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On the 'D'-fence: Tough pill powers Coyotes' Yandle

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On the 'D'-fence: Tough pill powers Coyotes' Yandle
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On the 'D'-fence: Tough pill powers Coyotes' Yandle

Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy D-man insider all season long.


The United States Olympic team was announced on New Year's Day following the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs . While those named to the roster were celebrating their selections, Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle was left to wonder what he could have done differently upon being left behind.

Yandle thought he gave himself a great chance to be selected to the roster with his first-half performance, calling his omission from the team "a tough pill to swallow."

TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings:
Eric Gelinas

Injured:
Kris Letang, Cam Fowler, Dennis Wideman, Tyler Myers, Joni Pitkanen, Sheldon Souray

The good news for the Coyotes and fantasy owners of Yandle is that rather than sulk, he used the experience as motivation and has been one of the most productive defensemen in the League since the Olympic break.

Make no mistake, his first half numbers were impressive. He picked up seven goals and 31 points over his first 58 games this season, good for .66 points per game. That would tie him for 11th in the League in points per game among defensemen, had he continued along at that pace.

He was firing 2.78 shots on goal per game and had contributed 22 power-play points.

If there was an area of concern for owners, it was his plus-minus. He had amassed a minus-17 rating, but that was more than offset by his offensive production.

While those numbers are tough to improve upon, Yandle has done just that. The Boston native has picked up 11 points over the 11 games since the Olympic break, and nine over his past seven.

He is shooting the puck with more frequency, upping his shots per game to 3.09 since the break, and has pushed his power-play production up from .33 points per game to .55. It might be folly to assume he will continue to produce at his post-Olympic pace, but he is already assured of finishing with the second-highest point total of his career.

Yandle's high-water mark came during the 2010-11 season, when he put up 59 points in 82 games. If things break right for him the rest of the way, he just may make a run at that number, as his .71 points per game have him on pace to pick up 9.2 points over his remaining 13 games.

It is also worth noting he is a plus-1 since the break, so while that minus-16 still shows on the stat line, he is rolling along as even or better on most nights.

Yandle's increased production has sparked the Coyotes to a 6-4-1 record since the break, which had them sitting in the final Western Conference wild-card position as of Tuesday night. That production is also the kind that can make the difference between winning and losing in the fantasy playoffs.

Hopefully you were lucky enough to draft Yandle, but there is always a slim chance you may be playing in one of the three percent of Yahoo leagues that have yet to lay claim to him.

One note for Yandle owners in head-to-head leagues, his games per week shake out as such: March 24-30, four games; March 31-April 6, three games; April 7-13, four games.

TRENDING UPWARD

Mark Giordano , Calgary Flames -- Giordano has quietly put up one of the finest seasons of his career and is poised to set career highs in most statistical categories, all while playing in just 50 of his team's 68 games to this point. He has rolled up 11 goals, 39 points, 147 shots and 17 power-play points, all while playing for the second-to-last team in the Western Conference. Giordano's .78 points per game rank just behind the Ottawa Senators ' Erik Karlsson (.91) and the Chicago Blackhawks ' Duncan Keith (.79). Giordano has 11 points in nine March games and is still owned in just 64 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Brian Campbell , Florida Panthers -- Campbell has heated up over the past week and it is just in time for the fantasy playoffs. He has picked up one goal and three assists, registered a plus-5 and fired nine shots on goal over his past four games. While he isn't a guy who should be considered a No. 1 fantasy defenseman these days, he still has the potential to be very productive. He has pushed his season totals to seven goals, 25 assists, 102 shots on goal and a minus-1 rating. He is owned in just 77 percent of Yahoo leagues.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Jay Bouwmeester , St. Louis Blues -- Bouwmeester has been solid all season long for the Blues, but he has been tailing off in terms of fantasy production over the past month. While he has notched 34 points on the season, he has just two assists in his past 12 games. He is still an impressive plus-11 over that span, but you need a bit more than plus-minus to warrant automatic ownership in fantasy leagues. He is still a valuable player, but we'd slide him down the depth chart a bit.

Mike Green , Washington Capitals -- Green is the sort of fantasy player who can be your most productive contributor or your least productive contributor, and sadly he hasn't been all that productive as of late. He does have 36 points on the season, but he has collected just one goal over his past six games. He did manage five points over a two-game span earlier in the month, but March has been more bust than boom. Stir in the fact that he has also posted a minus-4 and just two power-play points, and you have a situation that isn't very beneficial for owners.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

TJ Brodie , Calgary Flames -- Brodie worked himself back into our rankings this week and you can make a case that he slid into the spot previously held by teammate Dennis Wideman . While Brodie has long been on owners' radar, he hasn't had quite the season that many anticipated coming into the year. That could be changing for the fantasy playoffs. Since Wideman went out of the Flames lineup on March 5, Brodie has picked up five points in seven games. He has posted a plus-8 in March and looks like he could be a productive player the rest of the way. He is currently owned in just one percent of Yahoo leagues.

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