Rotisserie hockey requires a completely different strategy from points-only leagues. That should be obvious, since points-only leagues count goals and assists. Done. Granted, fantasy owners in those leagues do pay attention to power play units, but only to the extent that their player will tally more goals and assists if he’s on the power play.
Roto hockey is a different animal altogether. It factors in several categories – perhaps as many as 15 or more. And if you lead your fantasy league in a given category you get X points for that category, where ‘X’ is the number of owners in your league (i.e. 15 owners means 15 points). So if you have 10 categories and 15 owners, the highest amount of points you can get is 150.
The key stats in roto hockey – ignoring goaltending stats because that’s a whole other article – are: G (goals), A (assists), PPPts (power play points), +/- (plus/minus), PIM (penalty minutes) and SOG (shots on goal). The trend the past several years has been for many pools to give up the PIM category and instead go with hits. But at this point, PIM is still one of the main six categories.
In taking a look at the players across those six categories, I have compiled a list of the best 20 so far this season. I emphasized the past six weeks more than the first six weeks, but I did look at the season as a whole. For the most part, a player had to be in or around the top 100 in five of the six categories. I also allowed a little influence from the hits category. If a player is strong in that category and I was on the fence about him, it was a tie-breaker.
Here are the 20 players who have helped put poolies over the top.
20. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets (47-10-25-35, minus-17, 54 PIM, 156 SOG, 17 PPPts)
Always one of the best owns in roto hockey, Byfuglien would be a top 10 player were it not for that ugly plus-minus. If you’re punting the plus-minus category anyway (and a lot of people employ that strategy), then Byfuglien is the best player on your team.
19. Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils (47-13-23-36, plus-13, 24 PIM, 114 SOG, 9 PPPts)
I don’t believe it either. In fact, after the post-season in which Jagr was unable to score a single goal in 22 games, I thought he’d be a bust. Not to mention his struggles in recent years with groin injuries. But here he is, healthy at 41 and on pace for his most points since returning to the NHL in 2011. His penalty total is also at a level not seen since his pre-KHL days. He does have just three points in his past 10 games, so the slowdown may have finally started.
18. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks (44-23-30-53, plus-20, 15 PIM, 117 SOG, 14 PPPts)
Getzlaf is normally not a big goal scorer. In fact, he’s three goals shy of setting a new career high already. His shots and plus-minus make it three stats out of the six in which Getzlaf could set a career high. As a bonus, he generally dishes out a lot of hits, though his 57 in 44 games – while still good – is a little light for him.
17. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche (44-13-22-35, plus-11, 29 PIM, 124 SOG, 5 PPPts)
Landeskog has 12 points and is plus-5 in his past 10 games. Despite getting plenty of power play time, his lack of points in that area is unexplainable. But it probably means the best is yet to come. Landeskog has 98 hits, which is second on the Avalanche.
16. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (46-13-28-41, plus-1, 24 PIM, 128 SOG, 18 PPPts)
If only the first five weeks could be wiped from the schedule. Giroux has 13 goals, 34 points and is plus-12 in his past 31 games. He’s clawed his way up to a tie for 20th in NHL scoring.
15. Martin Hanzal, Phoenix Coyotes (41-13-19-32, plus-1, 49 PIM, 114 SOG, 9 PPPts)
Hanzal always has starts like this one, but they’ve always been cut short after 20 or 25 games because of injury. He’s been relatively healthy this time, so now we’re seeing what he can do. Besides setting career highs on offense, Hanzal could top 100 PIM for the second time in his career. He also has 135 hits, which is tied for 10th in the league.
14. Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (40-12-15-27, plus-11, 54 PIM, 92 SOG, 10 PPPts)
The 22-year-old has been pretty consistent. Only once this season has he gone three games in a row without a point. And he is getting more aggressive as the season wears on. Of his 54 PIM, he picked up 52 of them in his past 31 contests. This guy is going to be scary good in a couple of years.
13. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (46-7-17-24, plus-14, 108 SOG, 10 PPPts)
Another example of putting a little more emphasis on recent weeks as opposed to early weeks. Doughty had just one point in his first eight games and was minus-3. Since then he’s posted a plus-17 rating with 23 points in 38 games.
12. David Backes, St. Louis Blues (39-17-16-33, plus-14, 70 PIM, 82 SOG, 10 PPPts)
Although his shots on goal are down this year, his penalty minutes are up significantly. And if he can stay healthy he should set a new career high in points. Backes has been one of the better points/PIM players to own for years.
11. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (48-23-33-56, plus-9 8, 14 PIM, 165 SOG, 21 PPPts)
His six-game slide, which came to a halt Sunday when he tallied two assists and five shots, is what knocked the league’s second-leading scorer out of my top 10 here. Prior to Sunday, Kane had just one assist in six games to go with a minus-3 rating. But the season as a whole has been great for Kane, who is looking at 40 goals when he’s never scored more than 30. His shot total is through the roof right now, on pace for 282 (career high is 261).
The top 10 – coming up Thursday.
For second-half projections, NCAA free agents to watch, trends, analysis and more – pick up my 7th annual Mid-season Fantasy Hockey Guide!
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.