The Norris Trophy will be difficult to hand out this season, as there are plenty of potential contenders. Rather than talk about them or the usual suspects of valuable fantasy defenders, we'll look at some defensemen who have provided fantasy owners with plenty of bang for the buck this season based on their average draft positions going into the season.
Roman Josi (NSH) - Avg. pick 149.2, Avg. round 13.7
Josi has transformed into a top fantasy option this campaign. He trails only Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and San Jose's Brent Burns for points among all defensemen. He has posted career highs in goals (15), assists (40) and points (55). Josi also has a plus-15 rating and 207 blocks, which is the second-highest total for defenders. He averages 26:28 of ice time per contest, which puts him slightly ahead of All-Star defender and teammate Shea Weber (26:22). Josi has played on the top pairing of Nashville alongside Weber for most of the year. He has recorded 67.3% of his points at even strength, but has contributed 15 points on the power play. Fantasy owners will need to move Josi up on their draft boards going into next season.
Justin Faulk (CAR) - Avg. pick 124.8, Avg. round 11.8
Faulk has been a bright spot in what has been a difficult season for the Hurricanes. He was the leading scorer on the team until Eric Staal surpassed him thanks to a productive month of March. Faulk has earned personal bests with 15 goals and 32 assists for 47 points in 76 games. His minus-19 rating doesn't appear to be very flattering, but fantasy owners should note that he ranks fifth among NHL rearguards with a SAT of 264. When he's been on the ice at 5-on-5, Carolina has generated 1,512 shot attempts, which is the third-highest total among all defensemen. Only Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings and Karlsson have been on the ice for more. Faulk will enter Thursday's action as just one of eight defenders who have collected 200-plus shots this season. He ranks sixth in that category with a career high of 213. Faulk has a good chance of hitting the 50-point mark before the end of the season. He is trending in the right direction and fantasy owners should adjust their expectations accordingly.
Dennis Wideman (CGY) - Avg. pick 158.4, Avg. round 14.8
Wideman has come a long way since being a healthy scratch in just the second game of the season. He got the message fairly quick what coach Bob Hartley was expecting from him and it set the tone for a successful season. Wideman is one point away from hitting 50 for the second time in his career and he's already established a new personal best with 14 goals. He's tied for sixth in scoring among defensemen. His role with the Flames has gotten larger with Mark Giordano sidelined and his ice time has increased. Wideman picked up 12 points in 15 games last month, as Calgary looks to lock up a playoff berth.
Andrei Markov (MTL) - Avg. pick 134.4, Avg. round 12.6
Markov lost plenty of traction in fantasy hockey because of his injury issues from the 2009-10 season to the 2011-12 campaign. However, he has been much healthier since then. Dating back to the lockout-shortened season, Markov has missed just one contest and he's surpassed the 40-point plateau for the last two years. He has registered nine goals and 45 points in 77 games in 2014-15. He plays second fiddle to defense partner P.K. Subban in Montreal, but his performance deserves recognition. Markov has shared his point total among even strength and the power play equally with 22 points coming in both situations. He has one assist shorthanded. The 36-year-old veteran also ranks in the top 10 among all blueliners with 166 blocked shots.
John Carlson (WAS) - Avg. pick 121.7, Avg. round 11.5
Carlson has been an excellent blend of defense and offense this season. He plays in all situations for the Capitals and he's enjoyed the best year of his career from a statical standpoint. He has earned new highs with 11 goals and 37 assists for 48 points through 77 games. Carlson's average ice time (23:05) has gone down slightly in coach Barry Trotz's first year behind the bench, but he still plays an important role on Washington's back end. He also has a spot on the first power-play combination. Carlson is on pace to reach the 50-point mark for the first time in his career before the end of the season.
Dougie Hamilton (BOS) - Avg. pick 145.6, Avg. 13.4
Hamilton was expected by many pundits to take the next step this season and he's done just that. His point total has ballooned from 25 in 2013-14 to 42 after 72 matches. He has tallied 10 goals on 188 shots and he's averaged a career high 21:20 of ice time. Hamilton has also been credited with 106 shots. The 21-year-old has been partnered with Zdeno Chara for most of the season and he was manning the point on the top power-play unit before he sustained an injury, which has sidelined him for an indefinite period. Hamilton might be back before the end of the regular season and he should be on everyone's radar going into next year.
Nick Leddy (NYI) - Avg. pick 163.0, Avg. round 14.2
Leddy doesn't have the lofty numbers of his counterparts on this list, but he has provided good value for his fantasy owners and for the Islanders this campaign. He has netted a career high 10 goals and he has generated 31 points in 73 matches. Leddy has averaged 20:15 of ice time per contest, which just behind the 22:04 he saw in 2011-12 when he picked up 37 points in Chicago. For him to reach the next level and hit 40 points, he'll need to produce more offense on the power play, where he has 11 points this year. Leddy is just 24 years of age and it looks like his prime seasons are just ahead of him.
Trevor Daley (DAL) - Avg. pick 155.1, Avg. round 13.6
Daley has enjoyed an offensive explosion in 2014-15. His breakout year has included 16 goals and 36 points in 63 games. This is the first time that Daley has hit double digits in goals and his first campaign with 30 points. He has missed 14 games due to injury, but he's tied for fourth among NHL rearguards in goals. Daley has recorded 61.1% of his points at even strength and he's played off and on the Stars' top power-play unit. His 14.3 shooting percentage suggests further that he's due for a regression next season, but fantasy owners can benefit from his play for the rest of 2014-15.