We are beginning to see some import Defensemen making their mark on the ice but does that mean they are fantasy relevant? I decided to take a look at the overseas imports who may not be household names yet, but could be soon. Let's start off with one of the hottest blueliners right now…
Tim Heed (San Jose)
– 2 goals, 4 assists, 9 games.
I was watching the San Jose Sharks game the other night and managed to see Mr. Tim Heed blast a shot from the point for his seond goal of the year. This gives him 6 points in 9 games now for the Sharks. After coming over from the SHL for the 2016-17 season, Heed started to turn heads in the AHL finishing with 56 points in 55 games. His slapshot is impressive. So far…. he's playing around 17 minutes a night but a whopping 3:27 on the PP. The big question is, will he be forced out of the lineup once Paul Martin returns? He has all the potential in the world to be a sneaky fantasy asset and you should absolutely be watching how his playing time develops. In a league where around 50 dmen are fantasy relevant, I'm tempted to pick him up before others realize who he is. I certainly won't argue if he's on the Sharks top PP alongside Burns.
Signed a one-year deal. He could easily be sent down. Was named to the KHL All Star team but couldn't go due to injury. While most expected him to probably begin down in the AHL, he has stuck around thus far. Owners might be worried that he's been scratched two games in a row after seeing some initial PP time but he's been dealing with a back injury. While he had shown some great moments, he's still only seeing just over 14 minutes a night so hold on tight and keep evaluating.
The 22 year old Swede notched his first goal after a scoring change against the Sharks. He is quite the aggressive player at times and surprised some by finding a spot on the Maple Leafs so early. With the signing of vet Roman Polak, it creates even less room for bodies but he's managed to grow his role ever so slightly. The potential is there to be a solid NHL Dman but he has yet to see much time on the PK or the PP. It's wonderful that he's been able to be a regular in the lineup and his ability to skate and jump in the rush makes him a potential significant fantasy asset in the future. Still growing. Still learning. Toronto likes what they've found so far. (Averaging 2.5 hits a night isn't bad either)
The other Swede. After playing 3 seasons in the SHL, Rosen signed with Toronto and has been competeing along side Borgman for those NHL minutes. While showing signs of skill and flash, he's also struggled with some decision making. He was sent down after four games to the AHL and will probably spend most of the season there unless injuries garner him a call up. Unlike Borgman, Rosen doesn't bring much for Roto leagues.
Buffalo brought over the KHL All Star after he won a Bronze Medal at the World Championships last spring with Russia. There was a lot of sneaky hype over this player and let me tell you – I bought in hard. I drafted him in our DPFHL deep league and took a late round gamble on him in an 8 player league. He's seen around 14 minutes a night and has looked both brilliant and lost sometimes on the same shift. Buffalo has already altered their PP to include him on the first unit alongside Risto. As long as they continue to give him chances on the PP, he should be on your radar.
**note, I made a "fantasy expert" say "WHO?!?!" When I drafted him and it brought me much joy.
Jan Rutta (Chicago)
– 2 goals, 3 assists, 12 games.
Right away you should know that Rutta is 27 years old which is about 4 years older than most of the players listed already. It's wonderful news that he is finding his space in Chicago right away as they need him. He's averaging just under 20 minutes a night and that seems like it'll only increase with the poor play from Connor Murphy. You might have seen him on the Blackhawks top line or blocking shots while killing penalties. Either way, I think many fantasy owners saw his 4 points in 4 games to begin the year and wondered if it would continue. It hasn't. Rutta has one assist in the last 9 games as he gains the coaches favor.
This list could also include current AHLers Alexei Bereglazov (NYR), Jakub Jerabek (MTL), Philip Holm (VAN), and Lukas Bengtsson (PIT). Bengtsson is probably the longest shot but the best bet to do some damage if he manages to squeek on a struggling Penguins back-end.
Hopefully you learned a name or two. Maybe you added someone to your deep fantasy roster.
Cheers and happy November!