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.
The NHL has gone through a transition during the past several seasons, morphing into a young man's league. Fantasy owners tend to gravitate towards known commodities, but those who pay attention to how younger players are developing can get a big boost. Several first-year defensemen have been producing well beyond their years through the first month of the season.
MORE FANTASY RANKINGS: FORWARDS | GOALIES
Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets leads all rookie defensemen in scoring with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in as many games. The 19-year-old has a plus-2 rating and 26 SOG, and five of his points have come on the power play (2:26 per game in those situations). He was already playing on the top pairing with Seth Jones, but the latter will miss the next three weeks with a hairline fracture in his foot. Though it will be challenging for Werenski (65 percent owned in Yahoo) to replicate his recent production at even strength without a proven defense partner like Jones, the rookie will be asked to shoulder even more responsibility. David Savard (2 percent owned), who's coming off of back-to-back seasons of 25 or more points, may join him on the top pair.
Video: CHI@CBJ: Werenski nets wrister for PPG
Brady Skjei (6 percent owned) of the New York Rangers has roared up the scoring list among rookie defensemen during the past two weeks. He's second behind Werenski with nine points in 14 games. Skjei bolstered that number with seven assists during his current six-game point streak and can help fantasy owners in a variety of ways. He has a plus-3 rating to go along with 11 blocks and 27 hits. Skjei is skating on the third pair with Kevin Klein, where he's logging 16:11 per game. He is averaging 1:04 on the power play per game, but played 2:36 with the man-advantage in the Rangers' 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. It's worth noting he played a season-high 3:16 with the extra man on Nov. 1. Skjei shouldn't be relied on as a main source of production for your fantasy team at this stage of his career, but could be a great injury replacement while he and the Rangers are rolling.
We put the spotlight on the Philadelphia Flyers defense last week and touched on the play of Ivan Provorov, who's tied for third among rookie defensemen with six points in 14 games. His ownership has risen to 14 percent. But his situation requires scrutiny following the return of Michael Del Zotto (4 percent owned). Del Zotto returned Nov. 5 and picked up an assist while playing 17:36 on the top pair with Shayne Gostisbehere, then played 21:09 on Tuesday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. He hasn't logged any power-play time in either game, but averaged 1:25 when healthy last season. Gostisbehere and Mark Streit (35 percent owned) are the Flyers' top man-advantage options on defense, but there is a chance Del Zotto could eventually eat away at Provorov's power-play minutes (1:48 per game).
Two other rookie defensemen, Nikita Zaitsev of the Toronto Maple Leafs (8 percent owned) and Stephen Johns of the Dallas Stars (2 percent owned) also deserve consideration. Zaitsev is skating on the Maple Leafs top pair with Morgan Rielly and logging 21:53 per game. He is getting 2:17 per game on the power play and has picked up six points (two PPP) in 13 games. Even with a minus-6 rating, Zaitsev has 22 blocks and 26 hits and is worth a deep-league flier in those that count these categories. Johns was held off the board Tuesday in an 8-2 loss at the Winnipeg Jets, but has three points in his past five games.
Damon Severson of the New Jersey Devils (29 percent owned) has jumped into the top 50 defenseman rankings this week after falling just outside for the past two. He was held off the scoresheet in two straight games, but has two goals and nine points in his past 10. He is skating on the top pair with Andy Greene and is getting top power-play minutes. He has 11 hits, 11 blocks, five PPP and 17 SOG. He has a minus-3 rating, but is plus-2 in his past five games.
Video: NJD@TBL: Severson scores from the slot
Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames is owned in 97 percent of Yahoo leagues, but hasn't been producing of late. He has been held without a point in seven straight games and has just one goal and five points this season. Giordano isn't the kind of player that you choose to drop because he and the Flames' offense could break out during any given game, but it may be time to play matchups and splits. TJ Brodie is also struggling in Calgary. The 26-year-old has two points and 19 SOG in 14 games, along with a minus-10 rating, dipping his ownership to 45 percent.
-- Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets signed a two-year contract Monday, ending a lengthy stalemate. Trouba also rescinded his trade request and said he is committed to staying with the Jets for the length of the deal. How does he fit in? That is yet to be determined, but it will be interesting to see if he gets to play in a more comfortable position or if the Jets insist on using him on the left side where he's not as comfortable. Trouba has never scored more than 29 points in a season, but the upside is there with exposure to a young, explosive offense. It isn't clear if he'll get power-play time; that load is carried by Dustin Byfuglien with Tyler Myers being the No. 2 option. Trouba is owned in 24 percent of Yahoo standard leagues and is worth a flyer if you have a roster spot to fill.
-- Hampus Lindholm of the Anaheim Ducks ended a own contract impasse of his own on Oct. 27. He has joined the team in Columbus and could suit up against the Blue Jackets on Wednesday. It may take Lindholm (50 percent owned) a game or two, but he will likely slide back onto the power play and top pairing. Sami Vatanen's value and role should remain intact, but keep an eye on the usage of Cam Fowler and Josh Manson moving forward, since their minutes in scoring situations could be impacted.
-- Ryan Murray (2 percent owned) of the Blue Jackets is healthy and could inherit the power play time left by the injured Jones (1:25 per game).
Video: CBJ@BOS: Hartnell deflects PPG past Gustavsson
-- The Carolina Hurricanes will likely lean on Brett Pesce while Justin Faulk is recovering from an upper-body injury. The 21-year-old scored four goals and 16 points in 69 games last season. He picked up five of those points on the power play and could offer some support in that category with his increased role. Noah Hanifin (15 percent owned), who enters the top 50 defensemen rankings this week, remains the preferred choice to replace Faulk.
Top 50 Fantasy Defensemen
1. Brent Burns, SJS (SAME)
2. Erik Karlsson, OTT (SAME)
3. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (SAME)
4. Shea Weber, MTL (SAME)
5. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (+1)
6. Kris Letang, PIT (+3)
7. P.K. Subban, NSH (-2)
8. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (SAME)
9. Duncan Keith, CHI (+2)
10. Victor Hedman, TBL (+2)
11. Roman Josi, NSH (-4)
12. Drew Doughty, LAK (-2)
13. Ryan Suter, MIN (+3)
14. John Carlson, WSH (+3)
15. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (+4)
16. John Klingberg, DAL (+2)
17. Keith Yandle, FLA (+3)
18. Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (-3)
19. Mark Giordano, CGY (-5)
20. Brent Seabrook, CHI (+3)
21. Sami Vatanen, ANA (+3)
22. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (+3)
23. Zach Werenski, CBJ (+20)
24. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (+2)
25. Alec Martinez, LAK (+5)
26. Mike Green, DET (+5)
27. Tyson Barrie, COL (-6)
28. Dougie Hamilton, CGY (-6)
29. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (-2)
30. Aaron Ekblad, FLA (-2)
31. Colton Parayko, STL (-2)
32. Hampus Lindholm, ANA (NEW)
33. Anton Stralman, TBL (+2)
34. Torey Krug, BOS (-2)
35. Jake Muzzin, LAK (+1)
36. Cam Fowler, ANA (+2)
37. Brian Campbell, CHI (SAME)
38. Nick Leddy, NYI (+3)
39. TJ Brodie, CGY (-6)
40. Morgan Rielly, TOR (+2)
41. Trevor Daley, PIT (-1)
42. Damon Severson, NJD (NEW)
43. Mark Streit, PHI (NEW)
44. Matt Niskanen, WSH (SAME)
45. Zdeno Chara, BOS (SAME)
46. Noah Hanifin, CAR (NEW)
47. Erik Johnson, COL (-1)
48. Jacob Trouba, WPG (NEW)
49. Matt Dumba, MIN (-2)
50. Brandon Manning, PHI (SAME)
Dropped out: Patrick Wiercioch (COL), Mattias Ekholm (NSH)
Just missed: Jeff Petry (MTL), Jake Gardiner (TOR), Ivan Provorov (PHI), Johnny Boychuk (NYI), Brady Skjei (NYR)
Key Injuries: Justin Faulk (CAR), Seth Jones (CBJ), Brayden McNabb (LAK), Derrick Pouliot (PIT), Marco Scandella (MIN), Michael Stone (ARI), Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI)
READ: Last week's Top 50 defenseman rankings