It's the best time of year!
Fantasy Week here at RLD continues. Here is our preview for defensemen, with some bonus analysis below from Dobber Hockey’s Jeff Angus…
1. Kris Letang, PIT
2010/11: 82 GP, 8 G, 42 A, 50 Pts, +15
3-year Avg: 76 GP, 7 G, 30 A, 37 Pts, +3
Letang benefitted from Sergei Gonchar’s departure and enjoyed a breakout season. If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are healthy, Letang will be the top fantasy D-man to own.
2. Mike Green, WSH
2010/11: 49 GP, 8 G, 16 A, 24 Pts, +6
3-year Avg: 64 GP, 19 G, 38 A, 57 Pts, +23
Injuries slowed down his production last year – and it wasn’t his first experience with injury. That said, Green is still an elite fantasy blueliner.
3. Duncan Keith, CHI
2010/11: 82 GP, 7 G, 38 A, 45 Pts, -1
3-year Avg: 80 GP, 10 G, 43 A, 53 Pts, +18
Combine Chicago’s expected success and Brian Campbell’s departure, and it adds up to the 2010 Norris Trophy winner bouncing back in a big way this year.
4. Lubomir Visnovsky, ANA
2010/11: 81 GP, 18 G, 50 A, 68 Pts, +18
3-year Avg: 68 GP, 14 G, 34 A, 48 Pts, +5
Visnovsky led the NHL in points for D-men last year and benefits from playing on a team with such great talent.
5. Drew Doughty, LA
2010/11: 76 GP, 11 G, 29 A, 40 Pts, +13
3-year Avg: 80 GP, 11 G, 31 A, 42 Pts, +5
The uber-talented Kings rearguard was great in 2009-10, but inconsistent last season. Which one will it be this time around?
6. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET
2010/11: 82 GP, 16 G, 46 A, 62 Pts, -2
3-year Avg: 81 GP, 14 G, 43 A, 57 Pts, +17
Last year’s Norris winner is always a reliable pick amongst fantasy defensemen.
7. Keith Yandle, PHX
2010/11: 82 GP, 11 G, 48 A, 59 Pts, +12
3-year Avg: 78 GP, 9 G, 34 A, 43 Pts, +8
Why is Yandle a safe pick? Because he’s a go-to offensive option for the Coyotes.
8. Shea Weber, NSH
2010/11: 82 GP, 16 G, 32 A, 48 Pts, +7
3-year Avg: 81 GP, 18 G, 30 A, 48 Pts, +3
Like Yandle in Phoenix, Weber is a main source of offense in Nashville. Will he get back to 20 goals?
9. Alex Goligoski, DAL
2010/11: 83 GP, 14 G, 32 A, 46 Pts, +20
3-year Avg: 66 GP, 9 G, 25 A, 34 Pts, +11
Goligoski fit like a glove with the Stars and racked up 15 points in 23 games down the stretch.
10. Dan Boyle, SJ
2010/11: 76 GP, 9 G, 41 A, 50 Pts, +2
3-year Avg: 76 GP, 13 G, 42 A, 55 Pts, +5
Few defensemen are as consistent as Boyle, but how will Brent Burns’ arrival affect that?
11. Tobias Enstrom, WPG
2010/11: 72 GP, 10 G, 41 A, 51 Pts, -10
3-year Avg: 79 GP, 7 G, 37 A, 44 Pts, +0
Enstrom put together back-to-back 50-point seasons in Atlanta. He ranked 4th in power play points from defensemen last season.
12. Zdeno Chara, BOS
2010/11: 81 GP, 14 G, 30 A, 44 Pts, +33
3-year Avg: 80 GP, 13 G, 33 A, 46 Pts, +25
‘Big Z’ probably won’t ever lead defensemen in scoring, but is steady across the board – points, plus/minus and PIM.
13. Mark Streit, NYI
2009/10: 82 GP, 11 G, 38 A, 49 Pts, +0
3-year Avg: 79 GP, 13 G, 42 A, 55 Pts, +0
Streit missed 2010-11 due to injury, but is the Isles’ power play quarterback and is still considered a great fantasy blueliner.
14. Christian Ehrhoff, BUF
2010/11: 79 GP, 14 G, 36 A, 50 Pts, +19
3-year Avg: 79 GP, 12 G, 33 A, 45 Pts, +14
Buffalo usually has a solid power play and the unit will only improve with Ehrhoff on board.
15. Andrei Markov, MTL
2010/11: 7 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, +2
3-year Avg: 43 GP, 6 G, 27 A, 33 Pts, +4
Markov has missed 112 games in the last two years. When healthy, though, he produces.
16. Erik Karlsson, OTT
2010/11: 75 GP, 13 G, 32 A, 45 Pts, -30
2-year Avg: 68 GP, 9 G, 27 A, 36 Pts, -18
The 2008 first-round pick had 45 points, but was hot and cold last year. Karlsson also has some company in Ottawa when it comes to offensive D-men.
