Here are 10 Western Conference depth players to consider in deeper leagues
A lot of the stronger depth plays in the West this year are better known players such as Mike Fish and Craig Smith in Nashville or Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter in Minnesota. This year focuses a lot more on multi-category contributors than last year’s column of the same focus. This year also includes a couple players whose usage suggests that their production should pick up, making them decent bets for down the road. Quality depth, or making the right depth bets, can make or break a season. It is especially true in deeper leagues as the deeper the roster the more important depth becomes they account for a higher percentage of the team’s total scoring.
Vermette is a sneaky good all-round contributor averaging half a point per game, as well as a penalty minute per game, a hit per game and a block per game. He has gone cold lately with only one point in his last eight games but other than a slightly high on-ice shooting percentage nothing stands out as being especially unsustainable. The high on-ice shooting percentage is counter-balanced by his relatively low involvement in the offense when he is on the ice, he has currently been involved in 50% the offense when he is on the ice (IPP). Vermette is even more interesting because he is getting 33% of the Ducks’ available ice time. Decent power play time combined with a spot on the second line with Rickard Rakell means that a 40-point season with solid contributions in the peripheral categories is within reach.
McGinn is another guy who brings some nice multi-category value. On pace for just under 40 for the season he is also averaging nearly two hits and nearly two shots as well as being on pace for 50 penalty minutes. McGinn is currently scoring on 13% of his shots, which is high, but he has not had a shooting percentage under 11 percent in any of the last three years. It is slightly worrisome that his percentage of the Coyotes’ power play time has dropped to under 25% the last three games. A potential plus is that with the injury to Brad Richardson and the recall of Christian Dvorak it looks like he could end up with Dvorak as his center and as such more favorable usage.
Michael Ferland – Calgary (18% owned Fantrax)
Whereas Vermette and McGinn are more points-based depth that can also provide some help in other categories Ferland is a guy who provides nice peripherals with enough points to make him more than just a goon. He is on a 32 point pace this season to go with his projected nearly 200 hits. Last year there were only 12 players to put up 30 or more points along with 200 hits. Ferland, however will be in tough to keep producing at a 30-point pace with the Flames’ injuries. Over the last three games his most common linemates have been Freddie Hamilton and Garnet Hathaway and as such his ice time has slipped under 10 minutes in three of the last four games, which makes sense as they only average 1.2 goals for every 60 minutes played.
Bourque is another guy who contributes in every area especially when he is playing 15 minutes per game as he has been this year, while getting 30% of the available power play time. Bourque’s spot in the lineup seems pretty safe as in an Avalanche lineup that has been consistently jumbled he has played more than half of his minutes with Carl Soderberg, which suggests that Jared Bednar has found at least one combination that he likes even though they have not scored much when out together. That explains Bourque’s dichotomy between hi on ice and personal shooting percentages.
Korpikoski is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Stars’ injury woes. Over the last three games he has most commonly been playing with Radek Faksa and Jamie Benn. That plum spot in the lineup is being balanced by a severe lack of power play time. Korpikoski is not a great long-term bet as he is an injury replacement but he makes a decent option for as long as he is playing alongside Jamie Benn. He has made the most of his current opportunity with the Stars by riding the percentages with a PDO of 104.6, an on-ice shooting percentage of 10% and a shooting percentage of 13.8%. Only once in the previous four seasons has he had a shooting percentage over 10%, which makes this current hot streak unlikely to be a season long phenomenon. In fact his luck may already have run out as has only two points in his last 10 games.
In his first two seasons in the NHL Lowry played got 10.4% and 3.5% of available power play time for the Jets, that has jumped to 41.2% this year. That is not just a side effect of Mathieu Perreault’s injury as he has been getting an abundance of power play time all year. Lowry has not yet made good on his power play time but the potential is there for him to become something of a multi-category beast. He is currently on pace for 200 hits, 65 penalty minutes and 50 blocks, a level only 10 players reached last season, and he should be able to join the 30+ point/200 hit club this season. Add his career high shot rate and Lowry makes for a nice depth play in multi-category leagues.
Josh Manson – Anaheim (19% owned Fantrax)
Manson is on pace for 200 hits and 160 penalty minutes, not to mention 70 blocks. Only two players last year managed 160 penalty minutes and 200+ hits, but no one combined that with 70 blocks. Only three players last year managed more than 200 hits as well as more than 100 blocks and penalty minutes. That is some serious multi-category value as were Manson to maintain his current 22-point pace he would provide value of which very few others are able. Manson does not play a game that has any value in anything other than multi-category leagues but otherwise he now must be considered in the vein as Radko Gudas and Mark Borowiecki.
Despite getting just over a minute of power play time per game Wiercioch is on pace for just under 40 this season. He is playing almost half the time with Tyson Barrie and seemingly stealing all Barrie’s points as Wiercioch has been involved in 77.8% of the offense when he is on the ice. Someone needs to learn how to share. That is problematic as it is rare for a defenseman to be over 40% when not a stud defenseman. The problem is that if his IPP were to be halved he be stuck at a 19-point pace over the last 60 games. A reduced point rate is especially likely as half his current points are secondary assists. Barrie’s numbers have been disastrous without Wiercioch as the Avs score twice as many goals when they play together than when they do not, so expect Wiercioch to play more with Barrie as the season goes on, which should help to minimize the impact of Wiercioch’s IPP regressing.
Derek Forbort – Los Angeles (24% owned Fantrax)
Forbort finally looks to have cracked the Kings roster full time after the false start that last season turned out to be. Recently he has been playing most commonly with Drew Doughty which is a definite step up but that appears to be a result of Braden McNabb’s injury. Forbort does not do anything offensively as he has five points on the season in very limited offensive minutes and almost no power play time. His overall minutes have spiked since the McNabb injury as he has played more than 20 minutes in five of the last six games. With the extra minutes his peripheral contributions have spiked as well with 25 hits and 29 blocks in the last 10 games. That is a rate that would see him break 200 in both hits and blocks over a full season. Even if he goes backed to his reduced minutes when McNabb returns he should still be good for two hits and blocks per game, meaning he would provide good peripheral value but any offensive value that has come with his time Doughty would disappear.
Schlemko’s offensive numbers are not that impressive at the moment but it would odd if they were with an on-ice shooting percentage under six and no goals on 33 shots. His current shot rate would have put just outside the top 60 defensemen for shots on goal. Should he continue at that pace it would be very rare for him not to score at least five goals this year as only six of those 60 defensemen failed to score five goals last year. Everything points to Schlemko being able to avoid that fate as he currently at a four year high for expected goals per 60 minutes and a four year low for average shot distance. His point pace should pick up significantly, even double, as his percentages round back into his favour.
Statistics for this week’s column come from Dobberhockey.com, Corsica.hockey and stats.hockeyanalysis.com
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