The end of the regular season doesn’t mean it’s the end of fantasy hockey. In many ways, it’s just starting.
While I love regular season fantasy hockey, playoff fantasy hockey is more special. It’s the one time of year when you get interest from regular joes who don’t normally participate in fantasy sports. There’s no trades and no worries about who might be the next big rookie. For most playoff pools, it’s straight forward and anyone can participate.
Below are 10 players that might be somewhat under-the-radar this postseason. Some of you might scoff at a few of the names on this list, but remember that there will be a lot of people in your pool who are just going to take players based on their point totals this year.
10. Kyle Turris
Nashville is tough to choose an under-the-radar player because they score by committee. They had the seventh-best offense despite not having a single player hit 30 goals or 65 points. In last year’s postseason play, Filip Forsberg led the squad with 16 points in 22 games, so you can’t really count on a lot of Predators to do much even if the team goes deeps. If you decide to load up on Preds, Kyle Turris would be a sneaky good pick. He’s shown this year he can go on an insane hot streak (18 points in his first 18 games as a Pred) and can move up the lineup if need be.
This could be a huge reach, as Johansson hasn’t played since Jan. 23 due to a concussion. There are some positive signs that he might be ready to go by the Devils first game on Thursday. Johansson was activated from the injured reserve list on April 1 and has been practicing all week, although he hasn’t been cleared for contact yet. Johansson does have some recent playoff success, with 15 points in 25 games over the last two postseasons.
8. Timo Meier
Meier found another gear shortly after Joe Thornton went down with an MCL injury. Since Feb. 2, the 21-year-old had 10 goals and 19 points in 31 games (compared to 11 goals and 17 points in the previous 50 games). His ice time is also up an extra two minutes a game when comparing the two stretches. Meier is still on the second power play unit and the third even-strength line, but his style seems suited for the playoffs.
7. Thomas Vanek
For Columbus to have any kind of success in the playoffs, they are going to need players such as Vanek, Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner to be successful. None of them are getting much more than 15 minutes of ice time per game, and they aren’t featured on the power play either. However, Vanek has a history of producing, and even with limited ice time, had 15 points in 19 games for Columbus. He’ll have to be leaned on more for Columbus to have a chance.
Spurgeon hasn’t played in a month because of a hamstring injury, but last Monday, head coach Bruce Boudreau said Spurgeon would be ready for the playoffs and is set to resume practice on Monday. Remember, Spurgeon was on pace for career highs in goals, points, shots and power play points before his injury. Spurgeon, who was already a top power play option when healthy, will now get even more of an opportunity with Ryan Suter being out for the playoffs with a fractured right ankle.
5. Bryan Rust
It’s hard to predict where to take Penguins players once you get past the top four guys of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang. Are you better off taking the second- and third-line Penguins over a first-line player off a team you don’t have much faith in? Sometimes that strategy can pay off. Rust is a great sneaky pick in Pittsburgh because he’s able to play on any of the top three lines, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on Crosby’s line at some point, as he had some success there earlier this year.
In Canada, there’s going to be plenty of Leafs going in hockey pools. After all, they’re the third-highest scoring team in the league, and many believe they are ready to take the next step with a playoff victory. There’s also lots of talent to choose from as seven players had 50 points. Marleau was not one of those players, but he did manage 27 goals, which was fourth-highest on the squad. He was brought in for precisely this reason: A veteran to teach the young guys what it takes to succeed in the playoffs. It doesn’t hurt that Marleau has chemistry with Mitchell Marner and is on the power play unit with Auston Matthews.
It may seem strange to suggest that a player that is almost a point per game in the playoffs for his career could be a sneaky option, but here we are with Johnson. In 2015, he posted 23 points in 26 games, and in 2016 he had 17 in 17. Teammates Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov will obviously all be taken before Johnson, but some poolies will find it difficult to take Johnson over Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde because of their regular season numbers. Don’t get too wrapped up in regular season success and go with the proven playoff stud.
2. Paul Stastny
This pick depends on how many fantasy-savvy general managers you have in your pool. As I mentioned earlier, the postseason brings out a lot of people who aren’t normal fantasy-hockey players. In my experience, many times they only print up a list of players who had over, say, 30 points on each specific playoff team. Which means Stastny will be off the list for many poolies (he had 13 points for Winnipeg in 19 games). He’s been a great pickup for the Jets and will continue to see second-line ice time and top power play time into the postseason.
1. David Krejci
Krejci could be the victim of recency bias, but let’s not overlook the fact that at one time, he was a playoff beast. He led the league in playoff points in both 2011 and 2013. Only two other active NHL players have that distinction (Evgeni Malkin and Anze Kopitar, although you can also add Jaromir Jagr to the list, depending on your definition of active). He’s now in his 30s and has only four points in 15 playoff games since, so it’s not a slam dunk that Krejci cam repeat his magic. Keep in mind he has 16 points in his last 23 games and is the guaranteed second-line centre on a Bruins team picked by many to go deep.