Mitch Goldenberg

In The Crease

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Elite D-Men Post Karlsson

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was understandably irate last week after Matt Cooke’s “accidental” skate clipping that sent prized defenseman Erik Karlsson to the injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

Karlsson is the heir to Nick Lindstrom’s throne. Notching 78 points last season at the age of 21, he established himself as one of the finest offensive rearguards in quite some time. The smart, fast and crafty blueliner was at it again this season, recording 10 points in 14 games and playing with a brand new seven-year contract to his name. Unfortunately, both the Senators and his fantasy owners took a humungous hit when Cooke’s skate severed his Achilles tendon.

Karlsson produced like an elite fantasy forward, except in the much more valuable defenseman’s slot. In fantasy football terms, it’s like being able to reap Robert Griffin III’s fantasy points at the tight end’s position. His absence will be a huge loss to the fantasy world (especially for the poor folks who drafted him early), but life doesn’t end here. There are a few candidates worthy to take over as the best fantasy defenseman of 2013.

Kevin Shattenkirk

His breakout 2011-12 campaign wasn’t as impressive as Karlsson’s, but 43 points and a  plus 20 rating isn’t bad for your first full season in the NHL. This year, Shattenkirk has exploded with 14 points in his first 15 games. The 24 year-old American is a rising star, and he’s got the amazing shot and outstanding offensive vision to stick out from the top crop. Oh yeah, and so does his teammate Alex Pietrangelo (12 points, 15 games).

Kris Letang

The Penguins star missed over 30 games last year and still finished in the top tier of offensive production from defensemen with 42 points. This year, he’s healthy and he’s smashing it with 11 points in 13 games with a plus five rating. Letang also racks up a healthy share of penalty minutes and is boosted by the ensemble of talented players on Pittsburgh’s great team.

Andrei Markov

The oft-injured Habs veteran has 10 points in 14 games this year and leads all defensemen with three game-winning goals. All four of his goals have come on the power play and he’s shown he can once again play an elite offensive game. The fact that he’s suiting up for a rejuvenated Canadiens team makes Markov a top candidate to keep up his initial success in 2013.

Christian Erhoff

He’s back. After a so-so season to follow up a monster free-agent deal in Buffalo, Erhoff is playing as well, perhaps better, than he did in his Vancouver days with 10 points in 15 games and shining bright with a plus six rating on a losing Sabres team. Nonetheless, the Canucks aren’t missing him too much with Alex Edler (10 points, 14 games) leading their pack.

Victor Hedman

Some experts ranked Hedman over John Tavares going into the 2009 NHL Draft and given all the hype of being selected second overall, 68 points through his first 200 plus NHL games isn’t very impressive. But in his fourth season, the six foot six Swede is finally finding his form with 10 points in 14 games and a superb  plus 10 rating and playing big minutes on the Lightning’s blueline. Look for the 22 year-old to finally acclaim some respect as his game blossoms.  

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