Coming To Your Defense

11/15/2010 1:41 PM - 

Contributed by Linton Yee

A quartet of players from the 2008 YoungStars All Star Game are prominent among the defensemen leaderboard, with Kris Letang, Tobias Enstrom, Jack Johnson, and Alexander Edler all off to good starts.  Nicklas Lidstrom still has water from the fountain of youth, while the 2009-2010 Calder winner is struggling. 

Nicklas Lidstrom (15 games, 2G, 15A, +5, 6 PIM, 37 SOG, 1 PPG, 8 PPA, 1 SHA)

Playing against others half his age (40.5 years), Lidstrom’s 1.13 points per game is best among all defensemen.  Lidstrom leads the Wings in ice time, assists, power-play points, and assists, and is tied in team scoring with Henrik Zetterberg

Detroit’s offense is in high gear with the league’s third best goals per game of 3.40 and if the mid-range power play ever gets fired up, Lidstrom would have even better numbers. 

Kris Letang (18 games, 3G, 14A, +9, 30 PIM, 40 SOG, 4 PPA, 1 SHA)

A 2008 YoungStars Eastern Conference selection (along with Enstrom), Letang is tied with Lidstrom for the lead in points among defensemen and is second on the Penguins in scoring.  He is already halfway to his career best in points (33).  Letang offers balanced production with penalty minutes and decent shots on goal and could be finally realizing the potential.

The Pens have better power-play talent than their 17th rank. With Letang leading the Pens’ defensemen in power-play icetime, expect his specialty team numbers to increase.  Sergei Gonchar’s departure appears to have been beneficial to the development of some of the younger players.  

Tobias Enstrom (18 games, 2G, 13A, (-2), 4 PIM, 14 SOG, 2 PPG, 9 PPA)

On a team in which Dustin Byfuglien is doing his best to replicate a Sheldon Souray in his prime by leading his team in all major scoring categories, Enstrom continues to provide consistent production.  Despite no major superstars, Atlanta has decent statistics and was ranked sixth in goals per game and fourth in the power play leading into the Sunday loss to the Capitals.  Enstrom is tied for fourth among defensemen with 15 points (joined by Lubomir Visnovsky), with Byfuglien third with 16 points.  Enstrom hit the 50-point number last year after a rookie season of 38 and a sophomore season of 32.  This year he is on target for another 50-plus point season.  He still doesn’t take a lot of shots on goal but somehow manages to accumulate points. 

Alexander Edler (16 games, 1G, 11A, +1, 4 PIM, 42 SOG, 1 PPG, 6 PPA)

Fourth in total scoring for the Canucks, Edler is second on the team in total assists and power-play assists and is fifth in shots on goal.  After averaging around 40 points and 20 power-play points over the last two years, this could very well be the year in which Edler enters the 50-point plus range.  Vancouver has the best power play in the league and the fifth-best scoring offense, so this increase in Edler’s numbers is a very realistic thought.  Edler and Jack Johnson were two of the Western Conference selections for the 2008 YoungStars game. 

Jack Johnson (15 games, 1G, 12A, +5, 12 PIM, 27 SOG, 1 PPG, 7 PPA)

With the injury to iron man and defenseman colleague Drew Doughty (who has since returned), Johnson has played extremely well.  Johnson leads the Kings in total assists, power-play assists, and total power-play points and is fourth on the team in scoring. While he still doesn’t take a lot of shots on goal, he is on the plus side of things (+5) for once. With 36 points last year along with 13 power play points, Johnson is a good bet to best these numbers. He could easily be in the 50-point, 30 power-play point range. The Kings’ total offense is in the top ten, while the power play is near the average.

Keep an Eye On

Erik Karlsson (17 games, 4G, 7A, even, 6 PIM, 31 SOG, 2 PPG, 3 PPA)

Gonchar’s arrival in Ottawa has helped Karlsson, with the pair of them dominating the Sens’ power-play minutes.  Karlsson is fourth on the team in scoring and has the same number of total goals and power play goals as Gonchar.  With 26 points in 60 games during his rookie season, Karlsson is currently on par with matching or exceeding that average, which would put him in the 40 to 50 point season range. Karlsson is certainly one of the better bargains out there right now if he is still available in your league. 

Still Struggling

Tyler Myers (18 games, 4G, 3A, (-10), 6 PIM, 32 SOG, 2 PPG, 1 PPA)

Myers’ point production is down about one third, and his plus/minus is among the worst for all defensemen, a dramatic change from last year’s rookie season of 48 points with a +13.  His power-play numbers so far are consistent with what he had before.

Buffalo has the 28th ranked power play, and Myers has scored two of Sabres’ eight power-play goals.  With a bottom five goal differential of -0.67, Buffalo will need to generate some offense and stop the puck if there is any hope of improving Myers’ plus/minus.   

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