Top 10 Dark-Horse Playoff Picks
We may be a week away from the playoffs starting, but many of us are already gearing up for our playoff hockey pools. I mean, what better way to avenge your wretched fantasy season by dominating a playoff hockey pool?
Most fantasy hockey pools will be taking place this upcoming weekend, most likely on Sunday as matchups will be set and poolies will have more time for a draft. Some are getting an earlier jump (for instance, this one involving the Dobber forum community has already started).
Obviously, most fantasy general managers don’t need advice on selecting the top guys (if you need someone to tell you that Nikita Kucherov is a good choice, maybe you shouldn’t be in a playoff pool). More often than not, playoff pools are won by selecting the players that exceed expectations. Here are 10 players that may make for good dark-horse picks.
The sophomore had a setback this season, as his numbers were down in pretty much every fantasy category imaginable. However, this choice is solely dependant on Victor Hedman, who was knocked out of Saturday’s game with a speculated concussion. You need to double check before your draft comes around, but remember that Hedman has a history of concussions. If he is out for any length of time, Sergachev becomes the top power-play quarterback for a team that has put together a legendary power-play. How good has the Tampa Bay power-play been? They have converted on 28.5 per cent of their man-advantage opportunities. You’d have to go back to the Edmonton Oilers of 1982-83 to find the last time a team had a higher conversion rate. Back to Sergachev, remember to not overdraft him. He may be worth a late-round flier, but it would pretty much destroy your team if you took him in the fourth round and Hedman is back by the second round of the playoffs.
This may seem like a strange choice on a few levels: Montreal isn’t in the playoffs, Lehkonen has 48 points in the last two seasons combined, and he doesn’t see any power-play time. However, in the last few weeks, he’s looked really good playing on a line with Max Domi and Andrew Shaw, even if he’s not getting the points. He’s third among Montreal forwards in even strength time on ice in the past two weeks. He’s been somewhat snakebitten (in the last eight games, Shaw and Domi have eight points apiece, while Lehkonen has two), but as long as he remains on that line, the bounces will start to go his way.
8. Nick Leddy
To be honest, Leddy will only be selected in the deepest of playoff drafts. However, he’s well worth a look if you believe the Islanders can get out of the Metro. Leddy’s had a horrible season with four goals, 26 points, 112 shots and 10 power-play points. They say the power play matters the most in the postseason, and no matter how much he’s struggled, Leddy keeps getting out there with the man advantage. That won’t all of a sudden change in the postseason.
7. Kevin Hayes
One thing many people do in playoff pools is they create a list of the top 10 point-getters from the 16 playoff teams, and choose from those players. However, that means those poolies miss out on players who missed significant time, whether it be due to injury or trade. Hayes falls into the latter category. With just 11 points, he sits 18th in Jets scoring. However, he’s played only 16 games. He’s a boom or bust player, as those 11 points have come in five games. Don’t forget he’s on the second line with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.
6. J.T. Miller
As mentioned in the Sergachev blurb, anyone that gets onto that dangerous Tampa Bay power-play unit needs to be targeted in playoff drafts. Miller has been in that spot at various times this season, but he’s going into the playoffs fully entrenched on that unit over the last 10 games (including seeing eight minutes of power-play time in a game against Boston last week). He’s also on a hot streak, with eight points and three power-play points in his last six games.
Granlund’s time in Nashville has been a complete disappointment (four points in 13 games and pointless in his last eight), but I am a big believer in drafting players based on talent and opportunity. We all know Granlund has oodles of talent, and he’s averaging 17 minutes per game with the Preds. Remember, not everyone can have immediate success with a new squad. Sometimes it takes time to build chemistry and if Nashville has a deep run, Granlund will have a significant role in that.
Schwartz has had an awful season, seeing his points drop to almost half what he had a year ago. However, it may be a bit much to think this year is the new norm for the 26-year-old. He’s no longer playing with Vladimir Tarasenko, but he’s still getting top-six minutes. His ice time is down a minute per game, but is still averaging more than 18 minutes a night, and he’s shooting the puck more than he ever has in any season of his career.
There’s a commenter in the ramblings (I can’t remember who, but please let me know so we can give due credit) who has a theory that big-bodied forwards need about 400 NHL games until they become fantasy relevant. Connolly would be exhibit A for that theory, breaking through for a career high in goals, assists, points, shots and average ice time per game. He’s riding a hot streak with nine points in his last nine games and will be counted on if Washington looks to repeat.
2. Joe Thornton
Thornton will get drafted in hockey pools, but it’s a matter of how late. He’s eighth on the Sharks in points, and you have to imagine a potentially healthy Erik Karlsson will also get drafted before Thornton. Thornton is also on the second power-play unit, and his ice time is the second lowest of his career. However, Thornton has had a great finish to the season with 25 points in 29 games going into Sunday’s action. He’s also a proven playoff performer with 105 points in 125 postseason games with the Sharks.
There are lots of reasons to be concerned about drafting Hornqvist in a playoff hockey pool. This season, his goals and points have decreased significantly, he’s not shooting the puck as much and his ice time is down two minutes a night from a season ago. Although he isn’t as fantasy relevant in the regular season anymore, Hornqvist has been excellent for the Penguins in the postseason with 36 points in 58 games, including 11 in 10 last year. He can also still be found on the top power-play unit, which bodes well for postseason success.
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