Slapshot Fantasy

Fantasy Hockey: Lee Stempniak Could Push to Top-100

(Photograph by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Did the Boston Bruins overpay for winger Lee Stempniak on the NHL’s deadline day? They certainly did, but those fantasy owners who jumped on Stempniak early this season should be happy if they hung on to the winger after the wheels fell off in New Jersey. He is now in an ideal position to put up fantastic numbers in Boston after his head-turning first half with the Devils.

Of all the lines that the former New Jersey Devil could land on in Boston, the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand was the best-case scenario for Stempniak’s fantasy value. The speculation that he would be playing on the fourth line didn’t make a great deal of sense considering that the Bruins surrendered a second- and a fourth-round pick for the possession-driving veteran wing.

The value of Stempniak playing on a line with two of fantasy hockey’s top-10 players in standard scoring categories–even if it is only temporary–is something that can’t be ignored. Despite Bergeron and Marchand missing a combined six games this season, the two of them have over 400 shots on the Bruin’s top line.

They’ve been an immense part of Boston’s dangerous offense. Stempniak has gone from the league’s lowest scoring team to the third-highest scoring team and is now playing with two of the most productive and dynamic forwards of the 2015-16 season.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Stempniak will see any significant power play time in Boston. In New Jersey, 16 of Stempniak’s 41 points came on the power play, but the Bruins seem comfortable with Ryan Spooner on their top unit with Bergeron, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson, Torey Krug on the blue line. Stempniak has a chance to carve out a spot on the second power play unit, but with the red-hot Matt Beleskey there playing opposite of Marchand that might take a while.

What’s encouraging for his fantasy value is that the majority of his points, especially his goals, were scored at even strength on the Devils’ top line. The possession metrics and box score statistics show that Stempniak can be very productive and valuable at even strength and if he remains anywhere in the Bruins’ top six forward group.

The number that his fantasy owners should be keeping an eye on is his ice time with all of the wingers he has to compete with on Boston’s roster. His Bruins debut on the Bergeron line should be all the reason any fantasy manager that is thin at the wing needs to add him to their roster if he’s available. And, surprisingly, he can still be had in a lot of leagues.

ESPN fantasy hockey players are on to Stempniak’s value and the winger is around 95 percent owned in ESPN leagues. But in CBS leagues and Yahoo! leagues Stempniak, who was a player on a try-out contract with the Devils back in the fall, is widely available and still somewhat under the radar. In CBS leagues Stempniak is right wing eligible and in Yahoo! leagues he can play both wings, which only adds to his value.

Every fantasy manager knows just how valuable a winger on a great team’s top line is, and although Stempniak isn’t exactly a household name in hockey, there’s no denying his value both before and after the trade that brought him to the Bruins. Don’t make the mistake that so many NHL teams made in the 2015 offseason and continue to ignore his production and value. In deep fantasy leagues, he is a must-add player if he is still available. In smaller fantasy leagues, the argument to roll the dice on him in this crucial part of the fantasy season is a strong one.

Stempniak has been a bright spot in New Jersey despite missing a handful of games and all of the shortcomings with the Devils’ roster this season. As a Boston Bruin, his production and fantasy value have the opportunity to increase if not explode and push him back into fantasy hockey’s top 100 players. Not bad for a player that has been on a professional tryout contract with both the Rangers and the Devils in the last few years.

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