Digging Deep – Western Conference Depth
Doran Libin digs deep and finds some quality depth players that can help your fantasy squad in a pinch…
The deeper the league the greater the importance that is placed on the quality of depth that one is able to uncover. With more categories being added to many leagues there are more ways to find quality depth options. This week looks at six bottom-six forwards and five bottom-three defensemen putting up numbers that can help raise the tide of any fantasy team. The players on this list provide value by outscoring their roles, by providing peripheral value or in a few cases by doing both. In cap leagues these players will be especially valuable as they are on low cap-hit/salary contracts while providing high fantasy point per million values.
Rickard Rakell, Anaheim
On a team that is struggling mightily to score Rakell has seven points in 14 games, which may not seem impressive but he is doing that as a third line center. Part of the reason for Rakell scoring at a second line pace while receiving third line minutes is that he averages close to two minutes of power play time every game. There are reasons to think that this will continue as Rakell averages two shots per game, two scoring chances per game and one high danger chance per game. If that was not enough, as the third line center Rakell also contributes one and a half hits per game.
Steve Downie, Arizona
Downie is on this list mainly for his hits and penalty minutes. With 30 penalty minutes he is already top ten in the league and should hang around there all year. He will not necessary contribute consistent penalty minutes, which could make him hard to play on a daily basis, but those games where he goes nuts will reward the patience of those who stick with him. He has the potential to get enough penalty minutes in a game to win a weekly head-to-head PIMs category almost on his own. He will chip in with the odd point, but is unlikely to hit last year’s 28 points, as well as a hit and a half per game but in his current role his fantasy relevance is tied directly to his penalty minutes.
Cody McLeod, Colorado
Patrick Roy makes a lot of questionable decisions as the coach of the Avalanche, and none more so than his fascination with using McLeod as the extra attacker as well as on the power play. As long as that continues consider McLeod the poor man’s Dale Weise of the Western Conference. McLeod’s value was formerly tied to his penalty minutes and hits, which he is still bringing in full force. This season he is registering a point every three games as well. McLeod has one 20 point season in his career and looks like he could be on the path back to that lofty stratosphere. His current pace would make him as valuable as Derek Dorsett, Tom Wilson or Steve Downie were last year.
Scott Gomez, St Louis
Scott Gomez has turned out to be a very servicable center for St Louis in Paul Statny’s absence. His production at even strength has been admirable given his limited ice time of less than 10 minutes per game at even strength. The boon for Gomez has been on the power play where he averages almost two minutes per game and has racked up half of his points with the man advantage. The numbers are not impressive as a whole but his rate of production is outstanding given his role. Gomez will not provide anything other than points, and power play points, so he is definitely a one trick pony. For the time being he makes a decent Paul Stastny replacement but that time is quickly coming to an end. If he retains his power play time after Stastny returns he will keep his value.
Sven Baertschi, Vancouver
Baertschi bounces up and down the Canucks’ lineup and sees some valuable second unit power play minutes. That has allowed him to produce points at a rate that would suggest a much bigger role, or significantly greater minutes. It is slightly concerning that he only averages one shot per game though and will need to keep scoring on more than 10% of his shots to have a hope of nearing 40 points. As he will never be confused for a defensive stopper he will continue to be in an offensive capacity which should help him continue at his current pace.
Adam Lowry, Winnipeg
Lowry is not as prolific a hitter as Matt Martin but he is not all that far off. He has racked up 59 hits in 18 games and is on pace for nearly 270 hits on the season. That rate would have placed him just outside the top five hitters in the games last season. With his defensive responsibilities Lowry is also averaging one block per game. As the third line center for the Jets Lowry also gets an opportunity to chip in offensively especially as he has decently talented wingers in Drew Stafford and Alex Burmistrov. The quality linemates have helped Lowry to five points in 18 games. Be careful however if plus/minus is a concern as Lowry is already -11 for the season thanks to an 87.5% on-ice save percentage.
Klas Dahlbeck, Arizona
Dahlbeck came over from Chicago and immediately stepped into a second pairing role in Arizona. The largest effect he has had is t freeing up OEL to play a much more offensive role. Dahlbeck is currently averaging two hits and one block per game, which puts him on pace to be in the top 100 in the league in both categories. Dahlbeck only has three points on the season, so he is not going to blow anyone away but 15-20 points is definitely a possibility. Dahlbeck’s value is hurt a little by his aversion to taking penalties, which is surprising given his extreme defensive role.
Eric Gryba, Edmonton
Gryba was brought over to help stabilize the Oilers defense, which is odd given that he does not limit chances against especially well. That does not however affect his fantasy value as he takes the qualities Dahlbeck offers to another level. Gryba will never get a lot of points but he will deliver plenty of penalty minutes, blocks and hits. He should finish with close to 100 penalty minutes and in the top 100 in hits and top 50 in blocks.
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville
Ekholm is fifth in line for power play minutes in Nashville and as long as that is the case he will never get a ton of points. He has started off this year with seven points in his first 16 games, which is just short of a 40 point pace. He will not continue to score like that but the 25-30 point pace that he is currently on at even strength is entirely sustainable as long as Nashville keeps scoring at a great than usual pace. Ekholm is more than just 25-30 points though, as he contributes around one penalty minute, one block and one hit per game. He and Ryan Ellis are also one of the best second pairings in the game so Ekholm can be relied upon to be contribute a strong plus/minus performance. In all Ekholm is a strong depth defenseman across the board.
Ben Hutton, Vancouver
Hutton has been a revelation as a rookie for the Canucks as a rookie playing on the third pairing with Matt Bartkowski. While he has yet to score a goal he has contributed eight assists, including two on the power play. That is a forty point pace which is highly unlikely to continue even though 60% of his assists are of the primary variety and his on-ice shooting percentage is only three percent. There is a lot to like about Hutton in both one year depth capacity especially the two and a half blocks per game he delivers which puts him on pace to be top 40 in the category.
Matt Bartkowski, Vancouver
Bartkowski delivers half the points of Hutton, his third pairing partner, but brings a lot more in the peripheral categories as he averages a penalty minute per game as well as close to two hits per game. Bartkowski does not see much power play time but has benefitted from better underlying numbers such as an on-ice shooting percentage of close to 10%. He will also struggle to keep pace with Hutton because he takes half as many shots as Hutton does, averaging only one per game.
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