Skaters who take a lot of shots are valuable in fantasy hockey because they almost always play a key role in their team’s offenses and they often score quite a few goals. The NHL’s top five shooters through January are a list of who’s who of fantasy hockey’s best players: Alex Ovechkin, Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, Taylor Hall, and Patrick Kane.
Unless you were both clever and fortunate on draft day, it’s unlikely that you own more than one or two of the league’s best triggermen. Thankfully there are some hidden gems that are still widely available in most fantasy hockey leagues that will greatly inflate your shot totals week in and week out. Let’s take a look at three of fantasy hockey’s best lesser-known shooters.
The recent injury to Leafs winger and fantasy stud James van Riemsdyk has scared off many fantasy managers from taking a chance on Kadri, who has quietly had an excellent season in Toronto. In standard scoring categories, Kadri is a top 75 player and the secret to his fantasy value lies in his predilection for getting pucks on net. Kadri recently matched his previous career high in shots when he put his 176th puck on net in January. Unless something really unlucky happens, he’ll blow that career high out of the water this season.
Only seven skaters in the NHL have put more shots on net than Toronto’s top center through the All-Star break. If not for an underwhelming five power play points and an eye-catchingly low shooting percentage, Kadri would be in discussions as a can’t-miss fantasy center this season.
As things currently stand he is flying well under the radar in both Yahoo! and CBS fantasy leagues where he is about 50 percent owned. Without van Riemsdyk in the lineup for several weeks, it will be up to Kadri to pick up the slack and keep firing off shots.
The veteran Czech winger might not be seeing as much ice time with the Sedin twins as he has in the past, but he is still getting tons of pucks on net for the Vancouver Canucks. Vrbata is currently playing wing on a line with two talented kids: Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. He also sees top power play unit deployment and will continue to do so even when Henrik Sedin returns from his injury. Vrbata is just one more player that has solid fantasy value, ignoring a potentially toxic impact to your team’s plus/minus rating.
Averaging 16:35 time on ice per game and having a -22 rating are two key reasons why Vrbata is available in so many fantasy leagues, but if your team needs shots on goal and you are thin at right wing there won’t be many better options available in the free agent market than Vrbata.
In the two seasons prior to 2015-16, Vrbata poured 530 shots on net in 159 games with the Coyotes and the Canucks. He’ll be lucky to eclipse the 20 goal mark in his current role in Vancouver’s offense, but Vrbata will again approach 260 shots in the regular season, which makes him a hard player to ignore despite his other shortcomings.
Skinner’s 18 goals and 144 shots through 51 games are the only stats you really need to understand what he can bring to your fantasy team.
Digging deeper into the numbers reveals that Skinner is getting most of the job done at even strength (only three of his goals were scored on the power play), which does depreciate his fantasy value, but not enough to scare off savvy fantasy managers who are in the market for a winger that can light the lamp and get some rubber on net.
At the All-Star break, Carolina’s 2010 first round pick is just three points shy of his total point production from last season and he has already matched his goal total from 2014-15.
Skinner is widely available in Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS fantasy leagues because of his disappointing totals last year and the modest four power play points he has to his name through January. While skating on a line with Viktor Rask and Elias Lindholm, Skinner has shown signs of returning to the 30 goal form he showed in 2010-11 and 2013-14 with the Hurricanes. If he can stay healthy, there’s reason to believe the fleet-footed forward will approach 30 goals and 240 shots on net and return to fantasy hockey relevance.