Here are five more young forwards who are ready to make an impact at the NHL level – either offensively or with other aspects of their game.
An increasing number of fantasy hockey leagues are embracing hits and blocked shots as positive statistics. Why? Well, for starters, they are both recorded in every single NHL rink. The accuracy isn't the same as a goal or an assist (the fluctuations in how these stats are recorded from rink to rink are quite pronounced, actually), but adding these statistics gives fantasy value to a wider net of players. It is widely known that the New York Rangers receive a significant home advantage when it comes to hit recording – the Madison Square Garden statistician is very trigger-happy.
If you learn which rinks tend to award hits more liberally, you can use that information to your advantage.
And it is a nice way to reward gritty forwards and defensemen who otherwise would get little to no attention in fantasy circles. Some leagues are also moving away from PIM (a subject that was debated here last year), as PIM are inherently a negative statistic. Debating aside, there is no arguing that including PIM, hits, and blocked shots in fantasy leagues makes it more challenging (and thus, more rewarding) to evaluate and rank players as draft day approaches.
Matt Beleskey – Anaheim
The gritty winger led the Ducks in hits in 2013 with 103. Beleskey recorded 104 hits in 2011-12, but he needed almost 30 more games to get to that number. He will have his work cut out for him in Anaheim finding ice time, as the Ducks are will be graduating a lot of talented young forwards from the AHL to the NHL. However, Beleskey supplies a needed "ability" for the Ducks, and because of that he should find a consistent spot on the third or fourth line.
He's a decent player with the puck, but that won't be why the Ducks dress him. However, having some offensive ability increases his fantasy value tremendously. Beleskey had eight goals and 13 points in 42 games this year (in only 12 minutes of ice time per game, too) – he should be good for at least 12-16 goals and 20-30 points each year.
Cory Conacher – Ottawa
Anaheim is one of the few teams out there that has a collection of young forwards that rivals Ottawa's. The Senators have one stud youngster in Mika Zibanejad (they traded one more to the Ducks in Jakub Silfverberg), but what is most impressive is how many solid and proven NHL players they have in the system – JG Pageau, Erik Condra, Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, Zack Smith… the list goes on.
Conacher, who was acquired from Tampa Bay last season, fits into this group. He's been proving doubters wrong his entire career, as he has had to battle against type-1 diabetes for much of his life. Concaher had five points in 12 games with Ottawa after the trade. He is only one year removed from a 39-goal, 80-point, 114 PIM MVP season in the AHL. If he sticks on line two, he could score 20-25 for the Senators this year, along with a solid number in the PIM category (he only had 20 PIM all of last season, but expect that number to increase as he gets comfortable playing his game at the NHL level).