THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
Edmonton's Taylor Hall (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

OCT. 1 UPDATE: We enter the home stretch of fantasy hockey prep season, with the last league drafts happening this weekend or early next week. This edition of the rankings addresses some injury news, particularly the blow dealt to the Edmonton Oilers. Also, while I’ll make some tweaks based on the latest line combinations, be careful. Don’t get caught chasing coaches’ whiteboards. The minute Paul Stastny draws glowing reviews centering Vladimir Tarasenko, we get news Jori Lehtera’s recovery is ahead of schedule. Sure, you don’t want to reach for a young gun who winds up demoted next week. But, at this point, worry more about talent. Pick guys who are good at hockey, and they’ll find their way into opportunities.

This list blends goalies and skaters into a master breakdown tailored for anyone drafting in leagues with multiple stat categories. The rankings below are based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Did last year’s list steer you right? It helped me win both my pools, so hopefully that buys your trust. Remember, these rankings are about fantasy, not real life, so a few stars will be listed lower than you might expect. Enjoy, and feel free to debate the rankings – and let me know about any glaring omissions – in the comment section below.

Read more

Five fantasy sleeper picks according to advanced stats

Dominik Luszczyszyn
Jonathan Drouin (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fantasy hockey season is in full flight and that means everyone is looking for that sleeper pick that will win them their pool. Our fantasy guru Matt Larkin has already posted his sleeper picks for the season, but I wanted to take a different approach to the concept (although there is one name on both lists who I just couldn’t leave off).

Rather than pick guys who will outperform their average draft position, this list is about guys who could really breakout if given the opportunity to do so. It’s the players who’ve scored at a high rate with low ice-time that could do damage in a bigger role.

Before getting to the list, though, it’s important to address some of the ‘controversy’ behind using rate stats like points-per-60. The biggest issue is usage. More minutes means tougher opponents and it’s harder to score points against Zdeno Chara than it is against Adam McQuaid.

The problem with that line of thinking is the assumption that top players always find themselves against top competition. That’s not true. If it were, players who saw an increase in ice-time would see a decrease in their points-per-60 as a result of playing against all those tough opponents, right? In reality, there is almost no relationship between the two, and if anything, points-per-60 actually increases. (This is 5-on-5 and forwards only, by the way.) Read more

The 10 most overvalued fantasy players for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
Keith Yandle. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The fantasy hockey prep schedule continues. The top 200 is two editions deep, I’ve posted keeper league rankings by position, and I’ve hinted at my 10 favorite sleeper picks for 2015-16. Now it’s time for the overvalued list.

Last year, I dubbed this group the “players to avoid” list. That led to the misconception they were all bad players. I wasn’t trying to say they stank, however. I simply meant I’d avoid them because their average draft positions suggested I’d have to pick them way earlier than I wanted to.

Still, the readers have spoken. To avoid confusion, we’ll call this top 10 “overvalued” instead of players to avoid. I define overvalued fantasy picks as follows:

(a) Players whose production won’t match their average draft positions
(b) Players being drafted ahead of players who will outperform them

With that, let’s review which players I consider fantasy hockey landmines, sure to return less than what you invest to get them. And remember, this is fantasy hockey, so this list does not reflect the players’ real-life value.

Read more

Top 10 fantasy sleeper picks for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
David Pastrnak.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

They’re back. Everyone’s favorite players to draft in fantasy pools. The sleepers.

There’s a special high that comes with being “the genius who predicted _______’s breakout season.” That’s why it’s so intoxicating to research sleepers every year. If you’ve already studied my most recent update of the top 200 overall players, now it’s time to dig for undervalued guys.

As I outlined in last year’s sleeper list, I identify them as follows:

(a) Players who will outperform their average draft position
(b) Players who will outperform some players drafted before them
(c) Players you can steal cheap at the ends of drafts to reap major profits

After taking last year’s feedback into consideration, I want to stress (a) and (b) a lot more than (c). There’s a misconception every sleeper has to be “that guy no one else knows about who’s still on the board in the final round of a draft.” Anyone looking for only that type of sleeper on this list will end up posting something like “Gee, thanks for the shocking insight on Teuvo Teravainen, I had no idea who that guy was, jerk.” But that person misses the more important point. Teravainen goes on average 172nd overall in fantasy drafts, according to Yahoo’s ADP (average draft position) numbers. My rank for Teravainen in the top 200: 139th overall. Essentially, I’m saying he should outperform 32 guys currently being drafted ahead of him. Savvy GMs may think it’s no big revelation to talk up Teravainen, but the general drafting public evidently hasn’t caught on yet. Teravainen’s a legit sleeper.

