Merry Christmas Dobber-heads!
I thought it would be fun for today’s list to look at what players would have made the best gifts over the past few 12 months. Obviously, superstars like Connor McDavid, Erik Karlsson and Sidney Crosby are tops. But the same as on Christmas morning, the best gifts are the ones you didn’t expect.
Below are 10 players that have exceeded expectations for 2017. No rookies are included as we can only gauge their success since October.
10. Ryan Getzlaf
People forget this because of how many games he has missed this year, but Getzlaf has put up exceptional numbers the past 12 months with 60 points despite playing only 52 games. His 3.3 points per 60 minutes is 10th best among players who had played at least 50 games. He’s the Ducks’ best player and has nine points in his seven games since returning from injury.
9. Phil Kessel
You know what phrase I hate hearing the most throughout the NHL? You’re never win a Cup with so-and-so. I’ve heard it about Alexander Ovechkin and P.K. Subban for a while. Phil Kessel’s name was on that list for a long time, until he actually won two Cups and had serious Conn Smyth Trophy conversations. Kessel had 71 points in 2017, which was the 20th best in the NHL. His 34 power play points is second highest and his 265 shots is 14th best. As a bonus, he hasn’t missed a game since 2009-10.
8. Anze Kopitar
Many believe that Kopitar is having a bounce-back campaign, but his second half of 2016-17 foreshadowed his success. In 44 games from Jan. 1 until the playoffs started, Kopitar had 36 points (with 15 power play points). Thanks to a hot start this season, Kopitar is now at 76 points in 81 games in 2017. That’s tied for 15th best in the league. Not too bad for someone many of us thought was a shell of his former self a year ago.
7. David Pastrnak
One thing the Bruins don’t get enough credit for is their ability to draft and develop their young players. You look at their roster, and you quickly realize the core of their team are players they selected and groomed over a number of years. Pastranak is the latest in a long line of players. In 2017, he had 77 points, tied for 13th highest. Remember, he’s only 21 years old. Imagine a decade from now when we look back and see what’s done over a 10-year period.
Schenn has 72 points in 2017, which is 18th highest in the league. Schenn was good in Philly, but he has really broken through since his trade to St. Louis. While he was used on the top power play option in Philadelphia, he was often relegated to playing with lesser-talented linemates. According to Natural Stat Trick, for even-strength minutes in 2016-17, Schenn played 518:22 with Wayne Simmonds, 313:34 with Dale Weise, 267:37 with Claude Giroux, 250:51 with Travis Konecny, 203:52 with Sean Couturier and 161:31 with Jakub Voracek. It’s almost criminal Schenn played about 50 minutes more with Dale Weise than Giroux. Once he went to St. Louis, he’s played mostly with the big-name players: Jaden Schwartz (371:28) and Vladimir Tarasenko (305:40). The next highest is Alexander Steen at 103:04.
I put these two together because their surprising 2017 success is so similar. Lee has 71 points in 2017 (20th best) and Bailey has 78 (tied for 10th best). I somehow own two of these guys in my points-only keeper pool. We hold an auction before our annual draft where a GM can bid a draft pick on a dropped player, and whatever pick wins the auction goes to the GM who dropped the player. Last year, someone bid on two of my dropped players: 30th overall on Mike Green and 44th overall on Mark Giordano. I had four first round picks and nothing after that. With those two extra picks I acquired at auction, I selected Lee with the 30th pick and Bailey with the 44th pick. I’m in first place in that pool by only 16 points, mostly thanks to Lee and Bailey. Without those two, I’d be battling for fourth.
Wheeler is one of the most underappreciated players in the league. Despite a consistent history of producing, he dropped to the fourth round in most Yahoo leagues this year. Which is strange, considering he is always a sure bet to shoot the puck, stay healthy, pile up PIM, hit people, be on the top power play unit and get a decent number of blocked shots for a forward. In 2017, Wheeler had 86 points in 2017, tied for fourth highest in the league.
It’s not too often you get a player that consistently posts better numbers year after year. Look at some of the more relevant stats for Marchand the last four years:
2014-15: 77 games, 24 goals, 42 points, 0.55 points per game, 93 PIM, 180 shots, 2 power play points, 0:59 PP TOI, 16:52 TOI
2015-16: 77 games, 37 goals, 61 points, 0.79 points per game, 90 PIM, 250 shots, 8 power play points, 1:29 PP TOI, 18:36 TOI
2016-17: 80 games, 39 goals, 85 points, 1.06 points per game, 81 PIM, 226 shots, 24 power play points, 2:42 PP TOI, 19:27 TOI
2017-18: 74 games, 43 goals, 91 points, 1.23 points per game, 94 PIM, 188 shots, 28 power play points, 3:17 PP TOI, 20:32 TOI
It’s no coincidence that his overall numbers climbed as his ice time and power play time escalated. He’s basically become a top-10 pick. In 2017, he has 86 points, tied for fourth-highest. His 1.28 points per game is tied for second-highest, while his 44 goals were second highest.
It’s fair to say 2017 was almost the perfect year for Kucherov. He has a career total of 285 points, and 102 of them (about 35.8 per cent) has come in 2017. The 102 points is the highest in the league and while Connor McDavid has 100 points, the next closest has 87. He’s also the only player to score 50-plus goals in 2017. Kucherov is now one of the truly elite players in the game and is the perfect gift for fantasy general managers.
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