Fantasy Top-10: Fantasy-Relevant Ironmen

by Tom Collins on June 4, 2018

While many fantasy general managers focus on avoiding Band-Aid boys, most don’t go the next step and specifically target iron men.

It should make sense. A player that is almost guaranteed to play in all 82 games should be more valuable than a player that will play in 75. It doesn’t matter why they miss the games, the seven-game loss could be enough to cost you a championship, especially in points-only leagues.

However, it’s not enough to simply be an iron man, you need to be fantasy relevant as well. Karl Alzner hasn’t missed a game in nine years, but he has no value in fantasy hockey. By the way, four active players have iron man streaks of at least 500 games. Alzner is the only one not on this list.

There have been 410 regular season hockey games in the past five years. For this list, I only looked at players that have played 400. That left us with 30 players, many of them elite.

I also want to make Sidney Crosby an honourable mention. His 394 games played in the last five years was just shy of the 400 needed for making this list. But considering that he played in only 46.7 per cent of Penguins’ games over three seasons from 2010-11 to 2012-13, he was the biggest Band-Aid boy in the league five years ago. To turn that around into someone who rarely misses games is truly remarkable.

The last time I wrote an iron man list was four years ago. Amazingly, five players from that original list make this year’s list, showing how durable they truly are.

On to this year’s list.

 

10. Patrick Marleau

At 706 games, Marleau has the second-longest active iron man streak, but he’s not as fantasy relevant as he used to be, averaging 47 points the last three years. He still has a knack for putting up goals, however, netting at least 25 in four of the last five years. He’ll be 39 by the time the next season rolls around, so there has to be some doubt in how long he can keep scoring goals and the iron man streak.

 

9. Anze Kopitar

Kopitar barely made the cut-off, coming in at exactly 400 games played, but he has also been one of the most inconsistent 400-game players in that timeframe. He’s produced anywhere from 12 goals and 52 points to 35 goals and 92 points, with a couple of 70-point seasons in between. Although he’s a near-certainty to play most of the season, it’s difficult to know which Kopitar you’re going to get.  

 

8. Jakub Voracek

What is interesting about Voracek isn’t that he’s missed nine games over the past five years, it’s that all nine games all came in one season. He’s played in every game in five of the last six seasons, and in his 11-year career, he’s missed more than two games in only two campaigns. He’s averaged 69 points the last five seasons, and like Kopitar, it’s hard to know which Voracek will show up in which season.   

 

7. Claude Giroux

While no one could have banked this season on Giroux putting up career highs of 34 goals, 68 assists, and 102 points after years of declining point totals, we all should have projected him playing the full season. He’s played the entire campaign in six of the last nine seasons and has missed a combined total of five games in the last five years. It will be interesting to see what he can do with another 82-game season playing the wing.

 

6. Keith Yandle

The last time Keith Yandle missed a game, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th U.S. president. The league’s current top iron man, Yandle has played in an amazing 715 straight games, not missing a game since 2008-09. Thanks to the trade from Arizona to the Rangers in 2015, he actually played 84 games that year, meaning he has played 412 games over the past five years. It’s astonishing that he has continued to produce at such a high level, averaging 0.6 points per game over the last nine seasons. You would think at some point he would block a shot incorrectly or get a stomach virus or something.

 

5. Joe Pavelski

Pavelski has missed only one game in the past seven seasons, and that was in 2016-17 when he sat out the final game of the season to rest an injury before the playoffs. One of the more underrated fantasy players, Pavelski has seen his career start to decline in the last few years, but he has still averaged 33 goals and 72 points over the past five seasons. He has found chemistry with Evander Kane and with 32 points in his final 35 games, proved that he didn’t need Joe Thornton to put up points.

 

4. Phil Kessel

Kessel may be on his way out of Pittsburgh, if the rumours are true, but there’s no denying his ability to score, put up points and stay healthy. He has now played in 692 straight games (for those keeping track, Marleau, Yandle, Kessel and Alzner are the four players currently at 500-plus consecutive games played). In the past five years, Kessel has averaged 72 points, including a career-high 92 points this year. He hasn’t missed a game since 2009-10 when he was in his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

 

3. Blake Wheeler

I’m sure when Wheeler is pushing for $10 million a year on his next contract, one of his many selling points will be the fact he rarely misses a game. He’s only missed four games total in the last five years combined, but he has a history of healthfulness. He’s never missed more than three games in any of his 11 NHL seasons, and has only missed eight games total in 11 seasons.

 

2. Jamie Benn

Maybe a little surprisingly, no player on this list averaged exactly a point per game the last five seasons combined, although Benn just missed it with 403 points in 404 games. Of his six games missed, five came in the 2016-17 season when he went to the IR with a foot injury. His other game missed was at the end of the 2013-14, when he was a healthy scratch to rest up for the playoffs. He’s averaged 34 goals and 81 points over the last five years.

 

1. Alexander Ovechkin

Ovi is an easy choice for number one on this list. He’s missed only eight games in the last five years, and in that time, has led the league in goals, power-play goals, and shots four times, all while having numerous articles written about how he is due to decline any day now. In these five years, he’s averaged an amazing 47 goals per season. He plays a hard game, dishing out plenty of hits and shots, so you would think he would wear down at some point. He reminds me of Ivan Drago while battling Rocky in Rocky 4: “He’s not human. He’s like a piece of iron.” No matter what you throw at him, he keeps battling back.