One of my favourite top-10 columns every year is looking at players who are undervalued and underrated.
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These players are special, and it’s good to make note of them as they can produce at a high level and you can usually snag them later on in drafts. So, when Dobber offered the chance to write a top-10 column about underrated players of the decade, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. What better way to pay tribute to players who sometimes don’t get the love they deserve?
Without further ado, here are the most underrated players of the past 10 years.
10. David Krejci
Krejci is horribly undervalued in points-only pools, but fairly valued in banger leagues as he doesn’t contribute much in peripheral stats. I’m not sure if Krejci could have been a number one centre on another squad, but there’s no doubt that he would have been more fairly rated if he had been. In the last 10 years, he’s hit 35 assists and 60-plus points five times. He’s had a 55-point pace in all but one season. He’s done this without a lot of power-play time, although he still normally reaches double digits in man-advantage points.
This may seem a little strange considering so many people think he’s overrated. However, I believe this is a case where everyone thinks someone is so overrated that they stay away from said player and he becomes underrated. As I mentioned in my top 10 list of overrated players on Monday, of all centers in the last decade, Toews is 10th in points, fifth in even-strength goals, fourth in even-strength points, second in plus/minus and one of the top two faceoff guys in the league. And people think he’s overrated! It baffles my mind.
Huberdeau’s value took a major hit when he was wasn’t progressing as quickly as many had hoped. His fourth season saw him post 59 points, and the year after that he had just 26 points in 31 games. Six seasons in, and he had a career-high of 69 points. Many were ready to give up on the Panther, but those with patience were rewarded tremendously as Huberdeau exploded for 92 points last year and has 48 points in 36 games this year (a 109-point pace). Since the start of last season, Huberdeau has 140 points in 118 games and he’s still undervalued, as players such as Mitch Marner, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and Elias Pettersson are more highly valued, despite producing fewer points.
7. Ryan Suter
One of the issues with Suter is that he’s never had that great season that made fantasy general managers really appreciate how good he is. He doesn’t have a 10-goal season or a 65-point campaign, but what he does have is consistency. There’s never a season where you’ve been frustrated if you’ve had Suter of your squad. He’s stayed relatively healthy in the past 10 years, and among defensemen, he has played the fourth-highest number of games, is fourth in assists, ninth in points, 13th in plus/minus and 7th in power-play points. He’s also one of only 12 players to notch 40 points in at least six seasons in the last 10 years. One thing to note is he seems to be getting better with age, as his only two 50-point seasons have come in the last few years (although he’s on pace for another 50 points this season).
6. Antti Niemi
Niemi was robbed of a Vezina trophy in the 2012-13 season, which still bothers me to this day. In that season, he was tied for tops in games started, tied for first in wins, third in saves, and top 10 in SV %, GAA and shutouts. In February alone, he lost four games when he kept his opponents to only one goal (one regulation loss, and three in the shootout). Looking at the decade as a whole, Niemi put up excellent numbers (outside of his last couple of seasons). He is one of only 12 goalies to reach 20 wins on seven occasions, and from Jan. 1, 2010 to the end of the 2015-16 season, Niemi was fourth in wins, fourth in saves and tied for fifth in shutouts. That’s crazy good value, but he never got the respect he deserved.
To remember how badly Fleury was underrated, you can’t look at his last couple of years in Vegas, but you have to go back to the first half of the decade. Fleury was routinely a top-five fantasy netminder in most leagues, but his playoff reputation carried over from the playoffs into the regular season. Case in point: From 2010-11 to 2015-16, his save percentage ranged from .913 to .921, while his GAA ranged from 2.29 to 2.39. There weren’t many netminders you could count on for that consistency, and when you throw in his winning record (at least 34 wins in every season except for the lockout-shortened season when he went 23-8-1), you had a dominant netminder who was never given his due recognition because he was getting smoked in the postseason.
4. Joe Pavelski
The former seventh-round draft pick was not only one of the most underrated, but also one of the most consistent players of the decade. From the 2009-10 season to last year, he is one of only five players to have notched at least 20 goals and 60 points eight times. He is also only one of eight players to have posted 30 goals five separate seasons. In a three-season span midway through the decade, Pavelski scored 117 goals (second in the league), 227 points (seventh highest), 47 power-play goals (second) and 90 power-play points (fifth). He always took plenty of shots, started getting more hits later on in the decade and was always a power-play threat. Since Jan. 1 2010, he is sixth in goals, 14h in points, third in power-play goals, ninth in power-play points, tied for sixth in game-winning goals and 11th in shots.
I feel like Wheeler wasn’t truly appreciated until this season, so of course, this is when the wheels started to fall off for him (although he’s been much better the last 17 games). But from the moment he left Boston early on in the decade, he was a number one winger who excelled. He at least 60 points in every full season (during the lockout year, he had a 68-point pace), then started flirting with 70 and is now a 90-point player in the past two seasons. He’s a high-volume shooter who hits and racks up power-play points that you could count on to stay healthy. However, he was drafted on average in the third round in Yahoo pools this year, despite his success. Imagine how low he was drafted before his 90-point campaigns.
2. Pekka Rinne
Rinne is a perfect example of the reasoning why many people don’t win hockey pools. For most of the decade, Rinne was in his 30s and therefore considered too old to roster for many fantasy hockey general managers. All too often, GMs want the young stud who is projected to be a number one goalie four years down the road. However, in the past decade, there’s been no better fantasy goalie than Rinne. Since Jan. 1, 2010, he is second in wins, second in saves, first in shutouts, fourth in goals against average, and sixth in save percentage. He is the only goalie to reach 30 wins in at least eight seasons, and he and Braden Holtby are the only netminders to reach 40 wins on more than one occasion (three times each).
1. Keith Yandle
Imagine if, on Jan. 1, 2010, I proposed a trade to you in a keeper pool. I would guarantee this 23-year-old defenseman would play every single game for the next decade. In those 10 years, he’s going to finish second among all defensemen in assists, and third in points. He’s going to have the highest number of power-play points while finishing fifth in shots. He’s going to be one of only five defensemen to have at least 50 points in five different seasons (not including the lockout-shortened season when he still puts up a 50-point pace), and the only defenseman to have 40 points in nine seasons. You’d jump all over that trade as you’re essentially guaranteeing yourself a stud and consistent production. Yet Yandle is criminally underrated. I believe a major part of this is, with the exception of a season and a bit with the New York Rangers, he’s played in non-hockey markets of Arizona and Florida. Put him in Pittsburgh and Chicago for eight of those 10 years, and he’s probably got a Norris nomination or two.