Eastern Edge: Deep Dive – Part Two (2015-16)

by Eric Daoust on February 16, 2016
  • Eastern Edge
  • Eastern Edge: Deep Dive – Part Two (2015-16)

Jason Chimera is one of several players providing excellent value in deep multi-category leagues.

In multi-category leagues the preparation is a lot more complex than it is for points-only leagues. Each category impacts everyone’s value and can introduce many unlikely faces to the pool of fantasy-relevant players. This includes numerous bottom-six NHL forwards and bottom-pairing defensemen. Despite being viable options, some will get overlooked due to their own lack of name value or due to a bias towards a more easily-recognized offensive-minded alternative.

This week we wrap up a two-part series outlining two players per team in the Eastern Conference that may be available and helpful in your multi-category league. Each of them is owned in less than half of Fantrax leagues. The type of player covered ranges from balanced contributors to physical beasts and even to faceoff specialists.

Casey Cizikas – NY Islanders (17 percent owned)

Cizikas offers mediocre production in most areas but excels in a few. Namely, he gets a lot of hits and blocks while and while his faceoff percentage is not very good, he still wins close to 5.5 draws per game. Also, he has contributed two or more shorthanded points in each of the last three years which can be a game-changer in head-to-head leagues. He is most valuable in deep leagues where big offensive producers will not be available to fill depth roster spots anyway.

Cal Clutterbuck – NY Islanders (26 percent owned)

Clutterbuck has been one of the league’s top hitters since he became a full-time NHLer. While he has a history putting up points in the past, do not expect his current offensive pace to continue as his 11 goals were scored on just 54 shots. Lighting the lamp on over 20 percent of shots is simply unsustainable. Still, his insane volume of hits, his PIM contributions over the years and his ability to get shorthanded points keeps Clutterbuck on the fantasy radar and could be of great value if you are looking to make ground in specific areas of your roto league.

Jesper Fast – NY Rangers (20 percent owned)

This has truly been a breakout year for Fast who has exceeded last year’s point total by 50 percent in fewer games. He has also upped his production in other areas of interest to multi-category leagues, namely his 42 blocks and plus-10 rating to date. One area of concern is his average of less than one shot per game, which severely limits his goal-scoring potential for the time being. Fast does not excel in any one category but offers decent output across the board which makes him useful in one of your lower roster spots in deep leagues.

Dan Girardi – NY Rangers (41 percent owned)

Girardi’s appeal is in leagues that count hits and blocks as he is a threat to exceed 200 in each category on a yearly basis. He is able to do this while offering 20-25 points per year and being on the Rangers’ roster has typically helped in the plus/minus department. He has also been extremely durable over the years – aside from the six games he missed this year he has only sat out for three others since the end of the lockout. This level of reliability is extremely underrated in fantasy hockey.

Mark Borowiecki – Ottawa (36 percent owned)

Borowiecki’s contributions are quite poor this year in most areas but he is a monster in the physical categories, ranking in the top five in both hits and PIM. His shot-blocking is also quite good at about 1.6 per game. Getting the most value out of Borowiecki is based on how your team is built as he is best suited being a complimentary physical piece on a roster mostly filled with skilled, offensive-minded players.

Zack Smith – Ottawa (18 percent owned)

Since December 6, Smith’s ice time has gone up significantly and he has been deployed on the power play quite frequently. While he has just nine points (and just two power-play points) in his last 30 games, the added minutes have helped him return to form as a valuable multi-category contributor. Keep in mind that his 12 goals have been scored on just 69 shots, a rate that will be very difficult to sustain over the long haul.

Radko Gudas – Philadelphia (37 percent owned)

After a slow start to the year racking up his usual infractions, Gudas has gotten back on track lately with a couple outings of 15 PIM or more this month. Beyond the physical play, where he ranks as one of the NHL’s best, Gudas also has a history of providing secondary offense including 22 points with the Lightning in 2013-14 which has not translated at all this year. Both his overall on-ice five-on-five shooting percentage and personal shooting percentages are extremely low and with an average ice time of 20 minutes per night you have to think Gudas is due for an uptick sometime soon.

