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Week 2: Fantasy top 50 defenseman rankings for '16-17

NHL.com lists most valuable standard-league assets during regular season

by Brian Metzer / NHL.com Correspondent

All season long, NHL.com's Brian Metzer 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.

When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Shea Weber in a trade with the Nashville Predators for P.K. Subban on June 29, the general consensus was the Predators won out by landing the younger franchise defenseman. 

But, nearly four months later, it is Weber and the Canadiens who are rolling at 5-0-1, and the veteran looks as good as he ever has. 

MORE FANTASY RANKINGS: TOP 100 FORWARDS | TOP 25 GOALIES

Weber, who slipped into the fifth round of standard Yahoo league drafts this season, has two goals and five assists in six games, his best start since he had seven points in six games in 2008-09. He went on to finish that season with 23 goals and 53 points. 

Weber's category coverage thus far is making him one of the most complete fantasy assets. He has a plus-10 rating, two power-play points, eight penalty minutes and 14 shots on goal. He also has 17 hits and 11 blocks, and leads the Canadiens in average ice time (26:14 per game), power play time (4:04 per game) and shorthanded time (3:17 per game). 

The Canadiens' first power-play unit, made up of forwards Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Radulov, should give Weber plenty of opportunity to earn points playing with the extra man. Though many expected Weber to drop off this season, he is universally owned and should be a fantasy trade target if you don't have him on your roster. 

Weber is far from the only veteran defenseman performing at a level reminiscent of his younger self. Brian Campbell (35 percent owned) is skating on the Chicago Blackhawks' top pair with Duncan Keith and getting time on the second power-play unit. Campbell was held off the scoresheet in his first three games, but has a goal and five points in his past four. He's a plus-6 with two PIMs, one PPP and 10 SOG while averaging 17:36 minutes per game, 2:09 on the power play. It is worth noting Keith was selected among the top 100 on average and has six points in seven games. Campbell, not drafted until the 14th round on average, is providing similar production to jump 10 spots in our rankings. 

Lastly, Johnny Boychuk (55 percent owned) of the New York Islanders didn't garner as much fantasy attention this season compared to recent ones, but that could be changing. He has goals in back-to-back games and four points in six games. He has strong peripherals with a plus-2, one PPP, 15 SOG, 14 hits and 16 blocks.

 

Trending Up

Noah Hanifin (16 percent owned) of the Carolina Hurricanes was the first defenseman off the board during the 2015 NHL Draft. He played immediately as rookie and impressed with 22 points (seven PPP) in 79 games. Hanifin appears on track to accomplish even more this season. He has five assists, three on the power play, in six games. He is skating on Carolina's third pair with Jakub Nakladal, but is getting serious power-play usage (2:28 per game). If you're looking for another source of PPP, consider Damon Severson (2 percent owned) of the New Jersey Devils. He is skating on New Jersey's top pair and has four PPP in his past four games.

Video: WSH@CAR: Hanifin's slap shot eludes Holtby for PPG

 

Trending Down

Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers is eating up a ton of minutes, skating 25:14 in a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, but the points aren't there. After scoring 27 goals the past two seasons and finishing with 39 and 36 points respectively, he has one goal and no assists in six games, and a minus-2 after combining for a plus-30 the past two seasons. The Panthers have a deep scoring defense with Keith Yandle, Michael Matheson (7 percent owned) and Jason Demers (7 percent owned), but Ekblad should eventually get going once the Panthers' power play (13.6 percent, 21st in NHL) heats up.

 

Worth Noting

- Kris Letang of the Penguins could be close to returning to the lineup after missing three games because of an upper-body injury. He joined his teammates for practice Tuesday but wore a non-contact sweater. Coach Mike Sullivan said he was encouraged that Letang was back in practice and that there is a chance he could take full contact Wednesday. 

- Brandon Manning (10 percent owned) of the Philadelphia Flyers has two points in his past three games. He has one goal and five points in seven games, two points shy of what he had in 56 games last season. Monitor this situation closely in the coming weeks before adding him. Radko Gudas (15 percent owned) returned to the lineup Tuesday, while Michael Del Zotto (2 percent owned) recently began practicing after a knee injury. 

- Jonas Brodin (3 percent owned) of the Minnesota Wild has quietly put up four points in his past six games. He is a plus-5 and is seeing time on the second power play, which could lead to plenty of prime scoring chances down the road.

Video: WPG@MIN: Brodin finds a crease, nets insurance goal

 

Top 50 Fantasy Defensemen

1. Brent Burns, SJS (SAME) 

2. Erik Karlsson, OTT (SAME) 

3. P.K. Subban, NSH (SAME) 

4. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (SAME) 

5. Roman Josi, NSH (+2) 

6. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (+4) 

7. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (-2) 

8. Drew Doughty, LAK (SAME) 

9. Shea Weber, MTL (+6) 

10. Kris Letang, PIT (DTD) 

11. Mark Giordano, CGY (SAME) 

12. Duncan Keith, CHI (+1) 

13. John Carlson, WSH (-4) 

14. Victor Hedman, TBL (-2) 

15. Justin Faulk, CAR (+2) 

16. John Klingberg, DAL (-2) 

17. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (-1) 

18. Keith Yandle, FLA (SAME) 

19. Tyson Barrie, COL (+1) 

20. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (+2) 

21. Brent Seabrook, CHI (+2) 

22. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (-3) 

23. Ryan Suter, MIN (+2) 

24. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (SAME) 

25. Sami Vatanen, ANA (+6) 

26. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (+1) 

27. Torey Krug, BOS (-6) 

28. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (-2) 

29. Seth Jones, CBJ (SAME) 

30. Colton Parayko, STL (-2) 

31. Mike Green, DET (+3) 

32. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (+1) 

32. TJ Brodie, CGY (-1) 

34. Jake Muzzin, LAK (-4) 

35. Anton Stralman, TBL (+1) 

36. Alec Martinez, LAK (+3) 

37. Brian Campbell, CHI (+10) 

38. Michael Stone, ARI (+3) 

39. Trevor Daley, PIT (-4) 

40. Cam Fowler, ANA (+2) 

41. Nick Leddy, NYI (-4) 

42. Morgan Rielly, TOR (-4) 

43. Zdeno Chara, BOS (-3) 

44. Erik Johnson, COL (+2) 

45. Zach Werenski, CBJ (+5) 

46. Mattias Ekholm, NSH (-3) 

47. Matt Niskanen, WSH (-3) 

48. Matt Dumba, MIN (-3) 

49. Patrick Wiercioch, COL (NEW) 

50. Andrej Sekera, EDM (-2) 

Dropped out: Adam Larsson (EDM) 

Just missed: Brandon Manning (PHI), Jonas Brodin (MIN), Jeff Petry (MTL), Johnny Boychuk (NYI), Ivan Provorov (PHI) 

Key injuries: Niklas Kronwall (DET), Michael Del Zotto (PHI), Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI), Derrick Pouliot (PIT), Ryan Murphy (CAR)

 

READ: Last week's Top 50 defenseman rankings

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