Many fantasy general managers are gearing up for next season now that the playoffs are officially over and the NHL will have its draft, expansion draft, and free agency within the next few weeks.
Many fantasy leagues stop trading during the playoffs and others will soon start their own draft.
Even as we look to the future, this is also a good time to take a quick breather to reflect on the past year. There were many stories that not only impacted this past season, but will impact future seasons as well.
Here are the top 10 fantasy hockey stories from this past year.
10. No more goons
PIM are still declining at an alarming rate for poolies who love that stat. Mark Borowiecki’ 154 PIM led the league and he was the only player to get to 150 PIM. This is the first non-lockout season since 1966-67 that only one player reached 150 PIM in a season. More and more leagues are moving away from PIM as a stat (although my theory is that it should count as a negative, similar to plus-minus).
9. No NHLers at the Olympics
It may seem like this won’t affect your fantasy squad until next year, but it may already be having an impact. Say you own Alexander Ovechkin and want to trade him. Ovi’s already declared that he’s playing at the Olympics and has the blessing of his team owner. What can you expect to get for Ovi in a trade considering he could miss three weeks of the season? On top of that, how much pressure will there be for NHL free agents to sign in the KHL for next season to play in Olympics.
Even though the expansion draft doesn’t happen for another nine days, it’s already impacting many fantasy leagues. Some fantasy leagues are expanding to 31 teams to better emulate the NHL. And that’s an extra 23 NHL players for you to consider for your fantasy squad. Plus what happens when a player on your fantasy squad gets traded to/selected by the Knights? Does their value decrease because Vegas is expected to be a bad team or can you sell other GMs on the fact there won’t be as much competition for ice time?
7. The rise (and fall) of Sheary and Guentzel
I touched upon both of these guys in last week’s top 10. The Penguins are always looking for the next — and cheap, if possible — wingers to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. So are fantasy owners. We’ve seen the last several years the likes of Beau Bennett, Bryan Rust, Mike Comrie, etc. all get their shot. This season was Conor Sheary’s and Jake Guentzel’s turn. Sheary had a great regular season with 53 points in 61 games before failing in the postseason and eventually becoming a healthy scratch. Jake Guentzel had early chemistry with Malkin before going to Crosby’s line. It’s too early to tell if these guys stick in a top-six role, especially in Sheary’s case, but they’ll certainly be high on draft lists this fall.
6. The fantasy albatross of the Avalanche
Colorado is the place where high fantasy projections go to die. Only one player (Mikko Rantanen) got to the 20-goal mark. Only two players had at least 40 points (Nathan MacKinnon had 53 and Matt Duchene had 41). No Av that played at least 50 games had a plus-minus better than minus-10 (nine players were a minus-20 or worse). Only three players had 10 power play points and no one more than 12. It was just an awful year for Colorado and their fantasy owners.
5. Revitalized goalies
This past season proved there’s no such thing as a finished goalie. Before this season, Peter Budaj had played one NHL game since the middle of the 2013-14 campaign. Jonathan Quick was injured in the first game of the season and Budaj played excellently after being called up from the AHL. Budaj started 51 games with the Kings and won 27 of them. After a trade to Tampa, Budaj finished with 30 wins, seven shutouts, a 2.18 GAA and a .915 SV %. Mike Condon started the year in Pittsburgh before being traded to Ottawa for a fifth-round pick. He started 38 games, and finished with 19 wins, five shutouts, a 2.50 GAA and a .914 SV %.
4. No 50-goal scorers
Sidney Crosby led the way with 44 goals. Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov were the only other two players to reach the 40-goal mark. This was the first non-lockout year since 2004 lockout to not feature a 50-goal scorer. But this was something that we all should have seen coming. The only player since 2012-13 to score 50 goals was Alexander Ovechkin. He couldn’t pot 50 goals forever.
3. Bobrovsky’s dominance
No one could say they predicted this. Sergei Bobrovsky was drafted, on average, in the 12th round in Yahoo pools last fall. He was the 23rd goalie chosen on average, behind guys like Brian Elliott, Petr Mrazek, Jaroslav Halak, and Roberto Luongo. Bob finished with 41 wins (one off the league lead), seven shutouts (two off the league lead), and led the NHL in both save percentage (.931 SV %) and goals against average (2.06).
2. Rave reviews for rookies
When was the last time we saw a rookie class like this? Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine both hit the 35-goal mark. No other rookie has scored that many goals since Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in 2005-06. Four rookies hit 60 points, the first time that has happened since 1992-93. Eight rookies hit 40 points. And none of the rookies in those lists include Brady Skjei, Mikko Rantanen, Jake Guentzel, or Ivan Provorov. And of course, there was Matthew Murray, who won 32 games as a rookie (and now has two Stanley Cups).
1. The rise of the Oilers
Everyone knew Connor McDavid was the real deal. McDavid was the only player in the league to hit the 100-point mark. But the rest of the squad was surprising. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle struggled, others excelled: Leon Draisaitl had 77 points, and followed that up with 16 points in 13 playoff games; Patrick Maroon scored 27 goals; Mark Letestu had 35 points and then had 11 postseason points; Oscar Klefbom started off slow but wound up with 38 points; Cam Talbot started an amazing 73 games, and won 42 of them.
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