One of the most difficult aspects of fantasy hockey is figuring when to sell high on a player.
You want to trade the player during a hot streak, but it’s tough to do so when the player is doing so well for it. It’s even tougher at the start of the season when you haven’t seen that player slump yet. Most often, you don’t realize a player was at his peak until it’s too late and he’s lost some value.
It’s important to note that there’s a difference between selling high and selling. Just look at Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point. Last year, the teammates both had eight points in their first seven games. It was still close a few weeks later, as Gourde had 17 points in 16 games and Point had 19 points. Of course, one of those players finished with 48 points and the other with 92.
Selling high on Gourde would have been the smart play, but you know there were fantasy general managers who traded away Point thinking he had reached his peak. Before making a trade for someone who is off to a fast start, there are numerous factors you need to look at, such as linemates, power-play time, overall ice time, inflated shooting percentage, etc.
Below are 10 players that are probably at their highest value already this season. Just remember that a player on a hot streak doesn’t mean you need to trade him, it’s just that their values will probably never be higher.
10. Andre Burakovsky
You won’t get as much for Burakovsky as others on this list, but you’ll also never get more for him either. He’s in the same position in Colorado as he was in Washington: On an offensive team with a wicked power play, where he won’t get to play with elite linemates or that top power-play unit. Last year was a bad season for Burakovsky, but this year’s ice time and power-play time is pretty close to what he was getting in Washington before 2018-19. One good thing, outside of the eight points in eight games, is that he is averaging just over two shots a game, a significant uptick from the 1.48 shots per game he averaged during his career in Washington. By the way, one Yahoo general manager managed to trade Burakovsky straight up for Sebastian Aho on the weekend, proof positive that it never hurts to ask.
9. John Carlson
Here’s where I repeat my refrain from earlier. Don’t make a trade just for the sake of making a trade, but if you are a Carlson owner, you will probably never get a higher value for him than what you will at this point. Carlson has 17 points in 10 games, an amazing 139-point pace. His ice time is down almost two minutes a game from a season ago and his shots-per-game mark of 2.11 is his lowest since 2012-13, but he’s still the clear-cut number one offensive dman on a high-scoring team with a lethal power-play.
After a torrid playoff (11 points in seven games) and a hot start to this season (10 points in nine games), there are lots of fantasy general managers who are hopeful that the old Pacioretty is back. His ice time and power-play time is on par with last year, and he is playing regularly with Mark Stone (who is off to a great start as well). There is a chance Pacioretty can get back to a 60-point player. However, with his penchant to get injured and his streakiness, you should look to sell while the iron is hot.
Drouin has eight points in his first nine games, and there are many fans out there who believe that we are finally seeing Drouin reach his full potential. Forgive me if I’m not one of them, as we’ve been here before. In fact, we were here last year, when he had seven points in his first eight games. He started to slowly decline for a few weeks after that, and eventually he was playing just 10 minutes a game. His overall ice time is down a minute per game this year compared to last season, and while his power-play time average is the same, he’s actually on the second unit instead of the first.
6. Erik Haula
There are several reasons to like Haula’s fast start. He’s averaging 2.78 shots per game, almost half a shot above his previous high. He’s also on the top power-play unit for Carolina. However, there are also reasons to be concerned. His shooting percentage of 28 per cent is unsustainable for the 28-year-old. He’s also not playing with the team’s top players at even strength, seeing a steady diet of Ryan Dzingel, Jordan Martinook and Martin Necas.
5. J.T. Miller
We are the stage where we should all recognize the type of player Miller is: Someone who starts quickly but slows down after the first month. Just look at his career points-per-game numbers by month:
October: 0.71 points-per-game
November: 0.56 points-per-game
December: 0.46 points-per-game
January: 0.58 points-per-game
February: 0.58 points-per-game
March: 0.55 points-per-game
April: 0.30 points-per-game
He stays mostly consistent from November to March, so you know exactly what type of player you have. However, now is the time to take advantage of his hot start to see if you can snag someone better.
4. Ryan Ellis
How much value does Ellis have? In Yahoo pools, he has been dealt straight up for Claude Giroux, as well as John Klingberg. There was also one trade where it was Ellis and an eighth rounder for Matt Dumba and a seventh rounder. There doesn’t seem to be any major underlying reason behind Ellis’ hot start, and that’s why you should be worried about his sustainability. Hovering around 23 minutes a night, his average ice time is down almost a minute from a season ago while his power-play time hasn’t changed. His offensive zone starts at five on five is also down, and is the second-lowest of his career.
3. Kris Letang
Let me preface this by saying that you will rarely get fair value for Letang. But rarely is not the same as never. Letang is simply a beast in fantasy hockey, and if he had had a fully healthy career, people would consider him the greatest fantasy defenseman of this generation. Look at this year. He is on pace for 36 goals, 91 points, 310 shots, 27 power-play points, 73 blocked shots and 128 hits. Outside of the goals and points, the rest of the numbers could be within shot if he could stay healthy. And that’s the issue with Letang. You can count on him missing 10-15 games at the minimum. However, if you can get a stud in return, you’d have to seriously consider that deal, no matter how hot Letang is running.
The Kovalchuk we’re seeing this season is the one we thought we were going to see last year. With three goals and seven points in eight games to start the 2019-20 campaign, Kovalchuk is on pace for 31 goals and 72 points. That sounds great, until you realize his ice time is down to 15:38 per game and he’s on the second power-play unit. He’s also only taking two shots per game, easily the lowest number of his NHL career, and he’s already a minus-eight.
1. James Neal
Neal is the prime example of a sell-high. One forum member posted last week that he offered James Neal to an Oilers fan for Artemi Panarin, and the other guy accepted. That’s insane value. Ian Gooding mentioned in his Saturday ramblings that Neal has been dealt in Yahoo pools one-for-one for Timo Meier, Vladimir Tarasenko and Gabriel Landeskog. Of everyone on this list, selling high on Neal may be the trickiest. Because of his age (32) and the fact he hasn’t had a fantasy-relevant season in years, it may be tough to drum up a market. He is on the top power-play unit in Edmonton, but is playing with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tomas Jurco and Alex Chiasson at even strength. Neal isn’t going to finish the season with 92 goals and 103 points (his current pace), so maybe you can find someone in your pool to give you a Panarin for Neal.