October Fantasy Hockey Rankings:  Defencemen

SAN JOSE CA - NOVEMBER 09: Lubomir Visnovsky #17 of the Anaheim Ducks scores the winning goal in overtime of their game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on November 9 2010 in San Jose California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

October is finally here!  NHL games are being played.  New systems are being installed.  Position battles are being won and lost.  For fantasy hockey GMs, it is time to celebrate.

Today, we commence our monthly rankings.  These are in-season rankings, and differ from the rankings in our Draft Kit.  They will be updated at the start of each month.  Typically, one position each day for five days:  Defencemen, Left Wings, Centres, Right Wings, and Goaltenders.

We start by building from the blueline out.  Check out Defencemen Rankings after the jump...

Defencemen Rankings -->> Top 60

                Note:   Defencemen are ranked for their expected performance from this point to the end of the 2011-2012 season using standard scoring leagues categories:  Goals, Assists, Power Play Points, Shots on Goal, Plus/Minus, Penalty Minutes, and Average Time on Ice.  Last year's final ranking, based on actual end-of-year performance data, is indicated in parentheses.

 

1. Lubomir Visnovsky, ANA (4): Lubo was #1 in D scoring last season with 68 points, sporting a +18 rating and logging  >24 min. ATOI.  On the PP, he works with Perry, Getzlaf, and Ryan.  Yeah, those guys are good.

2. Zdeno Chara, BOS (1):  Had a beastly 2010-2011 season capped off with a Cup.  "Only" 44 points and should be around the same again this year, but his 85-100 PIMs stoke value.

3. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET (7):  Always rises to the occasion.  In quite possibly his final year, expect excellence.  Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, et al. would like nothing more than to send him out on top.  Again.

4. Brent Burns, SJS (13): 46 points in Minny last season.  Now he gets to team up with Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Couture, Havlat & Co.  His over/under with the Sharks is 58.  Oh, and he gets gobs of PIMs, too. 

5. Shea Weber, NSH (9):  Possibly the best all-around D-man in the real NHL today.  Weber is on a 1-year deal, playing for a massive multi-year deal this summer.  Bank on him exceeding last year's bountiful production.

6. Drew Doughty, LAK (11): Early concussion last season seemed to knock him off stride, yet he still finished 11th.  Scary.  If he had been in camp, he'd be higher on this list.  In keeper leagues, he's King.

7. Keith Yandle, PHO (6):  Steady improvement each year and has yet to peak.  Last year, 59 points, so book him for 60+ this season.

8. Alexander Edler, VAN (28): Another blueliner who missed a huge chunk of last season playing in just 51 games.  Ehrhoff is gone, but The Sedins remain.  Look for his best season to date.

9. Kris Letang, PIT (2): Played 82 last year and put up 50 points.  He would be higher if there wasn't so much doubt surrounding Crosby's return date and questions about potential re-injury.  His over/under is 50 again, but PIMs will drop.

10. Mike Green, WAS (42): Limited to just 49 games due to injury last season, look for Green to rebound in 2011-12. Washington is going to re-open their attack and he (and Ovechkin) stand to be the primary beneficiaries.

11. Mark Streit, NYI (NR):  The Isles new Captain.  Missed all of last season.  This year, he is greeted with the best supporting cast he's had in years.  If he's on your roster, you almost certainly stole him on draft day.  Damn, you're smart.

12. Christian Ehrhoff, BUF (5):  Don't get me wrong.  I love Buffalo this year.  But there is no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that Ehrhoff eclipses last season.  The Canucks were #1 in, well, everything, Edler missed 30 games, etc.  He'll be good, but temper expectations.

13. Tobias Enstrom, WPG (18): 51 pts in 72 GP last season.  60 point potential is clearly there.  I'd be higher on him if his blueline partner wasn't fat and facing significant outside distractions from Johnny Law.

14. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (3):  53 points, nearly 100 PIMs, and so many SOG that I lost track.  Love this guy.  And something tells me that 30 extra el-bees to him is like 4 or 5 to you and me.  He'll shake it.  But it could take a little while for him to get it in gear.  Last season's second half slump is a bit of a concern.

15. Duncan Keith, CHI (15): Logged massive minutes last year.  Look for Chicago to dial that back some as his point production suffered.  Expect slightly less ATOI, and a bump up in points.

16. Ryan Suter, NSH (12):  Mr. Steady.  Like his partner Shea Weber, he's in the final year of his contract and plenty motivated.  Suter battled through a spate of injuries last year and still posted nearly 40 points in just 70 games.  Healthy again, he should challenge 50.  About half his points will be on the PP, too.  That counts double, bitchez.

