There was some very good news for Jason Zucker and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. The former Wild winger was injured in his first game back at the end of March, just an absolutely brutal return for a guy who has his fair share of nicks and scratches these last two years. The good news is as follows:
That he seems good to go is a great sign for him and Pittsburgh both.
Some less good news for Canucks fans and Quinn Hughes fantasy owners:
With Hughes staying back in Vancouver, he’ll miss two games, with the next time Vancouver is at home this Saturday against San Jose. It is a tough break for anyone relying on him at the moment.
With fantasy playoffs having started this week, if not earlier, in the vast majority of leagues, the fantasy regular season has closed. It was certainly a turbulent year for the NHL and, by extension, fantasy leagues. Anyone that reached their fantasy postseason should give themselves a pat or two on the back. It wasn’t easy to steer the ship this year, especially through the holiday stretch.
The actual regular season is still ongoing but there have been lots of articles published at Dobber recently to help fantasy enthusiasts with the balance of the season. There was Brennan Des talking streaks to take advantage of, Peter Ryell with his look at the upcoming schedule, and of course there is Andrew Santillo’s ‘Looking Ahead’ column which looks at players, teams, and roles for both better and worse. On top of all this, we have the Schedule Planner tool that is available through our Frozen Tools and that is a huge help for fantasy owners that need a quick reference tool. All this is to say that we have the rest of the regular season with new articles coming almost daily to cover the changing landscape of these final three weeks.
For that reason, I want to take this time and look back on some of the top fantasy performers this year. Because fantasy sports are namely about value, I want to first take a look at the All-Value Team. These are guys that were not taken near the top of any normal fantasy league but helped carry many to the playoffs and/or a regular season title. We’re going to look at one from each forward position (according to Yahoo!), two on the blue line, and one in goal.
Nazem Kadri (Colorado)
There is an argument to be made here for Matt Duchene, but my concern was that there may not have even been a lot of leagues where he was drafted. He certainly wasn’t in shallower formats. Even if he had been drafted, he started the year with 1 point in 5 games, so he may have been a quick drop.
Nazem Kadri, on the other hand, was almost certainly drafted in every league but the absolute shallowest formats. He started the season with back-to-back two-point games and was off to the races from there. This has been, by far, his best season in the league, sitting at 1.28 points per game this far. To kind of hammer home how incredible this is: if we added his point totals from the previous two seasons (68) and divided by only last year’s total games (56), he comes out at 1.21 points per contest. He isn’t putting up the big hit totals he used to, but the PIMs are still there, and he’s been a big help in every other category (PPPs, shots, plus/minus). He’s been one of the top centres in fantasy all year and he certainly helped more than one team get to the fantasy playoffs.
Chris Kreider (NY Rangers)
We have another situation here where there is a legitimate second option to offer: Timo Meier. The Sharks’ winger has had a career year to date with 31 goals and 68 points in 64 games so far. His 271 shots are also a career-high and his 126 hits aren’t far off his best of 155 a couple years ago. It isn’t that he’s posted monster point totals or anything, it’s that he’s helped a lot across the board, and that kind of value is coveted in multi-cat leagues.
The problem is Kreider has been comparable or better in nearly every area. While we could argue value when it comes to draft slotting – Kreider was almost certainly taken much higher than Meier in all formats – at a certain point, the raw numbers mean more. Kreider is already up to 47 goals, 225 shots, and 130 hits in 71 games on the year. He is also north of 30 power-play points on the campaign, and that highlights how good he’s been across the board. It also highlights what a wild year it’s been for him, as he’s never reached 15 PPPs in any single season of his career. That he’s up to 32 (and counting) just shows how incredible this year has been for him.
Assists are the only area where Kreider has lacked but let’s be honest, we’ll trade assists for what he’s done any day of the week. He has put himself in the race for the Maurice Richard Trophy and that just continues to underscore what a year it’s been for him. If someone wants to say Meier was more valuable in their league, I won’t argue. But Kreider’s season has put him among the elite fantasy options this year, and that’s incredible value for someone who was infrequently drafted inside the top-100.
Matt Duchene (Nashville)
I was going to slide Mats Zuccarello in here as he set a career-best in points already with 71 in 61 games. The thing is, a guy I mentioned earlier was effectively turned into a right winger this year, and he deserves this spot just a bit more. So let’s talk about Duchene’s season.
This level of production was unforeseeable – at least I think so; anyone who predicted Duchene for across-the-board career bests, collect your considerable winnings at the window – but I did think there was a turnaround in store for Duchene and wrote as much last summer. A lot of things went right for him, like his highest TOI/game since 2013 and a career-high in shooting percentage. But that’s how guys get career years. All I mean to say is that there were a lot of indicators that Duchene was very unlucky last year, and he got very luck this year. That’s hockey.
No matter what, 36 goals and over 70 points is just an incredible season for him and is a big reason why the Predators look to be playoff-bound. He certainly helped not only his team but all his fantasy managers a lot this year. The big question is if he can replicate anything close to this next year, but what’s that the offseason is for.
Noah Dobson (NY Islanders)
Considering all the issues the Islanders had through the first three months of the season, it’s a miracle that any player could even be considered for this list, let alone find themselves on it. There were two others in consideration in Devon Toews and MacKenzie Weegar. Their issue is that a significant portion of their respective values were derived from plus/minus, and enough fantasy leagues have gotten away from that stat that not including them, but mentioning them, feels fine.
Noah Dobson, though, has a superlative year across the board. A pair of assists in his last game brought him to 40 points on the year, and that’s on a team that was 30th in scoring until Christmas.
But points are not all he brought, or else he wouldn’t be on this list. He is just shy of one hit per game and two blocks per game, bringing a plethora of peripherals even without skating monster minutes. Add 2.5 shots per game and 10 goals to the mix and we have a player who was great across the board as a blue liner.
The ‘What If’ of this season will always be ‘What if the Islanders didn’t have a terrible start to the year for any number of reasons?’ They really came on in the second half and that includes a lot more scoring. If they had been this team all year, would they be in the postseason? Probably. And Dobson would have been even better, fantasy-wise. That’s something to keep in mind when draft season rolls around in September.
Tony DeAngelo (Carolina)
It really was a superlative year for the Carolina blue liner with 45 points in 52 games to date. Injury kept him from reaching anything close to a full season but his excellent power-play production, combined with a very good plus/minus, helped carry him to a big year. It is fair to wonder what this season could have looked like for him if he were to have reached 75 or so games, but that also makes him a target for us this coming September.
DeAngelo has never been a big peripheral guy, which makes him rely on production for fantasy value. As long as he maintains this power-play role for Carolina, it’s hard to see his fantasy value cratering. Weird things happen in hockey all the time, but this seems to be a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides.
Jacob Markstrom (Calgary)
With due respect to Ville Husso, it’s unlikely he was drafted in most leagues, whereas Markstrom was surely drafted in all but the shallowest leagues that include goalies. On the year, he is inside the top-5 in both save percentage and goals against average while also leading the league in shutouts (9). What’s more is that unlike Husso or Ilya Sorokin, Markstrom has played to this level basically all year. Yes, most of his shutouts came early in the season, but he still has a .920 save percentage since March 1st. The shutouts haven’t been as consistent, but his play has been, for as much as it can be for a goalie. He is likely going to finish the year as the top fantasy net-minder, if not near the top, and he was drafted nowhere near that level. It has been a wonderful season for Markstrom in Calgary.
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