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Blue Line Buzz: Studs and Duds

Jason Chen

West Coast bias.

Happy New Year!

The season is quickly approaching the halfway mark, though the ups and downs of fantasy life can certainly make it feel longer than it really is. By now, the cream of the crop have already risen to the top. The usual suspects are there, but so are Victor Hedman, who leads all defensemen with 26 assists, Rasmus Ristolainen, who’s proving he’s a legitimate franchise defenseman and Zach Werenski, whose talent and composure has translated very well to the pros after two outstanding seasons at Michigan.

There certainly have been some disappointments, as usual, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Shayne Gostisbehere, John Klingberg, Aaron Ekblad, Tyson Barrie and the supposed super-pair of P.K. Subban and Roman Josi headlining the list. For some, such as Subban and Kris Letang, injuries have taken their toll, while for others, it’s more a matter of growing pains as a second-year pro (Gostisbehere) or living up to lofty expectations (Klingberg, Barrie).

There’s still hope, however, with more than 40 games to go. PDO is an advanced metric used to measure puck luck, with 100 as the average. Anything below that indicates poor luck and the potential to improve, and anything above indicates especially good luck and the potential to regress back to the mean. Ekblad, for example, has seven goals and 10 points on 129 shots and a 5.4 shooting percentage, well below his career average of 7.1 percent, and consequently has a PDO of 95.2, the worst mark among defensemen who have played at least 500 minutes (all stats courtesy of

Torey Krug, who had a particularly frustrating start to the season after going the entire month of October without a point, has scored 21 points over the past two months, and with just one goal on 113 shots, is also well below his career shooting percentage. His PDO: 98.1, fourth among Bruins defensemen who have played at least 200 minutes. He’s also trending up and starting to make appearances on the Big Board.

Other players with good 5-on-5 possession numbers but low PDO, indicating potential progression in the second half: Shayne Gostisbehere (54.2 Corsi%, 97.3 PDO), Torey Krug (59.4, 98.1), Roman Josi (53.8, 98.8) and P.K. Subban (54.3, 97.7).

Other players with poor 5-on-5 possession numbers but good PDO, indicating potential regression in the second half: Ryan Suter (45.5 Corsi%, 106.5 PDO), Jared Spurgeon (46.9, 106.0), Calvin de Haan (46.5, 103.3), Nick Holden (47.1, 104.2) and Jack Johnson (49.4, 105.0).

Studs of the Week:

Jacob Trouba, Jets
– No hard feelings, right? After a contract stalemate with the Jets and a short holdout, both sides got what they wanted. Trouba has taken his play to new heights recently with four assists and eight blocked shots in his past three games, and is the clear No. 2 defenseman behind Dustin Byfuglien.

Ryan McDonagh, Rangers – Always a good bet to be one of the best defensemen in the league, the Rangers' captain is on a four-game point streak with a goal and six assists. His on-ice prowess doesn't always translate as well to fantasy, so it might be worth seeing if you could acquire him for cheap.

Nick Holden, Rangers – Despite scoring 22 points and playing an average of 21:52 per game, the Avs decided they didn’t need Holden and moved him to the Rangers for a fourth-round pick. With three goals in his past three games, Holden is currently the goal leader among NHL defensemen post-Christmas. He’s again averaging over 20 minutes per game and has scored 20 points – one more than Tyson Barrie – and costs just $1.65 million in cap space.

Jared Spurgeon, Wild – Spurgeon provided two assists against the Blue Jackets in a battle of 12 and 14-game winning streaks, and prior to that had scored three goals in four games. His average TOI per game, currently at 23:47, is second on the team only to Ryan Suter and is slightly more than last year’s 22:40. Spurgeon and Matt Dumba have been influential to the Wild's success this year.

Brent Burns, Sharks – With 15 goals and 151 shots on goal through 37 games, it’s worth noting that only five defensemen in the modern era have managed to finish the season with at least 30 goals and 300 shots: Paul Coffey (twice), Ray Bourque, Kevin Hatcher, Doug Wilson and of course, Bobby Orr (five times). The most recent is Hatcher, who rattled off 34 goals and 329 shots in the 1992-93 season.