16. James Wisniewski, CLS (20): 51 points last year between the Isles and Habs.  Now has a home, and the Monster Nash and Jeff Carter on the PP.  Already suspended, but gotta like his mean streak.

17. P.K. Subban, MON (13): Speaking of mean steaks and suspensions...if this kid ever cools it, he could post some top numbers.  This year, Markov's return could reduce his value somewhat.

18. Dion Phaneuf, TOR (23): Nice end to last season sparks hope that Phaneuf can increase his scoring #s.  Peripherals always strong.  It has been several years, but I'm finally bullish on him again.

19. Alex Goligoski, DAL (10): Wow. At the time, not many thought the Stars got good value in the James Neal trade, but "Goose" proved he's got the goods and left Stars fans rejoicing.  Losing Brad Richards will hurt though.

20. Mark Giordano, CGY (16): Best kept secret in fantasy hockey.  43 points last season.  Will meet or exceed that again this year, and he's good for about a PIM per game to boot.

21. Dan Boyle, SJS (8): Perennially solid pick.  Competition with Burns though now for prime ice time combined with his age (35) gives some pause.  Surrounded by talent, although probably overvalued on draft day.

22. Kevin Bieksa, VAN (27):  With Ehrhoff gone expect his opportunities and scoring to rise.  Close to 100 PIMs a nice boost to value.  27th last year in only 66 games tells me he could very easily be ranked higher.  Good early season trade target as he's likely undervalued.

23. Erik Karlsson, OTT (43): 45 points last year, but was hurt by an antarctic freeze +/-.  The Sens will be better, and so will Karlsson.  Unclear how much Gonchar's return will impact his production.

24. Niklas Kronwall (34): Brian Rafalski's retirement opens door for larger role on Red Wings juggernaut.  37 points last season.  Look for him to increase that by about 10.

25. Alex Pietrangelo, STL (19) :  Excellent potential.  Would like to see back-to-back quality seasons before ranking higher.  Esp. given that his first two seasons in the league were suboptimal.

26. Andrei Markov, MON (NR): The #1 in Montreal champing at the bit to get back to business.  Questions about his knee will persist until he proves he's back.  Potential for production is vast.  If he's full go, move up about 10 spots.

27. Erik Johnson, COL (60): #1 overall pick in 2006 with fresh start in mile high.  Will be given every opportunity and has the skills to perform at a high level. 

28. Cam Fowler, ANA (69): Like Karlsson, his excellent production (40 points -- as a rookie!) were offset by brutal plus-minus (-25).  That will improve this year, and he gets to play with the same guys as the #1 D-man in these rankings.  With a name like Fowler, you knew he had to be a Duck.

29. Ryan Whitney, EDM (53): Only played 54 games last year (38 pts).  If his feet don't fail him now, he could post downright gaudy #s with emerging stars in Edmonton.

30. Tyler Myers, BUF (40): Ehrhoff signing hampers Leopold mostly; Myers less.  Last year started ugly for the big guy, but he rallied strong, and all signs point toward an improvement over last season. 

31. Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (50): A massive 43 pt rookie season in just 72 games--including 11 pts in 10 games after being dealt to St. Louis.  Love Cap'n Kirk's upside.

32. Marek Zidlicky, MIN (93): Limited to just 24 points in 46 games last year, Zids surpassed the 40 point mark in each of the previous three seasons.  Burns is gone.  Lats is healthy.  Heatley and Setoguchi just arrived at the party.   Another likely steal on draft day.

33. Brent Seabrook, CHI (17): 48 points last season as he picked up the slack from Keith's dropoff.  Expect role reversal this year.  Chicago also working Leddy into the offensive mix.

34. Marc Staal, NYR (32):  Another concussion.  Hey Bettman, wake up you sniveling troll!  Staal will get his head right.  He could miss a little time early on, but it would be for the best.  Speaking of...he's the best D-man on the Blueshirts.  And it's not close.

35. Victor Hedman (67): Third year in the NHL.  Has shown nice progression each year.  Only 20 years old.  I smell a breakout.  Not a full-blown Stamkos's 2nd year kinda breakout, but approaching 40 points and 80+ PIMs.

36. Jack Johnson, LAK (35):  Played 82 games and posted 42 points last season, but with an ugly -21. Look for substantial improvement in the +/-.  If shootout goals count in your league, move him up.

37. Brian Campbell, FLA (45): Goes from third fiddle in Chi-town to the #1 man in FLA.  Only played 65 games last year.  With the increased role and more games, his stock is on the rise although +/- could be an issue.

38. Tomas Kaberle, CAR (22): On the move again.  From Toronto to Boston and now to Carolina.  Blueline in CAR is a bit crowded:  Pitkanen, McBain.  Still, should have plenty of opportunities on the PP and he's still got game.

