Top 10 Surprising Players of 2016

by Tom Collins on January 2, 2017

 

The Top 10 surprising players of 2016

 

The dawn of 2017 gives us a good chance to reflect on the fantasy breakthroughs that 2016 brought us.

The Frozen Pool feature found on this site has a great tool where you can sort by custom dates. Looking at the full 2016 year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31) brings us many surprises as it brings together parts of two seasons.

Looking at the numbers, Sidney Crosby is easily the top fantasy hockey player. He finished 13 points higher than the guy in second, was the only player to have 100 points in 2016 and had the top points-per-game average. And that’s only the regular season. Let’s not forget his excellent playoff run that culminated in him winning a Conn Smyth trophy.

Crosby is still the best option in fantasy. But there were 57 players that managed to get at least 55 points. Below is some of the more surprising players on the list. 

 

10. Mark Scheifele

Scheifele has been a phenomenon. Even though many knew the sky was the limit for the young Jets forward, no one knew he would be this good this fast. He finished 2016 with 72 points in 73 games. That’s 11th overall. He’s transformed into a serious candidate for a top-10 point finish every year.

 

9. Mikael Backlund

This was a huge surprise. Backlund has only ever cracked 40 points once in his career and has never hit the 50-point mark. And he’s not even on pace for 50 points this season. But he managed 55 points in 2016. Can he keep it up to become fantasy relevant on a consistent basis? That’s still up in the air, but he is getting some regular power play time on the second unit and has some good chemistry with Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk.

 

8. Cam Atkinson

I know Dobber has been a big believer in Atkinson for a while now. But I was still in disbelief until recently. But think back to the start of 2016. Did anyone really believe Atkinson would get 67 points over his next 78 games? That’s more than Alexander Ovechkin, Max Pacioretty, Johnny Gaudreau, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tyler Seguin and a host of other players. I never saw that coming.

 

7. Wayne Simmonds

Simmonds is quickly becoming a top fantasy option in multi-cat leagues. He hits, takes plenty of shots, plays on the top power play unit, racks up PIMs and has become a goal-scoring threat. Simmonds had 71 points in 2016. That places him in the 15th spot. But he scored 40 goals. That is the third highest, behind only Crosby and Ovechkin. And his 31 power play points in 2016 was second highest in the league, behind only teammate Brayden Schenn.

 

6. Jakob Silfverberg

We’ve been waiting for that great breakout from Silverberg ever since he broke in with the Ottawa Senators back in 2012. But he always seemed to disappoint fantasy GMs. But maybe 2016 was a good sign of things to come. Silf had 57 points. That gives him the same amount as Sean Monahan, Milan Lucic and Patric Hornqvist. It bodes well for the future considering he’s getting more ice time than ever before.

 

5. Bo Horvat

Fantasy-relevant players aren’t quite dead in Vancouver. While many Canucks are struggling (the Sedins, Loui Eriksson, Alexander Edler and a host of others), Horvat had quite a 2016. He hit the 55-point mark, the only Canuck to get that high. Henrik Sedin is the second-highest Canuck at 46 points. And Horvat has been doing it without a lot of power play time. You would think that would change. But he’s still not getting any extra power play time on a team with one of the worst power plays in the league.  

 

4. Derek Stepan

Can we start calling Stepan a top centre? The Rangers underappreciated forward had 70 points in 2016. That put him 16th in the league. And Stepan provided even more value in leagues that counted faceoffs, winning the 20th highest number of faceoffs. He’s never topped the 60-point mark in his any NHL season but is on pace for 63 points this season. And he’s riding the hot hand with nine points in his last six games.

 

3. Ryan Kesler

It wasn’t too long ago that we were all mocking Kesler’s six-year, $41.25-million contract. But if he performs like this for the majority of it, the contract will actually be worth it. Kesler had 72 points in 2016, tied for 11th in the NHL. Even better for those who own him in head-to-head leagues, Kesler had a point in 49 of his 81 games, tied for 11th most in the league. And none of these stats includes his hat trick from last night.

 

2. Victor Hedman

Hedman might be the most underappreciated dman in fantasy circles. While everyone talks about Shea Weber, P.K. Subban and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Hedman quietly picked up 62 points in 2016. That’s the fourth highest of all defensemen, trailing only Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Kris Letang. His 0.78 points-per-game was also the fourth highest of 2016, behind the same three guys. He’s really turned it on as of late with 14 points in his last nine games and is on pace for 71 points this season.

 

1. Phil Kessel

We can officially take Kessel off fantasy life support. Many poolies had given up on Kessel after a horrendous 2015. But the Penguin had 76 points in 83 games in 2016, tied for seventh overall. The biggest surprise is the goal to assist ratio. In the past, you would expect something like 45-30 line. But Kessel had just 27 goals in 2016 to go with 49 assists. And that doesn’t include the postseason when he led the Penguins in points.

 

Also see – The Top 25 Fantasy Hockey stories of 2016