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Fantasy Nuggets Week 17

Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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Things haven’t exactly gone as planned so far this season. There’s been postponed games, controversies, but also some great hockey and at the end of the day, the NHL is still on course to complete its first 82-game campaign since 2018-19. Now that we’re in the All-Star break, this seems like an ideal time to reflect on what’s happened so far so today we’ll highlight some of the league’s top forwards, defensemen, goaltenders, pleasant surprises, as well as biggest disappointments.

We’ll be evaluating players based on their fantasy contributions thus far, so naturally when it comes to defensemen we’ll be heavily skewed in favor of the offensive variety. Similarly, when it comes to evaluating how big of a surprise/disappointment we’re going to be measuring his production against what you should have expected out of the player based on their average preseason draft position in Yahoo leagues.

With all that said, let’s get started.

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Top Forward: Although Leon Draisaitl is just behind Jonathan Huberdeau in the scoring race, Draisaitl is the slightly better fantasy option in my opinion. That’s many because Draisaitl has 32 goals compared to Huberdeau’s 17. Draisaitl also has a 149 to 129 edge in shots and 25 to 19 edge in power-play points compared to Huberdeau. Alex Ovechkin also deserves an honorable mention with 29 goals and 58 points in 41 games.

Best Value: It’s got to be Nazem Kadri. He was only drafted in 8% of Yahoo leagues, which means the vast majority of people could scoop him up as a free agent. For that barebones cost, fantasy managers have gotten 19 goals and 60 points in 41 games out of him. That puts him in a tie for third place in the scoring race with Connor McDavid. Kadri also has a plus-20 rating, 19 power-play points, and 141 SOG. Those are crazy numbers for a player that most overlooked on draft day. Chris Kreider is worth highlighting too. He was taken in 99% of Yahoo leagues, but at an average draft position of 152.4. He has 47 points in 47 games, including a league-leading 33 goals.

Biggest Disappointment: I’ll give two answers here. One is Nikita Kucherov, not because he’s been bad, but simply because he’s been limited to 12 games. For a player that was typically the fourth overall pick in Yahoo drafts, that’s a pretty bad return even if it is due to bad luck. Among players who have stayed relatively healthy this season, Elias Pettersson has been lacking. His average draft position was 43.9, which put him a little ahead of Kyle Connor and teammate J.T. Miller, but while Connor and Miller have 45 and 44 points respectively, Pettersson has been held to 11 goals and 24 points in 46 contests. Pettersson showed so much promise in his early seasons, but he’s certainly working through some issues right now.


Top Defensemen: If you have any of Victor Hedman, Adam Fox, Cale Makar, or Roman Josi on your fantasy team, you have plenty of reason to be happy. Those are the top four blueliners in the scoring race and just three points separate them. However, among them Makar does stand out with 18 goals. That’s five more than any other blueliner, making him the clear leader in that category so far. Makar also has 44 points, a plus-26 rating, 19 power-play points, and 116 SOG, making him an all-around amazing offensive defenseman. The other three blueliners in the battle for the scoring title naturally all deserve honorable mentions.

Best Value: After dropping to 27 points in 70 games in 2019-20 and recording just 12 points in 38 contests last season, fantasy managers largely gave up on Jacob Trouba. He was only taken in 41% of drafts and fell to an average position of 166.7 overall in the leagues where he was taken. And yet he’s had a strong campaign with eight goals, 24 points, 127 shots, and 131 hits. Certainly there are better defensemen out there, but not a ton and given where he was drafted, anyone who took him has to be very happy with the results.

Biggest Disappointment: Based on their draft positions, fantasy managers correctly predicted that Makar, Fox, and Hedman would be among the league’s top offensive defensemen this season. They were three of the top four defensemen in terms of average draft position. The other was John Carlson, who hasn’t produced at quite the same level, but with nine goals and 34 points in 43 games, he hasn’t been a disappointment either. However, taken in the same ballpark of those games was Dougie Hamilton. His average draft position was 45.6 overall or sixth among blueliners and for that he’s recorded seven goals, 20 points, a minus-nine rating, 108 SOG, and 38 hits. A big part of the problem is that he’s been dealing with a broken jaw that’s kept him out of the lineup since Jan. 2. Once he’s back from that and once he’s back from that, he should do fairly well. It’s also worth noting Jakob Chychrun here. He’s missed a bit of time due to injury, but in Chychrun’s case he hasn’t done well when healthy either. After being selected at an average position of 88.5, Chychrun has recorded two goals, 10 points, a minus-27 rating, 103 SOG, and 37 hits in 34 games. Those are ugly numbers after he set a career-high last season with 18 goals and 41 points in 56 contests. Of course, playing for Arizona isn’t doing Chychrun any favors and if he gets traded, then there’s a good chance he’ll bounce back.


Top Goaltender: There’s a lot of goaltenders who are separated by very little at the top of the list. I’ll go with Frederik Andersen though for standing out in all the major goaltending categories. His 24 wins is second in the league only to Andrei Vasilevskiy, his .929 save percentage is second only to Igor Shesterkin (min. 20 games), and his 2.01 GAA leads the league (min. 20 games). Coming off a disappointing season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Andersen has been an amazing fit with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Best Value: Jacob Markstrom had a rough first season with the Calgary Flames, posting a 22-19-2 record, 2.66 GAA, and .904 save percentage in 43 starts. Clearly that spooked some fantasy managers, because his average draft position was just 134.6, which put him between Jake Allen and Vitek Vanecek among goaltenders picked. Those that put their faith in him though have been rewarded. Markstrom’s bounced back with a 17-10-5 record, 2.20 GAA, and .923 save percentage in 33 games. He’s not always good, but he’s had a stunning seven shutouts this season. That’s nearly double the next best goaltender.

Biggest Disappointment: Unfortunately, if we look strictly at statistics compared to draft position, then the obvious answer so far has been Carey Price. His average draft position was 74.8 and he hasn’t played yet this season. The reasons for that are completely understandable and I wish Price nothing but the best. If we exclude him, then I’d select Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck’s average draft position was 25.1, which was the fourth highest among goaltenders. He hasn’t been a disaster, but he also hasn’t provided what you’d expect from someone who was taken that early. Through 35 starts, he has a 14-15-6 record, 2.90 GAA, and .910 save percentage.