39. Travis Hamonic, NYI (44): 30 points and 100 PIMs within reach for FHS favorite.

40. John-Michael Liles, TOR (36):  Runs hot and cold.  Will have competition in TOR with Phaneuf and Franson, but should still get ample time on the PP.

41. John Carlson, WAS (25): I like Carlson.  I REALLY do.  But Green is back.  And Wideman is healthy, too.  Oh, and the Caps signed Roman Hamrlik as well.  I don't see him matching his 37 points from last season, but he won't be too far off.

42. Jonathan Blum, NAS (NR): Role will be capped by dynamic duo of Weber and Suter, but kid can bring it.  8 points in 23 games last season.  He'll break 30 this year with a solid +/-.  Few PIMs and SOGs though.

43. Sergei Gonchar, OTT (72): Take heart Sens fans as Sarge also had an emetic first season in Pittsburgh.  Look for him to bounce back this year.  Wicked slapper from the point.

44. Chris Pronger, PHI (48):  Dismal, injury-riddled season.  Now coming off major back surgery.  And he'll be 37 y.o. in a few days.  Don't like the risk here although chances are he improves somewhat over 2010-2011.

45. Dmitri Kulikov, FLA (89): Similar to Hedman in that this is his 3rd year in the NHL and he's shown nice progression each year.  Look for about 30-35 points, with potential for a bit more.  Low PIMs and SOGs limits upside.

46. Dennis Seidenberg, BOS (38): Underrated German-born defenceman.  His partner, Chara, is pretty good.  Seems energized by playing for the Bruins.

47. Joni Pitkanen, CAR (33): 35 points in 72 games.  He's a bit brittle, so don't expect a lot more GPs.  Kaberle is an upgrade over Corvo, so his upside is somewhat limited.  Skilled.

48. Adam Larsson (NR)Rookie with Swedish Elite League experience falls into ideal situation in New Jersey where the Devils need a PMD with the skills to run the PP.  Playing with Kovalchuk, Elias, Parise & Co. will not hurt.

49. Ian White, DET (74): Has been paired with that Lidstrom fella in the early going.  In the past, has consistently disappointed, but his opportunity this season is undeniable.  Moving up.

50. Paul Martin, PIT (60): Ranked 60th last year.  Goligoski is gone.  He has a year in the Penguins system.  Improvement on 2010-2011 campaign is a given.  If he starts to receive more PP time, move him up some more.

51. Kimmo Timonen, PHI (26): Flyers expected to be lower octane this season.  He's streaky but trusted and will continue to garner quality opportunities.  Could very well finish higher on this list, just don't love his upside.

52. Dennis Wideman, WAS (39):  He's healthy, but the blueline in Washington is crowded (see:  Carlson, John), and all signs point to Mike Green bouncing back this season.

53. Zach Bogosian, WPG (150): Perhaps no one on this list needed a change of scenery more than Bogosian.  He's got the skill, the experience, and a fresh start.  Look for him to put it together this year, although his value is capped as long as Buff and Enstrom eat up the prime minutes.

54. Eric Brewer, TBL (66): Resurgence after trade to Lightning.  Will be mentoring Hedman and receiving quality opportunities.  Look for a modest increase over last year's numbers.

55. Cody Franson, TOR (68): 68th last year playing behind Weber and Suter.  He's behind Phaneuf and Liles, so not a new situation for him.  Look for an improvement commensurate with increased TOI.

56. Stephane Robidas, DAL (47):The Sheldon Souray experiment will take a bite out of his chances, but he's better than Souray, and the Stars will figure that out at some point.

57. Andrej Meszaros (21): Philadelphia lost a lot of proven scoring via the Richards and Carter trades.  He's a play on Pronger's prognosis, but also has competition for quality TOI from Timonen and Carle.

58. Anton Babchuk, CGY (41):  He's good for about 35 points.  Not much upside, but pretty reliable.  Jay Feaster thinks he score 50.  Sounds like the big guy is already working on his alibis.

59. Grant Clitsome (NR): 19 points in 31 games (a 50-point pace).  Will have first 8 games without Wiz and with Carter, so he could start hot.  Wiz's signing and return later this month does quell the enthusiasm somewhat.

60. Nick Leddy, CHI (NR): Another young player with limited GP last season.  Will have a chance to pick up a chunk of the quality ice time made available after Campbell's trade to FLA.  Has been paired with Keith the last two games, and is seeing time on the PP.

On the bubble:  Corvo, Hamhuis, BClark, Bouwmeester, Salo, SElliott, Leopold.

Everyone has their own take on rankings.  If you would move a player up or down, note your reasons below.  If your reasoning is sound, it will be reflected in next month's rankings.

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