Commentary

The Thin Blue Line: Caps' kid Carlson

Weekly news and notes on fantasy hockey defensemen

Updated: October 20, 2010, 6:28 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

Brace yourselves, folks. After dominating the rankings for what has felt like an eternity, Mike Green is no longer the cream of the fantasy defensemen crop. But the mild demotion has less to do with personal performance or recent injury (no biggie) and more to do with team circumstance. As expected, John Carlson is emerging and developing as a second potent offensive defenseman for the Washington Capitals. Green, therefore, is no longer the only prized horse in town.

Carlson had 39 points in 48 games with the AHL Hersey Bears in 2009-10. But perhaps most impressively, the 20-year-old held his own and scraped out four points in seven pressure-filled playoff games with the Caps last spring (finishing plus-six). Averaging a point per game this young season, Carlson has a very bright future as a productive blueliner in the NHL.

Fortunately, for Green and his fantasy owners alike, the Capitals are capable of generating enough offense to go around. They led the league in 2009-10 by scoring 3.82 goals per game; well ahead of the second-place Vancouver Canucks' average of 3.27 goals per game. As long as the Caps don't falter much scoring-wise this season (they won't) Green remains a top-three fantasy asset. And, in reference to his injured shoulder, he may be ready to return for Thursday's contest against the Boston Bruins.

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 points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Duncan Keith, Chi (2)
2. Drew Doughty, LA (3)
3. Mike Green, Was (1)
4. Zdeno Chara, Bos (5)
5. Dan Boyle, SJ (4)
6. Chris Pronger, Phi (6)
7. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (7)
8. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (10)
9. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (8)
10. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (11)
11. Andrei Markov, Mon (12)
12. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (9)
13. James Wisniewski, NYI (13)
14. Bryan McCabe, Fla (14)
15. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (15)
16. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (17)
17. Shea Weber, Nsh (19)
18. Alex Goligoski, Pit (20)
19. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (16)
20. Erik Johnson, StL (18)
21. Stephane Robidas, Dal (22)
22. Anton Stralman, Cls (24)
23. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (21)
24. Ryan Whitney, Edm (28)
25. Tyler Myers, Buf (23)
26. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (25)
27. Joni Pitkanen, Car (26)
28. Niklas Kronwall, Det (30)
29. Alexander Edler, Van (35)
30. Marek Zidlicky, Min (41)
31. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (27)
32. Joe Corvo, Car (31)
33. Pavel Kubina, TB (29)
34. John-Michael Liles, Col (42)
35. P.K. Subban, Mon (32)
36. Brent Burns, Min (33)
37. Victor Hedman, TB (39)
38. Dustin Byfuglien, Atl (43)
39. Dennis Wideman, Fla (38)
40. Paul Martin, Pit (49)
41. Zach Bogosian, Atl (36)
42. John Carlson, Was (47)
43. Matt Carle, Phi (37)
44. Mark Giordano, Cgy (34)
45. Brent Seabrook, Chi (48)
46. Jack Johnson, LA (51)
47. Keith Yandle, Pho (40)
48. Kevin Bieksa, Van (44)
49. Ryan Suter, Nsh (46)
50. Carlo Colaiacovo, StL (57)
51. Kurtis Foster, Edm (50)
52. Kris Letang, Pit (53)
53. Matt Taormina, NJ (NR)
54. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (56)
55. Jason Demers, SJ (52)
56. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (54)
57. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (59)
58. Sheldon Souray , Edm (60)
59. Michal Rozsival, NYR (58)
60. Ian White, Cgy (62)
61. Jordan Leopold, Buf (63)
62. Andy Greene, NJ (45)
63. Cam Barker, Min (55)
64. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (66)
65. Cody Franson, Nsh (NR)
66. Cam Fowler, Ana (64)
67. Kyle Quincey, Col (65)
68. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (68)
69. Jamie McBain, Car (61)
70. Braydon Coburn, Phi (67)
71. Erik Karlsson, Ott (69)
72. Brett Clark, TB (NR)
73. Matt Niskanen, Dal (NR)
74. Kris Russell, Cls (NR)
75. Brian Campbell, Chi (75)

Rising and Falling

Stephane Robidas, Dallas Stars (up one spot): The Dallas Stars have been consistently criticized since early last autumn for not replacing Sergei Zubov with another elite offensive-defenseman, yet, Stephane Robidas continues to fill the No. 1 role reasonably enough. Robidas ain't no Zubov, but he managed 41 points last season and, averaging nearly 24 minutes per game, is off to a decent start once again. By all accounts, and considering current ownership issues, the Stars are sticking with the roster they have. That includes Robidas as the team's top threat from the blue line.

