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Fantasy Hockey: One value pick from each NHL team

Steven Psihogios
·20-min read
There's no sugar coating just how awful Sergei Bobrovsky was last season, but there's plenty of reason t obeleive he can bounce back to form. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
There's no sugar coating just how awful Sergei Bobrovsky was last season, but there's plenty of reason t obeleive he can bounce back to form. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The NHL season’s Jan. 13 start date is quickly approaching, but what’s coming even sooner is your fantasy hockey draft. When you sit down for your draft, you should be looking to get the most out of every pick.

Below are the biggest draft values available for every single NHL team entering the season.

Anaheim Ducks: LW/RW Rickard Rakell (181.4)

If you’re out on Rakell and the Ducks in general, I don’t blame you. There won’t be many members of the team flying off the board in your fantasy hockey draft. Rakell recorded back-to-back 30-goal seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18 but since then, the Swedish forward has failed to crack 20 goals in a single season. His shooting percentage plummeted to an unsustainably low 8.1% last season, well below his career number of 11.9%. The Ducks are not going to be a good team, but ice time shouldn’t be an issue for Rakell. His position flexibility makes him a fine late-round option in deeper leagues.

Arizona Coyotes: D Jakob Chychrun (175.5)

A jack of all trades, master of none, Chychrun will contribute to your fantasy hockey team in a number of ways. Last season, he scored a respectable 12 goals on 149 shots and recorded 26 points, with eight points coming on the power play. He also was able to contribute on the defensive side of things, registering 95 blocked shots and 75 hits. None of these numbers are category leaders, but the 22-year-old defenseman does a little bit of everything which adds up, especially in rotisserie and head-to-head formats.

Boston Bruins: D Matt Grzelyck (169.6)

With an aging core, the Bruins certainly seem to be on the decline, but Grzelyck is one of the younger defensemen on the team who will likely take on an expanded role now that both Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara are gone. Grzelyck is the likely replacement for Krug on Boston’s top power-play unit, a position that will make him fantasy relevant as the Bruins have been a top-three team with the man advantage in each of the last two seasons. Additionally, with both Kurg and Chara gone, there’s a clear path for Grzelyck to receive top-four minutes on the backend.

Buffalo Sabres: D Rasmus Dahlin (83.1)

Currently going as the 16th defenseman off the board in fantasy hockey drafts, there is a ton of value in Dahlin. The 20-year-old is just starting to scratch the surface in the NHL and finished the 2019-20 season with 40 points in 59 games. His 2.108 points-per-60 minutes mark was the eighth best amongst all defensemen last season, and he finished the year with one fewer hit (73-72) than Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Victor Hedman despite playing in seven fewer games. Quarterbacking a power play which now features both Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall, the Sabres should improve upon their No. 20-ranked finish from last season. A truly elite defensive talent who is only getting better, Dahlin is currently being drafted at a major discount.

Calgary Flames: C Sean Monahan (148.4)

Monahan had an inconsistent 2019-20 season, as the Flames center only scored a goal in back-to-back games once from December through the season’s abrupt conclusion in March. Monahan also finished the campaign with his lowest shooting percentage since entering the league at 13.3%, a touch below his career average of 14.9%. At 26 years old and just one season removed from a 34-goal, 82-point effort, there’s still plenty to like about Monahan’s profile — even at a position that is as deep as center.

Carolina Hurricanes: LW/RW Teuvo Teravainen (42.1)

Hurricanes will be coming off the board early and often in your fantasy hockey draft, and while I really like Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov’s prospects for this upcoming season, their linemate can be had a little later in drafts. Teravainen led the Canes in assists (48) and power-play points (21) in 2019-20. One thing to really like about Teravainen is that there’s some room for improvement when it comes to goal scoring. The Finnish forward actually had more shots on goal during his 68-game campaign (182) than he did the previous year (167) when he played a full 82. Despite sporting a career 10.0% shooting percentage, he finished with a sizeably lower 8.2% last year. That suggests to me there’s a decent possibility he can score at a better rate in 2021.

Chicago Blackhawks: C/RW Dylan Strome (172.4)

The Blackhawks are reeling with the NHL season nearing as centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach will both be out when the campaign starts, with the latter missing four-to-five months following wrist surgery. To make matters a little more complicated, Strome is still a restricted free agent so he’s not even under contract with the team just yet. It’d be shocking if Chicago wasn’t able to sign Strome before the season starts, but if and when he’s with the team, he’ll be the club’s top center. That position will be extremely rewarding for fantasy hockey as he’ll see a lot of ice time alongside star winger Patrick Kane at both even strength and on the power play. Considering right wing isn’t quite as deep as left wing this year, his dual position eligibility will also be handy for fantasy managers.

