The Top 10 #FantasyHockey surprises of 2015-16 (AKA 'Haunted by a Ghost')
This has been a bit of a weird NHL season when it comes to players completely surprising everyone.
There's no Nick Foligno-type player that hit 70 points for the first time. There's no Devan Dubnyk-type goalie coming out of nowhere to become fantasy relevant. Most guys that surprisingly excelled early regressed almost right on schedule. And guys who struggled early bounced back like we expected.
There were still plenty of surprises though. Here are the top 10 surprises for the 2015-16 season.
10. Brent Burns
Everyone is talking about Erik Karlsson's great offensive year but Burns has been a more valuable fantasy producer. Just compare the two:
Karlsson: 14 goals, 62 assists, minus-two, 50 PIM, one PPG, 24 PPP, 0 SHG, 0 SHP, 3 GWG, 231 shots, 162 blocked shots, 58 hits
Burns: 26 goals, 41 assists, minus-five, 53 PIM, 7 PPG, 27 PPP, 1 SHG, 2 SHP, 4 GWG, 324 shots, 131 blocked shots, 95 hits
No one thought Burns would replicate his 60-point season from a year ago. To be on a 73-point range is way above expectations.
9. Joe Thornton
The death of Joe Thornton's fantasy career has been greatly exaggerated. Thornton is the perfect example of why you shouldn't shun veterans for prospects. Thornton is top 10 in the league in points, is second in assists, eighth in plus-minus and ninth in power play points. His 52 PIM is also a nice little bonus.
Marchand has flourished with extra ice time despite still not seeing top power play minutes. He's already beaten his career high in goals with 34, power play points with eight and game-winning goals with six and is tied for a career high in points with 55. And he's also taking a ton of shots. He currently has 227, 46 higher than his career high.
Trocheck: 75 GP, 25 goals, 28 assists, plus-15, 44 PIM, 13 PPP, 4 GWG, 171 shots
Huberdeau: 69 GP, 15 goals, 36 assists, plus-10, 43 PIM, 12 PPP, 2 GWG, 158 shots
Barkov: 59 GP, 23 goals, 26 assists, plus-12, 8 PIM, 15 PPP, 5 GWG, 150 shots
Bjustad: 60 GP, 13 goals, 17 assists, minus-nine, 39 PIM, 13 PPP, 2 GWG, 148 shots
Although Barkov is better with per-game numbers, his Band-Aid boy status drags him down. Another plus for Trocheck is he is one of the hottest players in the league with 13 points in his last 10 games, a boon for owners during fantasy playoffs.
This is one of those cases where we probably should have seen it coming. A player that had trouble getting ice time in one city breaks through in another. But this is still more than even the most positive poolie had expected. Palmieri has already doubled his season high in goals and is currently 22 points higher than his career high. He also has 11 PPG, 21 PPP and 201 shots, all easily career highs.
There used to be a time when Eriksson was considered a sure-bet 70-point player. Then the 2012 lockout happened and he hasn't been the same. He hasn't even been on a 50-point pace in any season since. That's why this year's 61-point pace is astonishing as it's his best year since 2011-12. Of course his impending free agency and the fact he wants $6 million for six years has nothing to do with him having a great season all of a sudden </sarcasm >.
Ristolainen is probably the most unlikely 40-point defenseman this season. There wasn't too much hope for him getting more than 30 points with Zach Bogosian and Cody Franson on the team. But Ristolainen now has 20 power play points, tying him with the likes of Keith Yandle, Jakub Voracek, John Klingberg and Ryan Getzlaf. His minus-18 is on the low side (actually worst on the Sabres) but he makes up for it with more than 100 hits and 100 blocked shots.
Panarin is one of the reasons why fantasy GMs always try to take a player based on who they might line up with. For every bust that is Anton Slepyshev and Sergei Plotnikov, there is a guy like Panarin. He's currently on pace for 73 points, which would be the most for a rookie since Paul Stastny and Evgeni Malkin hit that mark in 2006-07. While many expected the Calder race to come down to Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Max Domi, Panarin has managed to stay healthy and have a consistent year. He leads all rookies in goals, assists, game-winning goals and is second in power play points.
How big a surprise is Kuznetsov? He's going to wind up leading the Capitals in points this season. Most preseason prognostication had him below the 50-point mark, much less 70-plus points. His 73 points is tied for fifth-best in the league and his plus-27 is tied for fourth best. And he's been doing it without any real help as he's been playing with Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams for much of the season.
The Ghost has turned into this year's John Klingberg: A mid-season call-up who way outperformed expectations. Despite playing just 56 games, he leads all rookie defensemen in most offensive categories. Even among veteran defensemen he's been one of the best this season. He's sixth in goals, 19th in points, sixth in power play goals and 10th in power play points. Gostisbehere is only the eighth defenseman in league history to have at least 15 goals and seven power play goals in his rookie season.