This week we’ll take a look at where Left Wingers are being drafted in the average Yahoo Fantasy Hockey League. For the most part, I’ve noticed a few names going later than they should be, but I decided to play Devil’s advocate and label one of the game’s greatest goal-scorers of our generation, ‘overrated’. Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza and let me know your thoughts!
Alex Ovechkin – Overrated (Average Yahoo Pick: 3.9)
Yes I know, I’m a blithering idiot for calling Alex Ovechkin overrated – but hear me out. Ovi is 34 years old and while he’s proven his haters wrong time and time again, I’m not sure if I’d use a top-five pick on him this year considering how much younger talent is available. Connor McDavid, Nathan Mackinnon, Patrick Kane, Brad Marchand, Aleksander Barkov come to mind, among others. I guess my biggest issue with Ovi is the fact that he’s being drafted as the top left-wing in Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues – when I think that spot should belong to Brad Marchand. Over the past three seasons, Marchand has recorded a total of 270 points in 227 games (1.19 Points/Game Played) while Ovechkin has tallied 245 points in 245 games – a point-per-game pace. I will say that Ovechkin provides multi-category coverage like few others, as he remains elite in goal-scoring, shot totals and hit counts. However, if your league is more focused on point production, I think there are at least five options who are more valuable than the Capitals’ captain.
Taylor Hall – Underrated (Average Yahoo Pick: 29.3)
There’s going to be a stark contrast between the 2018-2019 New Jersey Devils and the 2019-2020 New Jersey Devils. The roster now features P.K. Subban, Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev and Wayne Simmonds – not to mention a hopefully healthy Taylor Hall and more-developed Nico Hischier. Hall managed 33 points in 37 games last year before falling victim to a knee injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. He recently returned to the ice for the first time in nine months and was well aware that some extra rust needed to be shaken off. However, you’d be foolish to let that stop you from drafting Hall in your fantasy hockey leagues. Over the past two seasons – among players that have played at least 50 games – Hall has recorded the fifth-best point-per-game pace (1.19 Points/Game Played). Only Nikita Kucherov (1.41 Points/GP), Connor McDavid (1.40 Points/GP), Brad Marchand (1.26 Points/GP) and Nathan Mackinnon (1.26 Points/GP) have better production rates in that time (via NHL.com). To make a long story short, Hall has the potential to lead the league in scoring. Recency bias will have a lot of people forgetting how good he is, because they didn’t get to see him play for the majority of last year. While he may need a bit of extra time to return to peak form, I think he’ll ultimately be a very valuable asset to your fantasy roster. If you don’t end up drafting Hall, maybe try to trade for him early on in the season. New Jersey has some new players wearing the team’s jerseys this season, which should make the power play much more dangerous and in turn, bolster Hall’s production.
Jonathan Huberdeau – Underrated (Average Yahoo Pick: 64.5)
The guy managed 92 points last season and is somehow being drafted outside the top-50 this year. To some extent, I can understand why Huberdeau is being undervalued in fantasy hockey drafts – he only has one truly excellent season under his belt. So, I guess some people think that Huberdeau’s 92-point-campaign was an outlier and not the new normal? But here’s my issue with that: last season also marked Aleksander Barkov’s transition into superstardom. At 24 years of age, I think Barkov has established an elite level of play that he’ll maintain for years to come. While Florida possesses an abundance of talent at the forward position, Barkov and Huberdeau have played thousands of minutes together, developing an impressive level of chemistry that probably won’t be messed with during this upcoming season. With all this being said, Huberdeau owners would be wise to keep an eye on the Panthers’ power play this season. Florida boasted the league’s second-most effective unit (26.8%) last year – behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning (28.2%). Huberdeau racked up 34 power-play points in the process, with his previous career-high in the category being 19. I have no doubt that Florida has the personnel to continue their success with the man advantage, but if they do happen to struggle, Huberdeau’s point production may be limited.
Max Domi – Underrated (Average Yahoo Pick: 132.5)
I think a lot of people forget how young Max Domi is when they say he won’t be able to match his production from last season – he’s just 24! Sure, prior to the 2018-2019 campaign, Domi’s career-high in points was a mediocre 52 – but he set that in his rookie season which was just a few years ago. Domi only has four years of NHL experience under his belt. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Dobber’s fantasy guide in the past, you know all about the fourth-year breakout – how a great number of young players seem to need about three years to develop before they finally display the offensive potential they’re capable of at the NHL level. So, how come last year isn’t considered to be Domi’s breakout-campaign? Why does the narrative seem to be that Domi will take a step backward instead of a step forward during the 2019-2020 season? Well, I for one, don’t buy any of it. I had a chance to watch a lot of Habs’ hockey last season and I have to say that Domi always appeared threatening with the puck – he exudes confidence. The city of Montreal embraced Domi and he responded with outstanding point production and glowing reviews of the city’s atmosphere. I think this is the perfect marriage between player and city, as the grand stage of Montreal has brought out the best in Domi – he feeds off the fans’ energy and it fuels his play. Domi is in the final year of his current contract and you can expect he’ll bring his A-game this year in an attempt to rise his stock before signing his next deal. I think a safe projection for Domi this year is 60-65 points, with potential for many more. In my opinion, that kind of player should not be selected outside the top-100 in fantasy drafts.
Nino Niederreiter – Underrated (Average Yahoo Pick: 173.2)
The 27-year-old tallied 30 points in 36 games with the Hurricanes last season, after registering a half-point-per-game pace with the Wild through 46 contests. His surroundings in Carolina proved to be much more conducive for offensive production than Minnesota. Nino developed chemistry with Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams last year and the trio controlled an impressive 59.1% of the shot-share through almost 450 minutes of ice-time (via NaturalStatTrick). They outscored opponents 25-16 while controlling the majority of scoring chances (58.4%). This year, everyone and their mother seems to think that Andrei Svechnikov is a lock to play beside Sebastian Aho – that belief has made Svechnikov a top-140 pick in the average Yahoo fantasy draft. Niederreiter is being taken almost 40 picks later! While Svechnikov is expected to become an elite player, he’s still just 19-years-old and will likely see sheltered minutes to begin this season. I think the excitement surrounding Svechnikov’s potential emergence is overshadowing Niederreiter’s offensive production this year – when the two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Svechnikov can takes a huge step forward this season and Niederreiter can also reach the 60-point mark for the first time in his career. If you have the chance to draft a 60-point player with the 170th pick in your fantasy draft, you have to do it!
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