The Professional Hockey Writers Association released their midseason awards on Friday. These were voted on by 150 hockey writers and, presumably, over 2000 fans that would be amalgamated into one vote. Fans logged on and provided their winner for each of the major trophies, plus a few others like the Rod Langway award for top defencemen. These were the results:
Here are the results from the PHWA’s midseason awards voting. pic.twitter.com/oMZVR9IqvZ
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) January 26, 2018
I did my own, naturally, and people can read through the Twitter thread here.
With no hockey tonight, or any real NHL hockey for a few nights, I thought it’d be worth some time to go over the midseason fantasy hockey awards. Let’s hop right to it. We’ll use ESPN standard roto scoring with one winner and two runners up.
Fantasy Hart Trophy
Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Seeing as this is fantasy hockey, value (preseason ADP) is inextricably linked with performance.
I don’t know if there can be much debate about this one; on FantasyPros, Vasilevskiy ranked outside the top-12 goalies and across three different platforms had an ADP of the 15th goalie. As of the All-Star break, he’s the top goaltender in fantasy by a large margin and, among goalies with 20 starts, is leading the league in wins (29), save percentage (.931), shutouts (7), and second in goals against average (2.18). He had one bad stretch earlier this month but it was split up due to the bye week, so it’s not a certainty he even killed H2H players. Outside of that, his worst five-game stretch by save percentage was at the start of the season, and it was .914. That kind of stability in goal is coveted above anything else in fantasy hockey, and because of that and his preseason ranking, he’s easily the MVP.
While most should agree that Vasilevskiy is the clear MVP, the rest is subjective. You could make an argument for goalies like Connor Hellebuyck and Marc-André Fleury (despite the injury), or defencemen like John Klingberg or Erik Johnson. MacKinnon, though, was surely drafted outside the top-100, and likely outside the top-150, so his having 24 goals and 60 points at the break (!!!) is hard to argue with.
Kessel has 58 points with 33 coming on the power play, averaging over 3.5 shots per game along the way. He gets the edge for me among wingers and not Nikita Kucherov just because of ADP. Feel free to disagree.
Fantasy Norris Trophy
Winner: Victor Hedman
After a (relatively speaking) slow start to the year which saw Hedman put up just two goals and 18 points in his first 30 games, he went on a tear afterwards; from the middle of December through to his injury, he put up four goals and 15 points in 14 games, averaging nearly four shots on goal per game. He’s far from the points leader (Klingberg) so this of course would obviously depend on your league setup, but in a standard roto league, it’s Hedman’s plus-24 rating that really puts him over the top. Again, please don’t yell at me in the comments how less valuable he is in leagues that don’t count plus/minus.
Subban is currently tied for his career-best in goals per game (0.26), highest points per game in an 82-game season (0.79), is nearly a penalty-minute-per-game player (0.94), and has already surpassed last year’s power-play output (16 points) at this juncture (17). His shooting percentage will regress, but his across-the-board performance has been elite this year.
Sorry, I can’t not include a defenceman on pace for nearly 80 points on the Norris runners up. He’s just so far ahead of everyone else in this regard. Klingberg is something special (and at this rate should win the actual Norris Trophy).
Fantasy Vezina Trophy
Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy
What was said about Vasilevskiy under the Hart, ditto for Vezina.
When it comes to Hellebuyck, there are two lessons here. First, don’t give up on a goalie for one bad season. I wrote about this in a Ramblings this past summer with regards to Sergei Bobrovsky, but the same could be said about the Winnipeg starter. Yes, he obviously had a much smaller sample to work with. But he also tore up Hockey East, the AHL, and was above-average in his rookie year. There was a decent sample to show us that this was, indeed, a good goalie who had one bad year.
The second lesson is that goaltending numbers for fantasy are largely affected by the penalty kill, and more specifically the save percentage. Winnipeg is expected to give up the seventh-most goals per 60 minutes while short-handed, but have actually given up just the 20th-most. That’s because Hellebuyck’s PK save percentage is .913, a very good mark (second in the league, behind only Semyon Varlamov). Last year it was .858. The difference has meant about 2.4 fewer goals per 60 minutes of PK time or, rounding down, eight fewer goals to this point of the year. That might not sound like a lot, but if you add eight goals to Hellebuyck’s season, his save percentage drops from .924 (sixth among goalies with 20+ games) to .918 (outside the top-15 goalies). That’s not a huge margin of error for a significant drop.
I will say this about Pekka Rinne, it’s been pretty cool to watch him have a resurgence. I’m sure I’m not the only one that wrote him off after his .913 save percentage stretch from 2012-16 that saw the injuries pile up. He’s been a .923 goalie since the start of 2016-17, including playoffs, which spans 118 starts.
Fantasy Calder Trophy
Winner: Brock Boeser
This is really splitting hairs. When it comes to the fantasy game, these two are neck-and-neck. In goals, Boeser leads by eight while Barzal has 16 more assists. Boeser has four more power-play points and 0.8 more shots per game, but Barzal has a clear edge in plus/minus. I think Barzal is clearly the best real-life player (I’m not saying Boeser is bad, Canucks fans, I’m saying Barzal has the makings of a franchise centre, and that is coveted over just about any winger), but I would lean to the goal-scorer playing for a much worse offensive team in the fantasy game.
