NHL Barometer: Fantasy Awards

NHL Barometer: Fantasy Awards

This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.

This week's article includes the season-ending fantasy awards, as well as players to target and downgrade/avoid in next year's hockey drafts. Thanks to all those who read and/or comment during the year; it's greatly appreciated. 

Fantasy MVP

Connor McDavid, C, EDM/Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR

I decided to go with co-MVPs. On the offensive side, it is hard to argue with McDavid, who has set a season high in points in what has been another Hart Trophy-type year. He might not have been as consistent as in years past, but the overall numbers don't lie. On the other end, Shesterkin carried the Rangers earlier this season when their defense was  too often Swiss cheese. He put himself into Hart contention, until a small bobble in March, but Shesterkin, with 36 wins, a 2.03 goals-against average (GAA) and .936 save percentage, looks to be a near lock for the Vezina Trophy.

Fantasy Sleeper of the Year

Michael Bunting, LW, TOR

Bunting was either drafted as an end-game flyer or, more likely, picked up off the waiver wire, but he's notched 23 goals, 40 assists and a plus-27 in 79 games while skating on the team's top line with Auston Matthews. He showed signs he could break out last year in Arizona, but clearly, no one expected this. Bunting really should not be eligible for the Calder Trophy, since he is 26 years old, but he has provided a ridiculous amount of value to the Maple Leafs and

This week's article includes the season-ending fantasy awards, as well as players to target and downgrade/avoid in next year's hockey drafts. Thanks to all those who read and/or comment during the year; it's greatly appreciated. 

Fantasy MVP

Connor McDavid, C, EDM/Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR

I decided to go with co-MVPs. On the offensive side, it is hard to argue with McDavid, who has set a season high in points in what has been another Hart Trophy-type year. He might not have been as consistent as in years past, but the overall numbers don't lie. On the other end, Shesterkin carried the Rangers earlier this season when their defense was  too often Swiss cheese. He put himself into Hart contention, until a small bobble in March, but Shesterkin, with 36 wins, a 2.03 goals-against average (GAA) and .936 save percentage, looks to be a near lock for the Vezina Trophy.

Fantasy Sleeper of the Year

Michael Bunting, LW, TOR

Bunting was either drafted as an end-game flyer or, more likely, picked up off the waiver wire, but he's notched 23 goals, 40 assists and a plus-27 in 79 games while skating on the team's top line with Auston Matthews. He showed signs he could break out last year in Arizona, but clearly, no one expected this. Bunting really should not be eligible for the Calder Trophy, since he is 26 years old, but he has provided a ridiculous amount of value to the Maple Leafs and fantasy managers. 

Fantasy Bust of the Year

 Philipp Grubauer, G, SEA

Inked by Seattle to a six-year, $35.4 million deal, Grubauer may rue that contract and wonder if he should have taken less to remain with Colorado. Entering the season, the conventional wisdom was Grubauer would provide plenty of fantasy value as one of the top options in goal. Whoops. He likely has cratered several fantasy teams, landing on the waiver wire in all but the deepest of formats as he has gone 18-30-5 with a 3.14 GAA and .890 save percentage.

Goalie MVP

Igor Shesterkin, NYR

See above. Shesterkin's goals-saved above average (GSAA) and GSAA-x have been at the top of the league by a wide margin pretty much all season, showing just how dominant he has been.

D-Man MVP 

 Roman Josi, NSH

 Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, Victor Hedman, Adam Fox and others could fill this spot. But Josi is pretty much the clear choice and should win the Norris Trophy.  Josi has 21 goals, 91 points, 270 shots on net, 126 blocked shots and a plus-13 rating in 77 games. His goals, assists and points dwarf his prior production, as he has stayed healthy and contributed across the board, helping Nashville and his fantasy teams.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year 

Moritz Seider, D, DET

The potential Calder Trophy winner looked like he belonged in the NHL from the first day of the season and never looked back. The sixth pick in the 2019 draft, Seider posted two assists Opening Night and has six goals and 43 helpers in 80 games. His minus-10 rating is not unsightly, given his team and the 23 minutes of ice time he averages. Add 145 hits and 157 blocked shots and Seider has superstar written all over his portfolio. Seider looks to be the stud blueliner lacking in Motown since Nicklas Lidstrom retired. 

Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year 

Matt Duchene, C, NSH

Coming off a season in which his production cratered to a career-low 13 points thanks to injury and poor play, Duchene was overlooked by most fantasy managers on draft day. It didn't take long for him to grab fantasy attention, though, as he posted 19 points in his first 17 games. His rostership continued to skyrocket on the way to career highs in goals (41) and points (81) as he completely flipped the switch, helping lead both the Predators and fantasy managers to playoff contention.  

Dynasty Stash for 2022-23 

Matty Beniers, C, SEA

The second overall pick in last season's NHL draft, Beniers has made an immediate impact since joining the Kraken off the University of Michigan campus. In six games, Beniers has three goals and a pair of assists. Known for his mature two-way game and supreme attacking-zone instincts, Beniers has seamlessly stepped into the league with few signs of apprehension or adjustment. Look for Beniers to be Seattle's first-line center next season. 

My Best Fantasy Pick

 Jack Campbell, G, TOR

Campbell took over as the Maple Leafs' No. 1 netminder part of last season while Frederik Andersen was sidelined and stepped into the role full-time when Andersen signed with Carolina in the offseason. Other than a slump around the All-Star break, Campbell has given fantasy managers all they could want between the pipes. And for the Maple Leafs, the real proof comes in the postseason, but for the 82-game grind, Campbell, who notched a career-high 30 wins, has more than fit the bill. 

My Worst Fantasy Pick 

Ryan Ellis, D, PHI

Several players, including my favorite retention, Kirby Dach, could have landed here. While I don't love using a player who missed most of the season with an injury in this space, Ellis is my choice. The injury, the specifics of which is still unknown, was originally not expected to sideline him the balance of season. But Ellis finished his first year in Philly with just four games played and five points produced, showing signs he could have been the team's power-play quarterback.  

Players to Target for 2022-23

Peyton Krebs, C, BUF – Buffalo might be set down the middle for the next few years with Tage Thompson,  who has been a revelation, and Krebs, acquired in the Jack Eichel deal. The jury is still out, though, on Krebs, who has shown the ability to score on the man-advantage, when he has time and space, but struggles at even-strength. Ten of his 22 points have come on the power play, though he is a minus-17; the latter partially impacted by his team. Krebs, depending on what the Sabres do this offseason, might be a nice late-round flyer in next year's draft. 

Vasili Podkolzin, RW, VAN – Podkolzin, selected 10th overall in 2019, has grown into his second-line role during the season. With four goals and five helpers in his last eight outings, the rookie winger is up to 26 points, 110 shots on net, 83 hits and a plus-8 rating through 76 appearances. Podkolzin's improved play helped the Canucks stay on the fringe of playoff contention and bodes well for future success next season. His name is known in deeper formats, less so in shallow ones, making him a nice target next season, especially if he skates next to Elias Pettersson. 

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, CLM –Bjorkstrand's rough end to season might slightly depress his value heading into drafts next season. Until March 30, he was having a breakthrough campaign with 24 goals and 26 assists, albeit with a minus-27 rating, in 65 games. In his next 11 games, Bjorkstrand was basically invisible on the scoresheet with no goals or assists and a minus-nine rating. He rebounded with a goal and a pair of helpers Sunday, improving his career numbers, reminding all that he is still a pretty good offensive weapon. 

Matthew Boldy, RW, MIN – Drafted 12th overall in 2019, the 21-year-old rookie has been phenomenal for the playoff-bound Wild. Through Saturday's games, Boldy was rocking a 10-game point streak and had put up 15 goals and 22 apples in 43 games with a plus-18 rating. In keeper leagues, he quite likely and should be long gone, while his early draft position in redraft leagues next season has steadily risen to mid-round consideration. Minnesota also has Marco Rossi looming in the pipeline, giving the team two additional weapons for the future. 

Brent Burns, D, SJ – Burns has not completely turned back the clock to 2014-19, but given the supporting case around him, he has been pretty darn good. He is closing the season strong with 11 points in his last 16 games, giving the veteran blueliner 51 points, 194 shots on net, 142 blocked shots and a minus-13 rating in 78 games. Burns, signed for three more seasons, has been steady from the back line, helping to make up for absence of Erik Karlsson, who has been limited in three of the four seasons he has been in San Jose.

Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF – The presence of Owen Power might take some counting stats away from Dahlin. But the 2018 first overall pick should benefit from another blueliner taking away a certain amount of the focus and game planning from him. Dahlin had a fine rookie season with 44 points in 2018-19, but saw his production fall the next two seasons, resulting some questioning his talent level. He answered all those questions and more, posting a career-high 13 goals and 40 assists while also skating 24 minutes a game, blocking 89 shots and dishing out 119 hits. Dahlin bet on himself by signing a three-year, $18 million contract with the Sabres last September, paving the way for a possible huge pay day after the 2023-24 season. 