Ryan White – Philadelphia (13 percent owned)

White has been injury-prone over the years and has found ways into his coach’s doghouse at times but it cannot be denied he is an excellent multi-category player when in the lineup. Aside from his obvious strengths in hits and PIM, he also blocks a lot of shots for a forward and adds some faceoff ability from the wing positon, including a faceoff-winning percentage of 50 or greater in each of the past four seasons. He can also be counted on for secondary scoring, notching 21 points in 80 games since joining the Flyers prior to the 2014-15 campaign.

Matt Cullen – Pittsburgh (8 percent owned)

On the surface Cullen appears to be mostly a faceoff specialist but his all-around contributions offer some sneaky multi-category value. He is on pace to repeat last year’s 25 points in part due to strong play of late in Evgeny Malkin’s absence, including three points in his last six games. At the dot, Cullen is excellent, averaging well over six faceoffs won per contest and winning more than 55 percent of his draws. He is best suited for deeper leagues due to his mediocre point total and lack of physical stats.

Ben Lovejoy – Pittsburgh (16 percent owned)

Lovejoy has quietly been a solid multi-category defenseman over the last several years. He has not been as good offensively this year but he is on pace to eclipse 170 hits for the third straight year and his 1.5 blocks per game this year is also impressive. Additionally, his 73 shots on goal through 54 games is a nice bonus from the blueline position. That said, he has averaged just 17 minutes of ice time over the last eight games which is a drop from his season average of 19 minutes. Thus, Lovejoy should be considered a consolation prize behind some of the other defensemen profiled here.

J.T. Brown – Tampa Bay (13 percent owned)

Brown does not stand out in any one category but instead offers decent numbers across the board, highlighted by his plus-13 rating, 96 shots and a pair of shorthanded points in 51 games. He does benefit from the Lightning using their depth players a lot and has been better than normal of late with five points in his last 10. While he is not overly useful to chase down a specific category late in the year, Brown still offers good value in deeper leagues with a lot of categories.

Cedric Paquette – Tampa Bay (12 percent owned)

Obviously, Paquette’s numbers this year are down from the impressive totals he posted as a rookie which made a splash in the multi-category world. After missing large chunks of games with various injuries, he has been mostly forgotten with just 12-percent ownership. He is a worthy gamble down the stretch if you are looking to hit a home run to gain ground quickly after the potential he showed a year ago.

Rich Clune – Toronto (3 percent owned)

Clune’s spot in the NHL is far from guaranteed but as long as he finds himself in the Leafs’ lineup he is a useful player to own. His two years in Nashville show Clune’s production potential where he had 279 PIM and 291 hits in just 105 combined games. Obviously he can be a difference-maker in hits and PIM. If your league is friendly to adding and dropping players frequently then Clune should be added and deployed until he stops being dressed consistently.

Roman Polak – Toronto (31 percent owned)

The hard-nosed Polak has been an excellent multi-category defenseman for a long time in leagues that count PIM, hits and blocks. He has a surprising 12 points to date which is above-average by his standards and last year’s brutal minus-22 has been greatly improved to a plus-8 this year. He also averages one shot per game which is nice for a defensive-minded guy and often overlooked. He will likely get moved at the trade deadline but you should not expect much change in his production on a new team.

Karl Alzner – Washington (39 percent owned)

This is by far Alzner’s best NHL campaign as the former fifth-overall pick has thrived with the league-leading Capitals. On pace to set career-highs in points, plus/minus and blocks, he has become must-own outside of leagues that focus solely on offensive categories. Additionally, he has not missed a single game since he became a full-time NHLer which definitely helps in league that put a cap on maximum signings.

Jason Chimera – Washington (39 percent owned)

It is very surprising Chimera is not owned in more leagues at this point. With 15 goals and 30 points already under his belt, including nine power-play points, he is having an impact similar to Justin Abdelkader in Detroit using size to compliment the team’s more skilled players. It is worth noting he is currently scoring on 13 percent of his shots which is very high compared to his career mark of nine percent so his current goal-scoring pace might be unsustainable. But with an average of over two shots per game he should still be able to find the back of the net.

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