I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll eat my crow on Boeser. I didn’t think he had the talent to overcome the lack of supporting cast, but his release is unbelievable. He’s also just shy of three shots on goal per game (2.98 to be exact), and that mark has only been surpassed by one rookie from 2013-17: Auston Matthews. No, he’s not Auston Matthews, but it does show just high a level Boeser is playing even setting aside his 43-goal/82 game pace.
A quick note on Clayton Keller:
Clayton Keller is 9th among ARI forwards in 5v5 TOI/game this month https://t.co/0TaBT2LXnA
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) January 26, 2018
He’s probably their second-best forward.
The line of Keller, Max Domi, and Derek Stepan was broken up for their game on November 14th. In the 19 games leading up to that, when the trio was together, Keller had 17 points in 19 games, including 11 goals on 61 shots. After that point, Keller has 19 points, including three goals on 74 shots.
It’s clear there’s been a drop-off since the line was split, but Keller is also shooting 4.1 percent. That’s obviously not sustainable. Even if he shot 10.4 percent (his season average), he’d have had eight goals and 24 points in 31 games. As it is, 19 points in 31 games is a 50-point pace over 82 contests, and that’s playing with depth players on one of the worst offensive teams in the league. That’s pretty good.
Fantasy Selke Trophy
Winner – Patrice Bergeron
Before Flames fans get mad at me for not including Mikael Backlund: he has truly been one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL this year. He also has nine goals. That’s just not going to cut it for fantasy purposes.
Maybe this is the season that Bergeron finally gets some love in the real world for the Hart Trophy? Then again, probably not. Either way, as usual, he’s absolutely dominating the opposition as he and Brad Marchand help the Bruins control 59.9 percent of the adjusted shot share when they’re on the ice together. You might think that Marchand has a big part in this, and he does to an extent, but even without Marchand on his wing, Bergeron helps the Bruins control 57.2 percent of the adjusted shot share. That’s huge. Remember it took like two months for the top line to have a five-on-five goal scored against them. Bergeron is a point-per-game player with 20 goals in his pocket already.
I don’t think Couturier needs much explanation here. He’s also a point-per-game player and is continually setting career-bests. If someone wanted to put him as the winner over Bergeron, I would not argue.
Barkov is an interesting player this year because the team around him is mostly bad. He makes his way to this list because of what he’s done on the penalty kill. When he’s on the ice on the PK, the team is break-even in goals and allow the lowest rate of shots than when any other Panthers players is on the ice. Think about that for a second: we’re at the All-Star break, and the team is even in goal differential on the PK with Barkov on the ice. That’ll worsen as the season wears on, but for now it’s impressive even if it’s unsustainable.
That’s it for my awards. Feel free to yell at me in the comments. I’m sure I was wrong somewhere.
There was an article from Larry Brooks at the New York Post yesterday indicating that the Rangers are prepared to blow it up. He specifically names Rick Nash (not a surprise), Michael Grabner (also not a surprise), Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan McDonagh.
This is going to be painful for Rangers fans, but I legitimately feel bad for Henrik Lundqvist. I mean, to the extent that you can feel bad for someone with tens of millions of dollars in the bank and is inarguably the most handsome man in hockey. If he were to maintain his current ratios (.922 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average), he’d finish the year with the second-highest goals against average ever for a netminder with at least a .922 save percentage. The only one worse would be Jonathan Bernier on that awful 2013-14 Leafs team. That speaks to just how bad the Rangers are defensively, and how much he’s bailed them out to the point where they’re still in the thick of the playoff race.
Playoffs aren’t good enough, obviously. In recent seasons, this was a team with Cup aspirations and though they came close once, they never got there. Lundqvist’s frustration has boiled over at times this year, but it must have been building for years. At this pace, it would be his eighth season in nine years with a save percentage of at least .920 and zero Cups to show for it. Before you get on his case about playoff performances, his career save percentage in the postseason is .922.
This is Hank’s age-35 season and he still has three years left on his contract. With a cap hit of $8.5-million, at his age, I can’t imagine (m)any teams would want to trade assets for him, so he’s likely stuck for the rebuild barring a miraculous trade. When he’s due to be a free agent, he’ll be 39.
Lundqvist’s career has been Hall-Of-Fame-worthy, but the Cup will seemingly elude him. If this report is true and the Rangers are going on a fire sale, he’ll end his career in a rebuild. A shame.
With the All-Star Skills Competition and All-Star Game this weekend, a quick reminder: if you’re reading this, it’s not geared towards you. These aren’t events designed for 30- and 40-somethings jamming Doritos and Molsons while they sit on the couch yelling at Ryan Getzlaf for not making a thread-the-needle pass. They’re designed for kids. They’re for kids to see their favourite players play with their other favourite players. Please keep this mind.