Leagues that count peripheral categories such as blocks, hits, penalty minutes, and faceoff percentage often require that teams search a bit harder for depth options. Players that score goals and dish assists are often already well-known based on traditional value, but players who contribute to peripheral categories traditionally lack fantasy value. Many such players are third and fourth line forwards or third pairing defensemen and will largely be the focus in the second installment of this column. That being the case, these players are not heavily owned in the bulk of fantasy leagues and as such no players in this column are owned in more than 24% of Fantrax leagues.
Now in his seventh season with Los Angeles, Clifford plays an enforcer role for the Kings, leading the team in PIM with 64 (15th in the NHL) and ranking third among LA forwards with 96 hits (38th for NHL forwards), while chipping in with 78 shots on goal. With five goals and five assists in 44 games, the 26 year-old Ontario native also contributes a bit to traditional league scoring totals from his usual fourth line-role in limited (10:58) minutes, as has been Clifford’s niche throughout his NHL tenure.
Second in Los Angeles with 122 hits (17th among NHL forwards), Lewis also contributes significant SOG totals (94 – 7th on the Kings) and, helped by frequently sharing a line with Kopitar and Gaborik, has achieved a career high 7.4% shot rate with seven goals and nine assists. Lewis offers some production in traditional categories having totaled 25 points two seasons ago, and with potential to reach that level this season as well. 2016-17 marks his ninth campaign with the Kings, where he has spent his entire NHL career.
Leading the Wild in PIM with 58 and tied for fourth in hits (55), the well-travelled Stewart has lent a measure of grit to Minnesota’s bottom six and contributed his goal scoring skills with 11 through 50 games. With a fantastic (but unstainable) shot rate of 21.2%, Stewart will likely regress toward his also respectable 13% average over his nine-year career. While his scoring totals may not come near those achieved earlier in his career, his value to the ascending Wild has been unmistakable.
Playing in just 35 of 50 Minnesota’s games, Folin serves as a final defenseman for the Wild that sees occasional healthy scratches, but has produced good numbers when active (40 blocks, tied with Stewart for fourth on the team with 55 hits, and a plus-8 rating). Available in 93% of Fantrax leagues, were the Minnesota defensive corps to suffer an injury or see one of its members dealt, Folin would stand to gain ample opportunities to pad his stats, particularly the stellar plus/minus numbers that characterize nearly all of the Wild roster.
Watson has been a welcome presence for the Predators in nearly every phase of play, and produced increasingly well in multi-category leagues. After his early season recall from AHL Milwaukee, Watson expanded his game and stepped into somewhat of an enforcer role, filling a need for Nashville. In this, his second year of significant NHL play, in ten fewer games he has surpassed last year’s career highs in PIM (up from 32 to a team-leading 60), hits (from 74 to 96), and needs just one more block to reach his 2015-16 mark of 45. His defense has also taken great strides, as his plus/minus of +11 shines compared to his 2015-16 rating of -4.
Matt Irwin – SOG/Hits/Blks/Plus Minus/TOI (19% owned Fantrax)
The 29 year-old defenseman is experiencing an unexpected resurgence with the Predators after playing just two NHL games (with Boston) last season. In addition to a team and career-high +17 rating (tied for 11th among NHL defensemen), Irwin has upped his game across the board. His 91 hits and 78 blocks are both also on pace to surpass previous career highs. His nearly 18 minutes of average ice-time are Irwin’s best since his early days with the Sharks, as he has been successfully paired at various junctures with Ekholm, Ellis, Weber, and Josi.
First among Sharks defensemen and third on the team in penalty minutes (37), leading the team by a wide margin in hits (123 – good for 13th among NHL rearguards), and chipping in with 51 blocks, Dillon has been a physical force on the San Jose blue line. While Dillon is seeing quite a bit less ice time (16:11) than his earlier averages with Dallas of over 20 minutes a game, he is still a valuable producer of peripheral stats in multi-category leagues. Part of a solid, dependable second-pairing with David Schlemko.
Micheal Haley – Hits/PIM (3% owned Fantrax)
While the 30-year old Haley has been slowed by injuries recently, there is no denying his 70 hits and 58 penalty minutes (25th in the league) can contribute to teams requiring a boost in such “tough guy” categories. For this he might be worth stashing on the bench for use when needed. The former Islander and Ranger has reached his career high in games played during the 2016-17 campaign with 31, and averages slightly more than eight minutes a game, so make sure you have roster space for a part-timer before adding him.
Patrik Berglund – Hits/SOG/FO% (19% owned Fantrax)
The steady Berglund, now with over 600 games in an NHL career entirely spent in a Blues uniform, provides a good variety of multi-category stats from his third-line center position. Second on St. Louis to Ryan Reaves in hits with 104, the 28-year old, nine-year vet also contributes on offense with 90 shots on goal, 11 goals and seven assists, and a 52% faceoff percentage. As an upcoming UFA, there have been recent rumors of a Berglund trade from St. Louis which, with their own recent coaching change to Mike Yeo, presents a variety of scenarios that could drive his fantasy value up or down.
Reaves is still a viable option in leagues that value hits and penalty minutes. Although he might not carry the impact he had earlier in his career when he achieved 120+ penalty minutes, and his 276 hits of two years ago, Reaves currently leads the Blues with 119 hits and 50 PIM including four majors in less than eight minutes of ice time per game. Like Haley, Reaves is another 30 year-old veteran that can chip in with hits help and penalty minutes in limited play.
Nikita Tryamkin – Hits/Blks/PIM (19% owned Fantrax)
Is this this, his rookie campaign, Tryamkin has been a find for those seeking hits, blocks, and a few penalty minutes. Leading the Canucks in hits with 101 (tied for 21st among NHL defensemen), fourth on the team in blocks with 51, and tied for the team lead in penalty minutes with 35, the 22 year-old Russian defenseman has provided grit to the Vancouver blue line while averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice time per game. Tryamkin’s final season in the KHL (2015-16) saw him total 71 PIM in 54 games, so there is potential for his total to rise in that category as his season and career progresses.
Frequently skating with Christopher Tanev on the Canucks’ second defensive pairing, Sbisa provides good production in a variety of peripheral categories. Sitting just behind Alexander Elder with 76, Sbisa ranks second on Vancouver in blocks, is also second behind Tryamkin in hits with 83, leads the team with a +8 rating, and adds 28 penalty minutes. Averaging 18:47 of ice time, the Italian-born blueliner gets scoring chances and has contributed with 10 assists.
Ranking just ahead of Big Buff, Lowry leads the Jets in hits with 132 (third among NHL centers) and has added 27 penalty minutes. In scoring seven goals and six assists, Lowry has taken 78 shots on goal while centering Winnipeg’s third line, and gets regular minutes on their second power play unit, adding three PP goals and an assist. In his fourth season with the Jets, Lowry’s ice time is at career high at 15:43 per game offering him greater chances to contribute.
Tobias Enstrom – Blks/PIM/TOI (15% owned Fantrax)
Enstrom ranks third on the Canucks in blocked shots with 77 (totaling eight in a recent contest against Dallas) and penalty minutes at 34, while averaging 22:42 of ice time per game, including 1:34 on the power play (with six power play assists) and 3:09 in shorthanded situations. While one might expect a bit more production offensively from the ten-year veteran of the Jets/Thrashers franchise, given the minutes, leagues that do reward ice time are particularly kind to Enstrom owners.
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