Fantasy NHL

Defensive Surprises

By Steve Schwarz, Fantasy Sports Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It seems a long time ago when we sat down with our friends or online to draft our fantasy hockey teams. In reality it was only a few months ago, but so much seems to have changed. Particularly when discussing the fantasy value of defensemen.

On Draft Day everyone had Mike Green at the top of their boards, with Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith following close behind. Also near the top of our lists were Chris Pronger, Dan Boyle, Nicklas Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara to name a few.

Wow, have things changed!

Our consensus No.1 defenseman is nowhere to be seen, at least not anywhere near the top of the scoring pages where we have come to expect him to be. Green has just five goals and nine assists in 24 contests. Considering he averaged more than a point per game in 2008 and 2009, and his 2010 number is .58 ppg, that's a huge drop-off. Not exactly what you expected when you selected him at the end of the first round.

But compared to Doughty, Green is a bargain. Doughty finished third to Green and Keith last year in defenseman scoring with 59 points (16G, 43A). Through 19 games this season, he's got a single goal and just six assists.

Keith isn't immune either, though he does have 17 points. Unfortunately, his Blackhawks are giving up a lot of goals and his plus/minus rating sits at minus-6.

While these three stars are disappointing many owners, there are three defensemen who are heading in the other direction.

The Atlanta Thrashers' Dustin Byfuglien has been the best blueliner so far this season, producing in every category. He's got 10 goals and 19 assists on 112 shots, including 14 power-play points. Throw in 33 penalty minutes and a +5 rating and what you have is Byfuglien doing a better impression of Mike Green than Mike Green. And those of you who drafted Byfuglien in the 22nd round (ADP 266) or picked him up as a free agent are basking in the glow of his performances.

Kris Letang (ADP 181) is another defenseman who is surprising fantasy owners with his production. Through 29 games he has accumulated 26 points and has an excellent +15 rating.

The third surprise comes from John-Michael Liles, who was a 17th-rounder on Draft Day. The Colorado blueliner has totaled 26 points, putting him within 13 of his career best season total and we're only in early December.

Whether the three falling stars and the three rising stars continue on their current course or return to the "career form" is a question we will have answered over the next few months, but for now, the world of defensemen is a confusing place.

2010-11 Selected Defensemen Statistics

Player................Team...G...A..+/-..PIM..PPP..SOG..ADP

Mike Green.............WAS...5...9...+8...30....6...57...12

Drew Doughty...........ANA...1...6...+6...22....2...31...16

Duncan Keith...........CHI...2..15...6-...10....7...59...19

Kris Letang............PIT...5..21..+15...36....7...79..181

Dustin Byfuglien.......ATL..10..19...+5...33...14..112..266

John-Michael Liles.....COL...5..21..+12...23....9...66..200

12/08 16:35:15 ET