Eastern Conference Overachievers – 2016

by Eric Daoust on February 2, 2016

Looking at overachievers in the Eastern Conference. Who is due to slow down?

During the offseason we tend to go to great lengths to figure out each player’s worth in the league to help give us an edge when the fall drafts roll around. We go to the draft table with our lists based on reasonable expectations and select our team. And then reality strikes and things usually play out much differently than we anticipated.

A player’s career is often filled with ups and downs that are not in sync with what we would consider reasonable projections. Many such cases are players that grossly exceed expectations. This can be a rookie making a splash, an overlooked veteran taking advantage of opportunities or even an established star simply taking his game to another level.

Having a player you drafted or snagged off the waiver exceed just about every projection can give your team a major boost in the standings. Sometimes the player can continue his hot play and you can ride him all the way to the end of the year. However, most overachievers eventually come back down earth and it is up to you to pick a good time to sell high.

Today we will unveil the Eastern Conference all-overachiever team along with some honorable mentions. The players earning these positions are the farthest ahead of their their preseason expectations in points.

Note: The expected total is based on the projected points-per-game for each player in the Dobberhockey Fantasy Guide.

Forwards

Name

GP

PTS

SH/G

TOI

Expected Points (Diff.)

Mike Hoffman (OTT)

46

39

3.1

17:55

26 (+13)

Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH)

47

49

2.2

17:40

29 (+20)

Lee Stempniak (NJ)

50

36

2.0

18:46

21 (+15)

 

 

Mike Hoffman – With just five points in his last 13 games, the optimal time to sell high on Hoffman has passed. As mentioned in Real or Imagined, his red-hot first half came with some very high percentages that were due to come back down to earth. At this point you might as well ride it out with Hoffman if you hung on to him through his recent slump as the odds of landing a more proven player would be much slimmer than a few weeks ago. After all, Hoffman averages over three shots, 18 minutes and over two power-play minutes per game and has been solid putting up points since he became a full-time NHLer. It is only a matter of time before he gets back on track.

Evgeny Kuznetsov – It is really amazing to see Kuznetsov continue to produce like a star after being moved off of Alexander Ovechkin’s line at even strength. Granted, he is a fixture on the top power-play unit and has tallied 15 of his 49 points on the man-advantage. He has also helped make his wingers better, with Marcus Johansson on pace for a career-year, Justin Williams enjoying his best year since 2012-13 and Andre Burakovsky has played his best hockey at Kuznetsov’s side. It is worth noting his shooting percentage of over 13 percent is a bit high so his goal-scoring pace might slow down a bit but not by much.

Lee Stempniak – Stempniak has been outstanding this year and has managed to maintain his pace despite percentages that indicate he is due for a decline. Beyond his own numbers, there are other reasons for concern. Stempniak’s two linemates, Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique, are sporting percentages that are even more alarming. Furthermore, there is a chance Stempniak could be moved at the trade deadline. This would take him away from his line which has developed great chemistry and put him in more of a secondary role, which would severely hurt his fantasy value. There is always a chance Stempniak can maintain this pace all the way but it would be more prudent to sell high before a potential trade can be finalized.  

 

Defensemen

Name

GP

PTS

SH/G

TOI

Expected Points (Diff.)

Zdeno Chara (BOS)

47

27

2.0

24:17

14 (+13)

Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF)

50

31

2.4

25:11

20 (+11)

 

 

Zdeno Chara – Most people thought Chara’s 40-point days were a thing of the past but the Bruins have been an offensive powerhouse this year and their captain has been back to his old point-producing self. He has been fairly consistent all year and even has eight points over his last 11 games. The one area of concern is his average of 1:25 on the power play. This may be a bit deceiving as his average over the last 16 games is up around two minutes but it goes to show how far Torey Krug has come as the team’s lead power-play quarterback. Currently on pace for 46 points, it may be more reasonable to peg Chara closer to 40 given his age, size and the mileage on his body.

Rasmus Ristolainen – Ristolainen’s progression at just 21 years of age has been a great story to follow. After getting just 20 points a year ago, he already has 31 and is on pace to hit the 50-point mark. That said, Ristolainen and his teammates are still going to go through some growing pains. For example, a recent stretch of five points in five games was followed by no points over four games and a minus-six rating. Overall, even with the minus-14 rating this year Ristolainen is a must-own in all formats.

 

Goalie

Name

Games Played

Wins

GAA

SV%

Expected Wins (Diff.)

Braden Holtby (WSH)

39

30

2.07

.929

23 (+7)

 

 

We already knew Holtby was among the best goalies to own but this year he has taken it to another level. His 30 wins through 39 games is probably an unsustainable rate but his GAA and save percentage should remain steady down the stretch. The only knock on Holtby from a fantasy standpoint is he only has two shutouts, a mediocre total in today’s NHL. Keep in mind he might be given some additional rest in the final couple weeks as Philipp Grubauer, a better backup than Justin Peters last year, does not put the Capitals in danger of losing points. This could play a big role in your head-to-head league’s plaoff weeks.

Honorable mentions

Jason Chimera (+13) – At 36 years of age, Chimera’s 19 points had most people thinking his days of being a valuable secondary producer were over. However, this year he has bounced back in a big way and is actually on pace to beat his career-high of 42 points. His ice time (13:41) is nothing impressive but his role on the power play, including extended time on the top unit with the Caps’ big guns, has been at the heart of his resurgence. Whether or not he can keep it up remains to be seen given his low ice time and reliance on the power play. Not to mention, his shooting percentage has not been this high since 2006. Selling a player of his age might be tough so ride it out and be ready to drop him when he cools down.

Dylan Larkin (+13) – The Red Wings’ former first-round pick has made quite a splash at just 19. Not only is he on pace for 56 points, he also shares the league lead with a plus-24 rating. He has been pretty consistent throughout the year, including producing at exactly a 56-point pace over his last 16 games (11 points). Look for this trend to continue down the stretch.

Erik Karlsson (+9) – Like Holtby, Karlsson is an example of an elite-level player simply taking it to another level. While he is on pace to fall short of a third straight 20-goal campaign, he is currently second in the NHL in assists and is in line to set a career-high in that area. Whether or not he ultimately hits 80 points for the first time, Karlsson remains the unquestioned top offensive blueliner in the world.

Shayne Gostisbehere (+7) – Another rookie making an immediate impact in the NHL, Gostisbehere has emerged as the Flyers’ go-to defenseman on the power play. It is worth noting his shooting percentage is very high for a blueliner and power plays do run hot and cold so this may be a good time to test the trade market in one-year leagues and see if you can get a home-run deal. If not, you should be fine riding it out with him.

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