There was some really good news for Jason Zucker and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. The former Wild winger was injured in his first game in late March, just an absolutely brutal comeback for a guy who’s had his fair share of nicks and scrapes over the past two years. The good news is this:
That he looks ready to go is a good sign for him and for Pittsburgh.
Some not so good news for Canucks fans and Quinn Hughes fantasy owners:
With Hughes remaining in Vancouver, he will miss two games, the next time Vancouver is at home this Saturday against San Jose. It’s a tough break for anyone counting on him right now.
With the fantasy playoffs having started this week, if not earlier, in the vast majority of leagues, the fantasy regular season has come to an end. It has certainly been a turbulent year for the NHL and, by extension, the fantasy leagues. Anyone who has reached their fantastic postseason should give themselves a pat or two on the back. It hasn’t been easy to steer the ship this year, especially over the holiday season.
The current regular season is still ongoing, but many articles have recently been posted on Dobber to help fantasy enthusiasts manage the rest of the season. There was Brennan Des to enjoy, Peter Ryell with his look at the upcoming schedule, and of course there’s Andrew Santillo’s ‘Looking Ahead’ column looking at players, teams and roles for the best. and for the worse. On top of all this we have the Schedule Planner tool which is available through our Frozen Tools and is a great help for fantasy owners who need a quick reference tool. All that to say we have the rest of the regular season with new items coming almost daily to cover the changing landscape of the past three weeks.
For that reason, I want to take this time and look back at some of the best fantasy performers this year. Because fantasy sports is all about value, I want to take a look at the All-Value team first. These are guys who weren’t taken near the top of a normal fantasy league, but helped carry many to the playoffs and/or a regular season title. We’ll be looking at one from each forward position (according to Yahoo!), two on the blue line, and one in goal.
Nazem Kadri (Colorado)
There’s an argument to be made here for Matt Duchene, but my concern was that there might not even be many leagues he was drafted from. It certainly wasn’t in shallower formats. Even though he was drafted, he started the year with 1 point in 5 games, so he may have been a quick downfall.
Nazem Kadri, on the other hand, has almost certainly been drafted in all leagues, but the absolute shallowest formats. He started the season with back-to-back two-point games and went for the runs from there. It was by far his best season in the league, with 1.28 points per game so far. To show how incredible that is: if we add his point totals from the previous two seasons (68) and divide by last year’s game total (56), he comes out at 1.21 points per game. It doesn’t show the big hit totals it used to, but the PIMs are still there, and it’s been a big help in all other categories (DPP, shots, over/under) . He’s been one of the best centers in fantasy all year, and he’s certainly helped more than one team qualify for the fantasy playoffs.
Chris Kreider (New York 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 with 31 goals and 68 points in 64 games so far. His 271 shots are also a career high and his 126 hits are not far off his best of 155 a few years ago. It’s not that he’s posting 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 that Kreider was comparable or better in almost every area. While we can argue value when it comes to draft – Kreider was almost certainly taken much higher than Meier in all formats – at some point raw numbers mean more. Kreider already has 47 goals, 225 shots and 130 hits in 71 games this year. He’s also north of 30 points on the power play on the campaign, showing just how good he’s been across the board. It also highlights how crazy this year has been for him as he has never reached 15 PPP in a single season in his career. That he is up to 32 (and older) shows how amazing this year has been for him.
Assists are the one area where Kreider has been lacking, but let’s be honest, we’ll trade assists for what he did any day of the week. He put himself in the running for the Maurice Richard Trophy and it continues to underline what a year it has been for him. If anyone wants to say Meier was more valuable in his 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 has rarely been drafted into the top 100.
Matt Duchene (Nashville)
I was going to drag Mats Zuccarello here as he’s already set a career points high with 71 in 61 games. The thing is, a guy I mentioned earlier actually got turned into a right-winger this year, and he deserves that spot a little more. So let’s talk about Duchene’s season.
This level of production was unpredictable – or so I think; whoever predicted Duchene career highs across the board, collect your sizable wins at the window – but I thought there was a turnaround in store for Duchene and wrote as much last summer. A lot of things went well for him, like his best TOI/game since 2013 and a career-high in shooting percentage. But that’s how guys earn career years. All I’m saying is that there were a lot of clues that Duchene was very unlucky last year, and he was very lucky this year. It’s hockey.
Either way, 36 goals and over 70 points is just an amazing season for him and a big reason the Predators seem to be heading to the playoffs. He has certainly helped a lot not only his team but all his fantastic managers this year. The big question is whether he can replicate anything close to that next year, but what is the offseason for.
Noah Dobson (New York Islanders)
Considering all the problems the Islanders have had in the first three months of the season, it’s a wonder any player can even be considered for this list, let alone make it. There were two more in consideration in Devon Toews and MacKenzie Weegar. Their problem is that a significant portion of their respective values came from over/under, and enough fantasy leagues have strayed away from that stat that not including them, but mentioning them, feels good.
Noah Dobson, however, has a superlative year across the board. A pair of assists in his last game took him to 40 points on the year, and that’s on a team that had 30and in the rating until Christmas.
But the points aren’t all he brought, otherwise he wouldn’t be on this list. He’s barely 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 excellent across the board as a blue understudy.
This season’s “what if” will always be “what if the Islanders didn’t have a bad start to the year for a number of reasons?” “They really came on in the second half and that includes a lot more goals. If they had been this team all year, would they be in the playoffs? Most likely. And Dobson would have been even better, on the fantasy side. That’s something to keep in mind when the draft season rolls around in September.
It’s truly been a standout year for the Carolina blue liner with 45 points in 52 games so far. An injury kept him from reaching a full season, but his excellent power-play production, combined with a very good plus/minus, helped him lead a great year. It’s fair to wonder what this season might have looked like for him if he had reached around 75 games, but that also makes him a target for us next September.
DeAngelo has never been a big peripheral guy, which makes him rely on production for fantastic value. As long as he maintains that power play role for Carolina, it’s hard to see his fantasy value plummeting. Strange things happen all the time in hockey, but it seems like a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties.
Jacob Markstrom (Calgary)
With all due respect to Ville Husso, he’s unlikely to have been drafted in most leagues, while Markstrom has surely been drafted in all but the shallower leagues that include goaltenders. During the year, he was in the top 5 in save percentage and goals against average, while leading the league in shutouts (9). Moreover, unlike Husso or Ilya Sorokin, Markstrom has played at this level practically all year. Yes, most of his shutouts have come early in the season, but he still has a .920 save percentage since March 1.st. The shutouts haven’t been as consistent, but his play has been as consistent as it can be for a goaltender. He’s probably going to finish the year as the best fantasy goaltender, if not near the top, and he was drafted nowhere near that level. It’s been a wonderful season for Markstrom in Calgary.