We’re going to keep the rankings rolling today with my defensemen tiers. As a reminder from the goaltending rankings, I will be ranking the guys in order, but I am putting more focus on tiers than the exact rankings of players. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Tristan Jarry had his best game of the season on Monday night stopping 42 of 43 shots in the 4-1 win over the Bruins. He's crossed both hockey versions of the Mendoza line and the wins are strong, but it's still not pretty overall. However, I'm very bullish on Jarry and Casey DeSmith going forward. The Penguins are playing much better lately and their schedule going forward is outstanding. They still have six games with the Sabres and all eight games against the Devils. That means half of their remaining games are against teams that they should handle with ease. Think of how well goalies like Andersen normally rank at the end of the season because of how many wins they get. Both Pens goalies should have those kind of numbers in the second half. It's hard to say how the starts will be split, but if you're desperate for goalie help, I'm fine with holding DeSmith, and Jarry is a nice trade target. Let's take a look at what else happened on Monday night:
Going into the season, I was high on Aaron Ekblad because the reports out of Florida were that Yandle was going to get scratched to open the season and his future was in doubt. One bout of COVID later, and Yandle was in opening night and scored. For the bad luck I've had on rankings this year
, Yandle has not impacted Ekblad one bit. Ekblad had hit a bit of a rough patch over the last week, but he fixed that in a big way on Thursday. Ekblad scored two goals and added two assists with six shots in the 5-4 win over the Predators. That brings Ekblad to 8+7 in 22 games, an incredible rate of goals for a defenseman. Add in three shots per game and strong PIM, and Ekblad has a chance at finishing as a #2D this season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It was looking good for the Wild on Monday night. After letting Vegas tie the game 2-2, Minnesota scored two goals in 19 seconds near the end of the second period to go up 4-2. Move to the last minute up 4-3 with the goalie pulled, and Mark Stone makes a fabulous pass to Tuch to tie up the game. In overtime, the Wild were controlling the puck until Stone won it back, and hit Patches for the game winner. In a 5-4 victory, Stone had five assists, and not just five assists, five primary assists. He was in a bit of a slump before this game with one point in his previous five games, but safe to say that's in the rear view mirror now. Stone now has 22 points in 18 games, averaging an assist a game. The big concern is that his shot rate has plummeted down to under two per game. That puts a big dent into his overall value, but if he's going to put up an assist a game dominating at five on five, it's hard to complain. That said, be a little more selfish and don't let Patches take every shot! The first captain in Vegas history has been excellent this season and even though I'm American, I can't wait to see him in the Olympics on say, McDavid or MacKinnon's wing. Or maybe the three of them are a line, who knows with how stacked their team is. Let's see what else happened over the last two nights:
Nothing helps getting your season back on track like playing against the Buffalo Sabres. Carter Hart has had a really rough go of it in the opening month of the season, but on Sunday, he looked to turn it around in Buffalo. You'd think that after the Sabres were shutout 3-0 on Saturday that they would come out firing on Sunday. Nope. Hart stopped all 28 shots he faced, most of the routine variety, to beat the Sabres 3-0. Brian Elliott only needed to make 23 saves on Saturday as the Sabres are in complete disarray. As I always say, goalies are voodoo, but I'd be stunned if Hart doesn't make a jump towards being a #1 fantasy goalie again. If you can buy low on Hart, I would try to do so. The fact that the Flyers are 11-4-3 despite Hart's horrible start shows you what kind of upside the team has. Elliott should be streamed every time he starts as his save percentage is over .930 in his eight games. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
On Friday, I started off talking about the first line in Columbus really putting together some great performances. This continued on Saturday, especially for Cam Atkinson. Atkinson had a goal and an assist with four shots against Chicago, giving him a goal in four of the past five games. The shot rate is above average and could end up elite again, plus the minutes have been excellent. I can not believe that Atkinson is still only 36% owned on Sunday. He should be held in all formats for the time being, and there's a legitimate chance he can stay a hold for the rest of the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
James Neal opened the season on an absolute tear, a stretch that included a four goal game. He fell off dramatically over the last two months, but he had another massive game on Tuesday. Neal had a hat trick and an assist in the 7-5 win over the Rangers. So should we care? I mean, the Rangers are a disaster defensively. And the answer is... yes and no. What great advice! It all comes down to your team needs. Neal has been excellent on the power play and should continue to do so on Edmonton's first unit. The goals are going to keep coming in. On the other hand, he's -23 and has only eight assists on the season. If you're desperate for goals and power play points, or are in a league with extra categories that include PPG, then there's a case to hold Neal. Otherwise, I would prefer to stream him so he doesn't tank my plus-minus while also giving less assists than any other fantasy relevant player. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last three nights:
Joel Quenneville saw that Sergei Bobrovsky was rounding into form on Saturday after a strong performance against his old team. He rewarded him by starting him on Sunday despite being the second game in as many days. Bob delivered once again. After making 33 saves in the 4-1 win over Columbus, Bobrovsky stopped 30 of 31 shots in the 5-1 win over the Sharks. Yes, the season has been worst case scenario to this point for Bob. However, there's still plenty of time to turn it around and I think we see it. Sure, maybe he won't be the top 5 goalie he's been in the past, I can almost guarantee that. However, he could end up being a #1 again and for that reason alone, he's a great trade target. Over the rest of this month, he plays Tampa twice and Boston, with some decent offenses and poor ones mixed in. However, look at this January schedule: OTT, BUF, PIT, ARZ, VAN, DET, MIN, CHI. Not exactly a murderer's row. In fact, they don't even play Tampa again after this month. If I owned Bob, which I do, I'm being patient because I think it's going to turn around. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
While general sports fans were watching playoff baseball (Go Braves!) or Sunday Night Baseball, hockey fans saw one of the best performances of the season take place on the first weekend. Anthony Mantha scored four goals on eight shot, including the winner in the last minute of the game, to beat the Stars 4-3. This comes after an incredible performance in his season opener in which he scored a goal and two assists with five shots and four penalty minutes in the upset win over Nashville. In both games, the players on the top line were at or above 20 minutes each. That's extremely encouraging for their long-term success. Obviously we're not expecting Mantha to be a top 25 player all of a sudden, but the potential is there for 30 goals, 50 PIM and a very good shot rate. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Today, we wrap up my defensemen rankings going through the top 40. Guys that don't make this list will creep into my top 200, but these 20 blueliners will be the last guys that get a whole paragraph on them. For those who didn't see it, my top 20 can be read here. Let's get right to it! 21) Seth Jones - I know it will be controversial that Jones isn't in my top 20. A lot of my concerns with Jones last season were founded. His huge jump in shot rate dropped almost all the way back to where it was in 2016-17. His power play totals plummeted. His assists and goals both dropped despite the team shooting 9.9% while Jones was on the ice last season, the best of his career. Am I expecting a big bounce back? Not really. The loss of Panarin should help increase his PP role, but he could also lose PP1 time to Werenski. Obviously he could get back to 2017-18 form where he was a bottom end #2, but I have my doubts.