Anton Forsberg, G, OTT – The future, despite what has been reported and continues to swirl around ownership and management of the team, appears to be bright in Ottawa. A strong pipeline is buffeted by several young players either on the rise or established within the league. The Senators appear to have discovered their goalie of the future in Forsberg. Despite an inability to consistently maintain leads, which also is a function of the blueline and defensive structure in front of him, Forsberg is 20-17-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .917 save percentage, 

Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI – Sorokin has stumbled a bit down the stretch, slightly marring what has been a brilliant sophomore campaign for the Russian netminder. Firmly ensconced as the No. 1 goalie on the Island, Sorokin is 25-17-8 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Sorokin may have worn down from the increased workload, as he only played in 22 games last season and was adversely impacted by the poor play around him. But he and Igor Shesterkin should wage a battle to be the best netminder in the Metro for the next several seasons.

Others include Tage Thompson, Chandler Stephenson, Trevor Zegras, Josh Norris, Robert Thomas, Jack Hughes, Clayton Keller, Travis Konecny, Valeri Nichushkin, Brock Boeser, Jakub Vrana, Tim Stutzle, Adrian Kempe, Jack Roslovic, Lucas Raymond, Tyler Toffoli, Jesper Bratt, Evgenii Dadonov, Seth Jarvis, Victor Olofsson, Ivan Barbashev, Yegor Sharangovich, Cole Sillinger, Evander Kane (if in Edmonton), Drake Batherson, Tyler Bertuzzi (vaccine dependent), Erik Brannstrom, Evan Bouchard, Moritz Seider, Artem Zub (hits and blocks), Owen Power, Jake Oettinger, Spencer Knight, Jeremy Swayman, John Gibson (a hunch), Mike Smith (third goalie), Cam Talbot and Logan Thompson

Players to Downgrade/Avoid for 2022-23

Nazem Kadri, C, COL – Kadri, an unrestricted free agent after the season, certainly raised his profile and contract asking price this season. Prior to the upper-body injury that sidelined him eight games, Kadri had 83 points, 228 shots on net, 51 hits and a plus-18 rating through 65 appearances in a career year, benefiting from the attention given to the other offensive weapons in Colorado. If he re-ups with the Avalanche, filling the 2C slot, or signs elsewhere as a possible first or second-line center, expecting this type of output might be asking too much.

Jeff Skinner, LW, BUF – Your spot comes up in the draft, are you willing to bet that Skinner scores 30-plus goals again? The team around him is improving, he is not the sole weapon in Buffalo and is coming off a rebound campaign. But the dilemma is which is the real Skinner. The one who has scored 30-plus goals five times in his 12-year career or the one who lit the lamp just 21 times the prior two campaigns? Fantasy is all about risk/reward and how much risk you are willing to take and how much you believe in what a player is or can become. With Skinner, add the disappearing quotient and the risk gets multiplied. My guess is he finishes somewhere between his numbers the last three seasons.

Noah Hanifin D, CGY – Hanifin, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson have been brilliant on the Flames' blueline. Hanifin, though, might need to be viewed as the biggest surprise in that grouping based on prior production. From 2015-16 through 2019-20, Hanifin had posted 22 to 33 points. Last season, he fell to 15 points in 47 games, making it look like his offensive game was no longer a viable expectation. Hanifin proved everyone wrong with 46 points, including 13 on the man advantage, in 78 games. While I don't expect a complete fall from grace, some regression must be priced in for next season.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, MIN –The Flower will be in the Hall of Fame, that's pretty much a given. In addition, he has been more than solid since coming to Minnesota, going 7-1-0 with a 2.64 GAA and .918 save percentage. While Fleury has expressed interest about playing one more season, which could happen in the Home of Hockey, Cam Talbot is under contract for another year. If Talbot remains in Minnesota, a platoon is more than likely, which would help Fleury make it through the year unscathed, but also impact his counting stats. 

Others include Joe Pavelski, Phillip Danault (think he is the 3C in LA next season), Nick Schmaltz (solely because he likely won't average close to a point-per-game played), Andrew Mangiapane, Ivan Provorov, Mikko Koskinen and Jordan Binnington.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball and hockey for RotoWire. He is responsible for the weekly NL FAAB column for baseball and the Barometer for hockey. In addition to his column writing, he is master of the NHL cheat sheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets and Rangers.
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