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Dylan Strome #17 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on February 23, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dylan Strome will get a lot of opportunity with the Blackhawks this season. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Colorado Avalanche: C Nazem Kadri (137.9)

Kadri made a seamless transition to the Avalanche last season, solidifying the team’s second forward line as well as fitting in on the power play. He finished the year with 19 goals and 36 points while also adding 61 hits through 51 games. The fact that he’ll likely return to the Avs’ top PP unit is great for his fantasy value, as he’ll get to play alongside Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar. His shooting percentage last year (14.3%) was above his career average (11.7%) so there is a chance he takes a step back this season in the goals department, but his goals, assists and points-per-60 minutes were all pretty much on par with his career totals. He’s a fine depth center to roster.

Columbus Blue Jackets: LW/RW Oliver Bjorkstrand (172.6)

Bjorkstrand really came on for the Blue Jackets after a slow start to the season. Through his first 29 games, the Danish winger potted just six goals. Over his last 20 games, however, he recorded 15 goals. He possesses one of the more underrated shots in the league and he’s going to be playing on the club’s first line and top power play unit this season. If you prorate his 2019-20 stats over the course of a full 82-game season, he was on pace to finish with 35 goals and 60 points. There are very few players still available during this portion of your draft who have 30-goal potential.

Dallas Stars: C/LW Jamie Benn (127.4)

Benn’s poor performance during the 2019-20 regular season has plummeted his ADP, as the Stars captain notched just 19 goals and 39 points over 69 games. At his current draft value, you should be willing to take a chance on the 31-year-old after his stellar postseason run. Benn was crucial to Dallas’s playoff success, scoring eight goals and 19 points for the Western Conference champions. He carries extra value in Yahoo default head-to-head and rotisserie leagues that count hits, as his 167 body checks were 17th-most among all forwards a year ago. Still counted upon in Dallas’s offense, Benn is a low-risk option who may provide some value.

Detroit Red Wings: LW/RW Anthony Mantha (158.0)

Mantha is Detroit’s most talented forward and despite playing on one of the worst teams in the league, he’s actually been a decent producer. The 26-year-old only played in 43 games last season, but if you extrapolated his stats over the course of a full 82-game season, he would’ve notched 30 goals and 72 points. As mentioned earlier, the Red Wings do not have an abundance of offensive talent, so Mantha will be given every opportunity to produce for this team.

Edmonton Oilers: D Tyson Barrie (93.5)

The Barrie experiment failed in Toronto as his offensive-minded approach didn’t mesh well on a Maple Leafs team that clearly needed some defense-first type of players. While Edmonton’s defensive unit is no better, Barrie should be given every opportunity to quarterback the team’s top power-play unit, a role that he was extremely successful at with the Colorado Avalanche. In Toronto last season, Barrie played just 198 minutes on the power play, a sizeable downgrade from the 575 power-play minutes he received across his final two campaigns with the Avalanche. In those aforementioned seasons, Barrie combined for 56 power-play points. Last year with Toronto, he scored just 12. Additionally, his 3.0% shooting percentage from 2019-20 is far below his career number of 6.5%. Returning to his post as an elite power-play facilitator, Barrie should have lots of success playing alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Florida Panthers: G Sergei Bobrovsky (124.5)

Bobrovsky faceplanted during his first year with the Panthers after signing a hefty seven-year, $70-million contract last offseason. He recorded a poor .900 save percentage to go along with a career-worst 3.23 goals-against average. While Florida didn’t have a great defense, Bobrovsky posted an abysmal -0.484% save-percentage above expectation, according to MoneyPuck. What made matters worse for Bobrovsky was that his backup, Chris Driedger, was outstanding. He had a .930 save percentage and the league’s highest save percentage above expectation at 0.878% in 12 games played. The 32-year-old, however, is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and will have a better defense in front of him this season, as Florida added Markus Nutivaara and Radko Gudas. Considering that he’s currently the 24th goalie off the board in fantasy hockey drafts, he’s a low-risk, high-reward selection given his track record.

Los Angeles Kings: D Drew Doughty (132.8)

In fantasy hockey leagues that count hits and blocked shots, Doughty remains a solid source of production in those two categories. He finished with the 40th-most hits amongst blueliners last season with 106 and a respectable 87 blocked shots. Given the current state of the Kings, his point totals and plus-minus have taken major hits over the past two years, but he’ll still see time on the first defensive unit and top power play. Ultimately, there’s not a lot to love from Los Angeles for fantasy hockey.

