This is a really interesting read about star power in the NHL.
There are obviously many ways to approach it from a fantasy perspective, but like over analyzing a single advanced statistic, it's probably just best to keep game score and the importance of elite talent in mind.
Of course, we're already doing that. Patrick Maroon has rarely showcased fantasy relevance unless flanking a star center (Ryan Getzlaf or Connor McDavid). We're always looking to find the third wheel of high-scoring duos, and Andrew Ladd propelled himself way up fantasy ranks because of the prospect of playing with John Tavares last fall.
Still, it's interesting to see a few teams higher in the ranks than we might originally expect. Namely, Winnipeg and Calgary, but Boston and Ottawa are also interesting inclusions. On the flip side, the Flyers and Rangers are particularly notable because of their low rankings.
Again, this breakdown is focusing on an overarching rank that comprises multiple statistics, so it's far from being a be-all, end-all measurement. But it's definitely helpful for some of our virtual interests.
To start, wins is a category in the majority of fantasy settings, and owning goalies on championship-calibre teams is a good start to stuffing that column. Additionally, scoring is weighed heavily in game score, so targeting players from teams that project to score plenty of goals is always a good strategy. Not that it's wasn't already a prime focus.
For the upcoming guide, I looked at one-way contracts and a handful of restricted free agents that haven't signed yet and are eyeing one-way pacts. Here are some notes on players that were on my radar but didn't make the final cut for inclusion in the guide.
Dylan DeMelo - There's likely a job to lose on the San Jose blue line for DeMelo, and the 24-year-old defenseman has already logged 70 games over the past two seasons. He showed power-play upside in 2015-16 scoring all four of his points on the man advantage. His one-way deal should also provide him with a long leash as the sixth defenseman. Obviously, that's not a favorable fantasy setup, but DeMelo could be an interesting asset if he climbs the depth chart for stretches.
Slater Koekkoek - Jake Dotchin's emergence and chemistry with Victor Hedman down the stretch last season could limit Koekkoek's fantasy upside in 2017-18, especially with Andrej Sustr still in the mix. But the smooth-skating, former first-round selection does bring a unique skill set to the table. Koekkoek has oodles of fantasy and real-world upside, but he has appeared to still be pretty raw at the highest level. His elite skating ability alone makes Koekkoek an asset to keep tabs on.
Beau Bennett - Despite being on the fantasy map for years, Bennett's inability to stay healthy has all but squashed his virtual value. Additionally, rarely is a player coming off a 19-point campaign an intriguing asset. Bennett is probably only a player to keep tabs on in the deepest formats, but he did post an impressive 53.4 Corsi For percentage with the Devils last year, and he's now relocated to a significantly better team.
Curtis Lazar - It's obviously still far too early to write off Lazar, but it's also difficult to sugarcoat his transition to the highest level. Outside of a 13-game stint in the AHL last season, he has spent all of the past three years in the NHL, and there is a legitimate chance his offensive game has been capped for good. At the same time, the change of scenery could be a sparkplug for Lazar, and especially considering he's from Western Canada. At worst, he's going to be a solid lower-line player with shut-down potential.
Lance Bouma - There's nothing to get excited about with Bouma's game. He flashed modest offensive upside in 2014-15 with 16 goals and 34 points, but with just five tallies and nine assists through 105 games the past two years, the scoring dried up in a hurry. While Bouma is likely to slot into a bottom-six role, his career 43.9 Corsi For percentage further highlights the lackluster signing by Chicago.
Michal Kempny - Chicago limited Kempny to 50 games and just 14:58 per night in his first season in the league, so looking at 2016-17 as an opportunity to acclimatize to North America and the NHL is probably best. There are more minutes and a larger role within reach this year, and Kempny has the potential to take a modest step forward offensively. He also offers decent production in the peripheral categories after registering 67 shots, 76 hits and 59 blocked shots last year.
Robbie Russo - The Red Wings likely have too many defensemen to turn to Russo to start next season, but it doesn't mean that he's not talented enough. He's likely going to need to improve his defensive work to carve out a consistent role at the highest level, but offensively, there is no questioning Russo's ability. Obviously, that's the most important attribute for our fantasy interests. He already received a 19-game cup of coffee last year, so he's knocking on the door.
Paul LaDue - After climbing all the way to the NHL in his first professional season, LaDue is a prime candidate to break camp with the Kings this fall. He flashed power-play upside with four helpers on the power play to match his four assists at even strength through 22 games with the Kings. It's also worth highlighting that LaDue posted a 57.0 Corsi For percentage during that 22-game stretch. Just note that without regular power-play looks, his fantasy upside is probably capped.
Austin Czarnik - The undersized scorer (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) suited up for 49 games with Boston last season and posted five goals and 13 points. He's registered 26 tallies and 58 assists through 90 AHL games the past two seasons but is still exempt from waivers. As a result, Czarnik might not receive a fair shake at cracking the Boston lineup to open the season.
One of the most disappointing goaltenders last season was Petr Mrazek, and with Detroit likely to have another down season, Mrazek's fantasy stock has plummeted with good reason. There's not a lot of reason for short-term optimism, either.
Detroit goalie coach Jeff Salajko noted Mrazek has been "working hard" this offseason, as the goaltender enters a contract year. The Red Wings are unlikely to shed Jimmy Howard's hefty salary, and Jared Coreau is also coming off an AHL championship run with Grand Rapids. There's a potential logjam, and Mrazek could quickly become the odd-man out with Howard passing over the reins to Coreau in 2019-20.
It's the perfect backdrop of a buy-low spot.
Especially in deep keeper/dynasty settings, it's always important to focus on talent, and there is no questioning Mrazek's. The goalie landscape seems to flip and flop yearly, and a new location could be a huge fantasy boon for Mrazek. Perhaps, there were some behind-the-scenes discussions, but he wasn't protected in the expansion draft, which is a pretty telling indication of his status within the organization. Additionally, Detroit has shown long-standing loyalty to Howard.
With all that said, Mrazek is still a restricted free agent when his current contract expires next spring, so there is still a lot at play here.
Talent usually wins out eventually, and Mrazek should be a No. 1 starter at some point in the near future.
Thanks for stopping by, Dobberheads.
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