Fantasy Hockey Cliffnotes is an article that will attempt to find bargains for fantasy hockey teams hurting in certain categories. The below analysis will be in shorthand form, with the emphasis being on short-term, relevant value based on various aspects of the game. Enjoy.
A few seasons ago, the powers that be at Yahoo! decided to remove game winning goals (GWG) from standard mixed leagues and replace them with shots. The result: players like Brian Boyle becoming fantasy hockey studs and a defender like Dustin Byfuglien looking elite. This category can be had with snipers like Daniel Sedin, James Neal or Phil Kessel but it can also be stolen.
The former 22nd overall pick has enjoyed his fourth NHL season after recovering from the infamous Zdeno Chara incident. Pacioretty currently plays on the second line at even strength and second power play unit, playing alongside mainly David Desharnais. His biggest facet looks like his 34 shots through seven games, which is clearly sustainable regardless of his linemates. If you find yourself hurting in this category, Mad Max can be had in 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Former third overall pick Matt Duchene currently sits in coach Joe Sacco’s doghouse while the current second overall pick continues to thrive on the team’s speedy third line. While his current linemates of Daniel Winnik and Ryan O’Reilly are not powerhouse forwards, the gritty Swede has managed to put 29 shots over his first eight NHL games — more than Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Sedin and Eric Staal. He also likely chips a few points and can be added in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Outside of Erik Johnson, the Avs really have no threats from the blue line. Quincey has certainly taken advantage of his team’s shortcomings by firing an impressive 25 shots over his first eight games. Coming off an injury marred season where he only played 21 games, the 26-year-old is healthy and ready to contribute. In fact, only Byfuglien and Sami Salo has taken more shots as a defenseman.
Hits is obviously a more obscure category and is suited for those who enjoy a challenge in their fantasy hockey league. Personally, I love playing with hits as it keeps my team gritty with plenty of toughness. All joking aside, there are a few guys who can contribute with their bodies while not completely killing your team in other cats.
Hanzal continues to center the second line in Phoenix and was recently awarded with both a new contract and a new letter on his sweater. A leader in the locker room and on the ice, the Czech forward is contributing in most categories. He currently leads all Coyotes in hits which is impressive when considering their blue line and gritty core. If Sunday night’s 5-4 win over Anaheim is any indication — two goals, five shots, four penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating — this year will be his breakout campaign.
Following his 17-goal rookie campaign, the gritty left wing has started this season with a bang. Playing on a shutdown role with David Bolland and Michael Frolik, the Bowmanville, Ontario native (can’t make that up) registered 18 hits over his first seven games. Last season he lined up 178 opponents over 78 games — totals he could likely hit again. As a bonus, he has become entrenched on the second PP unit with Bolland and superstar Marian Hossa.
After playing mostly on the third line in a checking assignment with Brandon Sutter last season, LaRose has been glued to the top two lines through eight games. The Fraser, Michigan native clears space for his linemates but more importantly is no stranger to putting pucks in the net. Through his first eight games, he registered 17 body checks, which tops gritty teammates Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu. Similar to Bickell, LaRose also sees good PP time, alternating between the top two units. Certainly not a bad option despite the Canes’ goal differentials.
Blocked shots, like hits, is a category for those adventurous fantasy hockey owners who like their players laying it all on the line. Even though it puts players at risks, it also boosts the value of otherwise fringe options. Here are some guys willing to risk their body for the good of their team.
Clark has been a fringe fantasy hockey option for some time now, teasing us with his efficiency on the power play both in Colorado and Tampa Bay. What owners failed to realize was that he actually leads the League in blocked shots this season and has come close to earning that distinction over a full season a few times. He plays in a high-octane offense under coach Guy Boucher, earning time on the second PP unit. Not a bad option to steal a category with a fourth defender.
As the third Swiss defender to make an impact with the Habs, Diaz has already outplayed stud prospect Alexei Emelin. Furthermore, through only seven NHL contests he has become a top-four defender. Even though the Montreal Canadiens have struggled, Dias owns a plus-1 rating while adding a couple of points. He also finds himself on the second PP unit — a special teams unit which has succeeded for the better part of the post-lockout NHL.
When Brooks Orpik was injured to start the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins needed someone to step up. Likewise, today, when the team announced Zybnek Michalek broke his finger, they once again needed something more. Luckily for them, Engelland is/was healthy and able to help them out in all facets. Even though Engelland doesn’t produce too much offensively, he drops the mitts with relative frequency while adding blocked shots and hits — making him an option in leagues that use those stats. In fact, there probably is no better way of using your bottom defensive position.
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