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Slapshot Fantasy

Three of fantasy hockey’s best from the worst even strength teams

05 Mar 2016 Canadiens Max Pacioretty (67) skates with the puck during the Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens game at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg MB. (Photograph by Terry Lee/Icon Sportswire)

Plus-minus is one of the two most controversial standard scoring categories in fantasy hockey.

Why is plus-minus a scoring category when we have more useful and informative analytical values like Corsi to measure performance? Should it even be included in today’s fantasy hockey?

We can take a look at that debate another time. Today we’re going to look at three of the best fantasy performers that were dragged down the rankings because the poor quality of their teams sabotaged their plus-minus ratings..

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

Pacioretty played in all 82 games this season with the Canadiens and put up 304 shots while spearheading Montreal’s offense. He is the only player to have at least 300 shots, 30 goals, and 30 assists this season. He was also the only player to achieve that distinction in the 2014-15 season when he finished as the ninth most valuable player in fantasy hockey.

However this year, with the disappointing Canadiens, Pacioretty was the 44th most valuable fantasy hockey player.

The American winger has has always been a primarily even strength producer, but even his solid production during 5-on-5 hockey couldn’t keep him from having a minus-10 plus-minus rating at the end of the season. Playing for a team that scored 15 fewer goals than it allowed didn’t help that.

Pacioretty could be overlooked on fantasy draft day thanks to so many young left wingers having breakout seasons this year. The Canadiens can really only improve next season and Pacioretty remains a lock as a top-50 fantasy skater thanks to his even strength production and the top line minutes he sees.

Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets

February 29, 2016: Columbus Blue Jackets Left Wing Boone Jenner (38) [8662] screens New York Rangers Goalie Antti Raanta (32) [7585] during a NHL game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. The NY Rangers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

February 29, 2016: Columbus Blue Jackets Left Wing Boone Jenner (38) screens New York Rangers Goalie Antti Raanta (32). (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

Jenner is turning 23 this June but is already considered by many to be among the league’s most promising young, physical forwards. His 30 goal, 213 hit production this year on an awful Columbus team goes a long way in supporting that claim.

The Blue Jackets surrendered 33 more goals than they scored this season on their way to finishing second-to-last in the Eastern Conference, so it come as no surprise that Jenner finished with a minus-15 plus-minus rating while seeing 16:24 time on ice per game.

He shot more, scored more, and went to the box more this season after a solid rookie campaign in 2013-14 and playing just 31 games in 2014-15 due to injury. In other words, he is trending in the right direction.

Next season Jenner should see an increase in his ice time with his  ability to produce on a team that is all kinds of desperate for goal scoring. This season he finished as the 94th most valuable fantasy player in standard scoring categories despite his low ice time and his plus-minus rating.

Whether or not your fantasy league cares about hitting, Jenner is a player you should be keeping in mind as a big value pick late in next fall’s fantasy drafts.

Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs

Kadri figures to be a big part of Toronto’s future after signing a six year, $27 million contract extension that will keep him in blue and white through the 2021-22 season. He’ll likely be the top center under head coach Mike Babcock for the foreseeable future.

Despite playing for the Eastern Conference’s worst team this season and being weighed down by a minus-15 plus-minus rating, Kadri was a top-100 fantasy player in standard scoring categories and led his team in assists and scoring despite missing six games due to suspension and injury.

Kadri posted 17 goals, 28 assists, and 73 penalty minutes along with 260 shots on one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. With some promising young talent including William Nylander poised to make a big impact next season and James van Riemsdyk looking to bounce back after a season spoiled by a major injury, the 25-year-old will be a valuable center to take late on draft day.

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