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.
Nick Leddy of the New York Islanders set career highs in assists (35), points (40) and power play points (19) last season. That production was enough to get him drafted in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues this fall.
But at the time of the Islanders' five-day break earlier this month, Leddy (47 percent owned) was a major fantasy disappointment with 15 points and a minus-12 in his first 35 games. Leddy had seven PPP in the span, but his overall production dip and plus/minus woes caused many fantasy owners to cut ties.
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His early-season stumble was tied to New York's slow start. The Islanders have had four winless streaks of three or more games and are currently tied for sixth place in a very tough Metropolitan Division with 49 points. Their fall from grace in the standings resulted in a coaching change with Doug Weight replacing Jack Capuano on Jan. 17.
But the Islanders are 3-0-1 since Weight took over, and Leddy's strong play since the bye week has continued. Leddy has 10 points, 21 SOG and is plus-6 in his past 10 games, and has a three-game point streak after having an assist in a 4-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Regardless of what happens with the Islanders the rest of the way, there is a good chance Leddy's fantasy value will continue to rise. He plays major minutes on a nightly basis (23:01 per game) and anchors New York's first power-play unit (10 PPP) with John Tavares.
Video: PHI@NYI: Leddy beats Mason following chaos in crease
Leddy struggled to start last season as well, with nine points and a minus-5 in his first 35 games. Then came a stretch of 19 points (nine PPP) in 22 games from Dec. 27 to Feb. 19, which turned his season around for good.
All in all, Leddy has continued to improve and weather the storm since joining the Islanders. After taking a back seat to Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook for years with the Chicago Blackhawks, Leddy had 37 points in his first season with New York (2014-15), 40 in his second (2015-16), and is currently on pace for 45 points if he plays 81 games in his third.
Power-play improvement is also a real possibility for Leddy and the Islanders under Weight. The Islanders ranked 17th in power-play conversion percentage last season at 18.3 percent, but are fourth-worst in the NHL this season at 14.3 percent.
When New York's power play clicks, Leddy is usually involved. Your fantasy team can reap the benefits if you add him now in shallow leagues.
Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban returned from injury Jan. 20 and is plus-1 with nine SOG in three games. But flying under the radar is Ryan Ellis (31 percent owned), who has quietly totaled four goals, nine points, two PPP and 23 SOG in his past 13 games. He has five points in his past four games, pushing his season total to 20 points in 40 games. He is covering plus/minus (plus-6), penalty minutes (25), SOG (67) and PPP (five) respectably, and is also a sneaky source of blocked shots (75). There is a chance Ellis' production could dip once Roman Josi returns from injury, but he can definitely help fantasy owners in the short term.
Video: NSH@EDM: Ellis lights the lamp from the blue line
Many thought Sami Vatanen of the Anaheim Ducks would have a big season. He had career highs in assists (29), points (38) and PPP (19) last season and offers frequent exposure to talented forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. But things just haven't gone according to plan. He was minus-4 in a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, and then was a healthy scratch Monday against the Winnipeg Jets. The rough outing against the Wild was the culmination of a stretch that has seen Vatanen score two points in his past 13 games and none in his past six. The 25-year-old is a nice buy-low option in keeper or dynasty formats, but he's worth benching in standard leagues until he breaks out of this drought.
-- Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green (43 percent owned), who returned from an upper-body injury earlier this month, has six points in his past six games, including a goal and an assist against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. He has 14 SOG and two PPP in the span.
Video: DET@BOS: Green credited with goal off Miller's skate
-- Adam Larsson (13 percent owned) of the Edmonton Oilers had three assists in a 7-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, giving him six points, a plus-8 and seven SOG in his past seven games. He has added fantasy value in leagues that count blocked shots (12 in span) and/or hits (22).
-- Since returning to the San Jose Sharks lineup on Jan. 10, Marc-Edouard Vlasic (57 percent owned) has seven assists, 13 SOG, one PPP, 24 blocks, and is plus-4 in nine games.
Top 50 Fantasy Defensemen
These rankings were last updated Jan. 25
1. Brent Burns, SJS (SAME)
2. Erik Karlsson, OTT (SAME)
3. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (+2)
4. Shea Weber, MTL (SAME)
5. Victor Hedman, TBL (-2)
6. Ryan Suter, MIN (+2)
7. Duncan Keith, CHI (-1)
8. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (+1)
9. Drew Doughty, LAK (+1)
10. P.K. Subban, NSH (NR - INJ.)
11. Justin Schultz, PIT (+3)
12. Zach Werenski, CBJ (-5)
13. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (+3)
14. John Carlson, WSH (DTD)
15. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (-3)
16. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (-3)
17. Torey Krug, BOS (+2)
18. Mark Giordano, CGY (-3)
19. Keith Yandle, FLA (-2)
20. John Klingberg, DAL (-2)
21. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (-1)
22. Justin Faulk, CAR (SAME)
23. Colton Parayko, STL (SAME)
24. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (+1)
25. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (-4)
26. Mike Green, DET (+2)
27. Jake Gardiner, TOR (SAME)
28. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (+2)
29. Seth Jones, CBJ (-3)
30. Brent Seabrook, CHI (-5)
31. Jeff Petry, MTL (SAME)
32. Dion Phaneuf, OTT (SAME)
33. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (+1)
34. Cam Fowler, ANA (+2)
35. Matt Dumba, MIN (SAME)
36. Matt Niskanen, WSH (+5)
37. Nick Leddy, NYI (+10)
38. Sami Vatanen, ANA (-10)
39. Ivan Provorov, PHI (+1)
40. Alec Martinez, LAK (-7)
41. Trevor Daley, PIT (-2)
42. Jared Spurgeon, MIN (SAME)
43. Dmitry Orlov, WSH (+5)
44. Mark Streit, PHI (-7)
45. Nathan Beaulieu, MTL (+4)
46. Damon Severson, NJD (-3)
47. Nick Holden, NYR (-3)
48. Jake Muzzin, LAK (-3)
49. Ryan Ellis, NSH (NEW)
50. Nikita Zaitsev, TOR (NEW)
Dropped out: Nate Schmidt (WSH)
Key injuries: Kris Letang (PIT), Roman Josi (NSH), Andrei Markov (MTL), Tyson Barrie (COL), Morgan Rielly (TOR), Tyler Myers (WPG)
READ: Last week's Top 50 defenseman rankings