Wild West – Deep Dive I (the Peripherals) – 2017
Leagues that count peripheral categories such as blocks, hits, penalty minutes, and faceoff percentage often require that teams search a bit harder for depth options. Players that score goals and dish assists are often already well-known based on traditional value, but players who contribute to peripheral categories traditionally lack fantasy value. Many such players are third and fourth line forwards or third pairing defensemen and will largely be the focus of this column. That being the case, these players are not heavily owned in the bulk of fantasy leagues and as such no players in this column are owned in more than 26% of Fantrax leagues. Many were selected in as little as one percent of Fantrax pre-season drafts, and one went entirely unselected.
Besides his fantastic face-off win percentage (64%), which thus far bests his previous career high of 57%, Vermette contributes in a variety of other peripheral and traditional categories. While his penalty minutes have slowed from his early-season minute-a-game pace, he has chipped in with 27 PIM and, if last season’s 93-minute total is any indication, he may add more than a few before the end of the year. His 37 blocks are also a nice perk, and rank third amongst Anaheim forwards behind only the Ryans – Getzlaf and Kesler.
Drafted this fall in only 1% of Fantrax pools, Manson has been well worth the investment in multi-category leagues. He currently ranks second on the Ducks in PIM (59) and hits (146, good for sixth among NHL defensemen), fourth among defensemen in ice time (18:45), and is tied for fourth in blocks with 48. Not known for his scoring, as is the case with the current crop of Ducks defensemen excepting Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen, the Illinois native makes his mark with defense, although his current assist total of nine indicates that he may surpass last season’s career high of ten.
Overshadowed by his better-known, prolific scoring teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson with whom he is usually paired, Schenn provides a welcome source of blue line grit during a down season in Arizona. Leading the team by a wide margin in hits with 165 (good for fourth in the NHL, second amongst defensemen only to Mark Borowiecki), second in penalty minutes with 34, and third in blocked shots with 68 behind fellow Coyote defensemen Alex Goligoski (89) and Micheal Stone (87), he offers a good deal in a variety of categories. Indicative of the sad state of hockey in Phoenix, he leads Arizona defensemen with a plus/minus rating of -4, which shouldn’t cause your team too much harm.
Ryan White is a valuable contributor of hits and blocks and, still available in 91% of Fantrax leagues, has flown mostly under the radar in Arizona. While his on-ice minutes are few (averaging 10:35 per game), White leads the team in penalty minutes with 70 (ninth in the NHL and the second highest total of his career), and is second only to Luke Schenn in hits with 111 (tied for 37th in the league, 24th among forwards). The eighth-year veteran center from Manitoba lends toughness to a relatively young Coyotes’ squad that can surely use it, among other things.
Engelland has been a solid multi-category find this season, ranking second on Calgary in PIM with 66 (12th in the NHL), blocks with 83 (42nd in the NHL), plus/minus amongst defensemen with a +6 rating, and is tied for fourth with 85 hits. Not generally known for his offense, Engelland is also on pace to reach a career high in shots on goal (currently with 65) and ice time which, at 17:55 per game is nearly two minutes above his previous career best. Seeing a bit of a career resurgence in Calgary, he went undrafted in Fantrax leagues this fall and has been a pleasant surprise for Flames fans and those who have added him along the way in 2016-17.
Micheal Ferland – Hits (13% owned Fantrax)
Finding untapped sources of multi-category production on the Flames’ roster other than Engelland is a bit difficult but Micheal Ferland, drafted in 1% of Fantrax leagues and still available in 87% of them, is a valuable source of hits. Recently slowed by a lower body injury, as well as a scoring slump that has persisted since early December, Ferland has seen his playing time slip to 10:45 per game, but he still is second on the Flames with 97 hits this season, one behind Troy Brower’s 98, and has contributed six goals and six assists to bolster more traditional categories.
