Unwrapping Six Underrated Performers

by Chris Liggio on December 22, 2017

 

Happy Holidays to all my North American counterparts! As I prepare to gorge myself on Christmas ham and knock back way too many Molson products let’s look at some fantasy assets that aren’t receiving the love they deserve for their contributions to both their actual real life squads and the fantasy teams where they’re rostered. Some of these names are more familiar and some have just come up on the radar in 2017-18 showing what they may be able to provide you the fantasy manager in years to come. If you have followed these writings throughout time you may know that I make it my job to give love to guys who really need more of it a la James van Riemsdyk.

 

Yanni Gourde

 

Honestly, I knew not a thing about Gourde prior to this season but boy do I love an undrafted success story anytime they arise. What is it with high scoring players in the QMJHL sometimes not being taken seriously? Anyone remember the 2006 draft when Bobby Clarke forgot Claude Giroux’s name at the podium? Here’s that for your viewing pleasure…

 

 

Getting back to Gourde, in his final two seasons with the Victoriaville Tigres he scored 192 points in 136 games played. 124 of those points alone came in 2011-12 in 68 games played! Though his scoring translation took a few seasons after the completion of his junior career, eventually while part of the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliated Syracuse Crunch he turned it on starting in 2014-15. With 149 points in 197 games played from 2014-17 in the AHL, Gourde seemingly had what it takes to be a difference maker in the NHL. Nine points in his first 22 games in the NHL across two seasons suggested his abilities but 2017-18 has been his coming out party with him currently on pace for a 25-goal, 58-point season. With four goals and three assists in his past seven games played Gourde’s scoring capabilities are seemingly once again translating at the highest level.

 

Now 26 years of age Gourde is well in his prime and can be viewed somewhat differently than your typical newbie to the league because of his age. More physically and mentally developed alongside playing on a stacked Lightning squad, Gourde is starting to look a lot like a Brayden Point story. Not receiving top line minutes nor primary power play time it is easy to forget about Gourde with the arsenal of weapons on this team. Because of said arsenal it is entirely reasonable to expect him to maintain his scoring pace as he will never see top defensive pairs that are matching up with the top two lines every time. Boasting a 0.69 point-per-game pace in the second quarter through 13 games if you’re in need of some forward assistance give this guy a go.

 

Micheal Ferland

 

Ferland is going to contend for the hockey “Cy Young” award with a paltry showing in the assist department but he is on pace for 31 goals and is not receiving the exposure he should cast in the shadow of his more pedigree linemates Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. A relative nobody before the current campaign he is already two goals away from his total 15 scored in 76 games played last season. Outside of goals Ferland also holds value in leagues counting hits with 60 total so far putting him on pace for 143 by season’s end. His five power-play points are all goals, but again if you are in a league that differentiates between power play goals and assists he is on pace for 12.

 

Ferland has been lined up with Monahan and Gaudreau 90.5% of the time this season by Glen Gulutzan. You really cannot have a more assured deployment in hockey, only Mike Babcock rivals that type of linemate consistency. There is no denying Ferland’s fantasy relevance would cascade off a cliff if removed from the top line but that percentage tells us it’s a rare occurrence. Seeing time on the second power play coupled with his even strength deployment makes Ferland an option that should be taken more seriously.

 

Mathieu Perreault

 

Had Perreault never gone down to injury early on in the season the outlook for the Winnipeg Jets might’ve been very different. Kyle Connor’s arrival/emergence directly correlates to Perreault’s injury with him being called up to fill the void. As most of us know Connor seized the opportunity afforded to him with top line and top power play duty. Kudos to him on cementing his place alongside Mark Schiefele and Blake Wheeler at even strength but what’s unfortunate is how everyone has seemingly forgotten about Perreault’s production both before and after his injury.

