In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll take a look at the most valuable fantasy hockey player from each team. Keep in mind that this is a subjective list from someone who's only qualification to write about hockey, is being a fan of hockey. So if you disagree with one of these selections, feel free to let me know why in the comments or shoot me a message on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza. This will be the first of two parts, where we'll cover teams in alphabetical order from Boston to New Jersey. In next week's article, we'll move from New York to Washington.
Boston Bruins – Tuukka Rask
This might be a controversial selection considering the league's leading goal scorer – tied with Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals – happens to play for the Bruins. While David Pastrnak's 48 goals through 70 games this year are nothing short of extraordinary, I had to give this one to Rask because of the stability he brings to the normally unpredictable goaltending position. When you think of 'superstar' goaltenders, names like Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky and Andrei Vasilevskiy come to mind, but their numbers pale in comparison to Rask, who has a 26-8-6 record, .929 SV% and 2.12 GAA.
Buffalo Sabres – Jack Eichel
It's been a pretty disappointing year for the Sabres, who currently sit outside a playoff spot and are on track to miss the playoffs for the ninth-straight season. Despite a lack of overall success, the team has received strong individual performances from the likes of Victor Olofsson, Rasmus Dahlin and Linus Ullmark. However, nobody has been as good as Eichel. The 23-year-old forward leads Buffalo in scoring with 78 points in 68 games – that's 28 more points than Sam Reinhart who sits second in team scoring.
Carolina Hurricanes – Andrei Svechnikov
If I made this list earlier in the season (before Dougie Hamilton got injured). I'd probably crown Hamilton the fantasy hockey MVP from the Hurricanes. I mean a defenseman who tallies 40 points in 47 games while averaging 3.6 shots per night is quite impressive, wouldn't you say? However, with Hamilton sidelined for over 20 games, there was a significant stretch of the year where he wasn't contributing to your fantasy roster. As a result, I have to give the title of fantasy MVP to Andrei Svechnikov. While Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen have more points than Svechnikov this year, they're proven scorers who we expect a lot from. At the young age of 19, Svechnikov has shattered notions of the sophomore slump, putting up 61 points in 68 games while seeing less than 17 minutes of ice time per night.
Andrei Svechnikov just scored the lacrosse goal pic.twitter.com/wOJSxhRsMW
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 30, 2019
Columbus Blue Jackets – Zach Werenski
Like most teams in the playoff picture, Columbus benefitted from a number of strong individual performances this season. Oliver Bjorkstrand had 30 points in 30 games before he was sidelined with an ankle injury. Elvis Merzlikins had that insane run where he registered five shutouts in eight games, with impressive overall numbers that include a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. However, on a team that struggles to score goals, I think it's important to recognize Werenski – who leads all defensemen with 20 goals this year.
Detroit Red Wings – Anthony Mantha
The Red Wings have been shockingly bad this year, winning just 17 of their 71 games. The team has allowed a league-worst 3.73 goals per game and scored a league-worst 2.00 goals per game. In a season of struggles, there have been a few bright spots – most of which can be found on Detroit's top line of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Mantha. While Larkin and Bertuzzi have certainly put together strong campaigns, it's hard to deny the impact that Mantha has on this team. The 25-year-old forward tallied 38 points through 43 contests this year, which translates to 72 points over an 82-game season. Now, I know that Mantha's 28-game absence reduced the impact he had on your fantasy roster, but he's been an excellent option when healthy. While Larkin and Bertuzzi certainly get bonus points for attendance, their offensive output is considerably less than Mantha's, which is why I have to give him the title.
Florida Panthers – Jonathan Huberdeau
While we've acknowledged Huberdeau's strong play this season, I don't think we actually understand how good he's been. Only nine players in the league have more points than Huberdeau. He leads the Panthers in scoring with 78 points in 69 games – that's 16 more points than Aleksander Barkov who sits second with 62 points through 66 appearances. Huberdeau's 29 power-play points have him ranked in the top-5 for the category, behind only Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Pastrnak and Nathan MacKinnon.
Montreal Canadiens – Tomas Tatar
If you asked me who would lead the Canadiens in scoring before the season actually began, I'd probably guess a player who's highly regarded for their offensive skillset, like Jonathan Drouin or Max Domi. Fast forward to present day and I'd be looking like a real clown – but I don't think I'd be the only one wearing white makeup and a big red nose. You'd have a hard time predicting that Tomas Tatar would lead the Habs in scoring with 61 points through 68 games. To give you some perspective, Philip Danault sits second in team scoring with 47 points through 71 contests. In the average Yahoo fantasy league, Tatar was drafted 166th overall – behind guys like Lawson Crouse, Erik Haula, Tyler Johnson and Alexander Kerfoot. He's provided enormous value considering his draft position, as his point totals rank 32nd among all skaters. He has more points than Mathew Barzal, Mike Hoffman, William Nylander, Jakub Voracek and many others selected before him in fantasy drafts.
New Jersey Devils – Mackenzie Blackwood
In New Jersey, most players on the team have had their overall numbers tainted by a collectively slow start. While some players have rebounded with strong showings recently, I think there's one player who has performed well for some time now. Through 16 starts in 2020, Blackwood has a.926 save percentage and 2.63 GAA. In just his second NHL season, the 23-year-old netminder has provided stability for an unstable roster. Despite a lack of experience, he's been trusted with a huge workload as just 10 goalies in the league have started more games than him (43). Honourable mention for Devils' MVP goes to Nikita Gusev who has 37 points in his last 50 games (60-point-pace) after starting out with just seven points in his first 16 appearances.