THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Ryan Johansen (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

I love the Don Henley track “Boys of Summer.” It’s almost impossible to sing the chorus in karaoke, which sucks, but I dig the way it captures this time of year. Nobody on the road…nobody on the beach…I feel it in the air…the summer’s out of reach.

That feeling – mild chill in the air, slight breeze – gets me thinking about fantasy hockey drafts. It’s that time again. Most of what you need to know for your draft is in our crackerjack THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide, which is on newsstands now. You’ll even find a sorted list of the top 300 projected scorers.

One thing that list doesn’t cover, however, is any league not based entirely on points. What about the head-to-head formats in which you accumulate goaltending stats and penalty minutes on top of your offensive numbers? How do you know when to draft a goalie or defenseman over a forward?

I present to you a new ranking set. This list is based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Personally, I like scrapping penalty minutes for hits and adding saves to the goalie category, but I’ll stick with the standard configuration to ensure these rankings have a wider reach. Let’s get it on!

SEPT. 19 UPDATE: Training camps are underway, and it’s time to start movin’ and shakin’ the rankings a bit. A few injuries and one prominent contract squabble can’t be ignored any longer.

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Top 10 players to avoid in 2014-15 fantasy drafts

Matt Larkin
Drew Doughty is all-world in real life, but he's a surprisingly lackluster fantasy hockey performer. (Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The fascinating thing about creating a bust list: it’s complicated.

It does you no good to simply tell you, “Don’t draft Willie Mitchell in your fantasy league.” Nothing against Willie, as he remains a useful stay-at-home presence, but the tools in his belt aren’t used in hockey pools. Everyone knows that.

A proper fantasy bust list isn’t even a list of players I don’t like for 2014-15. It’s imperative I make that clear. My top 10 guys to avoid are not all guys I expect to have bad years. Factoring in my top 200 versus average draft positions in Yahoo leagues, as I did for the top 10 sleepers, I’m primarily identifying guys being drafted too early. Those who meet my criteria:

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

Primary influencers: aging, new teams or linemates, and overhype. Hot rookies get drafted before Jason Pominville every year. Why? They labor to 45-point campaigns while Pominville calmly eclipses 60 points in his sleep. The key to avoiding a bust is ensuring you draft guys at the right moment. I’m plenty high on Jonathan Drouin, for example, but he’s going 10 picks before Pominville on average. That’s ludicrous unless it’s in keeper leagues. Everything has to go perfectly for Drouin merely to reach Pominville’s yearly production.

With those red flags in mind, here are my top 10 players to avoid in 2014-15 drafts based on their ADPs.

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Fantasy Pool Look: Bruins, Ducks & Avalanche off-season report

Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let’s see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…

BOSTON BRUINS
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros

Incoming – Jeremy Smith

Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.

Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.

David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn’t sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that’s a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Winnipeg Jets & Ottawa Senators off-season report

Wheeler And Anderson (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different. I’m reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish.

(Editor’s Note: This post was supposed to go up in early June, but due to a mix up it wasn’t published…until now. This is an edited version changed to reflect moves made since it was originally written. We apologize. The final installment of Darryl’s off-season outlooks, his final article for thn.com, will go up Saturday morning Sunday afternoon.)

WINNIPEG JETS
Gone – Olli Jokinen, Devin Setoguchi, Chris Thorburn, Al Montoya, Zach Redmond

Incoming – Mathieu Perreault, Michael Hutchinson, T.J. Galiardi

Ready for full time – Goaltender Michael Hutchinson had a breakthrough season in the ECHL and the American League and he even had a strong showing in the NHL. At 24, he’s probably ready for backup duties. However, this was one year of greatness after several years below mediocrity.

A long shot, but a good one, is future stud Josh Morrissey. He boasts all the upside of a Jacob Trouba, but would have to climb over a couple of veterans (albeit depth ones) to get on the team. And he’s probably best served by another year of development. That said, Trouba made it so that the team had no choice but to keep him. Morrissey could do the same. If so, he would be one to watch in fantasy hockey. Read more

Top 10 fantasy sleeper picks for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Mikael Granlund has the talent to become Minnesota's unquestioned No. 1 center. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

It’s September. And if you don’t think that means fantasy hockey time, check the weather in the Alberta Rockies. Whoa.

