Alexander Ovechkin and Braden Holtby paced the league in goals and wins, but who were the other fantasy MVPs this season?
With the Stanley Cup playoffs started this is a good time to look back at the regular season from a fantasy perspective. Today, we cover the most impactful fantasy players at each position and honorable mentions in the Eastern Conference, along with what might be in store for each of them moving forward. In order to accommodate the many different types of leagues out there, this will factor both points-only and multi-category leagues as we try to assess who stood out the most across the board.
As for position eligibility, this article will not follow the lead of providers like Yahoo who are way too generous handing players extra positions. Instead, a judgment call will be made for each player to be assigned a single position.
The 2014-15 Eastern Conference review can be found here.
Alexander Ovechkin – With his third straight 50-goal campaign completed, he is still the top goal scorer in the game, and the best player in formats focusing on goals, shots and hits at the age of 30. Granted, Ovechkin’s 71 points and 24 power-play points were his lowest totals over a full season since 2011-12. But with the lower output with the man advantage has come an improvement in plus/minus, which is a combined plus-31 in two years under Barry Trotz. This is a massive improvement over the ugly minus-35 rating he posted back in 2013-14. All things considered, he is still an elite player in any league and could soon enter buy-low territory in keeper leagues, as some owners are way too fearful of owning key players in their 30s.
Brad Marchand – Obviously, Marchand’s career-high 37 goals stand out in a big way. Surprisingly, he was not benefiting form a bloated shooting percentage to reach this level as his current rate (14.8 percent) is actually lower than what we have seen from him in the past. This is due to his 250 shots which is a personal best by a wide margin. However, with this year being so different compared to the rest of his career, it will be difficult for Marchand to stay at this level moving forward, especially considering he is not much of a factor on the power play.
An extremely underrated part of Marchand’s game is his ability to contribute shorthanded points, a rarity among upper-tier players. In fact, none of the players with more points than Marchand this year could match his six points while a man short. This can be a real game changer in head-to-head leagues.
Sidney Crosby – No longer is Crosby the undisputed top point-producer in the NHL, but even with a poor start, he was still the top center in the Eastern Conference this year. His 36 goals were the third-highest mark of his career and his shooting percentage (14.5 percent) was virtually on-par with his career average. He also returned to elite form in leagues that count faceoffs won where he finished fifth in the league after falling short of 800 last year. Even with the offensive surge following the coaching change in Pittsburgh, it would be more prudent to expect more of the same moving forward from Crosby. Sure, he could get back to 100 points if he has a dream campaign but it would be a lot safer to expect 80-90 points per year from Sid.
Patrice Bergeron – Like Marchand, Bergeron achieved a career-high in goals this year and provided a ton of value to owners in all formats. This includes strong contributions on special teams with 25 power-play points (14th best) and three shorthanded points. He also led the league in faceoffs won and is always among the leaders in faceoff efficiency. Unlike Marchand, Bergeron’s numbers are more likely to be maintained beyond this year, as he has a much stronger history as a point-producer in the NHL including five campaigns of 60 or more points.
Wayne Simmonds – Simmonds had an incredible multi-category campaign including finishing fourth in the league with 147 PIM. His 60 points are tied for his career-high and his 32 goals, 229 shots and 192 hits were all personal-bests, although his only glaring drawback was a minus-7 rating. With nine points over his last seven games, he also gave a big boost to those in head-to-head playoffs.
Looking at Simmonds’ history, he is far from a lock to finish around 60 points. While he will always be a multi-category beast, he may be a bit overrated in points-only leagues going into next fall’s drafts.
Nikita Kucherov – Tied with Jaromir Jagr for the points lead among right wings in the Eastern Conference this year, Kucherov proved last year’s 65-point effort was not a fluke. Unlike last year, his ice time, both on the power play and overall, were in line with a player of his caliber which helped keep his point total up despite the team’s mediocre offensive output this year. Looking ahead to next year, there is potential for further growth from Kucherov, especially if his frequent setup-man Tyler Johnson can get back on track.
Erik Karlsson – Obviously, Karlsson is the league’s top offensive defenseman by several miles and this year’s 82-point total was a remarkable feat. He also provided excellent support in peripheral categories including 175 blocks which ranked 11th in the league. Basically, he produced offensively like an elite forward but also dominated in a category that is won by your defensemen.
Looking forward to next year, Karlsson is obviously the top pick on the blueline in points-only formats. While he is also among the best in multi-category leagues, expecting his shot-blocking total to remain this high might be foolish considering his previous high is 101. Depending on the setting, guys like Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Burns may actually be the best options available.
Kris Letang – The usually unreliable Letang suited up for 71 games this year, the most for him since 2010-11. He rewarded those willing to take the risk with a career-high 67 points and outstanding multi-category numbers across the board including a nice combination of PIM, hits and blocks which is a valuable commodity among defensemen. Unfortunately, this dream season will place Letang too high on many draft boards this fall. Even after nearly a point a game this year, you cannot ignore his frightening history on the sidelines.
PK Subban – Subban obviously had an off year with just six goals but tied his career-high 45 assists and still achieved 51 points in 68 games. In addition to the offense, Subban offers a nice mix across the board similar to Letang, but Subban also offers more in terms of durability, as his season-ending neck injury was the first ailment to cause him to miss time in his NHL career. This should be factored in on draft day, as while Letang has more upside, Subban is more reliable.
Braden Holtby – Holtby tied Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a season and finished eight ahead of second-place Jonathan Quick. This alone put Holtby at the top of just about every points-based league that counts wins and shutouts. That said, his peripheral numbers fell a bit short of the elite as he finished fifth in goals-against average, eighth in save percentage and 17 goalies had more shutouts than Holtby’s three. Goalies are very difficult to predict year-to-year and re-creating this season will be difficult. After all, Holtby had 41 wins in 73 games last year but this year his workload was reduced to 66 games in part due to the quality play of backup Philipp Grubauer.
Ben Bishop – While Holtby dominated the win column, Bishop took the crown this year in the peripheral categories. This includes finishing first in goals-against average, second in save percentage and second in shutouts while his 35 wins ranked fifth.
This time, the uncertainty surrounding the Lightning is what makes projecting Bishop’s future difficult. Steven Stamkos may not be back, and at some point, the team will make a decision on its long-term solution in goal. The Lightning still have a solid core moving forward, but this summer could add some speed bumps, which could chip into the numbers of most of their roster including their goalies.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.
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