The Top 10 fighters with fantasy hockey value
As long as penalty minutes are counted in fantasy leagues, fighters are going to have a lot of value.
It’s an easy way for a player (and a fantasy owner) to rack up five penalty minutes. And since a fighter isn’t doing his NHL team much of a disservice, he’s more than likely to keep playing over a guy who gets three minor penalties in a game.
But some fighters can do more than drop their gloves. They can score, or win faceoffs, or hit or whatever else. Many of them bring extra value that could win you an important head-to-head matchup.
Sure, maybe someone like John Scott or George Parros is a better fighter or wins more fights, but they don’t bring anything else to the table. Scott, for example, played in just 56 games, scored a goal and averaged 6:45 minutes a game. He’s not a viable fantasy option because he doesn’t do anything relevant beside penalty minutes. And if you have him playing during a week where he doesn’t fight, he doesn’t contribute anything.
These guys are different. If they don’t fight, they still contribute. So with that said, here are the top 10 fighters who are effective in other categories.
10. Chris Stewart
Stewart should be a lot higher on this list, but consistency in both fighting and offense keeps him lower down. As a junior player in the OHL, it wasn’t unusual to see Stewart reach double digits in fights in each season, but in the NHL, his fight numbers are down. But fantasy owners may be willing to overlook that depending on what he brings to their fantasy squads. While last year he had 15 goals and 26 points, poolies are hoping his 64-point season wasn’t a fluke. Since he doesn’t hit enough (just 80 last year), his offence needs to pick up a little bit to be fantasy relevant.
Desjardins is another one of those guys that gets most of his penalties through fighting. At least 62 of his 86 penalty minutes came as a result of his 10 fights last season. But he’s more than just a pretty face. Desjardins isn’t scared to hit (103 last season), but his real value comes in faceoffs. Last season, he won 371 faceoffs to go along with a winning percentage of 55 per cent. With the Sharks signing John Scott this offseason, there’s a chance Desjardins loses a lot of value if he doesn’t fight as much.
8. Ryan Reaves
The St. Louis Blue does not bring much to the table for fantasy owners, but what he does bring is key for many leagues. Reaves gets the majority of his penalty minutes through dropping the gloves (about 60 of his 126 penalty minutes last year were related to fights). Reaves had 10 fights last year, and averages about 13 fights a season in the NHL. On top of his 126 pims, he also had 211 hits last year, bringing another dimension to his fantasy relevance.
Gudbranson gets the chance to help out more than some others on the list simply because he’s a defenceman (the only one on this list), which leads him to getting more hits and blocked shots. Although he’s been in the league for only two season, Gudbranson isn’t afraid to drop the mitts. He’s already had 13 NHL fights, continuing a trend we saw with him in the OHL. The 22-year-old also had 158 hits and 91 blocked shots last season. He also had almost two minutes a game shorthanded, for leagues that count shorthanded time on ice.
Patrick Maroon’s 13 fights was one of the highest in the league last season, but the rookie was able to contribute in other areas of the ice. He scored 11 goals and 29 assists, which are decent for a third-line rookie. He also managed to finish with a plus-11 and 101 penalty minutes. His 124 hits were seventh among rookie forwards last season.
Konopka has always been one of those under-appreciated fighters, and it’s a bit shocking he’s still a free agent. But he’s great for fantasy leagues that count faceoff wins. Last year, Konopka had 12 fights, the fourth-straight full season he had at least 10. But pro-rating the lockout season, Konopka averages almost 21 fights a year. Last year, Konopka oin 345 faceoffs, with a winning percentage of 60.8 per cent. That’s not a one-year fluke. Since he started taking regular faceoffs in 2009-10, Konopka has won 1,647 faceoffs, alongside a 59.6 winning percentage.
Roussel is not scared to drop the gloves with anyone in any league at any time. His yearly fight card shows he fights in the pre, regular and post-seasons, in the QMJHL, AHL and NHL. It’s a trend poolies hope continues, as he’s a solid contributor in a lot of categories. Last season, he scored 14 goals and 15 assists, finished with 209 penalty minutes (third in the league) and 146 hits.
3. Chris Neil
While Neil may not be the 20-point guy he was five seasons ago, he’s still valuable in fantasy hockey leagues. Last year, his 211 penalty minutes were second in the league. His 15 fights were tied for third in the league (meaning you were getting at least 75 penalty minutes from him just in fights). In six separate games last year, he had at least 10 penalty minutes in the same game, which probably won many managers a lot of matchups. He also had 253 hits, seventh-best in the league.
Fantasy owners are hoping Simmonds may become the next Milan Lucic, but he may have already reached that level. Simmonds is another one of those guys who can fight and score. He’s been in at least six fights in each of the last five seasons, and last year potted 29 goals, 60 points, 106 pims, 15 powerplay goals and four game-winners. He also took 209 shots, and dished out 132 hits.
1. Milan Lucic
The unapologetic beast is one of the best all-around fantasy guys, as he contributes in a lot of different categories. When he’s not pummeling guys with his fists (at least five fights in each of the last four years), Lucic is doing other things that help you win your fantasy matchup. Last season, he scored 24 goals, had 59 points, a plus-30, 91 pims and five game-winning goals. He also had 240 hits, 12th best in the league.
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