Sometimes we can get a little too caught up in goals, assists, shots on goal and power-play production in fantasy hockey. Sure, those are the most exciting of the standard categories in ESPN leagues, but they aren’t the only ones. Successful acquisition of players who can provide penalty minutes, plus/minus and average time on ice can help your team just as much.
Below are some likely available players that can help touch up the corners of your fantasy team you may have been ignoring in lieu of offensive statistics. Just be sure to use these players sparingly. They are not necessarily of the “set it and forget it” variety of fantasy help. You’ll want to work these guys into your lineup when you have some maximum games played numbers to top up, or an injury here or there. In weekly leagues, you’ll want to look for a four-game week from them before deploying.
Kevin Klein, D, New York Rangers: The points have never really been there for this stalwart defender, but he has managed a modest six points already this season. More importantly, Klein is playing important minutes for the Rangers, pairing up with both Marc Staal and Keith Yandle at different times. Klein’s numbers put him among the top-50 defensemen on the ESPN Player Rater so far this season (No. 48) and much of that value is driven by his plus-11 rating. There are plenty of defensemen with a higher ownership percentage in ESPN leagues who aren’t doing as much for their owners.
Jannik Hansen, F, Vancouver Canucks: Although it hasn’t exactly been a great season for Sidney Crosby, it helps to describe how helpful Hansen has been by pointing out that the current Canucks top-line winger trails Crosby by only a hair on the Player Rater. In addition to helping with scoring and shots on goal, Hansen has a plus-11 rating from playing with the Sedin twins. He’s owned in barely half of ESPN leagues, and should be a lock in all of them.
Tobias Enstrom, D, Winnipeg Jets: Playing on the top shutdown pairing for the Jets with Tyler Myers, Enstrom isn’t collecting points the way he used to. But between his plus/minus and modest scoring, he’s a valuable back-end roster contributor and a potential boost to your plus/minus rating. Rather than wait for Mark Giordano or Niklas Kronwall to come around, fantasy owners would be better off benching them and running with Enstrom for now.
Tom Wilson, F, Washington Capitals: Although he doesn’t have nearly the PIM of the league leaders, Wilson doesn’t kill you in other categories like many of the leaders in the PIM category do. Still managing to earn more than 12 minutes per game in ice time, Wilson is tied for 10th in the NHL for PIM. He is worth stashing on your bench and starting whenever you get the opportunity to slip him into your lineup.
Average time on ice
Jack Johnson, D, Columbus Blue Jackets: If we assume the worst is now behind the Blue Jackets following their horrible start to the season, Johnson should be back on the radar. The points don’t look like they’ll be there, but he is ninth in the NHL for average ice time, which has value when taken as part of the package to make up for his modest scoring.
Michael Del Zotto, D, Philadelphia Flyers: Perhaps surprisingly — if you haven’t been watching the defense pairings around the league — Del Zotto is 22nd in the NHL for average ice time, even topping what teammate Mark Streit was playing when healthy. His overall value is lagging, but is starting to come around. Four of his five points this season have come in the past eight games since Streit was injured.
Travis Zajac, F, New Jersey Devils: Only three NHL forwards are playing more average ice time than Zajac, and he’s been scoring a decent pace to boot. Even if his scoring pace slows from the current 14 points in 22 games, Zajac can find value thanks to his ice time and the counting stats that tend to flow from being on the ice a lot.
Forwards rising and falling
Mark Stone, F, Ottawa Senators(down 10 spots to No. 51): If he isn’t going to be playing on the Senators’ top line, Stone’s fortunes aren’t going to be as positive. While he has managed five points in five games since a line juggle — thanks in part to his maintained role on the power play — his long-term production won’t be what it would have been playing with Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman at even strength. This could be temporary for the line assignments, but the Senators have been awesome since making the switch, so we doubt things are going back anytime soon.
Wayne Simmonds, F, Philadelphia Flyers (up 10 spots to No. 102): The Flyers are starting to get back on track, and Simmonds is a big part of his team’s game plan. The bruising forward almost single-handedly defeated the New York Rangers on Saturday, and looked awesome while doing it. His breakaway goal, touch-pass assist and laser-guided empty netter on Saturday were shades of the dominant fantasy asset we all know and love. Simmonds and the rest of the Flyers have a long way to getting back to where they should be, but very positive steps have been taken in the past week. Now might be the time to buy low.
Defensemen rising and falling
Tyson Barrie, D, Colorado Avalanche (up 18 spots to No. 137): Following a very sad October, in which Barrie managed just two assists in seven games, he has woken up in November. He’s posted 12 points in 13 games, with six assists on the power play. After dipping to 18 minutes of ice time on a couple of occasions in October, Barrie has spiked to 28 minutes on two occasions in November. He has regained the trust of coach Patrick Roy, and should be rock solid going forward.
Goaltenders rising and falling
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens(down 89 spots to No. 95): Official word came down Monday that Price is gone for about six weeks. Mike Condon is a must-add if he is available, but we would suggest medium-to-deep leagues consider handcuffing Dustin Tokarski as a backup. Neither goaltender really has the track record to hold the job for the long-term, which means either one could end up having a hot stretch.
Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators(down six spots to No. 32): The Player Rater has some imperfections with goaltender rankings, since it doesn’t consider the ratio stats in context with starters and backup goaltenders. But it’s easy for us to make those contextual leaps on our own. So when we remove the “backup” goaltenders from the rankings, it’s still pretty damning to see that Rinne is only 15th among fantasy value for goaltenders. Rinne has already played seven games this season in which he has posted a save percentage worse than .900. Last season, it was January before he had seven such games. We only bumped him to sixth among goaltenders for now, but this looks a bit like a trend more than a small slump.
Derek Stepan could be out a month with broken ribs. Emerson Etem will get a shot on the second line, but really, the fantasy value of the line is degraded significantly with Stepan out, and Chris Kreider‘s value takes a particular hit.
James Reimer still isn’t ready to play as of Monday, with AHL callup Garret Sparks slated to start. Watch Reimer’s availability through the week as he works through a tricky lower-body injury.
Connor Hellebuyck only needs one more good start — two tops — to move into the No. 1 job for the Winnipeg Jets for the time being. Michael Hutchinson had his fifth poor start in a row on Saturday.
Updated top 250 rankings
Here are the updated rest-of-season, top 250 rankings of forwards, defensemen and goalies, including position ranks.
Note: Sean Allen’s top 250 players are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice for skaters, and wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies.