Geek of the Week: Red-Flag Left Wings that are Worth the Risk

by Ben Burnett on September 15, 2019


In bangers leagues, there are generally different philosophies and approaches for drafting forwards and defensemen. On defense, there are only about 30 players who can be counted on to hit 40 points in a season. But there are plenty who can give you value in other categories, like hits, blocks, and penalty minutes. Those are the players I recommended in last week’s Geek of the Week column.

This week I’m writing about left wingers who can produce peripherally. Though the principal is the same, and we are mainly looking for players who are underrated relative to the multi-category value they offer, there is an interesting through-line about each of these players.

While the defensemen we recommended are all underrated because of their safe floor, the left wingers on this list aren’t really “safe” in the same way. In fact, they each seem to have question marks that leave them undrafted far too long in most leagues. So this week, we’re looking at left wings who are worth a draft pick, despite the risk that is associated with the player.

Evander Kane

Yahoo ADP 125th, 30th left wing
FHG rank 12th, 2nd left wing

Banger league owners have long known Kane as a budget Alex Ovechkin. Unfortunately, unlike Ovi, Kane’s struggled to stay healthy for much of his career. It wasn’t until 2017-18 that he was able to string together more than 74 games played in a season. Now he’s coming off back to back years of 75+ games, and his status as a peripheral monster is unquestioned.

While health is one question for Kane, a lack of PP1 ice time is the other. He’s unlikely to crack the San Jose Sharks’ top unit in 2019. But the bright side is other poolies tend to underrate Kane as a result of his diminished deployment, and he doesn’t need to break 65-70 points to be incredibly valuable. Last year, Kane led the league in penalty minutes with 153, his second campaign topping 100 PIM in the last three years. He’s seventh in the league in cumulative shots over the past three seasons, and his 173 hits last year makes him the 30th-ranked hitter among forwards in 2019.

For peripherals, there isn’t a better winger than Kane available in your draft after Ovechkin. At this point, Kane’s ability to stay healthy over the past two seasons means you have to at least fade the possibility that he gets injured, or risk missing out on a player who can give you across the board category coverage. This is the year to take your shot on the Kaneaissance. He should be selected by the sixth round in most bangers’ leagues.

Brady Tkachuk

Yahoo Average Draft Position 152, 35th left wing off the board
Fantasy Hockey Geek rank 69, 11th left wing

Tkachuk could put up a disappointing 40-point year and still pay off for you at his ADP. If we prorate his peripherals from last season to a full 82 games, the younger Tkachuk was on pace for 247 shots, 201 hits, and 87 penalty minutes. Guess how many players broke 200 shots, 200 hits, and 80 penalty minutes last year? None! (Though another name further down this list came close.)

The question facing Tkachuk owners is what exactly his offensive ceiling can be on the 2019-20 Ottawa Senators. In his last 20 games of 2018-19, Tkachuk put up 14 points while playing primarily with Brian Gibbons and Colin White at even strength. Those numbers (a 57-point pace) are excellent for a draft year + 1 rookie playing in the NHL, and are great for a player with elite-level banger category coverage.

Those numbers do carry the caveat of a small sample size, and Tkachuk’s floor as a second-year player without a proven offensive threat anywhere else on the roster will be enough to put some poolies off. But we’d expect White and Tkachuk to start the season as the Sens’ de facto L1, and whether or not they can put up 50+, Tkachuk will be one of this year’s biggest steals in peripheral-heavy leagues.

Anders Lee

Yahoo ADP 149, 33rd left wing
FHG rank 116, 20th left wing

Over John Tavares’ last two years in Long Island, Lee was tied with Patrik Laine and Brad Marchand for seventh-most even-strength goals in the NHL (51), and tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for ninth-best even strength goals/60 (1.37 goals for every 60 minutes played). Last year, Lee’s first away from Tavares, his scoring fell to 84th in even-strength goals (18) and 121st in goals/60 (.93).

Lee’s best goal scoring and power-play production likely isn’t coming back without Tavares, but all of that uncertainty is still baked into his ADP. Despite the dropoff in his goal scoring and power-play production, Lee maintained the peripheral numbers that made him a multi-cat stud two years ago. In 2019-20 he’s probably more of a weekly contributor than a possible matchup-winner. But at this spot in the draft, he is inarguably underrated, as he provides serviceable numbers in all categories. And hey, there are worse bets on upside than the player on a 22-year-old Mat Barzal’s wing.

More quick hits:

If you were playing along on the Tkachuk stat trivia, Blake Coleman (ADP 172, FHG rank 138) is the forward who came closest to putting up an 80+ penalty minutes, 200+ shots, and 200+ hits season. Coleman scored 22 goals on 213 shots, mashing 225 hits, and 71 PIM in 78 games. He won’t help you with power-play points, but if you play in a league that counts shorthanded points, he’s tied for fifth in that category over the past two years.

Boone Jenner’s (ADP 171, FHG rank 112) goal-scoring rates have cratered since his 30-goal year in 2016, but Jenner remains one of the better plays for forward peripheral help. Over the past two years, Jenner is second in blocks (with 153) and 15th in the league in hits (363) among forwards. His low point ceiling makes him a play in deeper leagues, but he still pays off value at his very low ADP.

A few names I'm looking at in deeper leagues:

A few players who aren’t ranked on Yahoo’s ADP that I’m stacking in my draft queue / watch list: Nick Ritchie, and a pair of names if Bill Peters’ weird threat to play Elias Lindholm at C proves true: Sam Bennett, and if you can plug your nose and bear it I don’t mind grabbing Milan Lucic for hits and penalty minutes if your league is deep enough.

Thanks for reading the column, folks. Next week I’ll take a look at right wings to target in your draft. If you’d like to follow me on Twitter check out my account @avgtimeonice.