Injuries spoil the aspirations and fates of many fantasy hockey managers every year, and the 2015-16 season was no different. One needs to only mention the name Carey Price in a room full of fantasy hockey managers to see heads hang as if they suddenly increased in mass.
Understanding what a player’s average per-game-production was or is in a large enough sample size of games is often telling of what their true fantasy value was and is. It helps to level the playing field for those players who missed time with injury or even suspension. Most of all, it helps to clarify just how exceptional some players are, many of whom are already recognized as great players, and divorce them from the misfortune of their injuries.
Let’s take a look at three players, including two who are usual suspects on the “frequently injured list”, who missed time this season but were some of the best per-game producers in fantasy hockey in the 2015-16 season.
Note: The following rankings are accurate as of 3/29 and reflect standard scoring categories.
Connor McDavid. Per-Game Rank: 22nd
The Oilers’ rookie missed 37 games with injury but remains a frontrunner for the Calder Memorial Trophy because of how brilliant he has been when healthy. Through 42 games, McDavid has averaged 0.71 assists per game on the Oilers’ top line. That is better than what both Sidney Crosby and Jamie Benn managed on their far superior hockey teams this season. Not bad for a teenager.
Even with the time he missed, there’s no chance that McDavid will be available past the first few rounds on draft day in the fall. There are those that might hesitate to invest in him because of the stain that his injury left on his rookie season and the poor quality of his team, but given his elite per-game production as a rookie McDavid will be well worth any perceived risk.
If he stays healthy with the young core of talent around him in Edmonton, he could find himself joining fantasy hockey’s elite forward group next season. One of the big questions that fantasy hockey enthusiasts and analysts will be mulling over all summer will be just how early is too early to draft McDavid in the fall.
Mike Cammalleri. Per-Game Rank: 25th
The 33-year-old Cammalleri was one of the fantasy season’s biggest surprises right up until he was knocked out of New Jersey’s lineup in late January with a serious hand injury. Cammalleri’s days of being a 30-goal player are likely behind him, but in 42 games this season he had 38 points with the Devils–including 10 that were scored on the man advantage.
Only 24 players were more valuable in standard fantasy scoring categories per-game than Cammalleri was while playing on the top line in New Jersey. His shooting percentage was noticeably down from where it was in his first season with the Devils in 2014-15 when he scored 27 goals in 68 games, but he was still the engine of the Devils’ surprising first line alongside Lee Stempniak and Adam Henrique.
Cammalleri’s hand injury ended his season prematurely and proved to be disastrous for the Devils, who have missed his production at even strength and on the power play. Of course, the veteran forward has a well-established history of dealing with injuries which will again make him a player that fantasy managers hesitate to draft.
Will he be magic again next season? That remains to be seen, but he will almost certainly slip down the draft board because of his injury which makes him a player every fantasy manager should keep in mind.
Kris Letang. Per-Game Rank: 19th
The power play quarterback of the Penguins is no stranger to injury. This season in Pittsburgh, Letang missed 10 games which should not have come as much of a surprise to his fantasy owners considering that the last time Letang played over 70 games in a season was 2010-11.
Only four defenders in the NHL were more productive and valuable fantasy players per-game than Letang was even with Pittsburgh’s (and Crosby’s) rocky start to the season. It seems that if Letang plays at least 60 games in a season he is essentially a lock to be a top-50 player, but he still was drafted after Duncan Keith and Kevin Shattenkirk back in the fall according to fantasypros.com.
Letang will be turning 29 in late April and is still in his prime, even with his injury history. His fantasy value is obvious, but he remains a player that is undervalued by some overly cautious fantasy managers who can’t get past his fragility. Where Letang goes on draft day in the fall of 2016 will likely have more to do with whether or not he gets injured in the final games of the season and in the playoffs than what his production looks like in the coming weeks.