If you’re a keener, you’ve probably gotten ahead already and checked out the top 200 players. Now it’s time to look at sleepers. I identify sleepers 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 end of drafts to reap major profits

All three points essentially mean the same thing. The later rounds are all about value, and the sleepers are guys who deliver more value than others picked just before or after them. Some are overlooked rookies – especially rookies who weren’t drafted this past June. Some are guys earning new roles. And some are young guys about to break out and deliver on the promise that made them high draft picks. Two great examples from 2013-14 are Ben Bishop (a guy given a new role) and Ryan Johansen (a high draft pick realizing his potential).

Onto the 2014-15 sleeper list. Keep these fellas in mind and enjoy making your friends mad. I’ve included their overall rankings in brackets to provide a sense of when to draft them. There’s a such thing as a third-round sleeper and a 15th-round sleeper, so it’s important to know the difference.

I’ve also included each guy’s average draft position in Yahoo leagues. Note that each guy’s ADP is way lower than my ranking. in other words, when you get to the end of this list, I’m telling you the player I rank 81st overall is available on average 149th overall. Now that’s a sleeper who can turn a profit.

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Fantasy Pool Look: Sharks, Blues off-season outlooks

Joe Thornton and PAtrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. Today, the Sharks and the Blues are on the docket.

San Jose Sharks
Gone – Martin Havlat, Brad Stuart, Dan Boyle

Incoming – Michael Haley, Tye McGinn, John Scott, Taylor Fedun

Ready for full time – Freddie Hamilton is ready to take on a third- or fourth-line checking role. He probably doesn’t have scoring-line upside in the NHL, but he may be able to carve out a career on the third line as a potential 40-point player. However, that won’t be this year and given the Sharks’ depth at center he may not be called up until mid-season.

Matt Tennyson was a big college free agent signing in 2012 and after two seasons in the minors he’s getting closer. His minus-25 rating with Worcester last season indicates that perhaps he could use at least another half season, but he projects as a second-pairing guy who could chip in on the second power play unit. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Blackhawks, Penguins off-season outlooks

Kane & Toews (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. Now we’re really getting into the powerhouses – today we take a look at the Blackhawks and the Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks

Gone – Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Jason LaBarbera, Brandon Bollig, Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus, Nikolai Khabibulin

Incoming – Michael Leighton, Kyle Cumiskey, Brad Richards, P-C Labrie

Ready for full time – Jeremy Morin is NHL-ready. He was NHL-ready last year. And if you want to know why Kevin Hayes took a pass on signing with the strong Stanley Cup favorites, look no further than Morin. Hayes didn’t want to sit in the minors for two or even three more years when there are many teams that would play him right now. Morin was in the same boat. But he should make the team now and even with minimal ice time is a pretty good dark horse for 40 points, upwards of 200 shots and 90 PIM. Read more

Fantasy Hockey: Who is this year’s…

Matt Larkin
Semyon Varlamov

You can set your watch to certain events every fantasy season. One free agent bust gives way to the next, and one breakout rookie passes the torch to another. The “Who is This Year’s…” game helps poolies because it provides a ton of information by comparing two names. “Jake Allen is good” says a little. “Jake Allen is this year’s Semyon Varlamov” says a lot. Time to play.

 

WHO IS THIS YEAR’S…

 

…RYAN JOHANSEN?
Post-hype breakout

Johansen, the fourth-overall pick in 2010, scored 14 goals in his first 107 games. In 2013-14, he exploded for 33 goals. A young gun set to go off this season is Alex Galchenyuk. He hasn’t been bad, tallying 58 points over his first two seasons, but he’s just scratching the surface of his ability, and he missed 17 games in 2013-14. He’s a future star, and a leap into the 60-point stratosphere is within reach.

…SEMYON VARLAMOV?
Out-of-nowhere goalie sensation
Varlamov wasn’t a nobody entering 2013-14, but he was struggling. Then Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy arrived to coach Colorado. ‘Varly’ was a changed man and a profitable late-round grab in pools. This year, Jake Allen will pay off similarly. He’s guaranteed an NHL job and will post outstanding numbers with the stellar Blues defense in front of him. He’ll earn at least a split of the starts with Brian Elliott, with potential for a lot more.

…TYLER SEGUIN?
Return to grace
Boston was silly to give up on Tyler Seguin. He was too talented to stay down after a poor year, and he was just 21. Dallas jumped at the chance to get him, and he finished fourth in league scoring. Watch for a bounce-back from Eric Staal. A 61-point campaign after eight straight seasons at a pace of 70 or more? Toss it out. He’s still just 29.

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