Of course, I’m not going to tout Ryan Johansen as a sleeper when I rank him 18th and he’s going 33rd. There’s a line to draw here. I still want to help you find guys you can actually steal in the mid to late rounds. With that, let’s begin the 2015-16 list:

Read more

Fantasy hockey: the top 30 keeper league players by position

Matt Larkin
John Tavares (Getty Images)

It’s nowhere near time to panic. You aren’t behind on your cramming for fantasy hockey draft day. You can print out my latest top 200 player list and leaf through it at the cottage.

Keeper and dynasty league GMs, though, have to be a bit more on the ball. These folks are running long-term franchises. They technically never stop playing, as they’re free to make trades all off-season. They can also host their drafts earlier, as their leagues depend less on immediate health and up-to-date depth charts.

It’s thus an ideal juncture to explore some keeper league rankings. Doing so means dispelling the hell out of some myths. For one, keeper league rankings are not merely prospect rankings. Sorry, but Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and Aaron Ekblad do not automatically top these lists. Elite prospects like Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and William Nylander don’t make the cut at all here, as I think they’re still multiple seasons away from being impact NHLers.

And here’s the thing too many people forget about keeper leagues: they still have standings and championships this year, and the next, and the next. So as long as an established star player projects to stay dominant for the next few seasons, he warrants strong keeper league consideration over the youngsters. McDavid tops the ranks if we’re projecting for five or 10 years down the road. But will he outscore John Tavares in the next two or three years? Doubtful. That’s not a knock on Connor. That’s a compliment to Johnny T.

Some veterans, however, are punished in these rankings. The likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have reached their mid-30s and dealt with nagging injuries in recent seasons. They will outscore many of the players on these lists this season, but they could decline sharply within two years. Give me Mark Scheifele in 2016-17 over Datsyuk if I’m starting a keeper league team from scratch. That’s why you won’t see Detroit’s dynamic veterans make the list.

Here are my top 30 keeper league picks by position. Age as of opening night, Oct. 7, 2015, listed in brackets.

Read more

This Week in The Hockey News magazine: Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide 2015-16

The Hockey News

PBK15 Ovechkin_EN-400Get the edge in your pool with THN’s Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide. We’ve got point projections and insights for more than 600 players, full-page previews of every NHL with depth charts, top 10 prospects and points-o-meter, plus specialized stats breakdowns by category to keep you ahead of your competition.

In the issue you’ll also find:

– what’s happened in the 20-years since our first pool guide?

– how to deal with the growing pack of middle-tier goalies

– which fab freshmen should you look at, other than Connor McDavid, of course

– the undrafted prospect to grab NOW in your keeper league

– this year’s “buyer beware” and “buyer believe” players

– the 10 pending UFAs primed to have a big season in their contract year

– why possession numbers are key in picking defensemen, and which ones you should look to

– our “Ask The Expert” feature, where we ask, Jamie McLennan, Matthew Barnaby, P.J. Stock, Louis Jean, Eric Fichaud & Cassie Campbell what they think of the upcoming season

– top to bottom statistics from the 2013-14 season

– are advanced stats ruining hockey pools?

– and much, much more.

Pick up a copy at your local newsstand, buy it from the THN store or digitally through Zinio. The issue is also available in French.

Fantasy hockey Q&A: Should you trade Evgeni Malkin?

Matt Larkin
Evgeni Malkin

A thought that occurred to me while we finished up our Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide, which hits newsstands in the next few weeks: we’ve entered a golden age of fantasy hockey. Traditional, pen-and-paper office pools still exist, but we also have massive online league engines and keeper formats that let us track salaries and trade draft picks. The latest revolution, daily fantasy sports, has players changing their lineups seven times a week based on matchups. We’ve never had so many options.

All the different modes of play complicate roster decisions and led to many questions submitted from readers over the past several weeks. They were supposed to run in the magazine, but our 2015-16 Pool Guide is so packed with content that there wasn’t room. I’ll answer them online instead. Here goes…

Read more

Who has lost the most fantasy value this off-season?

Matt Larkin
Antti Niemi. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

On Monday I explored which players have gained fantasy value based on off-season trades and signings so far. Some NHLers, however, lose value based on roster moves, whether it’s because they’re pushed down the depth chart by a new addition or because they’ve lost their key linemate to a trade or free agency.

Which players stand to produce less in 2015-16 based on summer transactions so far? Consider these names.

Read more