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.
There are no days off during the fantasy playoffs. Owners have to pay close attention daily to maximize production in each standard scoring category. Filling gaps in your lineup throughout the scoring period provides the best chance of winning a matchup or closing the gap in a rotisserie league.
MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: TOP 100 FORWARDS | TOP 25 GOALIES | PROJ. GOALIES
The condensed NHL schedule in March comes in handy, giving owners plenty of waiver wire options to supplement those gaps and any roster deficiencies created by days off or injury.
As is often the case, there are players who have seen their fantasy value dip over the course of the regular season but are suddenly heating up at the most important time of year. It is sometimes difficult to explain why these peaks and valleys happen, so just take full advantage once you recognize them.
Here are a few players who might have been written off earlier in the season but are thriving lately from a fantasy standpoint:
Andrej Sekera (24 percent owned) and Kris Russell (12 percent owned) are reaping the rewards of playing for the young, hungry Edmonton Oilers, who feature elite forward Connor McDavid and have already clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth. Sekera and Russell play on the Oilers' second pair and each has seen a recent spike in production. Sekera has eight points, 11 SOG and is plus-5 in his past eight games, and has additional value in leagues that count blocked shots (30 in span). Russell has three assists, 13 blocks and six SOG in his past four games. Sekera also averages nearly as much power-play ice time per game (2:11) as Oscar Klefbom (2:24).
Video: EDM@COL: Sekera slides home loose puck from in front
Anton Stralman (31 percent owned) of the Tampa Bay Lightning totaled 73 points over his previous two seasons (0.47 points per game), but has seen a significant dip this season. He has 18 points through 66 games (0.27), but has been quietly offering category coverage over his past three games (three points, plus-1, four PIMs, six SOG). He has taken a back seat to elite defenseman Victor Hedman on the power play this season, but still averages 1:45 per game in those situations.
It's worth noting Stralman has been the victim of a poor shooting rate this season, scoring on 3.5 percent of his shots. He converted on 6.5 and 7.1 percent of his shots over the prior two seasons. A potential spike in that area could be a boon for fantasy owners who add him now.
Jason Demers (8 percent owned) of the Florida Panthers has a career-high nine goals, and his total of 27 points is the second-best mark of his career (had 34 with San Jose Sharks in 2013-14). Those numbers haven't moved the fantasy dial much, as evidenced by his low ownership. That said, he has five assists, 13 SOG and is plus-4 over his past seven games. That recent production would be a nice addition to the backend of any lineup.
Alexander Edler (5 percent owned) of the Vancouver Canucks and Dmitry Kulikov (1 percent owned) of the Buffalo Sabres each has seen his fantasy stock dip significantly in recent seasons. That has been caused by injuries, performance and their current spots on non-contending teams, but each is finishing the season strong. Edler has three points and 14 SOG in his past five games, and Kulikov has three PPP in his past three games.
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell are the first names you'd think of when selecting a defensemen from the Chicago Blackhawks, but Trevor van Riemsdyk (2 percent owned) should be added to that list. The 25-year-old is skating on the third pair with Campbell but has four assists over his past five games. He has added six SOG over that span and has an even rating. Since the beginning of February, van Riemsdyk has totaled 10 points, a plus-12, 19 PIMs and 35 SOG in 24 games.
Video: MIN@CHI: Kruger finds van Riemsdyk for a tap-in goal
P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators has 36 points in 60 games this season. That would be an impressive figure for most defensemen, but not for Subban based on his high standards. He's averaging 0.60 points per game -- his lowest total since he averaged 0.44 per game in 2011-12. He had a strong stretch from Feb. 9 to March 13 with 17 points and eight PPP in 16 games, but has cooled off ever since with one point in his past seven games. Subban remains a must-own player in keeper leagues, but is no longer an automatic play this season if you're contending for a fantasy championship.
-- Jared Spurgeon (56 percent owned) of the Minnesota Wild had two points and was minus-5 over a 15-game stretch entering Tuesday, but rewarded his patient fantasy owners with three points (one goal, two assists), a plus-1 and two SOG in a 5-4 loss to the Washington Capitals. Spurgeon is ranked 163rd in Yahoo, 27th among defensemen.
Video: WSH@MIN: Spurgeon beats Holtby with deflected shot
-- Jaccob Slavin (21 percent owned) of the Carolina Hurricanes continues to have an impressive March. He had two assists, three SOG and was plus-3 over two games against the Detroit Red Wings this week, and is tied for second among defensemen in points this month (13 in 16 games) behind Hedman (14 in 14 games). Slavin is plus-11 with 20 SOG in the span.
-- Speaking of plus/minus, two unlikely names are among the defenseman leaders this month. Jay Bouwmeester of the St Louis Blues leads the position with a plus-12 over his past 13 games, and Michael Del Zotto of the Philadelphia Flyers is tied with Slavin for second with a plus-11 over his past 12 games.
Top 50 Fantasy Defensemen
These rankings were last updated March 29
1. Erik Karlsson, OTT (SAME)
2. Brent Burns, SJS (SAME)
3. Victor Hedman, TBL (SAME)
4. Roman Josi, NSH (+1)
5. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (-1)
6. Kevin Shattenkirk, WSH (+1)
7. Duncan Keith, CHI (-1)
8. Justin Schultz, PIT (+1)
9. Shea Weber, MTL (-1)
10. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (SAME)
11. Zach Werenski, CBJ (SAME)
12. Drew Doughty, LAK (SAME)
13. Torey Krug, BOS (SAME)
14. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (+3)
15. John Carlson, WSH (SAME)
16. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (SUSP.)
17. Mark Giordano, CGY (+1)
18. P.K. Subban, NSH (-4)
19. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (SAME)
20. Keith Yandle, FLA (+5)
21. Seth Jones, CBJ (-1)
22. Ryan Suter, MIN (SAME)
23. John Klingberg, DAL (SAME)
24. Andrei Markov, MTL (+6)
25. Colton Parayko, STL (-4)
26. Nick Leddy, NYI (SAME)
27. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (SAME)
28. Matt Niskanen, WSH (SAME)
29. Dion Phaneuf, OTT (-5)
30. Cam Fowler, ANA (-1)
31. Brady Skjei, NYR (+5)
32. Justin Faulk, CAR (+7)
33. Jake Gardiner, TOR (-2)
34. Brent Seabrook, CHI (-2)
35. Oscar Klefbom, EDM (-2)
36. Matt Dumba, MIN (-2)
37. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (+3)
38. Jaccob Slavin, CAR (+3)
39. Ryan Ellis, NSH (+3)
40. Mark Streit, PIT (-3)
41. Jared Spurgeon, MIN (+2)
42. Tyson Barrie, COL (-4)
43. Dmitry Orlov, WSH (+3)
44. Nikita Zaitsev, TOR (SAME)
45. Zdeno Chara, BOS (SAME)
46. Andrej Sekera, EDM (NEW)
47. Jacob Trouba, WPG (NR - INJ.)
48. David Savard, CBJ (+1)
49. Mike Green, DET (-2)
50. Morgan Rielly, TOR (SAME)
SUSP. - Serving suspension
NR - INJ. - Not ranked last week because of injury
Dropped out: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJS)
Key injuries: Kris Letang (PIT), Aaron Ekblad (FLA), Trevor Daley (PIT), Tyler Myers (WPG)
READ: Last week's Top 50 defenseman rankings