 

In 19 games since his return from injury Perreault has racked up eight goals and eight assists. Not once in this stretch has he so much as even sniffed top six deployment. Like many teams, beyond the top two lines there is a significant drop-off in offensive ability when it comes to the bottom six. Perreault is playing with the likes of Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia these days, two players nobody will ever confuse for offensive dynamos. Yet despite this undesirable deployment Perreault is one of the best if not the best pts/60 player in the league (4.0). In a nutshell he is by a landslide the best fourth line player in the game today. For any league where time on ice is not counted he is an absolute must own while he is producing in the manner he is. Even if time on ice has to be accounted for, at this point he is worth the hit in this category as he provides consistent offense and his current pace of 57 points in 69 games played barring injury is nothing to laugh about; that is serious production. Any and all who drafted him kind of sort of despise Kye Connor (yours truly) but at least Perreault is still finding a way to be relevant and then some.

 

Danton Heinen

 

Another young player a la Gourde who I did not know much anything about prior to this season, Heinen is giving Bruins fans some serious excitement for the future alongside their other young guns. At the tender age of 22 Heinen has been a jack of all trades for head coach Bruce Cassidy. Regardless of the line he has been rolled out on he has been able to maintain consistent production and currently is on pace for a 22-goal, 61-point campaign. Quite the stat line for someone who quintessentially only finds himself in the NHL currently because of the injury torrent for the Bruins early on. Nonetheless Heinen has made the most of his opportunity since his call up in mid-October and it’s time people start taking more notice.

 

Though his overall shooting percentage is high at 16%, even with some goal scoring regression he would still be on pace for impressive numbers by season’s end. Boasting an impressive 55.25 CF%            Heinen and Co. are really driving play when deployed on the ice. As stated earlier I am no expert on this kid but the numbers do not lie. Top six or bottom six this kid is producing solid offensive numbers so far throughout 28 games played and has every right to be rostered full-time. Once upon a time names like Daniel Paille were the face of the Bruins bottom-six but these days it looks like that is Heinen’s throne now.

 

Jake Muzzin

 

I feel everyone forgot about poor Jake Muzzin after a forgettable 2016-17 campaign. Two straight 40-point seasons in 2014-15/2015-16 were completely left in the rearview mirror after last year’s 28-point showing for Muzzin. But the past is the past and Muzzin the multi-cat beast is back in force. After four straight seasons with a PDO below 1000, 2017-18 sees him rocking a robust 1026 currently. Adversely his cf% is the lowest it’s been in several seasons but still remains above 50%. No stopping the production though as he has amassed 20 points in 35 games so far with 88 hits and 74 blocks. Pro-rate this over a full 82-game schedule and Muzzin is on pace for a seven goal, 46-point, 204-hit, 171-block season.

 

Riding shotgun with Drew Doughty a majority of the time at even strength and always together on the primary power play unit Muzzin is providing incredible value. Not one aspect of his stat line across all categories would negatively impact your squad and the best thing about him is that nobody talks about him. Forever in Doughty’s shadow he will never ever receive the love he should which makes him a desirable draft target year in and year out. Kudos to John Stevens for revitalizing this team’s offense all the while not abandoning their ability to prevent goals. It would certainly seem a regime change has reinvigorated this roster from the top down and Muzzin is prospering immensely.

 

Colin Miller

 

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers could only dream of the talent afforded to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in their expansion draft. Though nobody in their right mind could’ve ever anticipated the torrid start for them in their inaugural season there’s no doubt the pedigree of talent on this squad is far beyond the likes of expansion teams of the nineties. One of many players contributing to their success is Colin Miller on the back end. Miller possesses a booming slapshot, but his setup skills have been his primary source of points. On pace for a 12-goal, 47-point showing in 2017-18 this guy is providing barn burner value for someone who was not even drafted in a vast majority of 8 to 12-team leagues.

 

Though he does not receive top pair minutes on the blue line Miller is turning into a multi-cat asset as to go with his impressive points pace he is also on track for 65 PIM, 181 shots, 137 hits and 17 PPP. Miller starts 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone and his overall shooting percentage is of no cause for regression concerns sitting at 6.8% currently. Not to say the Golden Knights are ready to contend for a Stanley Cup but at this point in the season we have to at least somewhat buy into the notion that this team has the ability to give any team a run for its money any given night. With 19 points in 33 games played Miller’s playing his part in the success and should provide a steady source of points barring injury the rest of the way.