Eastern Edge looks into the fantasy MVPs from this season at each position
With the regular season complete this is a good time to look back at the overall campaign from a fantasy perspective. In this article, we cover the most impactful fantasy players at each position and honorable mentions in the Eastern Conference, along with what might be in store for each of them moving forward. In order to accommodate the many different types of leagues out there, this will factor both points-only and multi-category leagues as we try to assess who stood out the most across the board. Of course, points will carry the most weight here as they are a factor in all leagues.
As for position eligibility, this article will not follow the lead of providers like Yahoo who are way too generous handing players extra positions. Instead, a judgment call will be made for each player to be assigned a single position.
Note: The MVP(s) at each position are in gold, while honorable mentions are in silver.
Also, check out last week’s edition covering good value picks and red flags in playoff drafts.
Sidney Crosby – Crosby’s spot near the top of the scoring race is no surprise but his goal-scoring output certainly was not expected. Along with the increase in goals, Crosby only posted a small increase in shots over the past couple years indicating the goals will likely come back down closer to his normal total next year. While he ranks among the best in faceoff wins, he has been under the 50-percent mark in efficiency in two of the past three years, a trend that could hurt his value a bit among the league’s elite in some multi-category leagues. With that said, he will rank close to the top in any format and there is no sign of Crosby slowing down anytime soon.
Nicklas Backstrom – Backstrom’s 86 points are his highest mark since 2010 when he posted 101 points. Oddly enough he did this while logging an average of 18:16 per game, down from last year’s 19:11 and 20:32 from two years ago. Despite not being known for big peripheral contributions, he offers a decent balance which does not take away from his overall fantasy value. In the future, his value will remain high even if he regresses next year because his name does not carry the same hype as other top centers. He can usually be drafted a bit later despite his history of finishing in the point-per-game range consistently.
Brad Marchand – Marchand’s rise to the top of the league after being more of a secondary scorer for many years has been remarkable. He has now pushed the 40-goal mark in consecutive campaigns and has become a fixture on the power play for the first time in his career. Once again, we find ourselves questioning how long he can keep this up but for the time being he is one of the top scoring wingers in the game, and he is as dangerous as Jamie Benn in multi-category. The biggest risk with Marchand is his tendency to be under the microscope for suspensions which can become a big factor in head-to-head leagues.
Alex Ovechkin – Ovechkin’s 33 goals and 69 points were his lowest over a full campaign since before the last lockout. The main culprit has been a reduction in ice time as the Capitals are focusing on being ready for a deep playoff run. As a result shot total has dropped by nearly 100. Unless his ice time returns to its normal level in the future Ovechkin’s upside will be more limited than ever. That said, he is still one of the best point-producers in the league and remains a beast in multi-category leagues. He is just slowly dropping down the rankings among the league’s elite.
Nikita Kucherov – In his fourth year, Kucherov took the step to the league’s elite level, besting his previous high of 66 points by almost 20. Along with an increase in average ice time to 19:25 this year came improvements in just about every category. Be careful not to over-invest in him next year though. His shooting percentage is rather high and the return of Steven Stamkos might take some points away. There are only so many points to go around and Stamkos is obviously a focal point of the Lightning offense. Draft Kucherov high but stick to the more proven options first.
David Pastrnak – The 20-year-old Pastrnak took a major step forward in his first full NHL campaign. He caught fire on the Bruins’ top line with Marchand and posted career-highs across the board. He is in a great spot moving forward. He is the undisputed top right-winger in Boston which gives him the best chance at a spot on the top line and on the top power-play unit. Even when the Bruins shuffle their lines he would likely end up being paired with David Krejci, who has a long history producing in the NHL.
Victor Hedman – Like Kucherov, Hedman had a career year in which he crushed his previous high of 55 points. The main reason for the point increase is his massive improvement in power-play output where his 33 points marked a significant jump over the 14 points he set back in 2014. There could be some hiccups next year when Stamkos returns because Hedman being left-handed often left him on the second power-play unit while the team build its top unit around Stamkos’ big shot. Having said that, they will likely find a way to feature Hedman next year as he is too good to be cast in a lesser role.
Erik Karlsson – Karlsson capped off another great year with his fourth campaign of 70 points or more, along with his fifth year scoring 16 goals or more. In addition, he has become an elite shot-blocker where his 201 ranked second in the league. This makes him extremely valuable in multi-category leagues where you need blocks in large numbers from your defenders. It is worth noting the five games Karlsson missed this year were the first since his Achilles tendon injury back in 2013. He had gone three straight campaigns playing all 82 games. His durability is an underrated asset further boosting his fantasy value.
Shea Weber – Weber’s 42 points do not jump out but his contributions across the board put him among the elite in most multi-category setups. He is very goal-heavy for a defenseman and also contributes a lot of shots, hits, blocks and power-play points. Also, his plus-20 rating ranks among the league’s best. The biggest drawback with Weber is the point totals which are not as high as his name value would suggest – he has only topped 50 three times meaning he is far from a shoe-in to post great overall offense.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Bobrosvky should come away with the Vezina trophy this year being the only key goalie with a save percentage greater than .926. This is important in roto leagues because the high save percentage makes it less risky to turn to your other goalies without potentially sacrificing this category. Bobrovsky gave owners a nice safety net. Beyond that, all of his other numbers are on par with the league’s elite goalies. He is a bit of a risk next year due to his injury-proneness and also due to his team not being proven as a top-level club. Keep that in mind on draft day.
Braden Holtby – Unlike Bobrovsky, Holtby has been playing at this level consistently with three straight 40-win campaigns and a save percentage of .922 or better in each. This year he posted a league-leading 42 wins, and also led the league with nine shutouts. He is also a fairly safe bet moving forward given the Capitals have developed a great team chemistry and should be able to overcome any summer departures. No goalie in the league is safer to continue accumulating wins along with great peripheral stats than Holtby.
More Eastern Edge
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- Ramblings: Zibanejad Signing, Players Who May Have Jumped the Shark (July 26)