NHL Fantasy Files: Week 11
There are very few defensemen who will make a significant impact on a fantasy roster.
My personal strategy is to draft one defensemen who can anchor the roster throughout the season—a guy you can rely on to get close to 60 points.
There are only a dozen or so of those players in the NHL.
After that, there isn’t much of a drop-off between the 20th-ranked defenseman and the 60th-ranked defenseman. A Joni Pitkanen or a Matt Carle isn't significantly better than a Paul Mara or a Keith Ballard.
The bottom line: Drafting defense is a crapshoot.
After picking my power-play quarterback, I fill out the rest of my lineup with forwards and goalies and leave the other three defenders for last. I usually aim for one defenseman who can rack up the penalty minutes (à la Shane O’Brien, for example), and grab hot players to fill the last two spots throughout the season.
With a third of the '07-'08 season in the books, though, I see an interesting trend developing around the league: A few coaches have opted to convert defensemen to forwards.
This is fantastic news for the poolie.
These converted rearguards will have more opportunities to shoot on net—and therefore more scoring opportunities than they would on the point.
This week I recommend a few converted D-men.
Moving On Up
Dustin Byfuglien (CHI – D/RW)
I didn’t recommend picking up Byfuglien after his hat trick two weeks ago—because there was no chance he'd be regularly scoring hat tricks from the point.
But now Denis Savard has shifted Byfuglien to the wing. And he’s not just playing on any wing—he’s playing alongside Martin Havlat and Robert Lang.
If there’s any defender in the league who qualifies for sleeper status, it’s Dustin Byfuglien.
If Byfuglien can maintain chemistry with his two talented linemates, he’ll outscore 95 percent of defensemen in the league.
So what are you waiting for? Drop Paul Martin or whoever your fourth defenseman is. He’s easily replaceable—but first-line wingers who qualify at D don’t come along every day.
Mark Streit (MON – D/RW)
Mark Streit is a difficult player to gauge.
Coach Guy Carbonneau doesn’t seem to know where to play the Swiss rearguard. One game Streit's on the point, the next game he'll be on a forward line, and the game after that he'll be a healthy scratch.
Last week I recommended Guillaume Latendresse because he'd joined Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins on the Habs' top line. Despite Latendresse’s decent performance, Carbonneau was determined to make me look like a fool—by replacing him with Streit.
Streit responded with assists in back-to-back games.
With Carbonneau behind the bench, there’s no guessing where Mark Streit will end up. In any event, he’s worth a flyer.
At worst, he'll be a point man on one of Montreal’s power-play units. At best, he'll end up much closer to the net than the blue line if he continues to play well as a forward.
Christoph Schubert (OTT – D/LW)
Schubert's seven points over the last 12 games are marginal stats for a fantasy winger—but for a defenseman they're pretty solid numbers.
Schubert plays on an effective Ottawa checking line with Dean McAmmond and Antoine Vermette. He should surpass the 25-point mark he reached last season now that he’s a left-winger.
While Ottawa has been in a tailspin of late, Schubert should be able to provide your fantasy team with better-than-average points for a defenseman, plus a respectable plus/minus.
Mathieu Dandenault (MON – D/RW)
For those in deeper leagues, Mathieu Dandenault has been a treat.
With only eight points and 54 shots on goals last year, he wasn’t projected to be on anyone’s fantasy radar in '07-'08—but he’s already thrown 38 pucks at the net and tied his point total from a season ago.
Dandenault is currently on pace for a 23-point season while sharing fourth-line duty with Steve Begin and Bryan Smolinski.
Mathieu began his career as a forward, but was shifted to the point by Scotty Bowman while playing for the Red Wings. It appears as if he's comfortably reverted to his original position.
While Dandenault isn’t a player who'll make or break your season, he’s worth a pick in deeper pools—especially if he gets an opportunity to play on a better forward line.
Scott Niedermayer (ANA – D)
He doesn’t play forward—but in case you’ve been asleep in a cave, Niedermayer is back for another season.
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