As we get close to the end of the first month of NHL hockey, we’ve seen several players already off to fantastic starts. Here I’ll be taking a look at some of the best starts from a fantasy standpoint across various types of leagues.
First is based on the usual setup that’s frequently found in other Geek of the Week articles. In this 12-team Yahoo league, goals, assists, shots on goal, power-play points, and hits will be measured.
Goals, Assists, Shots on Goal, Power-Play Points, Hits
Out of all NHL skaters, John Carlson has actually had the most productive start from a fantasy standpoint. His 1.40 points-per-game rate is first among all defensemen and his 14 points are tied for the 14th most in the NHL. He’s also tied for the league lead in power-play points and has strong peripherals to back up his number one ranking.
After a career-season that saw him post 15 goals and 53 assists last year, there were many people worried that he wouldn’t be able to sustain that level of elite production (including yours truly). While that can still easily hold true (it’s a long season), even when Carlson does slow down he’ll be set for a while with the amount of points he’s banked in just his first nine games. Compared to last year, by this time Carlson had only scored half of his total points from this season.
After Carlson, another defenseman places high atop the rankings. Morgan Rielly’s fantastic run has not gone unnoticed, as the young defensemen recorded at least a point in his first six games and even broke one of Bobby Orr’s long-held records (for most points scored by an NHL defender through the first five games of the season).
Him and Carlson are neck and neck in terms of value, as Rielly is also tied for the most points in the league by a defender and clocks in with the second-most shots from a defenseman. He only loses the edge in terms of value because of his slightly lower power-play points and higher games played.
Third overall is a name that shouldn’t be surprising to see at the top of the rankings. Alex Ovechkin has consistently been a beast in the fantasy hockey world ever since he’s entered the league, and this season looks no different. His eight goals are good for the seventh most in the NHL while his 25 hits are the second most by any player with at least five goals. He’s uncharacteristically not leading the league in shots but his 37 in nine games is still more than respectable (within the top 20 out of all skaters).
Standard Yahoo Categories
This season Yahoo changed its standard leagues, most dramatically swapping out penalty minutes in favor for hits. For those using the new format in Yahoo leagues, the top five starts will be slightly different than in other leagues. In comparison to the previous format, the conventional Yahoo setup accounts for plus/minus and gives plenty of Colorado Avalanche players a boost (who have almost all been off to red-hot starts).
Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, Shots on Goal, Power Play Points, Hits
Nathan MacKinnon moves into the lead for the hottest start in fantasy hockey, crushing it with 18 points in only nine games. While he’s been surpassed by his teammate for the title of most points in the NHL (who’ll be covered soon), MacKinnon’s tied for the second-most shots in the league, managing to improve on his already impressive totals from last season. It also doesn’t hurt that his line has pummeled the competition, registering a 5v5 GF% of 85.7%. The Avs’ top line has been arguably the most productive in the entire league and every forward on it has reaped the benefits with an exceptionally high plus/minus.
It’s been far from a solo effort from MacKinnon though. Mikko Rantanen has played an equal role in tearing up the competition, even surpassing MacKinnon for the lead in points and plus/minus. It was hard for Rantanen to improve much more after his breakout season last year but it looks like he’s found a way, playing like one of the best players in the entire NHL. The only (slight) downside is his relatively weak shots on goal compared to other superstars, which keeps him stuck at third overall in the rankings.
Landeskog joins the duo in the top-five at fifth overall, as he’s had just as impressive start to the season. With all the hype surrounding MacKinnon and Rantanen people forget that Landeskog has also had a very impressive start. In fantasy terms, Landeskog also brings a diverse set of values with his historically strong hit totals.
Physicality Focused League
What happens if we kept penalty minutes though, and say replaced them with plus/minus? In a format that is especially geared towards physical players with an edge to their game, the rankings get shuffled quite a bit.
Goals, Assists, Penalty Minutes, Shots on Goal, Power Play Points, Hits
The usual suspects pull ahead in setups like these, with Brent Burns, Evander Kane, and Blake Wheeler all especially excelling. The addition of another elite blueliner hasn’t slowed Burns down, as he’s still right at the top with the third-most points by a defender in the NHL. His shot totals are much lower than they have been in the past, but he’s made up for it with his 14 penalty minutes.
Evander Kane has been phenomenal for those in leagues that count penalty minutes and can overlook his pedestrian plus/minus ranking. Kane’s 25 penalty minutes are tied for the fourth most in the league, and he’s only one of six players to be averaging at least a point-per-game and a penalty minute per game.
Carlson and MacKinnon still hold their own in this type of setup though. Besides their ridiculous point totals, their contributions in other categories such as shots and power-play points make them especially valuable across most formats.