his past 10 games after he had seven in his first 25. He has been dominant in his past four games, with five points, three on the power play.
Video: MTL@DAL: Beaulieu nets a wrister through traffic
This increase in scoring has been bolstered by an uptick in power-play time for Beaulieu. He has been playing alongside Shea Weber on the Canadiens' top power-play unit and is averaging 3:16 of ice time per game with the man-advantage with Markov out. That's a sizable jump from the 1:19 he was averaging in his first 25 games. Four of Beaulieu's six power-play points have come in this recent span.
Beaulieu is helping in a number of other fantasy categories. Though he was a minus-2 against the Washington Capitals on Monday, he is plus-15 on the season. He has 57 shots on goal, with 24 in his past 10 games. If your league counts hits and blocks, he has solid totals of 39 and 63, respectively.
He's been partnered with Jeff Petry at 5-on-5, and they have helped the Canadiens go 5-3-2 in 10 games without Markov. The Canadiens have maintained their spot at the top of the Atlantic Division, which bodes well for when Markov returns to the lineup.
Beaulieu's recent play has helped him regain the trust of the Canadiens coaching staff. That should translate to somewhat similar usage with a slight dip in ice time when they are back at full strength. Beaulieu won't have to shoulder 25 minutes per game once Markov returns, but his presence and performance allows coach Michel Therrien the luxury of bringing the veteran back slowly. It also deepens their power-play outlook for the rest of the season.
Owned in 19 percent of Yahoo leagues, Beaulieu clearly has fantasy value without Markov and likely will remain an efficient option once his teammate returns.
The Edmonton Oilers long have been trying to address their defense, and have brought some intriguing players into the fold this season. It started when they acquired Adam Larsson in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on June 29, but they also signed Matthew Benning, an unrestricted free agent out of Northeastern University, on Aug. 27. He made his NHL debut Nov. 1 and has evolved into a solid player. That didn't immediately translate to fantasy value, but his past seven games should have him on the map. The 22-year-old has two goals, five points, nine penalty minutes, 10 shots on goal, nine hits and eight blocked shots in the span. He is owned in fewer than 1 percent of Yahoo leagues and could be a great addition to the bottom of a deep-league fantasy roster ravaged by injuries.
Video: SJS@EDM: Benning fires wrist shot past Jones' blocker
Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks has solid totals this season (21 points, 10 power-play points in 42 games), but has been struggling lately. He has two points in 11 games since Dec. 18 and has been held without a point in six straight. He is minus-8 and has 14 shots on goal in his past 10 games. He has a strong chance of bouncing back considering he's still on the first power-play unit with Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and red-hot defenseman Duncan Keith. That said, his slump is worth monitoring as it may offer an opportunity to buy low on a defenseman who's still on pace for 41 points.
-- The injury list of defensemen got a little shorter this week. The Carolina Hurricanes got Justin Faulk back Jan. 5; he has one assist and 11 shots on goal in four games. The Detroit Red Wings got Mike Green back Tuesday; he had four penalty minutes and two shots on goal. Marc-Edouard Vlasic also returned for the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and made an immediate impact with two assists, seven blocked shots, two shots on goal, and a plus-3 rating. Each is among the top 35 of our rankings this week.
-- Oscar Klefbom (16 percent owned) of the Oilers has been in and out of our rankings this season but is worth keeping an eye on. He has two goals and one assist in his past five games. He leads defensemen and is tied for fifth among all skaters with 19 shots on goal in the span.
-- The Vancouver Canucks, who have 60 points from their defensemen this season, could see that number improve in the coming months thanks to the return of Alexander Edler (5 percent owned). Since returning Dec. 28, Edler has five assists and is a plus-1 in eight games.
Video: VAN@LAK: Edler nets PPG to tie the game late
Top 50 Fantasy Defensemen
These rankings were last updated Jan. 11
1. Brent Burns, SJS (SAME)
2. Victor Hedman, TBL (SAME)
3. Shea Weber, MTL (+1)
4. Erik Karlsson, OTT (-1)
5. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (+1)
6. Zach Werenski, CBJ (-1)
7. Kris Letang, PIT (SAME)
8. Duncan Keith, CHI (+3)
9. Ryan Suter, MIN (-1)
10. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (SAME)
11. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (-2)
12. Roman Josi, NSH (SAME)
13. Drew Doughty, LAK (+2)
14. John Carlson, WSH (+2)
15. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (-2)
16. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (-2)
17. Justin Schultz, PIT (+2)
18. Mark Giordano, CGY (SAME)
19. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (+1)
20. Keith Yandle, FLA (-3)
21. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (SAME)
22. John Klingberg, DAL (+2)
23. Torey Krug, BOS (+2)
24. Colton Parayko, STL (-1)
25. Justin Faulk, CAR (NR - INJ.)
26. Brent Seabrook, CHI (-4)
27. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (-1)
28. Sami Vatanen, ANA (-1)
29. Seth Jones, CBJ (SAME)
30. Jake Gardiner, TOR (SAME)
31. Mike Green, DET (NR - INJ.)
32. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (NR - INJ.)
33. Tyson Barrie, COL (-2)
34. Jeff Petry, MTL (SAME)
35. Cam Fowler, ANA (-7)
36. Alec Martinez, LAK (-4)
37. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (-4)
38. Matt Dumba, MIN (-2)
39. Ivan Provorov, PHI (SAME)
40. Dion Phaneuf, OTT (-5)
41. Trevor Daley, PIT (-4)
42. Nick Holden, NYR (-2)
43. Damon Severson, NJD (-5)
44. Matt Niskanen, WSH (-3)
45. Jared Spurgeon, MIN (SAME)
46. Morgan Rielly, TOR (-4)
47. Jake Muzzin, LAK (-3)
48. Dmitry Orlov, WSH (-2)
49. Nick Leddy, NYI (-1)
50. Nathan Beaulieu, MTL (NEW)
Dropped out: Ian Cole (PIT), Ryan Ellis (NSH), Mattias Ekholm (NSH), Anton Stralman (TBL)
Key injuries: P.K. Subban (NSH), Andrei Markov (MTL), Mark Streit (PHI), Tyler Myers (WPG)
READ: Last week's Top 50 defenseman rankings