The clock begins its countdown. Your buddies stare at you with a look of anticipation on their faces as you clumsily shuffle your papers around, trying to judge which remaining player on the board represents the highest value for your pick. You finally identify Mike Green and Rick Nash as potential candidates for the respected and esteemed spot on your roster. However, the counter on your internet browser turns red and you only have 10 seconds left! Its become a question of positional value now as your cursor hovers over and ultimately clicks, with one second to spare, the...



Venerable goal-scorer from the Columbus Blue Jackets of course! Over the course of last season,  many fantasy hockey general managers realized that the defense position, while home to some of the league’s most consistent performers, is very conducive to volatile situations as players often over or under perform. It becomes almost nauseating to keep up with the multitude of players to either add or drop during the regular season. Mike Green, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith and Jay Bouwmeester are a couple of players who disappointed and frustrated fantasy owners this season. While luck can have a propensity to be wildly distributed between players, there are always certain signs to look out for that can ultimately win, or lose, your hockey pool. That is why many fantasy enthusiasts have developed a strategy to draft offense first, and then turn to lower round defense-men as a source of points and PIMs. The classic candidate for the break-out is the defenseman (who is 25-years-old or younger) with 25-30 points accrued in the previous season, and who has seen his spot on the depth-chart move up a bit due to trade or free-agency.


At the beginning of the season, it is important to analyze different teams’ depth charts, and watch their preseason games in an effort to ascertain how they plan to use their defensemen. This method can be particularly applied to the ascension of Kris Letang from the rank of relative fantasy unknown to steal. With the departure of Sergei Gonchar, the former captain of Team Canada’s junior squad took the Penguins power play in his own hands, and developed an amazing chemistry with Sidney Crosby, which lead to a 50-point season. The list goes on with Dustin Byfuglien, and to a lesser extent, Keith Yandle, Lubomir Visnovsky and James Wisniewski who all greatly exceeded expectations and are considered to be great picks or steals.


Without further deliberation, here is a list of potential fantasy break-out candidates who patrol the blue line and could stand in between order and chaos for your mid-to-deep fantasy roster:


Dmitri Kulikov


With the departure of teammate Bryan McCabe, the 20-year-old Russian is in line to see an increase in both power-play and total ice-time. While he is still learning to play more effectively on both sides of the ice, the former winner of the Raymond Lagacé Trophy played with more visible confidence in the second half last year, and was a popular add in the dying weeks of the 2010-2011 fantasy season. While 26 points is nothing to sneeze at, Kulikov will almost certainly never hit as low of a point total as that for the rest of his NHL career (unless the injury bug bites). While his fortunes may live and die with the success of a weak Florida Panthers hockey team, there certainly is the potential for a 45 point season next year if David Booth and Stephen Weiss play better than they have the past two years. A more reasonable projection though is 35-40 points with 60 PIMs and 110 shots, which would be about equal to Ryan Suter’s performance last year, so draft accordingly.


Jamie McBain


McBain was in fact drafted late in many leagues this year, and while he did not truly impress, the outlook on him for the 2011-12 season is still quite high. This is because his teammate, Joni Pitkanen, (25 minutes of ice-time per game) is set to become an unrestricted free agent. While the 30 point scorer will not immediately step into his (perhaps) former teammates shoes in terms of ice-time, he will absorb his power-play time. With Joe Corvo visibly losing a step, this puts Jamie McBain in the enviable position of potentially quarterbacking a power-play unit with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. This all but guarantees an increase in points total, and the 23-year-old should have little trouble posting a 40 point season with double-digit goals and 120 shots.


Erik Johnson


Anyone would be hard-pressed not to admit that the Colorado Avalanche have a hard season ahead of them next year, but there are a couple of bright spots, including Erik Johnson. A former first overall draft pick, Johnson should already be a superstar in his own right. While the stars have not aligned, and the defenseman will probably never be the game-breaking player he was drafted to be, there is still hope for a fantasy relevant season from the 23-year-old. He will go into training camp with a tight grasp on the top pairing and power-play duties, and will certainly not be relinquishing it. At such a relatively young age, Johnson still has lots of time to improve. He will take a big step next season and, if everyone stays healthy, should enjoy a career year in Denver with his teammates Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk, with a strong possibility to hit 45 points, and get 12 or 13 goals.


Dan Girardi


A defensive mastermind and team player, Dan Girardi took a large step offensively last year, putting up 31 points, up from the 18 he had posted in the three previous seasons. While he will always be a defense-first player, and will certainly be a Godsend to those in pools that count hits and blocked shots, the undrafted Ranger is tops on the depth chart and will have plenty of opportunities to accrue both primary secondary assists on goals by his teammates Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and potentially (I don’t want to jinx it!) Brad Richards next year. With his workhorse attitude, (over 24 minutes of ice per game) Girardi’s point total should only increase next year as he works on his offensive game. Expect 35 points with a 30% chance of hitting 40 and tons of blocked shots.


