Before we jump into the discussion, I want to remind readers that the Season Pass Fantasy Chat has been moved to 11:30am on Thursdays for the foreseeable future.
For this week’s rountable I’d like us to turn our attention to defensemen.
Kevin Brown: Entering the season there was a pretty clear top tier of fantasy blueliners that included Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber and P.K. Subban with Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith close behind. If you were drafting today, which defenseman would you consider placing into this top tier?
Michael Finewax: Mark Giordano is a no-brainer. He leads all defensemen in points with 25 and that's good enough for a tie for eighth in overall NHL scoring. He is a plus-14 to boot which is tied for fourth best in the league. He would be the Norris Trophy winner if the award was given out now. Giordano was very good last year as well with 47 points and a plus-12 rating in 64 games, but playing for a poorCalgaryteam he got lost in all the losing.
Ryan Dadoun: Giordano has definitely been great this season. I'd throw Kris Letang into the top tier too. Really, the only thing that was keeping him out of it at the start of the season was his lengthy injury history, but so far he's managed to stay relatively healthy. Of course he's dealing with a lower-body injury right now. We're being told it's minor, but we'll have to wait-and-see if that proves to be the case.
Corey Abbott: I was taking a wait-and-see approach with Victor Hedman going into this season and before he got injured he proved that he was ready to enter the top tier. He was leading all defensemen in scoring and if he didn't miss 18 games with a fractured finger then I think he would've been right up there with Giordano. Hedman is the top defender on a deeply-talented offensive team and he has a bright future in store for him at both ends of the ice.
Kevin Brown: I agree with every player you guys have mentioned and I would also add Brent Burns to the list based on his early-season performance. Unlike the names you have proposed, Burns is far from a Norris Trophy candidate, but his offense has been incredibly valuable from a fantasy standpoint. Okay, now let’s turn our attention to the disappointments. Which blueliner’s early-season struggles have been the biggest bummer for you?
Michael Finewax: Jay Bouwmeester has been a huge disappointment. First, I expected him to play every game and he got hurt last week, but on a serious note, he has only one goal and one assist in 20 games after a four goal and 37 point season with a plus-26 last year. He is a plus-one this season and has not been a fantasy asset at all. In fact, he has probably hurt your team.
Ryan Dadoun: Honestly, most of the big-name blueliners that have underperformed this season have done so due to injury. Bouwmeester is certainly an exception to that rule though as Michael pointed out. Brian Campbell is another one in that vein. He's been relatively healthy, but has just seven points in 21 games last season. Sure he's past his prime and is playing on an offensively anemic team, but that was the case last season too and he still managed to record 37 points.
Corey Abbott: I've been very disappointed by Christian Ehrhoff so far this season. I had him pegged for big things on the Penguins this year and targeted him in several drafts, but he's collected a mere eight points in 23 games. He finally got his first goal of the year on Saturday. I like his plus-14 rating and 44 shots is pretty good, but his average ice time on the power play (1:32) is discouraging.
Kevin Brown: I’ve got Ehrhoff on a couple of my teams as well, but since Kris Letang is the only defensemen the Penguins have been using on their top power play unit he hasn’t delivered the offense I was hoping for. Another blueliner who has greatly underachieved so far has been Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Coyotes. I thought he was on the verge of joining the top tier prior to the season, but with 10 points and an ugly minus-15 rating he hasn’t been very productive. Who are some of your favorite underrated commodities on the blue line?
Michael Finewax: Sami Vatanen has really come into his own this season. I liked him a year ago, but he is now quarterbacking the Anaheim power play and has four of his five goals with the extra man. He started off the season with his first 10 points coming on the power play but seven of his last nine points have come at even strength. He is tied for third with Brent Burns in defenseman scoring with his only blemish being a minus-four rating.
Corey Abbott: I like the season Cody Franson is having with Toronto. He took a step back in 2013-14 after he was great during the lockout-shortened season and he's gotten back on track this year. Franson plays on the top power-play unit, has a plus-7 rating and he has very good numbers in real-time categories as well. I've also been impressed with the quietly successful year that Roman Josi is enjoying in Nashville. He logs heavy minutes alongside Shea Weber on the top pairing and plays in all situations. He also has 12 points and a plus-10 rating to go with 54 shots and 57 blocks.
Ryan Dadoun: I did the recent Waiver Wired report and the guy I like most out of that list is Jake Muzzin. With Slava Voynov out of the picture for who knows how long, Muzzin's getting 23:15 minutes per game, including 3:04 minutes with the man advantage. He only had 24 points last season, but I think he should comfortably beat that this season. He's certainly on pace to do so with 11 points in 18 contests.
Kevin Brown: I mentioned him in my column a few weeks ago, but I still find it odd how little love Justin Faulk has been getting. It’s not like he has come out of nowhere - he was a buzzy sleeper two years ago - and yet his 13 points this month have been relatively quiet. He has very little competition for premium ice time in Carolina and the team has been much better in recent weeks. I’m buying him wherever I can.