Michael Finewax: This week's topic is Who do think are the most valuable fantasy players at forward, defense and goaltender this season? Let's start with the forwards.
Kevin Brown: I think Alex Ovechkin has pretty clearly asserted himself as the fantasy MVP this season thanks to the fact he leads the way in goals (39) and power-play goals (18), but his 306 shots are 68 better than the next-closest competitor (Max Pacioretty), making him about 40 percent better than every other top 10 shooter. A margin that wide is relatively unheard of in any other category and I haven’t even brought up the fact that he’s in the top 10 for hits, a list that’s otherwise littered with third-liners. Since there’s no debate about Ovie’s dominance, a better discussion is who’s next? I’m partial to John Tavares and league-leading point total, but I would listen to arguments in favor of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux or Jakub Voracek.
Michael Finewax: I agree with Ovechkin. I think that Corey Perry will still be the best the rest of the way but he was hurt early on and got the mumps so he lost all opportunity to best the top forward.
After Ovechkin, I think that Vladimir Tarasenko has been the best. He has 60 points which is only five out of the NHL lead and his plus-27 carries him just past Tavares. Tavares has 25 power play points compared to 15 for Tarasenko and both have 212 shots on goal as of Sunday morning so for me, the plus/minus just puts Tarasenko past Tavares who is third.
Corey Abbott: Tarasenko and Tavares have been excellent this season and I would probably rank them behind Ovechkin as well. Before his injury, I would've included Tyler Seguin in the conversation too. He has the third-highest point per game average in the league (1.07) behind Crosby and Malkin, who both sit at 1.09. In early February, Seguin was just two points back of Voracek for the league lead and he was four goals behind Rick Nash. He still ranks third in the NHL in shots on goal (225) even though he's missed the last eight matches.
Ryan Dadoun: For me, Ovechkin has been hands down the best forward this season. His edge in goals and huge lead in SOG make it hard to come up with a substitute for him. There are players who beat him in the other common categories, but he's good enough in every other regard to be an all-around asset. If you want the best guy not yet singled out above, then I'd take Max Pacioretty. He hasn't been as prolific with the man advantage as many of the other top forwards, but his plus-36 rating makes him stand out from the crowd.
Michael Finewax: Ok. Let’s go with a defenseman.
Corey Abbott: As far as defensemen go, I like P.K. Subban the most. He hasn't gone more than three games without picking up a point this season and he is tied with Mark Giordano for the league lead among defenders with 48 points. Subban has more penalty minutes (66) and a better plus-minus rating (plus-16) than Giordano. He is averaging the most ice time of his career (26:03) and he's been a solid contributor in hits and blocks as well. He's been a true all-around threat this year.
Ryan Dadoun: Subban's a good choice, but I would go with Dustin Byfuglien. I realize he's been bouncing between defense and the right wing this season, but he's got defenseman eligibility so odds are that's what most fantasy owners are using him as. He's got 41 points, which is superb for a blueliner, but what sets him apart is his penalty minutes. It's hard to find a good source of PIMs among defensemen, to the point where he's running away with the category with 107. He's also competitive when it comes to SOG (191) and power-play points (15) and while his plus/minus isn't great (plus-6), it's not a liability either.
Kevin Brown: I think Subban would be my choice as well, which makes it that much more ridiculous that he wasn't an All-Star this season. As you guys have mentioned, Mark Giordano and Dustin Byfuglien are also in the discussion, but what about the always-steady Shea Weber? His 43 points are a few behind the leaders, but his plus-minus exceeds them all with a plus-20 and his performance in PIM, hits and blocked shots are all top-notch.
Michael Finewax: No one is a bigger fan of P.K. Subban than I am, but I have to agree with Kevin in that Shea Weber is the top blueliner in fantasy hockey. While most of the stats between the two are even or close to even, Weber has 190 shots on goal compared to only 123 for Subban. Subban is certainly more flashy but that's not what we are talking about.
Byfuglien is close and it is a three-way battle but my money is on Weber.
Now let's talk about the goaltenders.
Ryan Dadoun: Carey Price is the clear winner among goaltenders, so much so that he might even get the Hart Trophy on top of the Vezina. I know there are supporters of Pekka Rinne out there, but Price beats him in wins, GAA, save percentage, and shutouts. When you have that kind of clean sweep, it's hard to make the argument against Price.
Corey Abbott: Price is head and shoulders above the pack and that's saying something because Rinne has been excellent this season. Rinne has better numbers than Tuukka Rask did in 2013-14 when he won the Vezina Trophy. The Predators missed him dearly last season, but Price has been even valuable in Montreal's success this year.
Kevin Brown: I can’t argue with Price as the runaway favorite for the Vezina and I agree Rinne is the obvious choice for second place, but beyond that the picture is rather muddled. I’ve spent a lot of time praising Braden Holtby in my Fantasy Nuggets pieces this year and I believe he and Marc-Andre Fleury should battle it out for the proverbial bronze medal in this event. Holtby is officially the bigger “surprise” if you look at their pre-season ranks, but anyone who was paying close attention could see the breakout coming. Barry Trotz joined a historically offensive-minded team on which the goaltender posted decent stats to begin with. The implementation of his responsible defensive system was a blessing for Holtby and his owners.
Michael Finewax: It’s the injury factor that has made this a runaway for Price as Rinne was the top goalie before he was forced to miss three weeks with a knee injury. Frederik Andersen has also had a very good season in fantasy hockey halted by injury although he is not in the class of the top three. The best goalie of late however, started the season as a backup on the third worst team in the NHL. I’m talking of course of Devan Dubnyk who has been absolutely sensational for the Minnesota Wild since he was traded from the desert on January 14 for a third round pick in the 2015 Draft. He is 15-3-1 for the Wild with sensational peripherals of a .937 save percentage and a GAA of 1.65. He has taken the Wild from way out of the playoffs into a playoff spot in a little over six weeks. Not bad for a goalie who was likely not picked up by anyone until January of this year.