Minnesota Wild: LW/RW Kevin Fiala (92.0)

From the start of February through the end of the NHL regular season on Mar. 11, Fiala was third amongst all players in points with 26. Despite the extended absence, his strong finish to the 2019-20 campaign carried over in his performance during the qualifying round, as the 2014 first-round pick notched three goals and four points in a four-game series loss to the Vancouver Canucks. In 2020-21, rising young star Kirill Kaprizov will likely be joining his line, a development that should help the Wild’s offense. At 24 years old, Fiala seems to be hitting his stride and is a good candidate to really break out this year.

Montreal Canadiens: C/RW Nick Suzuki (165.5)

I’m a big fan of Suzuki’s game and think he can breathe some youthfulness and creativity into a rather dull Canadiens offense. Last season didn’t end great as he only notched one point in the team’s final nine regular-season games, but he did record 13 goals and 40 points through the first 62 contests. Now entering his second NHL campaign, the 21-year-old should be more comfortable serving as a top-six forward and will likely feature on the team’s top power-play unit.

Nashville Predators: D Ryan Ellis (121.2)

Ellis was having a very good regular season in 2019-20 before the season abruptly ended. Despite missing 20 games, Ellis finished 24th in scoring among defensemen with 38 points in 49 games. He’s a nice target for those who play in head-to-head points leagues, as he got in the way of 96 pucks last year. He’s not a flashy player, but Ellis is being overlooked in fantasy hockey drafts coming off the board as the 30th defenseman according to Yahoo ADP.

New Jersey Devils: C/LW Jack Hughes (149.1)

For first overall pick standards, Hughes left a lot to be desired during his rookie campaign. In 61 games, Hughes tallied just seven goals and 21 points while averaging 15:52 of ice time per game, finishing tied for 16th amongst all rookies. For the sake of the Devils, he’ll have to be much better in his sophomore season. He’ll likely start the year playing behind Nico Hischier as New Jersey’s No. 2 center, but a recent leg injury to Hischier has put his status in doubt for the start of the 2021 season. This could give Hughes a chance to prove himself in the early going, and considering his low ADP, there’s very little risk involved.

New York Islanders: D Ryan Pulock (127.8)

With Devon Toews departing to Colorado, Pulock will likely see an increased role on the Islanders’ power play this year. Toews logged 163 power-play minutes to Pulock’s 129 in 2019-20, but Pulock is the favorite to supplement that ice time. Pulock is also a volume shooter. Since the 2017-18 season, he ranks 18th amongst rearguards in shots on goal with 527. Pulock can also get the job done in the defensive categories as well, as his 110 hits were 36th amongst all blueliners last year and his 139 blocked shots are ninth. At 26 years old, he’s firmly in the prime of his career and an excellent value for those looking to fill out their defense later in the draft.

New York Rangers: RW Kaapo Kakko (164.2)

Kakko is the definition of a post-hype sleeper in fantasy hockey. The Finnish forward disappointed during his rookie campaign, collecting 10 goals and 23 points, and he’s not even the most intriguing youngster on the team now that Alexis Lafreniere is a Ranger. The 2019 second overall pick will likely fly under the radar in your fantasy hockey league, but he shouldn’t. He’ll likely open the season playing on the Rangers’ second line alongside Ryan Strome and Artemi Panari, which isn’t a bad spot to be in at all. Kakko’s prospect profile is too intriguing to abandon him after an underwhelming rookie year.

Kaapo Kakko should have a better showing in his sophomore season. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Kaapo Kakko should have a better showing in his sophomore season. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Ottawa Senators: LW Tim Stuetzle (169.0)

I’m buying the hype. The German forward has looked absolutely incredible at the world junior championship, scoring 10 points through the first four games. The third overall pick will likely slot into the Sens’ top-six, specifically on the team’s second line at left wing behind Brady Tkachuk. In addition to his strong world juniors showing, Stuetzle was having a lot of success in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in 2019-20, recording 34 points through 41 games for Adler Mannheim in Germany’s premier league. His ADP will likely start to climb as the season nears as others begin to buy the hype, but it’s clear that he’s a very intriguing option in the later part of fantasy drafts.

Philadelphia Flyers: RW Jakub Voracek (164.1)

Nobody is going to sing your praises after you make this selection, but Voracek going this low in fantasy hockey drafts is hard to comprehend, especially in head-to-head points leagues. Voracek isn’t someone who’s going to contribute to each category, but he is still a great source for assists. In 2019-20, his 44 helpers were tied for 15th-most amongst all forwards. He plays on a great first line with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux and on a power play that finished 14th in the NHL last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: RW Bryan Rust (158.1)

Rust was better than a point-per-game player in 2019-20, registering 56 points in 55 games. He was excellent for the Penguins, especially on the power play where he led Pittsburgh with eight goals. Simply put, his ADP is way too low considering his production a year ago. His shooting percentage (17.9%) was much higher than his career average (12.4%), so that is a minor red flag, but he’ll be playing on the second line alongside Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker at even strength and his performance from last year should give him the first crack on the club’s PP1 over new addition Kasperi Kapanen. He’s set up well for 2021.

