2013 Outlook: Despite losing blue-line partner Christian Ehrhoff last offseason, defenseman Alexander Edler enjoyed his most successful campaign to date with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011-12. Shooting up an uncharacteristic storm (228 shots), Edler accumulated 11 goals and 38 assists while not missing a single regular-season contest. Poised to be paired with newcomer Jason Garrison this go-around, the towering Swede may very well reach the 30-point plateau.
2013 Outlook: After missing the entire previous season to injury, Mark Streit reestablished himself as one of the league's top offensive defenseman by tallying 47 points in 2011-12. Not bad, huh? Unfortunately, the accompanying minus-27 rating puts a damper on the otherwise impressive total from the New York Islanders' captain. That number should improve for Streit this season as the young squad continues to develop. Not that the figure could really get much worse.
2013 Outlook: Kimmo Timonen can't be faulted for feeling the weight of the world on his hockey-playing shoulders with the Philadelphia Flyers this season. With Chris Pronger's playing career likely over, Matt Carle opting to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Andrej Meszaros less than 100 percent, Timonen sits atop the Flyers' blue-line depth chart all by his lonesome. Even if GM Paul Holmgren acquires another experienced defenseman ' as expected ' Timonen will still be looked to as the go-to guy in most offensive situations. If he can remain in one piece, the 37-year-old Finn might be in for one of the more productive seasons of his career. The Flyers are hoping for as much.
2013 Outlook: Top banana following the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, fellow Swede Niklas Kronwall is in position to seize the leadership reigns of the Detroit Red Wings' blue line. A perceived permanent fixture on the squad's top unit with the man-advantage, Kronwall will look to break the 30-point barrier before the playoffs roll around.
2013 Outlook: Duncan Keith might never catch a whiff of the 70-point mark again, but the 29-year-old brings a lot more than scoring to the fantasy table. Averaging nearly 27 minutes per game in 2011-12, Keith registered 162 shots and 40 points (plus-15) through 74 contests. Not too shabby. And the top defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks wasn't happy with those totals at all. If his workload is lightened somewhat, the former Norris Trophy winner could see better numbers production-wise.
2013 Outlook: After a couple of sub-standard regular seasons, the Drew Doughty of old (16 points in 20 games) returned with a vengeance during the Los Angeles Kings' playoff run. And that resurrection played no small part in helping Darryl Sutter's crew win the ultimate prize. That's the Doughty we expect to see more of once the next campaign gets off the ground. Presumably brimming with confidence once more, the former second-overall draft pick (2008) should have no issue with leading the Kings blue-line scoring.
2013 Outlook: Missing most of January to injury, Christian Ehrhoff still managed to cobble together 32 points through 66 games in his debut season with the Buffalo Sabres. The club is kicking the level of expectation up a notch now that the lengthy adjustment period is over. Anticipate more scoring and shots from the Buffalo Sabres' No. 1 defenseman this coming campaign. And, keep in mind, Ehrhoff was more productive in his second go-through with the Canucks when he netted 50 points on 209 shots in 2010-11.
2013 Outlook: If anyone is due for some consistent good luck, it's defenseman Andrei Markov. Missing all but 13 games this past season (plus most of 2010-11 and part of 2009-10) because of a serious knee injury and subsequent complications, Markov is thought to be in tip-top shape after a successful lockout campaign in the KHL. And the medical types in the know insist the veteran is in no great danger of reinjuring the rebuilt right joint. Those willing to gamble on that prognosis could reap some serious fantasy benefits. One of the elite offensive-defensemen of his generation, Markov is three seasons removed from tallying 64 points in 73 games. And keep in mind, the hard-working career Canadien is still only 34 years old.
2013 Outlook: In his first NHL season (2010-11), Kevin Shattenkirk registered nine goals and 34 assists with the Avalanche and Blues. In his first exclusive season with the Blues, the former Boston University Terrier scored nine goals and 34 assists once again. You can't fault that brand of consistency. Alex Pietrangelo's power-play partner is also good for an impressive amount of shots and penalty minutes. Suitable as a No. 2 defenseman in most leagues, Shattenkirk would be considered a steal in the No. 3 slot.
2013 Outlook: Banged up for a good part of 2011-12, Mark Giordano nevertheless managed to cobble together a 27-point campaign, including nine goals. And he finished the season strongly with 11 points in his final 16 contests. Fully fit heading into 2012-13, Giordano will only benefit from the right-handed shooting Dennis Wideman's joining the Calgary Flames if the two are paired on the club's top power-play unit.
2013 Outlook: Snagging forwards Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Derek Roy this offseason, the Dallas Stars are able to mix and match talents and chemistry with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson as far as the club's top power-play unit is concerned. But there's little doubt the role of anchor belongs to defenseman Alex Goligoski. Entering his prime at 27 years old, Goligoski is poised to enjoy an outstanding abbreviated year -- all the while racking up some serious on-ice minutes.
2013 Outlook: Presuming he doesn't launch 2012-13 with an eight-match suspension, James Wisniewski will already be ahead of the game in his second season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Postulating further that the 28-year-old blueliner doesn't suffer a series of semi-serious injuries -- including a broken ankle, pulled groin and concussion -- from November to March, he could nearly double his 27-point output from a truncated 2011-12 campaign. And that total would include a good percentage of points earned with the man-advantage. With Johnson and Wisniewski leading the pack, the Jackets should generate a lot of scoring from their back end.
2013 Outlook: Playing in the partial shadow cast by Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen since 2008, this former Flyer is ready to embrace the role as No. 1 with his new (old) squad, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Poised to fill a role with the top power-play unit -- with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, etc. -- Carle is in position to near the 30-point barrier.
2013 Outlook: The newest member of the Flames' blue line, Dennis Wideman promises to be as productive in Calgary as he was with the Capitals in 2011-12 ' and the Panthers the previous season ' and the Bruins before that. Wherever he goes, Wideman finds a way to score more than most other offensive-defensemen in the NHL. Mildly underrated, the 29-year-old notched as many points (46) as Ryan Suter last season.
2013 Outlook: No pressure, young fella. Fact is, if Justin Schultz is even half as good as anticipated in his first NHL season, the fantasy payoff will be relatively rich. After shunning the team that drafted him (Anaheim), Schultz attracted a ludicrous amount of attention from the media and teams alike before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Oilers. Proclaimed the finest defenseman not in the NHL in 2011-12, Schultz scored 16 goals and 28 assists through 37 games with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. Scouts proclaim the 22-year-old puck-moving defenseman to be the 'real deal'. So far, his production with the AHL Oklahoma City Barons -- 48 points in 34 games -- supports that claim.