Once again the big Swedish rearguard offers great blocked shots production with 120, good for fifth amongst NHL defensemen and exceeding his prior blocks-per-game career average by more than half a block. His nearly 21:54 minutes of ice time places him third, just seconds below Brent Seabrook, on the Chicago blue line. His other stats won’t wow you, but he does maintain a +6 rating on a disciplined Blackhawks squad. Though not much of a scorer, his by far career-best 10.9% shot rate this campaign has led to some traditional statistics success with five goals and seven assists through 50 games. A 20-point season is not out of the question.
Michal Kempny – Hits/Blks (12% owned Fantrax)
Drafted in just 1% of Fantrax leagues Kempny, a 26 year-old Czech rookie, has been a pleasant peripheral surprise with 64 hits and 44 blocks in 36 Blackhawk games and just over 15 minutes of average per-game ice time. Most frequently paired with Brent Seabrook in both even strength and power play situations, his developing North American game seems to have benefited from the NHL veteran’s presence. Totaling 93 PIM, 29 points, and a +19 in his last Czech League season of 2014-15, one hopes that he will continue to develop along these lines at the NHL level, and that he might be a keeper league candidate.
While the Avalanche have been somewhat of a fantasy wasteland this season, several defensemen provide some under-the-radar multi-category value. Racking up a respectable 58 PIM with 120 hits and 57 blocks while averaging 18:25 of ice time (20:26 since mid-December), Zadorov has added grit to Colorado’s much-maligned defense. As long as you can forgo the -17 plus/minus rating, the big 21-year old Russian, now in his fourth NHL campaign, provides a variety of valuable peripheral stats.
Currently paired on the blue line with Zadorov, the 33-year old Tyutin has achieved comparably for far fewer leagues. Available in 96% of Fantrax pools, he has provided decent hit (83), block (53), and ice time (19:15) totals, while chipping in 20 penalty minutes as he has shifted defensive partners frequently during this hellish Colorado campaign. Again, you will have to content with a -19 plus/minus rating, but if your team can take the hit in this area Tyutin provides multi-category benefits in several others.
Leading the Stars in blocks with 87, Benn is on target to surpass his career high of 122 set in 2013-14, as he logs 18:49 of ice time per game. In recent times he has been frequently paired with Stephen Johns, as mentioned below, providing stability in an otherwise largely unstable season of injuries and shifting lines in Dallas. Benn has also contributed two goals and 11 assists, offering traditional statistical value, and giving him a chance to surpass his career high of 20 points set in 2013-14.
Stephen Johns – Hits/Blks/TOI (26% owned Fantrax)
Johns has impressed during 36 games of his rookie campaign, offering solid production in hits (94), blocks (71), and ice time (18:18), and additional penalty minute contributions with 19. Paired most recently with Jordie Benn, and also seeing time with vets Dan Hamhuis and Johnny Oduya, Johns has benefited from several Stars injuries to earn a larger role with the team than was perhaps expected out of training camp. Drafted in only 2% of Fantrax leagues, Johns appears to have keeper value as an important member of the Dallas defense now and in the near future.
After a difficult year in 2015-16 that saw him play in only 36 games, Kassian has emerged as a typically reliable source of penalty minutes (72 thus far), and already surpassed his career high in hits with 106 after only 48 games. He has served the physical forward role well on several Edmonton lines, most frequently when manning the right wing in a bottom-six role with Mark Letestu and Mark Hendricks. While averaging only 11:56 of ice time, he is on pace to break his previous shots on goal high, now having 67 in 48 games. Not a huge number there, but Kassian can offer a slight boost to those in leagues that value SOG.
While he has seen a few scratches lately, Gryba is a low-cost option for those seeking penalty minutes and hits in bunches from their defensemen. With 91 hits in 25 games, the Saskatoon native doles out an impressive 3.6 hits per game, good for 6th in the NHL among those with 25 or more games. His 38 penalty minutes are also a welcome bonus from the 28 year-old, fifth-year player as he ranks just below Zack Kassian (72) and Patrick Maroon (61) on the Oilers in PIM.
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