This was an article contributed through our Black Aces project. If you are interested in having a column published on DobberHockey, post one in the Black Aces section of the forum. If we like it and we need some content (it happens, from time to time), then we'll use it!

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Jocular Hockey Manager said:

Girardi I don't see Girardi rising. Very, very valuable D-man for the Rangers, however... A couple weeks back I finished prepping for a coming draft. Staal moved ahead of Girardi on my final standings because he was used more consistently on PP. Girardi was used more consistently on SH. TOI went slightly to Girardi (this info is if my memory serves). Anyway, I moved Staal ahead of Girardi. They are without question a pair of pillars on the Rangers blue line. Girardi is also quite a bit older than the other D-men in the discussion (I think age 27). Not much question, that if MDZ can ever figure out the first 90 feet (just a bit), that he's going to be utilized in an offensive role whenever the opportunity arises.

Everyone else on the list is a BANG ON PROJECTION. They also come with that extra bit of upside. Any one of them could potential be a 'major breakout' this coming season and speed up or past 50. (see Yandle, Edler, Goli from this past season). Get your fingers on these guys if the chance presents itself!
June 18, 2011
Votes: +0

Vincent Iacono said:

My Cousin Vinny
Jay Bouwmeester Its seems like a long time ago, but before Bouwmeester signed with Calgary, he was a very consistent 40 point player with around 70 PIMs and 180 shots (2005-09), and a great player overall, as evidenced by his selection to represent Canada at the Olympics in Turin.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Ryan Lenethen said:

Bouwmeester? When has Bouwmeester ever had a good year for poolies? A: Never.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Rusty Pickles said:

Rusty Pickles
... Kulikov - love his talent level, hate his situation. I really think Florida is going to struggle again scoring goals next year. Obviously there will be some changes but all three other players on the list will be dealing with much more skilled players upfront which should in essence translate to more points given the same ice time.

Girardi - never been a big fan from a fantasy perspective, neither of the keepers I am in count hits or blk shots so stay at home guys don't really play unless they are pim beasts. MDZ will eat up most of the PP time should he make the team for good. At the same time say if Gaborik goes on IR with an extended injury, you know THAT has never happened before >_>, I see the Rangers goal totals being hit negatively during those stretches. I still view callahan and dubinsky as 20-25g, 50-60 pt types so that isn't really a plethora of points. Signing Richards provided his head is okay would change the face of the rangers for sure.
June 15, 2011
Votes: +0

Vincent Iacono said:

My Cousin Vinny
Thanks for the Feedback! I chose Girardi because he fell in the 25-30 point category I was looking for. While it is true he is more defensive minded, he is in the top pairing and plays just under 25 minutes a game on an increasingly offensive team, that should guarantee him 30-35 points (assist heavy) every year. Michael Del Zotto will definitely be much better offensively. I got a similar comment in the forum, and wrote a short opinion on MDZ, here it is:

Can you say sophomore slump? With a season like the one he had, it becomes hard to think back to a year ago when he scored over 35 points as a 19-year-old. He was taken in the first round, and if memory serves, was definitely in the top 5 for OHL defensive scoring, so he certainly has the pedigree to excel. Lets not forget that he is only twenty, and is set to hit his prime in about six or seven years, so take solace in the fact that he is a long-term keeper who will produce in increasing amounts each year. It seems like the Rangers blue line is packed with great, young players, so while he will have to fight for ice-time, he will always have great partners. The Rangers did draft him to be their future power-play quarterback, and while this season was indeed a set-back, it by no means changes his future. Players like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will never bring the pure and natural offense that Del Zotto does. This guarantees him a future top spot on the NYR power-play, and provided they don't re-sign McCabe, it could happen out of training camp next year. His demotion did serve as a wake-up call however, and though I didn't see any of his AHL games, I expect him to focus on improving his defense and working on the little things in training camp. With his natural instincts, passing and skating though, he should definitely break the 55 point barrier (30% chance at besting 65) at least three times in his career, with the potential for 15-20 goals.
June 15, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Very Nice Contribution I enjoyed most of this article.
Excellent selections with Kulikov, McBain, and EJ.
Especially listing Kulikov... as he should get every opportunity to be the focal point on FLA's PP1 throughout the season.

I probably disagree on Girardi. I would think NYR would still like MDZ to find his way onto their PP. Or NYR may sign a PP-QB. I just think NYR knows that Girardi isn't a long-term solution there.

(As an aside, the first two paragraphs of this article led me completely astray. First I was thinking there would be a Rick Nash vs. Mike Green analysis. Then I expected you to touch on how to draft PIM D-men in late rounds. Recommendation: Get rid of everything up to the sentence ending in "...PIMs." Get right to it! Start with "The classic candidate for the break-out defensemen...". Then you'd have a GEM of an article!!!!)
June 15, 2011
Votes: +1
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