A closer look at the fantasy potential of Jason Spezza, Phil Kessel, Mats Zuccarello, Jeff Carter and more …
For the past two seasons, I've created DraftKings and FanDuel dollar values, and while not perfect, they've proved to be a solid resource and comparison tool. Without giving out all the ingredients in the stew, the salaries were formulated with a combination of approximately 15 statistics.
Two quick notes, rate statistics and yearly totals are both counted with scoring being weighted heavily. Ice time is also a critical statistic because you want your players on the ice in daily contests.
Finally, these rankings/salaries are as of April 4 and don't include the final game or two of the season.
Here are some forwards that stuck out and could be undervalued entering 2016-17.
Viewing Spezza as a low-end No. 1 center is advised. He has three consecutive 60-point, 200-shot seasons and is attached to an elite offense. Spezza has also notched 26 and 24 power-play points over the past two years, respectively.
What's most interesting about his high standing in both sets of salaries is Spezza only averaged 16:31 per game last season. Still, among players with at least 1000 minutes, he ranked ninth in points per 60 minutes with 3.05.
Typically age and negative regression would be of concern, but because he's already perceived as the No. 2 center for Dallas on top of those issues, this is the high-floor pick that is underappreciated. Spezza is boring and safe, and he's potentially a league winner. If he falls too far.
As one of just four players with at least 270 shots in each of the past three years, it's Kessel's shot volume that maintained his fantasy value more than anything until his strong finish. Had he returned his 10.9 shooting percentage through six seasons with Toronto over his 274 shots with Pittsburgh he would have been much closer to 30 goals (29.8).
Those numbers from January 1 through the end of the playoffs are elite, and it includes the postseason, which is typically lower scoring. Even if you project Kessel to produce between his horrid calendar year of 2015 and 2016, it's a nice fantasy asset.
It's hard to say just how much of a bargain Kessel will prove to be. But after half a season of poor results, he still moved the needle in the rankings/salaries. A full year with excellent offensive numbers and 300 shots with a plus-rating would return him to being a top-tier winger.
Firstly, if Carter boasts winger eligibility, it's a huge boon to his fantasy stock. He's returned 62 points in consecutive seasons and also posted an excellent plus-18 with 242 shots last year. Carter was one of just five players to post 60 points with 240 shots and a plus-15 rating during the 2015-16 season.
The Kings are moving in the wrong direction, but Carter is still a legit scorer at five-on-five with a 14th-ranked 2.17 points per 60 minutes over the past two years among skaters with at least 2000 minutes. In fact, with just 14 goals and 13 assists with the man advantage over the past two years, there is room for growth in that department.
Additionally, Carter's role and assignment shouldn't change drastically, and playing with Tyler Toffoli has proven success, as they've combined for 3.15 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five over the past two seasons. Another safe option with a high floor, but with just a slight boost in power-play production, Carter could take a run at 65 points.
After scoring 59 points in 2013-14, Zuccarello dropped to just 49 the following season before tallying 61 last year. The only difference was the Norwegian's power-play production. During the 2014-15 season, he had just six PP assists and averaged only 2:09 per game.
Additionally, while the plus/minus dropped last year, he chips in across the other categories enough to be more than just a scorer. But the key to his fantasy value remains picking up points with the man advantage.
Over the past three years, Zuccarello sits with a 17th-ranked 2.08 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five among skaters with at least 3000 minutes. That's impressive and bordering on elite production, yet he's likely going to be available well into the middle rounds of drafts.
It's a smaller sample size for Spooner, but he posted a 70th-ranked 1.91 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five since the 2013-14 season among skaters with 1000 minutes, including a 2.01 mark last year, which ranked 46th among skaters with 500 minutes. Not bad for a power-play specialist.
Spooner scored 17 power-play points, and his 4.35 points per 60 minutes with the man advantage ranked 64th in the league and fourth on the Bruins among skaters with 200 minutes. He's ready for a top-six role and 50 points are a lock with that gig.
Spooner isn't going to be drafted in a lot of formats, so he's a nice late-round target with a solid floor.
A few notes from around the league:
Vladimir Sobotka is set to return to the Blues. He's a nice player who can suffice for stretches in a scoring role but is best suited for bottom-six duty. In fact, he's an excellent possession player who adds a physical element suited for the playoffs.
Don't waste a pick in seasonal leagues, but should St. Louis reposition themselves for another strong spring run, Sobotka could be a flier in playoff pools. Expect a run at 35 points with solid peripherals.
Kris Russell is still waiting for a contract. His asking price is a little rich, and he likely will have to settle for a deal more in line with his abilities. Despite being an overvalued player in the real game, there is no denying how valuable he is in leagues counting blocked shots.
He's the only player with over 200 blocks in each of the past three seasons, so when you add his decent offensive contributions, Russell maintains enough fantasy value to move the needle in most settings. He needs steady power-play work to be a universal asset, though.
Slater Koekkoek might not make much noise early this season, but it's hard to envision him not being a solid fantasy asset before the end of 2016-17. While he's going to be a victim of the numbers game and be brought along with kid gloves, talent wins out on winning teams, and Tampa Bay's window for winning is now.
Unfortunately, he's not going to be fantasy relevant in the majority of setups initially. He's a name to watch and should injuries strike, he should be the first one to climb into the fold. Then, it's just a matter of proving he belongs. He's done it before, too.
I'm back for another Ramblings tomorrow. Is there anything specific you'd like to see? I'm happy to tackle questions, strategies, anything hockey related.
Catch you tomorrow, Dobberheads.
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