Duds of the Week:

Erik Karlsson, Senators
– The Sens have lost three straight coming out of the break and Karlsson has just one assist and a minus-4 rating. Guy Boucher’s squad is just hard to figure out, as they seem to take three steps forward and then three steps backward like they're playing Snakes and Ladders. So, I’m just going to boldly predict that the Sens will win their next three games against the Caps, Oilers and Pens (somehow), and that Karlsson will be a stud this coming week.

Roman Josi, Predators – He’s going to have to step up big time with news that P.K. Subban (upper body) could be out longer than expected. He’s gone nine games without a goal and hasn't recorded a point in his last four games, three of which were losses and two of which were to division teams. Five goals and 14 assists is still respectable, but he’s certainly been one of the more disappointing fantasy defensemen so far this year.

Fedor Tyutin, Avalanche – He finished the week with no points and a minus-5 rating, and so far hasn’t been of any real help to Colorado’s struggling blue line. Jonas Brodin and Damon Severson also finished with minus-5 ratings, but Tyutin averages the least amount of ice time, so who knows how much more damage he can do. The Avs have the classic Oilers problem of having drafted too many franchise forwards who have not translated their immense talents into wins and suffer from a bare-bones defense and unreliable goaltending, so there's not much here to boost Tyutin's value.

Recommended Pickup:

Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs
– If Spurgeon and Holden aren’t as palatable, how about the guy who’s got six points in his past five games? A talented skater and an Anaheim Ducks pick – always a good sign – Gardiner looks like he's ready to crack 40 points for the first time, and currently leads all Leafs defensemen with six goals and 20 points. The Leafs are trending up and the youth movement is on, as three of their top five scorers are under 20 years old.

The Big Board:

^ = stock rising
˅ = stock dropping

1 Brent Burns, SJS 15* 20 12 14 151* 40 67 24:36
2 Victor Hedman, TBL ^ 7 26* 8 20 78 47 62 24:44
3 Erik Karlsson, OTT 7 25 2 16 87 31 96 27:08
4 Shea Weber, MTL 9 12 16 20 93 79 78 26:02
5 Dustin Byfuglien, WPG 4 19 -4 44 114 93 65 27:21*
6 Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF 3 22 -5 16 81 102 70 26:42
7 Zach Werenski, CBJ 6 18 7 10 87 22 41 21:16
8 Dougie Hamilton, CGY 6 16 0 36 111 45 48 19:23
9 Cam Fowler, ANA 9 13 0 6 85 20 57 24:30
10 Ryan Suter, MIN 5 16 26* 14 72 38 46 27:11
11 Kevin Shattenkirk, STL 8 16 -7 29 74 45 38 19:57
12 Duncan Keith, CHI 1 24 6 10 83 16 42 26:06
13 Ryan McDonagh, NYR ^ 2 23 9 21 68 39 71 24:12
14 Justin Schultz, PIT ^ 7 17 23 10 71 33 44 18:22
15 Torey Krug, BOS ^ 1 20 -3 24 113 31 30 21:50
16 Kris Letang, PIT 2 19 -3 20 80 54 50 26:03
17 Roman Josi, NSH ˅ 5 14 -4 14 108 26 60 25:33
18 Drew Doughty, LAK 6 12 5 22 87 60 61 27:09
19 Brent Seabrook, CHI 2 19 2 8 56 60 56 22:30
20 Alex Pietrangelo, STL 7 11 -7 12 81 19 75 25:03

Just missed the cut:

Jeff Petry, MTL
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI
Mark Giordano, CGY
John Carlson, WSH
Colton Parayko, STL

Notable omissions:

Andrei Markov, MTL (groin)
Mike Green, DET (upper body)
P.K. Subban, NSH (upper body)
Justin Faulk, CAR (lower body)