Both Cale Makar and Adam Fox are on an impressive pace at the moment. If you have them on your fantasy team, you definitely already know this. But just how impressive is it?
Fox is pacing at 7.11 fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60), while Makar is right there at 7.10. That pace of fantasy points for a skill defenseman is not something we usually see.
You have to go back to 2016-17 for the last time a defenseman that primarily puts up points through offense led the league in FPP60. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns were No. 1 and No. 2 that season, posting 6.72 and 6.71 FPP60, respectively.
In 2017-18, the leaders in FPP60 were Mark Borowiecki (6.60 in a little more than half a season), Shayne Gostisbehere (6.45), Alexander Edler (6.42) and Kris Russell (6.30).
In 2018-19, the leaders were Ryan Graves (8.16 in a 26-game sample), Edler (7.04), Mark Giordano (6.49) and Brent Seabrook (6.34).
In 2019-20, it was Edler (6.53), John Carlson (6.40), Dougie Hamilton (6.26) and Graves (6.22).
And last season, 2020-21, the leaders in FPP60 among defensemen were Alec Martinez (7.14), Jakob Chychrun (6.14) and Tyson Barrie (5.72).
You don't need to soak all of that information in, but what did you notice about the names? Are they the kind of defensemen you typically associate with the top of the fantasy leaderboard? What kind of defensemen typically lead the league in fantasy scoring rates?
(Sidenote: Ryan Graves is criminally underrepresented on rosters, he's available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues.)
One thing is for sure, the only defensemen to top 7.00 FPP60 in a full season in the past five years did not do it through their scoring prowess alone. Edler and Martinez, the only two to top 7.00, fueled their fantasy stats through blocked shots and hits, supplemented by scoring. Not the other way around.
Even when offensively minded defensemen do break through in FPP60, it is not to the pace currently being produced by Fox and Makar. Barrie was the top producing defenseman by rates last season and his FPP60 was 5.72. Fox finished with 5.65 FPP60 last season and Makar at 5.40.
What difference would a slip in rates mean?
If, for example, Fox played the rest of his games this season at his 5.65 FPP60 pace from last season, instead of his 7.11 FPP60 pace from this season, it would mean a difference of 34 fewer fantasy points. For Makar, the same hypothetical yields 40 fewer fantasy points.
Fox has an edge on confidence here. Even though he doesn't throw any hits to speak of, he is sixth in the NHL with 57 blocked shots. I like his chances to keep up such a pace much more than Makar's. The Avalanche sophomore has just 21 blocked shots and 22 hits.
But both are outpacing what we can reasonably expect for the remainder of the season.
Could you trade Fox or Makar for Roman Josi and another valuable asset? If not Josi, what about Victor Hedman? Seth Jones? Charlie McAvoy? These defensemen are putting up FPP60 rates much more in line with what we could expect from them over a full season. And it wouldn't be a shock to see any of them outpace Fox and Makar in fantasy points from here on out.
It's a scary move to consider, but one that could pay dividends down the line. Fantasy is largely about buying low, but selling high is more difficult and equally important.
Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 13 to Dec. 19
After their five-game week this week, in which Trevor Zegras decided to explode the highlight reels, the Anaheim Ducks are one of only two teams limited to two games next week. The San Jose Sharks are the other. With all other teams playing three or four games, it's advisable to bench the fringe fantasy plays from both teams. That said, Zegras, Sonny Milano and Rickard Rakell are making a push to be more than fringe. And I wouldn't dare bench Timo Meier at this stage. So there may be limited impact from the reduced schedules this week.
Boston Bruins: With Brad Marchand back from a suspension, the Bruins offense is back to strength. A four-game schedule looks very promising next week, buoyed by matchups with the Habs and Senators to end the week. If there's any week to consider Charlie Coyle or Nick Foligno for use, this is it. Coyle, remember, centers the second line with Taylor Hall and is on the secondary power-play unit. Foligno, while not on a scoring line, does still have a role on the top power-play unit with the stars of the offense.
Pittsburgh Penguins: With Jake Guentzel sidelined for a few weeks, the opportunity to draft off Sidney Crosby is open to another winger. And next week is a great week for whoever gets the first opportunity. The Pens play the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils -- not exactly the who's who of defensive hockey teams. Kasperi Kapanen is likely to get first crack at the gig this weekend, but if he falls flat the team could move to Danton Heinen. That is to say, watch the box scores on Friday and Saturday and use one of them accordingly next week.
And don't forget Evan Rodrigues, who was already skating with Crosby and is still available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues despite being top-20 in the NHL in shots on goal.
Toronto Maple Leafs: With Mitch Marner sidlined for a few weeks, there is opportunity for some extra scoring for players usually further down the depth chart. Jason Spezza is appealing his suspension, but in the meantime should also be considered out. Where does that leave the Leafs offense? Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting were joined by Wayne Simmonds at even strength on Thursday, while the top power-play unit featured Ondrej Kase. The Leafs have a four-game week on the road, so there is a chance to take advantage of whichever forward steps up. Skip right over Simmonds and consider Kase. He has been playing a subdued role on the Leafs, but has shown scoring prowess in the past. He had a two-goal outing on Thursday and this power play is still second-best in the NHL.
Ryan Ellis, D, Philadelphia Flyers: There hasn't been any kind of update since Ellis was declared out four-to-six weeks back on Nov. 18. But running through the defensive FPP60 stats at the top of this article made his name pop. In four games as a Flyer, Ellis has posted 7.05 FPP60 and 2.7 fantasy points per game. Those rates, even in a tiny sample, are exciting for a player we expect good things from. We are halfway through to the long end of his recovery timetable, which means it might be worth watching for news and/or stashing him in deeper leagues.
J.T. Compher, C, Colorado Avalanche: I've touched on this a couple of times lately, but it's worth noting again. The Avs could have Compher back this weekend. The question about his return is how the team treats Nazem Kadri and Compher once they are both healthy. Compher was the fourth forward on the top power play before his injury, but Kadri has exploded in the role while Compher was out. Now, Kadri suffered an injury Wednesday and we don't know much about it. So this situation remains murky for the time being. But also of interest is that the Avs split up the big three on Wednesday, too. Mikko Rantanen played down a line with Kadri (before he left the game) and Valeri Nichushkin, while Logan O'Connor took Rantanen's spot next to Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Bottom line here: Stay tuned to the Avs lineup in the coming week.
If you are sweating the Dallas Stars goalie situation for your own fantasy needs, it looks like we may get a little more time until Ben Bishop is done his conditioning stint in the AHL. Let's just say he looked a little rusty in his debut, allowing eight goals on 34 shots against the Blackhawks farm team.
Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair could be back together on the ice this weekend. Both have been dealing with injuries over the last few weeks. Duclair is widely available, but probably shouldn't be when he's in the lineup. He's averaged 1.8 fantasy points per game this season.