17. Alex Pietrangelo, STL
2010/11: 79 GP, 11 G, 32 A, 43 Pts, +18
With Erik Johnson gone, Pietrangelo is the clear-cut No. 1 blueliner for St. Louis – and his potential is unlimited.
18. James Wisniewski, CBJ
2010/11: 75 GP, 10 G, 41 A, 51 Pts, -14
3-year Avg: 64 GP, 5 G, 30 A, 35 Pts, -3
Wisniewski, fresh off a new six-year contract, will improve the Jackets’ man advantage. But what about his offensive numbers?
19. Alexander Edler, VAN
2010/11: 51 GP, 8 G, 25 A, 33 Pts, +13
3-year Avg: 69 GP, 8 G, 29 A, 37 Pts, +8
What will Ehrhoff’s departure mean for Edler’s fantasy value? A career-high in points is in store for the Swede.
20. Ryan Whitney, EDM
2010/11: 35 GP, 2 G, 25 A, 27 Pts, +13
3-year Avg: 55 GP, 4 G, 26 A, 30 Pts, +0
Whitney can be injury-prone, but has 38 points in 54 games with the Oilers.
Note: Rankings are based on projected 2011-12 stats, not based on 2010-11 or 3-year stats.
Sleeper: P.K. Subban
The 22-year-old brash defenseman is a sparkplug on the ice for the Canadiens. Subban can also provide a spark to fantasy teams. Entering his second full NHL season, Subban has high expectations – and there’s no reason he can’t meet them. He tallied 38 points as a rookie and came on strong down the stretch. Subban’s role on the power play, where he notched 18 points last year, won’t be affected by the return of Andrei Markov. Subban, who can also provide decent PIM and SOG numbers, is on his way up and will likely be a trendy pick in fantasy leagues.
Bust or Trust: Dustin Byfuglien?
Though Byfuglien doesn’t appear in the Top 20 list above, he’s still a must-own in most fantasy leagues. Why? For starters, he was second in the NHL in shots on goal, which is rare for a defenseman. He may not duplicate that 347 shot count again, but he gets the puck on net. If he plays the same way under new bench boss Claude Noel, then 15-20 goals, 40-plus points and 80-90 PIM – solid for a defenseman – is not out of the question. Not many pundits are going to be too high on Big Buff this season because of his second half slump (13 points in final 40 games), but he is good to have (if you don’t overpay) because of everything he brings to the table.
- Ryan Porth
2010-11 was a tale of two seasons for the former Blackhawk. Byfuglien benefitted from playing with the underrated Tobias Enstrom, both at even strength and on the power play. He finished among the league leaders in defensive production, but his second half of the season was largely forgettable. The Jets don’t have a ton of talent up front, and teams learned to focus on Byfuglien more as last season wore on. Zach Bogosian was once thought of as the power play quarterback of the future, but his development has stalled. The Jets may choose to get him some more ice-time in order to get back on track, meaning more competition on the top unit for Byfuglien. He’s still a really good defenseman to own in all pool formats, but he needs to prove that the first half of last season wasn’t a total fluke.
- Jeff Angus
Draft Day Dilemma: Nicklas Lidstrom or Keith Yandle?
The ageless wonder, as most people call Lidstrom, is still a top defenseman. You know what you are getting with Lidstrom. He’s a machine on the power play and has racked up at least 59 points in five of six seasons since the lockout. With Brian Rafalski’s retirement, I wouldn’t expect to see Lidstrom’s role on the man advantage diminish one bit. Even at 41 years old, the Red Wings captain isn’t going to slow down. Fantasy owners can’t go wrong with Yandle, but if I had to pick or the other, I’m taking Lidstrom.
- Ryan Porth
Is this the year that Nick Lidstrom slows down offensively? At some point, he is going to regress with his power play production. Yandle, like Byfuglien, had a forgettable second half of last season from an offensive standpoint. Still, his season was extremely impressive considering that the Coyotes were very average in even strength and power play goal scoring. Once the young Coyotes like Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris and Brett MacLean start to flex their muscle at the NHL level, Yandle’s production will increase even more. He is one of the most dynamic defensemen in the game.
- Jeff Angus
Rookie to Watch: Ryan Ellis
The Nashville Predators have always said that the road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee. Ryan Ellis could be an exception to that unwritten rule. And if he is, the decorated ex-Windsor Spitfire should be a target of yours late in fantasy drafts. He is a power play dynamo and would immediately get time on the Preds’ unit. His numbers (101 points in 58 games) obviously won’t translate, but if he spends the whole year in Nashville, he’ll make an impact on the blue-line.
Matt Carle, PHI… On the surface, Carle’s 40 points and +30 rating from last year look great, but he had just one goal and two power play points. Carle seems like a player that would overachieve in a contract year.
John-Michael Liles, TOR… Liles has a great opportunity with the Leafs to just play his game and be a big power play contributor.
Sheldon Souray, DAL… Is this Souray’s last chance to stay in the NHL? He will likely be given a chance to play on the man advantage. He’s a sleeper to keep an eye on in deeper leagues.
Note: Stat categories taken into consideration – G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG
Photos credit: Getty Images
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