While most fantasy hockey leagues are based solely on points, you can find leagues that will use almost any statistical category.
Years ago, I was in a league that not only counted shootout goals, it also included shootout-winning goals. Which is just insane when you consider that at the time, the league decided the person that scored the final goal was the shootout winner. So if a team won 2-0 in a shootout, that second goal was considered the winner if it prevented the other team from taking its third shot.
Frozen Tools has a fantasy section that is also useful when it comes to looking at skater on pace stats, which can be sorted by any category. While it’s still relatively early in the NHL season, it’s a useful tool to seeing a list of players that are on pace to lead in certain categories, everything from goals and assists to first goals of the game and missed shots.
To come to the on-pace number, the web site assumes every player will play every game from here on out. Which is great when evaluating players, but not so much netminders. NHL.com projects 27 netminders to get at least 40 wins, for example.
Below you’ll find 10 players and their impact on various statistical categories that you might include in your fantasy leagues. Remember that we are still early in the season that has seen a significant increase goal scoring so far, so the odds of some of the on-pace projections that would set a new record have plenty of time to regress.
10. Michael Grabner, shorthanded goals
There’s no doubt that Coyotes players would lead the on-pace projection for shorthanded goals. Arizona has scored 10 shorties. By comparison, they’ve only scored nine power-play goals. Grabner leads the way with four shorthanded tallies, and is on pace for 17. Only four players in NHL history have scored at least 10 shorthanded goals in a season (Mario Lemieux has done it twice and has the record with 13, Wayne Gretzky has also done it twice and Marcel Dionne and Dirk Graham have each done it once).
9. William Carrier, Hits
There are two players on pace for at least 300 hits (minimum 10 games played), but Carrier is easily leading the way. He had 96 hits in 20 games and was on pace for 394 hits going into last night’s game. The NHL record is 382, set by Matt Martin in 2014-15. Carrier has at least two hits in every game, and has recorded at least seven hits on six occasions, helping many fantasy general managers in weekly leagues that count hits.
8. Ian Cole, blocked shots
Cole doesn’t have much fantasy relevance in most leagues, but there is still plenty of value in leagues that have certain categories. Only four players are on pace for 250 blocked shots. Cole is the only one also on pace for at least 100 penalty minutes and 100 hits. In total, he is on pace for 147 PIM, 108 hits and 259 blocked shots. If your league counts those three categories, Cole is a must-own.
7. Brad Marchand, PIM
Marchand is well-known for skirting a line, but this year he seems to have crossed that line too often during games. He is on pace for 271 PIM, easily the tops among players that have played at least 10 games. Only three other players are even on pace for 150 PIM, and those other guys (Mark Borowiecki, Zack Kassian and Cody McLeod) aren’t that fantasy relevant. Marchand has recorded at least 14 PIM in three games this season.
6. Phil Kessel, point pairs
There has been a lot of talk about which team has the best line: Boston or Colorado. Lost in the debate is Pittsburgh’s duo of Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. The two have both picked up a point on 18 of Pittsburgh’s 60 goals (30 per cent of the team’s goals). Both numbers trail only Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Remember a few months ago when speculation was rampant that Kessel was going to be traded? He’s now on pace for 41 goals and 105 points, both of which would be career highs. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Kessel has 185 points, eighth-best in the NHL over that time.
5. Jonathan Marchessault, shots
There are 15 players on pace for at least 300 shots (minimum 10 games) going into last night’s games. While there are lots of familiar names on that list (Alexander Ovechkin, Tyler Seguin, David Pastrnak and Evander Kane), Marchessault is probably the biggest surprise. He was on pace for 340 shots, which would be third-highest. That’s an amazing 4.15 shots per game (the seventh-highest rate in the last six years) and much higher than his 3.48 shots per game a year ago.
4. Joe Pavelski, goals
There were 14 players on pace for 50 goals before last night’s games. One of the more surprising would have to be the 34-year-old Joe Pavelski, who has seen declining goal totals the last several years, culminating in 22 goals last season. This year, he’s more than halfway to that total already with 13 goals in 21 games. He’s shooting a career-high 21.3 per cent, and it is also interesting to note that he only has three assists. You have to expect regression on both stats.
3. David Pastrnak, power-play goals
Pastrnak is on pace for 33 power-play goals, highest in the league (Patrik Laine is just behind with 32, but no one else is higher than 27). This is pretty special territory. Only four players have ever scored at least 30 power-play goals in one season (Tim Kerr had 34, Dave Andreychuk had 32, Mario Lemieux twice hit 31 and Joe Nieuwendyk also potted 31 power-play goals). There’s a reason no NHLer has scored 30 power-play goals in 25 years. It’s difficult for teams to have consistent power plays all season nowadays.
2. Pekka Rinne, GAA
Rinne is one of two goalies (minimum eight games played) that has a goals against average of below 2.00 (David Rittich is the other one). No goalie has played at least half of their team’s games and finished below 2.00 since Carey Price did it in 2014-15. Not only does Rinne lead the league with a 1.67 GAA, but he’s also easily kept his hold on the number one job with Saros’ struggles this year. It’s also remarkable to mention that Rinne also leads the league with a .943 SV %. By the way, Jacques Plante is the only goalie in NHL history to play at least 40 games and finish with a GAA below 2 and a save percentage above .940.
1. Mikko Rantanen, points
Going into last night’s games, there were 14 players on pace for 100-plus points, with Rantanen leading the way with 125. It wouldn’t be fair to say this is coming out party after last year’s 84 points, but this is the year the 22-year-old is being considered elite in fantasy hockey pools. Maybe a bit more unbelievable is that he is doing this without power play production as only 21 per cent of his points have come with the man advantage (six of 29) before Sunday night’s tilt.
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