Early-season help in specific fantasy hockey categories
On the NHL ice, there’s really only one true goal, and that’s getting the puck into the back of the net as many times as possible. However, for many fantasy hockey managers, there’s more to the competition than simply acquiring as many goals (and assists) as you can.
Here’s a round-up of a few players who could come in handy when attempting to satisfy other fantasy categories — even some not-so-common ones — without sacrificing scoring.
Power play points
Patrick Maroon, LW, St. Louis Blues (41.2 percent rostered): An imposing figure with good hands, Maroon has made productive hay in years past on top units with both Anaheim and Edmonton. Now settling in St. Louis, the 30-year-old is skating on a No. 1 line and power play with Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. With a pair of power-play assists through two games, the veteran winger is off to a solid start.
Thomas Chabot, D, Ottawa Senators (39.1 percent): There’s no replacing Erik Karlsson, but this 21-year-old is doing his best to offer Senators fans some hope for the future. Skating on the top pair and power play, and seemingly encouraged to join the rush when appropriate, Chabot has two goals and four assists in a quartet of contests. Just watch, the 2015 first-rounder could finish with 50-plus points this year — a good number of them earned with the extra skater. Any fantasy manager not too caught up in plus/minus should quickly invest in this Ottawa talent before it’s too late.
Dennis Cholowski, D, Detroit Red Wings (4.3 percent): While Mike Green continues to recover from a fairly serious illness, Cholowski takes over anchoring duties on the Red Wings’ top power play. Two of the rookie’s three points on the season have already come with the man-advantage, and Green could be out for quite some time.
Shots on goal
Craig Smith, RW, Nashville Predators (47.8 percent): An often underrated fantasy asset, Smith has long enjoyed shooting the puck. True to form this season, the 29-year-old already has 15 shots on net through just three games. What’s different this campaign is Smith’s role on the Predators’ top power play with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen. A habitual 20-plus goals guy, with this usage, Smith could finally crack 30 tallies, along with racking up his standard high shot total. He certainly merits consideration in deeper leagues.
Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes (33.0 percent): The Hurricanes’ second-line center is quickly developing into a sneaky-good fantasy asset. In addition to his five points (plus-five) through four games, and 19 hits, Staal leads the league with 57 faceoffs won — and it isn’t even close. The 30-year-old veteran ranked No. 13 overall in this category in 2017-18. Snatch him up before others become wise to his multi-category worthiness.
Milan Lucic, LW, Edmonton Oilers (17.3 percent): Ranking second in the league with 254 hits this past season, Lucic brought little other impact to the ice beyond a physical presence. He certainly didn’t score much (34 points). However, the 30-year-old appears to be back with a determined vengeance. So far, so good. Showing up to training camp in improved shape, Lucic scored a goal and assist in the Oilers’ first game, competing on a line with Leon Draisaitl, and on Edmonton’s top power play alongside Connor McDavid and friends. Look for a near 60-point campaign, along with an easy average of three hits-per-game.
Max Comtois, LW/RW, Anaheim Ducks (3.1 percent): As one fellow ESPN hockey scribe casually suggested, it won’t be too long before this kid shows up on the league’s Department of Player Safety radar. But Comtois is more than a big-bodied banger. Along with 15 hits through four games, the 19-year-old also has two goals and an assist, skating on a scoring line with Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg. This kid is a well-rounded, under-appreciated asset in fantasy leagues that reward physical play.
Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks (17.6 percent): As discussed this past week, Edler seems bent on enjoying a re-awakening with the gaggle of young talent in Vancouver. Skating on the top pair and No. 1 power play, he has four assists to show for three games, including three with the extra skater. He’s also blocking shots, already leading the league with 16. If that small sample size is a bother, consider that Edler ranked third in the NHL in this category last year.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Detroit Red Wings (4.7 percent): Bertuzzi is a reliable pest with a well-recognized penchant for collecting penalty minutes. Now, in his first full NHL campaign, he’s also expected to put up decent digits in the scoring department. A pair of goals through three contests is a good start. As rookie Michael Rasmussens linemate, the feisty 23-year-old should make for a well-rounded asset in leagues that value trips to the sin bin.
Ryan McDonagh, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (17.7 percent): Reminiscent of recent seasons, McDonagh skated 25-plus minutes in Tampa Bay’s one and only contest thus far. It’s the (still only) 29-year-old former Rangers captain — and not young Mikhail Sergachev — who is anchoring the club’s secondary power play. This feels like 2016-17 all over again, when the gifted two-way defenseman logged quality minutes and 42 points for his former club in New York.
Jack Campbell, G, Los Angeles Kings (6.3 percent): Subbing in for an injured Jonathan Quick, Campbell is rocking a .948 save percentage through two appearances — not too shabby for the 2010 first-round draft pick. The talented Kings are going to win their heavy share of games, which means that, with Quick listed as week-to-week, so too will Campbell for the foreseeable future. Fantasy managers with goalie needs should jump on the 26-year-old before it’s too late.
James Reimer, G, Florida Panthers (7.4 percent): He’s usually been a “boom or bust” option, but Reimer did collect four shutouts a season ago, despite appearing in only 44 games. With Roberto Luongo already suffering a serious enough knee injury, the Panthers’ backup is slated to see more action than previously anticipated. Also important, the Florida hockey club is better than average, which should help Reimer out in other departments as well.
Robin Lehner, G, New York Islanders (5.4 percent): The Islanders finished “top of the table” in terms of the most shots faced last season. A similar standing is anticipated this time around, except the new guy in net is expected to stop a greater number of those one-times. After all, he’s already managed a 35-save shutout. Lehner may not win as many games as other netminders on stronger teams, but his save percentage should be solid on a week-to-week basis.