Top 10 Plus-Minus Players

by Tom Collins on June 20, 2016

 

The Top 10 reliable plus-minus players in the league today

 

The plus/minus. Has any statistic in any sport ever been so controversial? So many people seem to hate it for its simplicity, but that simplicity is what makes it useful in fantasy hockey. Despite a movement to get away from the stat, there are still plenty of leagues that use it. I am in five hockey pools that are not points only. Four of them have plus/minus as a category. But it's a stat that many poolies punt at draft time. It can fluctuate wildly from year to year. A bad goalie can severely impact a forward's plus-minus. Many believe it's just too difficult to predict.

But those people would be wrong. There is some predictability. There are some players that consistently have a high plus-minus year after year. Maybe you don't draft these guys based on this stat, but if two players are valued equally in every other aspect, it could be a good tie-breaker. The players listed below are sure things. We're not just looking at a season for this list. We're looking at years of data to determine who you can count on each season.

Here are the top 10 plus-minus players.

 

10. Chris Kunitz

Kunitz may seem like a strange addition to this list considering his steady decline as a fantasy option but the plus/minus numbers are still there as this year he led the Penguins with a plus-29. That's even more impressive when you remember that he was just a plus-one in the first 20 games of the year. He obviously benefits by playing regularly with Sidney Crosby but he's been at least a plus-25 in three of the last four years.

 

9. Marian Hossa

Much like Kunitz, Hossa's fantasy stock is quickly fading but you can still count on him when it comes to this category. Part of that has to do with the fact that he is so strong defensively. Another part has to do with the fact that he plays with Jonathan Toews. But Hossa's strong plus-minus is a good reason to have him rated a little higher in drafts this fall than other 50-point players.

 

8. Joe Pavelski

Pavelski never used to be that great a player in the plus-minus category until a few years ago. He was never higher than a plus-five in any season early in his career. But he's been in double digits in five of the last six years and had a career high plus-25 this season. Pavelski has always been a little underrated in fantasy hockey circles but his plus/minus is a big reason why he's so valuable.

 

7. Ryan McDonagh

McDonagh has been in the league for six seasons and he's never been below a plus-11. That's insanely good. And he just set a career high with a plus-26. Some of that has to do with Henrik Lundqvist. But then again, if simply playing in front of a good goalie guaranteed you a high plus-minus, we'd see some Montreal Canadiens on this list.

 

6. Patrice Bergeron

Although Bergeron's plus-minus has suffered a little bit in the past couple of years (and hence his lower ranking here), there was no doubt he would be on this list. He did have four straight seasons of plus-20 (including two of those seasons at plus-35 or better) and this year he was still a solid plus-12.

 

5. Johnny Boychuk

A little underrated in fantasy hockey circles, but Boychuk is as consistent a defenseman as one can be when it comes to plus-minus. Despite playing against the top opponents, Boychuk is routinely a plus-15 or better. He's the second-best defenseman overall for plus-minus in the past five years. And it doesn't matter where he plays. When he was in Boston, he was a consistent plus player. And the same is true with the Islanders.

 

4. Tyler Toffoli

For all the talk of Toffoli's offensive potential, people often forget how sound defensively he is. He gets a regular shift on the penalty kill and has seen his ice time rise every season. And so too has his plus-minus. He has been a plus-20 player in his three full seasons and actually led the entire league this year with a plus-35.

 

3. Sidney Crosby

This list just furthers the point on why Crosby is one of the best fantasy players out there. You would think this list would be littered with superstars, but that's not the case. Evgeni Malkin has only been a plus-15 once in the past seven years. Alexander Ovechkin had that horrific minus-35 season three years ago. John Tavares has never been in double digits. Erik Karlsson is regularly a minus-player. But Crosby has been at least a plus-15 player in four of the last four years.

 

2. Brad Marchand

Marchand is the only player in the league to have a plus-minus of at least plus-20 in four of the last five seasons. That's consistency and it's pretty impressive. In two of those seasons, he's actually topped plus-30. And in those five years, he's amassed an amazing plus-116 total, which is just one behind the guy who is number one on this list. He also led the Bruins this past season.

 

1. Jonathan Toews

It's always amazing that guys who play against the top opposition in the league can have such gaudy plus-minus numbers. But that's what happens when you can keep the opponents from scoring while able to consistently put up 60-70 points a year. Toews is the only player to have seven straight seasons of at least plus-15, and has been a plus-25 player four times in that span. Even if his off years like this year, he still manages to get a plus-16.