With fantasy hockey drafts taking place over the next month, Today’s Slapshot would like to get you primed for the upcoming fantasy hockey season.
In this series of articles, we will be identifying two studs, duds, and sleepers at each position: goalie, defense, center, left wing, and right wing. Just to be clear, here are how the terms “studs”, “duds”, and “sleepers” will be used for the sake of these articles.
“Studs” are players that you can’t go wrong with. They might be the obvious picks, but it’s good to know which players stand out at their positions.
“Duds” aren’t necessarily players you shouldn’t draft, although they could be. But there’s a high probability that you’re going to be disappointed in these players.
“Sleepers” are those mid to late-round finds in drafts – players who are a strong possibility to exceed their draft-day value.
Only players with positional eligibility as a right wing across various fantasy providers are listed here. For example, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, and Evgeni Malkin all hold C/RW value in Yahoo, but they are only center-eligible in CBS. We’re going to focus strictly on right wingers here.
Dual positional eligibility is an asset, though, since it makes for more flexibility in planning your lineup. Although you are more likely to use Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Burns as defensemen, and they both play defense after stints on right wing, they are both still there if you need them as right wingers in Yahoo.
It wasn’t so long ago–the second half of last season, even shortly after the season ended–where it would have been inconceivable for Phil Kessel to be listed in this category. But a trade to a new team can do wonders to a player’s fantasy value.
Perhaps no one more so in recent years than Kessel, who would have been potential bust material had he stayed another season in Toronto.
Kessel can put that whole Toronto experience behind him, since he will now be paired with one of two top-10 centers in Sidney Crosby and Malkin. Prior to last season’s dud, Kessel had scored at least 30 goals in each of his last five full seasons. Kessel is one of those players who is probably worth more in fantasy leagues than he is to his real-life team, but all you need to do is plug him into your lineup and watch the goals flow in.
Corey Perry didn’t have his greatest offensive season in 2014-15, scoring 55 points in 67 games. So if you’re in a league where only pure scoring matters, Jakub Voracek or Vladimir Tarasenko might be better options. But if you play in a league with a significant dose of peripheral stats, then Perry should still be considered elite.
In spite of missing 15 games, Perry still scored 33 goals, good for 10th among all scorers. He doesn’t make as many trips to the penalty box as he used to, but his no-holds-barred style of play will still result in healthy penalty minute totals. Playing on a Ducks’ team that should once again contend, Perry’s plus/minus, power-play points, and shots on goal should all be better than they were in 2014-15.
Patrick Kane is ranked as the No. 10 player in Yahoo at the moment, but would you really want to take him there? There are numerous outside factors that could impact No. 88’s value in fantasy leagues, and it’s burning a first-round pick on him isn’t worth the risk it entails.
Go with a safer option here and let another owner roll the dice on Kane.
If we knew that Johan Franzen could be counted on to play close to a full 82-game schedule, then he would be able to pull his weight on a fantasy team. However, Franzen has averaged missing as many games as he has played over the past two seasons, so we can’t rightfully recommend him here. Franzen’s 2014-15 season was cut short with a concussion, although he has been cleared for full contact in training camp.
Consider his situation similar to that of Pavel Datsyuk: a constant threat of at least a day-to-day injury. Don’t be fooled by his 0.72 points/game over the past two seasons. Pick someone else that you know will be in the lineup on a nightly basis.
Mark Stone vaulted himself into the Calder Trophy discussion late in the season with seven goals over his final six games. Overall, Stone scored 64 points, which was tied for first among rookies. So why is Stone not ranked in the top 100 by Yahoo, when other fellow 2014-15 rookies Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau are?
Stone might appear to be a streaky player because of his late-season surge, but the opposite is true. Stone did not score fewer than three goals in any one month, and his shooting percentage never fell below 11 percent. A major increase in points might not happen in 2015-16, but Stone will be a great value pick if you can draft him close to where his Yahoo ranking currently sits.
Okay, so we’re cheating a bit on this last one. Valeri Nichushkin is listed as a right wing on Yahoo, but he’s listed as a left wing on CBS. After he was one of the favorite sleepers of many last season, Nichushkin has fallen so far down the Yahoo rankings that he’s not even in the top 500. But that’s what scoring just one assist in eight games will force the rankings supercomputer to do.
Anyone who still likes Nichushkin knows that there’s a chance he could be the winger to play alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Even if he drops to the second line with Jason Spezza, there’s still lots to like.
Now over the hip injury that cost him nearly the entire 2014-15 campaign, Nichushkin will have plenty to prove on the final year of his entry-level contract. He’s a perfect buy very low option and maybe another example of the post-hype sleeper.