While many of us enjoy points-only fantasy hockey leagues, the real challenge is in multi-cat leagues, especially when looking at statistics such as PIM, blocked shots and hits.
That’s because oftentimes, the players that are best in these categories aren’t the point-producing superstars. Sure, it’s easy to know that Nikita Kucherov is going to get you a lot of power-play points or that Auston Matthews is going to take a lot of shots. Oftentimes, however, it’s the fourth-line grinders and bottom-pairing defensemen that are going to win you some of the grittier categories.
Below are 10 players who are excelling in either PIM, hits or blocked shots this season. We’re going to be excluding some of the obvious choices of players that accumulate a lot of points, so you won’t see Brad Marchand for PIM or Alexander Ovechkin for hits.
10. Brayden McNabb
There’s always plenty of focus in Vegas on Ryan Reaves and William Carrier and their hit amount, but McNabb can at least give you blocked shots as well. McNabb is on pace for 238 hits and 146 blocked shots. If he can reach those numbers, this would be his third consecutive season (and fourth in the last five years) reaching 200 hits. The 146 blocked shots would be his third straight year reaching at least 100 blocked shots.
At the end of the year, Gio will wind up on many “most disappointing” lists (although we should have seen it coming, considering he was a sub-40-point player in two seasons before notching 78 points last year). However, don’t mistake his poor points production this year for disappointment in every category as he’s been great in blocked shots. His 129 blocked shots are second in the league, and his 66 blocked shots since Dec. 1 is tops. He’s failed to record a blocked shot only once in his last 22 games, and he has at least four blocked shots in 15 games this season. He’s on pace for 212 blocked shots, which would be the first time he’s ever cracked 200.
8. Nazem Kadri
After getting shipped out of Toronto last summer because of back-to-back playoff suspensions, Kadri hasn’t settled down at all in Colorado. If anything, he’s getting more chippy. Kadri already has 89 PIM, only six off his career-high, although 43 of those PIM have come in the last 11 games, including 17 against the Rangers on Jan. 7.
Murphy may be further down on some lists because he doesn’t have the same gaudy numbers as some others, but remember that the Hawks defenseman missed some games because of a groin injury. Going into Sunday’s game against the Jets, he was on pace for 155 hits and 165 blocked shots despite that missed time. How rare is that feat? Last year, only three players hit at least 150 in each category. He’s also the only player to reach 50 hits and 60 blocked shots since Dec. 1.
Klefbom finally seems to be the guy in Edmonton that we had always hoped. He’s on pace for his first 40-point season and looks good for another 200-shot campaign. His 15 power-play points are only one off a career-high. More importantly (at least for this column), is his blocked shots total. He already has a career-high 148 blocked shots, which leads the league, and he’s on pace for 248. To put that in perspective, only three other players in the past decade had at least 250 blocked shots in a season.
There’s probably no more underappreciated fantasy asset than Edler. Perhaps that’s because he didn’t become the consistent 40-point threat like we had hoped early in his career. Regardless, he re-invented himself as a top hit and blocked shot producer. Much of that has to do with the fact that he is a frequent visitor to the injured reserve list. This year, he has 76 hits and 112 blocked shots in 39 games. Or a pace of 207 blocked shots and 140 hits if he stays healthy the rest of the season. Spoiler alert: He won’t, but enjoy the production while you can.
Tkachuk has 195 hits on the season, which already surpasses what he did last year in his rookie season. But he’s been extra intense lately. He and Matt Martin are the only players with 100 hits since Dec. 1. Tkachuk also has 40 hits in his last eight games. Although he’s on pace for 333 hits, he’s contributing in other categories, as he’s also on pace for 91 PIM and 290 shots. He’s turning into Alexander Ovechkin, without the goal scoring.
3. Brendan Lemieux
How great has Lemieux been this season? Despite missing the last nines games with a fractured hand, Lemieux was still on pace for 176 PIM (highest in the league) and 174 hits before his first game back Sunday night. Lemieux has been criminally underrated in banger leagues, but in dynasty leagues that use many peripheral categories, he’s a must keep. His ice time this year is four minutes per night higher than a year ago, and he’s even been getting a small bit of power-play time.
2. Evander Kane
Kane has always been a beast, and this year has been no different. On an awful San Jose team, Kane is on pace for 160 PIM, 250 shots, 17 power-play goals and 171 hits. I specifically want to focus on his PIM total. He already has 95 PIM, with 71 of them coming in his last 22 games. His on-pace mark of 160 would be a career-high, but is only seven PIM higher than the 153 he had last year. That is just obscene. His 248 PIM in the past season and a half is easily the highest in the league. No one else has 200 PIM, and only five other players have reached 150.
Borocop’s 178 hits through 46 games played provide tons of value in any league that counts that category. That number easily leads all defensemen. It also puts him on pace for 317 hits. This is key because only one defenseman in NHL history has ever reached 320 hits in a season, and that was Borowiecki back in 2016-17. He also provides a ton of value in leagues with blocked shots, as he has 104 in that category. Going into Sunday’s action, he’s the only defenseman with at least 100 blocked shots and 100 hits so far. He’s also got 56 PIM already. Basically, he’s the best banger around.