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The Thin Blue Line: Myers here to stay

11/4/2009

In response to anyone insinuating otherwise, no, I don't have anything against Tyler Myers. First featured in this space on Oct. 21, Myers was flagged as a youngster to keep tabs on. Now that his spot with the Buffalo Sabres is more secure, the 19-year-old makes his debut in the Top 75 at No. 64. But it wouldn't hurt to keep the hype to a minimum, either.

Only a month ago, Myers was fighting for a job with the Sabres that some, even in preseason, didn't believe he'd earn right off the bat. However, five points in his first seven games later, fans in Buffalo would've gone bonkers if the organization had sent him back down to juniors. And shortly after general manager Darcy Regier gave his assurances that yes, Myers was staying put, he played his 10th game with the big boys. Teens get a nine-game tryout period in the NHL before their rookie contracts kick in. Although this doesn't guarantee Myers will skate with the Sabres for the entire regular season, it definitely helps.

But now that he's made a favorable impression, where has the production gone? With his plus/minus leveling off, Myers has made nary a peep box score-wise in his past four contests. And unlike in the case of New York Rangers rookie Michael Del Zotto, the young Sabre in not the sole defenseman to man the point on the team's first power-play unit. In fact, veteran Craig Rivet still plays a larger role when it involves having the man advantage. Myers is not the be-all-and-end-all, that's all. And, fortunately for the youngster, he doesn't have to be.

Tyler Myers is going to be an excellent defenseman in the NHL; he's massive, he's smart and he can score. Whether he really breaks out this season, or next, is yet to be seen. Keeping the hoopla to a minimum in the meantime, though, would be wise.

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's Top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Mike Green, Was (1)
2. Dan Boyle, SJ (2)
3. Zdeno Chara, Bos (3)
4. Chris Pronger, Phi (4)
5. Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (6)
6. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (5)
7. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (7)
8. Duncan Keith, Chi (9)
9. Stephane Robidas, Dal (8)
10. Kevin Bieksa, Van (11)
11. Brent Seabrook, Chi (10)
12. Alex Goligoski, Pit (12)
13. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (13)
14. Mark Streit, NYI (14)
15. Brian Rafalski, Det (15)
16. Sergei Gonchar, Pit (16)
17. Scott Niedermayer, Anh (17)
18. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (25)
19. Ryan Whitney, Anh (19)
20. Dennis Wideman, Bos (18)
21. Cam Barker, Chi (21)
22. Victor Hedman, TB (20)
23. Rob Blake, SJ (22)
24. Shea Weber, Nsh (23)
25. Brian Campbell, Chi (24)
26. Braydon Coburn, Phi (26)
27. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (27)
28. Niklas Kronwall, Det (28)
29. Zach Bogosian, Atl (29)
30. Matt Carle, Phi (32)
31. Craig Rivet, Buf (31)
32. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (35)
33. Paul Martin, NJ (33)
34. Joe Corvo, Car (34)
35. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (40)
36. Drew Doughty, LA (42)
37. Sheldon Souray, Edm (36)
38. Pavel Kubina, Atl (30)
39. Joni Pitkanen, Car (37)
40. Kris Letang, Pit (39)
41. Ryan Suter, Nsh (38)
42. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (47)
43. Denis Grebeshkov, Edm (41)
44. Kyle Quincey, Col (44)
45. Mattias Ohlund, TB (43)
46. Bryan McCabe, Fla (46)
47. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (57)
48. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mon (45)
49. Marek Zidlicky, Min (50)
50. Erik Johnson, StL (51)
51. Brent Burns, Min (48)
52. Alexander Edler, Van (49)
53. Jason Demers, SJ (53)
54. Mathieu Schneider, Van (54)
55. Matt Niskanen, Dal (65)
56. Lubomir Visnovsky, Edm (52)
57. Jaroslav Spacek, Mon (59)
58. Tom Gilbert, Edm (55)
59. Filip Kuba, Ott (61)
60. Mark Giordano, Cgy (58)
61. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (60)
62. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ (56)
63. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (NR)
64. Tyler Myers, Buf (NR)
65. John-Michael Liles, Col (64)
66. Matt Gilroy, NYR (67)
67. Derek Morris, Bos (69)
68. Ville Koistinen, Fla (68)
69. Wade Redden, NYR (66)
70. Matt Carkner, Ott (70)
71. Kris Russell, Cls (62)
72. Jack Johnson, LA (71)
73. Paul Mara, Mon (72)
74. Johnny Oduya, NJ (63)
75. Andrei Markov, Mon (75)

Rising and Falling

Tomas Kaberle, Maple Leafs (up 10 spots): As foolish as it would be to ignore Kaberle's offensive explosion of late (13 points in five games! Nine of them on the power play!!!), it would be equally silly to expect that onslaught to endure with any regularity. But Kaberle is an above-average defenseman, from a fantasy perspective and otherwise, and deserves a higher ranking. He'll rise further if the Toronto Maple Leafs aren't wretchedly lousy, week in and week out. They are playing better these days, anyway, and Phil Kessel's return can only help.

Pavel Kubina, Thrashers (down 8 spots): Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom are the hottest commodities available on the Atlanta Thrashers' blue line. Pavel Kubina, while still a viable fantasy option, takes a backseat to the two energized youngsters. At this stage, he's ahead of Enstrom based on reputation and experience alone. That may change soon.

Kris Russell, Blue Jackets (down 9 spots): There's no disputing Russell has been a dud, thus far. Although the 22-year-old carries the most promise, Anton Stralman and Fedor Tyutin are shouldering the bulk of the offensive weight on the Columbus Blue Jackets' blue line these days. However, if you can help it, just avoid all defensemen from this team, period.

Key injury notes:

Shea Weber injured his foot and he's scheduled to miss one to two weeks. This isn't an issue unless that time line is extended, in which case, not only would Weber's value suffer, but Ryan Suter's as well. Keep watch on how well the Nashville Predators defenseman recovers.

As for why Andrei Markov remains on this list, despite sitting on the IR until early February, it's simple: Markov will produce more in the final two months of the season than the clear majority of NHL defensemen over the course of 82 games. He led all blueliners in power-play points last season and finished second only to Mike Green in scoring overall. That's also why he's still owned in over 63 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Potent Pairings

Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik, Canadiens: Leading the Montreal Canadiens in ice time of late, Spacek and Hamrlik have combined for five points, 26 shots and 14 penalty minutes in their past five games. Not too shabby. Both are plus-6 on the season as well. There's nothing supremely sexy about this pairing, but either one will serve you well as a fifth or sixth defenseman, at the very least.

Power Play Performers

No other New York Islanders defenseman even nears collecting the minutes veteran Mark Streit does with the man advantage. Or overall, for that matter. And the assembly of young talent -- the seemingly ageless Doug Weight excepted -- that makes up the team's first power-play squad will only improve as a cohesive unit over the duration of the season. As will Streit's numbers. He won't see 56 points in 74 games this season, but 50 over the course of a full and healthy campaign is a reasonable expectation.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.