We are starting to see a little bit of the potential from a handful of solid fantasy blue-chip defensemen these past few weeks. Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar and Scott Niedermayer won’t be around forever you know.
Matt Carle of the San Jose Sharks began the season with a lot of flair. The 22-year-old rookie had 12 points in his first 13 games, proving that a strong performance at the end of last season was no fluke. He then hit a bit of a wall, as youngsters are prone to do, and was actually sent to Worcester of the AHL for several games back in early January. Carle now has seven points in his last seven games and with 33 points on year is fine shape to clear the 40-point plateau. It will take him two or three years, but Carle looks to be a regular 65-point-plus defenseman. After all – he wasn’t chosen in the second round of the 2003 NHL entry draft for his stay-at-home defensive skills.
Another future fantasy stud who is holding a hot hand right now is Nashville blueliner Shea Weber. While Weber lacks Carle’s pure offensive instincts, he will be a coveted defenseman in hockey pools nonetheless. One day, perhaps as soon as next season, the big 21-year-old will contribute 60 points and 100 penalty minutes. Ironically enough, Weber was selected 49th overall in 2003 – just two picks after Carle.
Ever since early December, 25-year-old Kevin Bieksa has astonished the fantasy hockey world (to say nothing of the real hockey world) with his impressive offensive contributions for the Canucks. He has 28 points in his last 39 contests. A later draft pick (fifth round in 2001), he has come from out of nowhere, improving with ever season in college and later the American League. He looks like a solid 50-point player in the future capable of adding 120 penalty minutes to your fantasy squad. He has four points in his last three games.
Manny Fernandez has been healthy for four games now for the Wild, and yet has been a backup for three straight contests in favor of Niklas Backstrom and rookie Josh Harding. It would be wise to keep Fernandez on reserve until one of the other two goaltenders stumble during the stretch drive…
With the return from injury of Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kyle Wellwood, to say nothing of the acquisition of Yanic Perreault, it goes without saying that the offense of some Toronto players is taking a beating. Jeff O’Neill, who was having a decent comeback season, is now pointless in his last seven games and has just two in his last 11. John Pohl, who had 20 points in 21 games, is now on a five-game run in which he has just one assist.