Top 20 Eastern Conference Fantasy Defensemen - Part 1 of 2
Defensemen, I love them. Typically, in every pool I have been in, I have one of the strongest, if not the strongest blueline squad. If my defence is better than everyone else's, then my forwards don't have to be as good. After the draft, good forwards are more plentiful than top offensive defensemen, therefore plucking a forward off the FA wire is theoretically easier. Over the next two weeks, I will present my version of the top 20 fantasy defensemen - Eastern style.
We're not looking at keeper value here, only what we can expect for the coming season (please stop laughing). This list is not scientific in any way and reflects the order that I value these defensemen with a one year focus. Without further ado, here is the bottom half of the top 20 Eastern Conference fantasy defensemen as ranked by the Eastern Edge:
20) John-Michael Liles - Toronto Maple Leafs
Things are about to get crowded on the back end in Toronto. Team Captain Dion Phaneuf is not going anywhere soon, Jake Gardiner is an up and comer offensively and the team just drafted Morgan Rielly, who is projected to be better than the invention of sliced bread, if you still listen to anything Brian Burke says anymore. So where does that leave Liles? Rielly won't be a factor this season, but if Gardiner poaches any significant power play time, Liles could be phased right out of town in short order.
19) Jake Gardiner - Toronto Maple Leafs
Gardiner has a bright future in the NHL and last season's 30 points was just a taste of what he can do offensively. Unfortunately, the Leafs still have J-M. Liles under contract for the next four years which means that Gardiner likely won't be the full meal deal until Liles is no longer in the equation. Certainly, next season could be a little dicey for Gardiner owners.
18) Sergei Gonchar - Ottawa Senators
In his prime, Gonchar was one lean, mean scoring machine, averaging 62 points a season for seven years from 2000-01 to 2007-08. Last season, he recorded 37 points in 74 games in his second season in the Canadian capital. The 38-year-old will continue to receive top power play time on an up and coming Sens team. In a condensed season, as long as the games aren't crammed into too many back-to-back affairs (injury risk), don't sell the old guy short.
17) Kimmo Timonen - Philadelphia Flyers
Old Reliable has settled in to a 40-45 point range with the Flyers. The 37-year-old Finnish native will man the point on a very talented power play unit in the city of brotherly love. A relatively safe bet to reach 40 points this season, but not much higher.
16) Joni Pitkanen - Carolina Hurricanes
For some reason I thought Pitkanen was older than his 29 years. It just seems like he's been around forever. Last season, he was on pace for over 46 points, but missed 44 games to a concussion and eight to a lower body injury. He has missed 10 games or more in five of his last six seasons. That said, he should still be counted on for 40 points on this offensively revamped Hurricane squad.
15) Dmitry Kulikov - Florida Panthers
Kulikov's point totals have increased each of his three NHL campaigns. In his only major junior season, he recorded 62 points in 57 games and then he jumped straight to the big leagues. Last year, he recorded 28 points in 58 games, a 40 point pro-rated season. Expect big things from the 22-year-old in his fourth NHL campaign.
14) Matt Carle - Tampa Bay Lightning
Signed to a six year deal over the summer by Tampa, Carle will be expected to shoulder the load on the back end and help show young Victor Hedman the way. Offensively, Carle recorded 38 points last season with the Flyers. The season before last, he had 40 points with only two power play points! He should garner all the ice time he can handle with the Lightning and a slight uptick to 45 points wouldn't be unreasonable.
13) Michael Del Zotto - New York Rangers
Still a Restricted Free Agent, there have been rumours that Del Zotto might be signed to an offer sheet by an "unknown" team, possibly Edmonton. That may seem unlikely, but if it were to happen, it could be one of those situations that works out well for both teams in the long run. Still, I hate uncertainty when I draft, so I will slot MDZ in the baker's dozen position, expecting more of the same (10 goals, 45 points) unless his situation changes.
12) Christian Ehrhoff - Buffalo Sabres
After stringing together seasons of 42, 44 and 50 points, Ehrhoff signed a 10 year contract with Buffalo in the summer of 2011. His first season in Buffalo had to be considered a little disappointing, recording 32 points in 66 games or 40 points pro-rated over 82 games. Nearly everything fell off the rails for the Sabres last season. An improved atmosphere will have Ehrhoff threatening 50 points once again.
11) Mark Streit - New York Islanders
With all their high draft picks over the last several years, we keep waiting for the Islanders to take the next step. Streit is the team's top minute muncher and receives the most power play time on ice for the Isles. He has averaged 53.5 points over each of the last four seasons. At 34 years of age, he isn't too old to eclipse the half century mark with an improving offensive team.
Stay tuned for the top 10 Eastern Conference Fantasy Defensemen next week.
Please be polite and give people a chance to guess before looking up and posting the answer. You know who you are!
Only two players have won the Calder, Conn Smythe and Norris trophies over the course of their careers. One is the incomparable number four, Bobby Orr. Who is the other player?
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