Andy Greene, New Jersey Devils (down 17 spots): After doing a decent job in replacing the injured Paul Martin on the Devils' top power-play unit for months last season, Andy Greene has since lost that role. The Devils are currently looking to Matt Taormina as their key defenseman on the No. 1 unit, and the rookie is holding his own. Taormina has three points in his past three games and appears confident and comfortable. If available in your league (a good bet), the rookie is worth consideration. On the flip side, Greene's value drops.

Marek Zidlicky, Minnesota Wild (up 11 spots): Appearing no worse for the wear following an early-season groin injury, Marek Zidlicky hasn't wasted any time in establishing himself as the Minnesota Wild's top-scoring d-man. With four points in three games, Zidlicky is poised to make a charge at the 50-point mark once again.

Key injury notes

Ryan Suter left the ice and didn't return after colliding with Cory Sarich of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. The Nashville Predators are referring to Suter's ailment as a lower-body injury, but it doesn't seem too dire. Coach Barry Trotz, after the game: "We'll probably have a better update (Wednesday). ... No, not too serious. ... He might miss a little bit of time, but nothing major." Cody Franson will get more scoring opportunities, and chances to skate alongside Shea Weber on the power play, as long as Suter remains out.

After sitting out two games already with a bad shoulder, Zach Bogosian skated in practice on Tuesday. The Atlanta Thrashers won't rush Bogosian back, but there's a chance he'll see action by the weekend.

Cam Fowler's busted nose reportedly won't stop him from skating in Wednesday's game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Anaheim Ducks' willingness to play Fowler, broken beak and all, indicates their desire to keep him in the NHL, moving forward.

It's early, but the Blue Jackets are already dealing with losses to injury on the blue line. Anton Stralman has a hurt shoulder and Kris Russell is battling a lower-body injury. Listed as day-to-day, both could be out for Wednesday's matchup with the Anaheim Ducks. If that's the case, Fedor Tyutin will take over offensive responsibilities on the back end.

Potent Pairings

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks: Old buddies at even strength, Keith and Seabrook haven't been historically glued together at the hip with the extra skater. But with Brian Campbell hurt, they've dominated the ice for the Blackhawks, as a duo, in all situations this season. Keith is already established as a fantasy powerhouse, but you have to like what this state of affairs does for his partner's value. Averaging more than 26 minutes per game, Seabrook has four points and is playing with a lot of spunk. Hopefully, that attitude endures even when Campbell makes his return (November).

Power Play Performers

Pittsburgh Penguins blue line: Although the recent pregame tribute was appropriate and sincere, looking ahead, there's no reason for the Pittsburgh Penguins to mourn the loss of Sergei Gonchar any longer. After a slow start, the Penguins are 4-1 with 19 goals in their past five contests, and much of the credit for the offensive output goes to three defensemen. Alex Goligoski, new addition Paul Martin and Kris Letang already have a total of 19 points between them. Goligoski takes over Gonchar's old role by garnering the bulk of minutes with the man advantage, but the other two get their fair share as well. Letang has appeared particularly dangerous, rifling that lethal shot of his from the point with increasing regularity.

John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalanche: They didn't always get along last season, but coach Joe Sacco and John-Michael Liles can't have much to bicker about now. Liles leads all league defensemen, plus his Colorado Avalanche teammates, with eight points. While Liles is carrying the offensive load almost exclusively from the back end, no other blueliner on the team merits much fantasy attention at present. Although you may want to keep an eye on what Jonas Holos is capable of, once the young Norwegian gets more playing time.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com

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