The NHL has officially passed the halfway mark of the regular season, but the unofficial first half ends Wednesday night with the impending All-Star Game in Columbus. This marks a good time for reflection on the first half of the fantasy season.
Here are some awards that mean absolutely nothing that we’re handing out to first-half fantasy performers.
First Team All-Stars
Center: Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) – On top of cracking the 50-point mark to date, Malkin also has 19 power play points, over 50 penalty minutes, and over 130 shots on goal. It’s been an elite first half for the Penguins center.
Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin (Washington) – Chances are fantasy hockey owners haven’t had to worry about shots on goal if they drafted Alex Ovechkin. The biggest turn-around has been his plus/minus, but that was to be expected.
Right Wing: Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis) – The sexy “sleeper” pick (more accurate is undervalued pick) from the preseason, Tarasenko has lived up to the billing. He’s top-3 in shots per game (min. 35 games played), and has been among the goal-scoring leaders all season.
Defence: Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis), Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg) – Shattenkirk’s value has come largely from power play points, as he leads the league at time of writing with 24. Expect a significant pullback in that regard, but he’s been elite to this point.
Dustin Byfuglien was put back on defence after injuries ravaged the Winnipeg back end, and his production has been as steady as it always has in fantasy. Byfuglien has more shots on goal than John Tavares, and is drawing a lot of value from penalty minutes as he always does.
Goalie: Pekka Rinne (Nashville) – Pekka Rinne was a question mark coming into this year, missing most of last year with hip injuries (and infections). While he’s injured now, among qualified goalies Rinne is second in goals against average, third in save percentage, and first in wins. Anyone that took the chance on him has been handsomely rewarded so far.
Most Valuable Player
In fantasy, the term ”value” is a cross-section of cost and production. It would be hard to go anywhere else than Vladimir Tarasenko.
The Blues’ sniper has spun some highlight-reel goals this year, like the one below. Just marvel at the skill:
Tarasenko has flourished this year playing alongside import Jori Lehtera, and behind David Backes’ top line. He’s top-10 in points, top-5 in goals, top-5 in plus/minus, and top-10 in shots on goal. It’s just been a balanced, elite half-season for Tarasenko. Considering his draft position was routinely outside the top-100, he’s provided enormous value to anyone who drafted him.
Honorable mention: Kevin Shattenkirk (STL-D), Tyler Johnson (TBL-C), Pekka Rinne (NSH-G)
The David Backes Award
Some players don’t excel in any particular area – speaking in fantasy terms – but produce well in all areas. David Backes has done this for years in roto fantasy leagues, hence the name of the award.
So far this season, Andrew Ladd is outside the top-15 in goals, top-50 in assists, hasn’t cracked 40 points, and yet he’s a top-20 fantasy forward on ESPN. That’s very David Backes-esque.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, Ladd has consistently been a very good fantasy player, and consistently under rated in that regard. His Average Draft Position (ADP) on ESPN was behind names like Patrik Elias and Loui Eriksson, providing a lot of value to anyone who drafted him.
Honrable Mention: Blake Wheeler (WPG-RW), David Backes (STL-C)
First Round Disappointment
ADPs will vary, but both ESPN and Yahoo have Jonathan Quick going in the top-12 picks of fantasy hockey drafts this year. To date, on ESPN, Quick is outside the top-20 goalies, and behind guys like Craig Anderson and Antti Raanta.
This is the problem with taking a non-elite goalie so early. Quick is an average goalie on an elite team, but Los Angeles scuffled out of the gate, and that boosted Quick’s goals against average. He’s not a good goalie to target for save percentage, so the rise in GAA killed his value. Los Angeles is playing much better now, but there’s no chance those who drafted Quick early will have the price tag returned in production this year.
Honorable Mention: Tuukka Rask (BOS-G), John Tavares (NYI-C)
Rookie Of The Half-Year
Jonathan Drouin and Jake Allen were popular picks for this award, both in fantasy and in real life, but it’s been Nashville’s Filip Forsberg that has blown the doors off the NHL as a rookie this year.
Forsberg’s point per game pace has him cracking 70 over the course of a full season, and no rookie has cracked that mark since Patrick Kane in 2007-2008. I think he slows down and ends up closer to 60, but it’s been an amazing season so far for the Nashville stud.
Some players, for one reason or another, have under-performed in the first half. It’s hard to argue there is anyone due for a bigger second half than Patrick Marleau.
Since the 2005 lockout, Marleau has cracked 30 goals in every 82-game season but one. This year, he’s on pace for 14. He’s shooting a bit further away than normal, though that number is coming down, and certainly doesn’t justify him shooting at half his percentage from last year. Don’t be surprised if he pops off for 15 goals in the next 35 games or so.
Is there anyone missing from these awards? Let us know in the comments!