The NHL playoffs are where fantasy careers can be made, or even rejuvenated.
A player who has struggled all season can make fantasy general managers forget all about that with a couple of good months, or even simply a good first round. The player’s value is boosted, and GMs would be wise to look at the players and decide whether it might be a good time to sell high.
Strangely enough, it is really tough for a poor performance to lower a player’s value, especially from a superstar. Connor McDavid (if the Oilers could ever make the playoffs) could go pointless in 10 games, but he’d still be going first overall in one-year drafts this fall.
Below are 10 players whose values have risen this postseason.
Dubois is a good example of how everything is magnified in the postseason. Even though he only had four games and the Jackets lost in six games, there was much talk about how he had arrived and was on the top line with Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin. However, his most frequent 5-on-5 linemate in the regular season was also Panarin. Thanks to the playoffs, there are some fantasy GMs hoping the duo sticks together next year even though they’ve been together most of the year, and it has only boosted Dubois’ value.
9. Paul Stastny
After another average regular season from Stastny (his 0.65 points-per-game average right on par with his four-year average of 0.66), Stastny had his most successful playoffs ever. His 15 points in 17 games really stood out, especially when his most frequent linemates, Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, failed to live up to their hype. Stastny’s value will continue to rise this offseason once he signs somewhere as an unrestricted free agent, and one of the storylines that will be mentioned frequently is how he stepped up in the playoffs.
8. Tomas Hertl
Hertl showed that he’s ready to take the next step in his development. Or at least that what his fantasy owners are hoping for after Hertl scored six goals and nine points in 10 games. He was pretty much tied to the hip with Logan Couture this postseason, as Couture was on the ice for 97 per cent of Hertl’s 5-on-5 shifts. Hertl could be found on the top power-play unit throughout the playoffs, which could be a good sign for next season. The trick is maintaining that spot, which could be difficult considering Evander Kane’s new contract will give him a good shot for that unit. Plus, Joe Thornton or another big-name free agent signing could easily take that spot.
7. Reilly Smith
Smith was kind of the forgotten player on Vegas’ top line. Hitting the 60-point mark seems like an okay season, but it pales in comparison to William Karlsson’s 43 goals and 78 points, or Jonathan Marchessault’s 75 points in 77 games. Then you remember Smith missed 15 games because of an upper-body injury. And then you see him in the playoffs, Vegas’ second-leading point getter after Marchessault, and you realize you may not be able to get him for as cheap next year as you might have previously thought.
6. Tom Wilson
Even with a three-game suspension for a high hit on Zach Aston-Reese, Wilson has proved his worth for Washington. Most often on a line with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Wilson has stepped up as a supreme agitator. He is also getting it done on the score sheet, with 12 points in 16 games to go along with 23 PIM and 70 hits. He’ll be highly sought after in leagues with peripheral categories next year.
Schneider came into the postseason in an awful position. He had lost his last 12 games of the regular season (posting a .863 SV % and a 4.04 GAA in that span), hadn’t won a game since Dec. 27 and lost the starter’s job to Keith Kinkaid. Then Kinkaid was awful in the first two games of the postseason, posting the worst number of any netminder in these playoffs. Schneider replaced Kinkaid and was excellent, although the Devils lost the first-round series to Tampa Bay. Off the ice, news that he underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left hip that bothered him all season will also have some fantasy general managers being optimistic for a rebound season.
Despite not playing a game for three weeks, Guentzel has the third-highest amount of points this postseason with 21 points in 12 games. Fantasy general managers will be sure to remember this come draft time this fall, but this isn’t new territory: He was also highly touted after putting up 13 goals and 21 points in last year’s run to the Cup. Don’t jump on the bandwagon too quickly. In 2016-17, Crosby was on the ice for 55 per cent of Guentzel’s 5-on-5 time on ice, but that jumped up to 80 per cent in the playoffs. This year, Crosby was on the ice for 57 per cent of Guentzel’s 5-on-5 time on ice, and that skyrocketed to 88 per cent in the postseason. There’s no guarantee Crosby and Guentzel will play together that much next year, so let someone else overvalue Guentzel.
Right now, Fleury is winning the Conn Smythe trophy, and it’s not even close. He has a sparkling 12-3 record with a .947 SV %, 1.68 GAA and four shutouts. As impressive as his regular season was, it still feels like poolies were not taking the Golden Knights or Fleury seriously in the playoffs. Fleury is bound to be a top-10 goaltender selected next season, and for keeper leagues, this is the time to sell high on the Flower.
2. Lars Eller
There are a few people wondering whether Eller’s postseason can continue over into next year (including Dobber in a ramblings earlier this month). I would argue no. His 13 points in 19 games look good, but we’ve been here before. In 2014 with Montreal, he had 13 points in 17 playoff games while carrying Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta up and down the ice. Let’s not forget that Backstrom missed four games, and that’s where Eller picked up six points, almost half of his total. He’s been on the top power-play unit, but I credit that to a good playoff run rather than any type of long-term trend. However, there’s no denying people are hoping he can take that next step forward next year.
Much like Schneider earlier in the list, Holtby’s fantasy value has skyrocketed tremendously this postseason. Just like Schneider, Holtby started the postseason as a backup, coming on in relief only after Philipp Grubauer struggled in the first two games. Holtby has looked excellent all playoffs, especially against Tamps Bay in Games 6 and 7 when he picked up his first two shutouts of the season. gone from what could have been a timeshare next season back to being the number one netminder in Washington.