San Jose Sharks: LW/RW Timo Meier (95.0)

In fantasy hockey leagues that count hits, Meier is one of the best values currently on the board. During the 2019-20 season, the Sharks unexpectedly plummeted down the Western Conference standings just one year removed from a trip to the conference finals. While the team battled injuries, it experienced largely underwhelming performances from the majority of its core. Meier is one of those players who took a step back, but at 24 years old, I’m willing to give the 2015 ninth overall pick another chance. The Swiss forward ended the year with 22 goals and 49 points, a step back from the season prior. When it comes to development, however, growth isn’t always linear. As mentioned earlier, Meier is also a great source of hits, accumulating 155 body checks, tying him for 22nd amongst all forwards in 2019-20. Still playing on San Jose’s top line with Evander Kane and Logan Couture and a featured member of the top power-play unit, Meier is one of the best bounce-back candidates for the 2021 season.

St. Louis Blues: LW/RW Mike Hoffman (90.3)

Hoffman signed with the Blues on a professional tryout but every indication suggests he’s going to have a full-time role, likely playing on Ryan O’Reilly’s wing on the team’s second line. Upon establishing himself in the NHL, Hoffman has emerged as one of the best goal-scorers in the league. Since the 2014-15 season, he’s tied for the 16th-most goals and he was well on his way to his second straight 30-plus-goal season last year. Now likely skating alongside an elite playmaker in O’Reilly and potentially on the team’s No. 1 power-play unit, there’s reason to believe that Hoffman can have an even better year on a really good Blues team.

Tampa Bay Lightning: LW Ondrej Palat (160.8)

With the news that Nikita Kucherov is going to miss the 2021 regular season, Palat seems like the likely candidate to replace him on the team’s first line and top power-play unit to start the year. It’s pretty obvious how friendly this fantasy situation will be for Palat as he’ll get to play alongside Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos on both fixtures. The 29-year-old has also proven to be a solid source of hits, dishing out 100 or more body checks in six of his last seven seasons. Draft him here while you still can as I’d imagine his ADP is going to rise as the season nears.

Toronto Maple Leafs: D Morgan Rielly (61.9)

Rielly dealt with injuries for most of the 2019-20 season, according to general manager Kyle Dubas. Entering the 2021 regular season, it should be fully expected that the Leafs’ blueliner is back to full health, which is great news for his fantasy value. Rielly took a major step backwards last season, scoring just three goals and 27 points in 47 games after potting 20 goals and 72 points in 82 games the season prior. While it’s hard to pencil in the 26-year-old to score at that kind of pace, you can expect him to clear 35 points during the upcoming 56-game season with a chance to top 40 points. He’ll once again be the power-play quarterback on a unit that features dynamic talents such as Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander. You’re not getting a huge discount, but he’s fine value in this range.

Vancouver Canucks: C Bo Horvat (145.2)

Still only 25 years old, Horvat has already established himself as a consistent 20-goal scorer entering his seventh NHL season, and if you play in fantasy leagues that count blocked shots, you have to like what he offers in that category. During the 2019-20 season, Horvat got in the way of 66 shots, the ninth-most among forwards in the NHL. The great two-way center will also continue to operate on the Canucks’ top power-play unit with the likes of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. Vancouver seems like a team on the rise, and given how low his ADP is, Horvat is certainly worth taking a flier on in most fantasy hockey drafts.

Vegas Golden Knights: C/LW Jonathan Marchessault (107.9)

If you’re looking to get a piece of the Golden Knights’ offense in your fantasy hockey draft, Marchessault is a nice option who can be had during the middle-to-late rounds. He’s going to play on the team’s top line with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, and he’ll likely slide onto the the Golden Knights’ top power-play unit. He’ll likely finish the upcoming 56-game year around 20 goals and he has an established track record of being a decent source for hits.

Washington Capitals: C Nicklas Backstrom (114.8)

At this point, it’s fair to argue that Backstrom’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an effective player. Last season, the Swedish forward record 42 assists and 54 points, finishing third on the Capitals in the latter. He’ll still be tasked to serve as a member of Washington’s top power-play unit. He tied for the second-most man advantage points on the club last year with 18. While Backstrom makes for a nice selection in all formats, he carries a little more value in head-to-head points league where assists carry more weight.

Winnipeg Jets: LW Kyler Connor (69.5)

Here’s the list of NHL players who have scored more goals than Connor since 2017-18: Alex Ovechkin, David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, John Tavares and Patrick Kane. That’s it. Each of those players has been going way ahead of Connor in fantasy hockey drafts, including Pastrnak who is expected to miss the first month of the season. Connor is criminally underrated.

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