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 NHL regular season runs from October to April, and each month along the way can be like a mini-season. Looking closely at how players are doing each month can identify statistical peaks and help bolster your attack in the short and long term.
Player production in January can be especially intriguing from a fantasy standpoint. The midseason point falls shortly after the turn of the calendar year (Jan. 9), and many teams and players have found their identities by now. Here are a handful of statistical anomalies and breakouts that have occurred since Jan. 1 that fantasy owners should monitor.
MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: TOP 100 FORWARDS | TOP 25 GOALIES
The first example of a scoring uptick is John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars. He has seven goals this season, four coming in the eight games he's played in January (most among D-men). He's also averaging a point per game in the span (eight in eight games). Jake Muzzin of the Los Angeles Kings has six goals and 14 points through 44 games, but has three goals, three assists and three PPP in seven games this month. Plus-minus remains a concern for Muzzin (minus-6 in span), but his shot volume (21 SOG in the seven games) has picked up.
It's no secret Justin Schultz of the Pittsburgh Penguins is having a breakout season. He was outstanding in December (18 points, plus-16 in 15 games) and is doing it again in January. The Penguins started the month on their bye week, and Schultz has resumed his offensive surge with six points in five games since.
If you're looking for an under-the-radar January producer, turn your attention to Nate Schmidt (1 percent owned) of the Washington Capitals. The 25-year-old has 12 points in 37 games this season, with half of his points coming in seven games this month. Schmidt is plus-10 in the span, tied for second at the position in January with fellow Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (5 percent owned). The leader in the category is another one of Schmidt's teammates, John Carlson (plus-11).
Video: MIN@DAL: Klingberg nets long-range wrister for PPG
Another team emerging in the plus/minus category is the Carolina Hurricanes. Defenseman Brett Pesce (owned in fewer than 1 percent) is plus-5 in eight games this month, and Jaccob Slavin (4 percent owned) is plus-4 in the same span.
Oscar Klefbom (17 percent owned) of the Edmonton Oilers has had his ups and downs this season, but has been a great source of SOG lately. Klefbom ranks second among defensemen with 26 SOG in eight January games, trailing only Dustin Byfuglien (27 in eight games). As an added bonus, Klefbom has two goals and two assists this month.
Lastly, some fantasy leagues count hits, and there are a couple of players racking them up this month. Mark Borowiecki (13 percent owned) of the Ottawa Senators leads all NHL players with 41 hits in January. He doesn't bring much fantasy coverage though, making him a true specialist. A more balanced hits asset this month has been Steven Santini (owned in less than 1 percent) of the New Jersey Devils. He has played nine games in January and has 21 hits (11th in NHL). He's added three points, seven SOG and is plus-5 in the span.
The Penguins are again without defenseman Kris Letang because of injury, leaving plenty of minutes up for grabs in all situations. Schultz is having a career year and will continue to get plenty of power-play time, but keep an eye on Trevor Daley (10 percent owned). The veteran picked up a career-high three assists in Pittsburgh's 8-7 win against the Washington Capitals on Monday. Daley has played 25:37 and 24:08 minutes in his past two outings and is clearly worth a flier in deep leagues.
Video: ARI@PIT: Daley scorches a one-timer home from slot
Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets, unlike the players highlighted earlier, has struggled this month. The rookie has two assists in eight games, a far cry from his outstanding start that made him one of the hottest fantasy commodities in the League. Rookie seasons often have ebbs and flows, and this should pass eventually. He has salvaged his fantasy value in the span with 21 SOG, two PPP and a plus-2 rating, but his goal drought is now at 19 games. If that continues much longer, it could present an opportunity to buy low in fantasy via trade.
-- Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton has been placed on injured reserve because of a hand injury. Hutton, who leads Canucks defensemen in PPP (six), is expected to miss 3-6 weeks. Troy Stecher (2 percent owned) and Alexander Edler (5 percent owned) are each averaging more than three minutes of power-play ice time per game during Hutton's five-game absence.
-- Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs sustained a lower-body injury against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and is listed as day-to-day. If Rielly misses any length of time, he is worth dropping in fantasy. After combining for 17 goals in the past two seasons, he has one on 91 SOG in 42 games.
Video: DAL@VAN: Stecher ties game with his first career goal
Top 50 Fantasy Defensemen
These rankings were last updated Jan. 18
1. Brent Burns, SJS (SAME)
2. Erik Karlsson, OTT (+2)
3. Victor Hedman, TBL (DTD)
4. Shea Weber, MTL (-1)
5. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (SAME)
6. Duncan Keith, CHI (+2)
7. Zach Werenski, CBJ (-1)
8. Ryan Suter, MIN (+1)
9. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (+2)
10. Drew Doughty, LAK (+3)
11. John Carlson, WSH (DTD)
12. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (-2)
13. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (+2)
14. Justin Schultz, PIT (+3)
15. Mark Giordano, CGY (+3)
16. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (+3)
17. Keith Yandle, FLA (+3)
18. John Klingberg, DAL (+4)
19. Torey Krug, BOS (+4)
20. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (+1)
21. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (-5)
22. Justin Faulk, CAR (+3)
23. Colton Parayko, STL (+1)
24. Brent Seabrook, CHI (+2)
25. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (+2)
26. Seth Jones, CBJ (+3)
27. Jake Gardiner, TOR (+3)
28. Mike Green, DET (+3)
29. Sami Vatanen, ANA (-1)
30. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (+2)
31. Jeff Petry, MTL (+3)
32. Dion Phaneuf, OTT (+8)
33. Alec Martinez, LAK (+3)
34. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (+3)
35. Matt Dumba, MIN (+3)
36. Cam Fowler, ANA (-1)
37. Tyson Barrie, COL (-4)
38. Mark Streit, PHI (NR - INJ.)
39. Trevor Daley, PIT (+2)
40. Ivan Provorov, PHI (-1)
41. Matt Niskanen, WSH (+3)
42. Jared Spurgeon, MIN (+3)
43. Damon Severson, NJD (SAME)
44. Nick Holden, NYR (-2)
45. Jake Muzzin, LAK (+2)
46. Morgan Rielly, TOR (DTD)
47. Nick Leddy, NYI (+2)
48. Dmitry Orlov, WSH (SAME)
49. Nathan Beaulieu, MTL (+1)
50. Nate Schmidt, WSH (NEW)
Key injuries: P.K. Subban (NSH), Kris Letang (PIT), Roman Josi (NSH), Andrei Markov (MTL), Tyler Myers (WPG)
READ: Last week's Top 50 defenseman rankings