Fantasy hockey season is upon us and after last season, we’ve got a better idea of the players and their roles — and we’ve got a better idea of what we should do with them. This guide will help you make the best possible fantasy hockey roster and help you win!
I’m not sure if this is the right place to put this. But, I’m the kind of person who loves having a bit of knowledge to help me decide who to pick up in my league. I want to be able to pick the best players possible to make my team successful.
Centers are much easier to predict than forwards, who are often traded or signed as free agents after just one or two years of service. This is because centers are usually playing with the same team for the entire season, making it easier to predict their stats. For this reason, centers are often given the nickname “clutch players” by fans, no matter how good they are.
This is my yearly chance to make a plea for the separation of fantasy hockey forward positions to be abolished. Centers, left wingers, and right wingers have been separated from each other on rosters for far too long. The NHL coaching staff is smart enough to see beyond any designations that come with a player and see that they aren’t simply playing whatever position was specified on their contract. Forwards may play in a variety of roles.
In all seriousness, I’ve crunched the numbers in prior versions of this post, and the truth is that in most standard leagues, there is no noticeable difference in the statistics you’ll be drafting from an average center vs an average winger. You don’t have to worry about whether a player begins his shifts in the center of the ice, on the left, or on the right when creating your fantasy hockey squad in default ESPN leagues. All forwards are just classified as forwards in ESPN preset leagues. Which method is the most effective for running a fantasy hockey league?
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Position eligibility is not the same in hockey as it is in other sports. The puck is bouncing all over the place, and most forwards move about a lot. Coaches, on the other hand, will utilize them in a variety of ways depending on the shift. Heck, their line assignments may change several times throughout a game, requiring them to play in new places each time. Most NHL forwards alternate between all three conventional positions during the season, game, or even period.
Because of the blurring boundaries between positions on the ice, as well as clubs’ propensity to label every rookie forward as a center simply because they don’t know any better, converting the real position a player most often plays to the actual fantasy game is imprecise. Nick Suzuki will be exhausted this season if position eligibility is to be believed, since he is the Montreal Canadiens’ lone center for their top three lines, according to the fantasy game. The Nashville Predators, on the other hand, have nine of their twelve forwards playing center in their anticipated opening day lineup.
There is no need to concentrate on a player’s position unless your league includes faceoffs or other statistics that create separation.
All of this isn’t to suggest that a center and a winger aren’t different. They certainly are, and they form the foundation of a successful NHL hockey club. To succeed, NHL clubs need a skilled one-two punch at center, as the talking experts love to say.
However, in a normal league with just forward as a position, a center is not required to win. Which is better, the wing or the center? In terms of fantasy points, the outcome is a tie. In ESPN leagues, 46 of the top 200 fantasy point scorers from last season are eligible at center, and they averaged 101 fantasy points. 71 of the same players are winger eligible, and they averaged 98 fantasy points. When those same guys combined for more than 11,600 total fantasy points, that’s a fairly modest difference.
However, a lot of fantasy leagues still have a positional distinction. As a result, you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to worry about centers and wingers in your fantasy draft (or, heaven forbid, left versus right wing). If this is the case, there are a few things to consider.
Most significantly, the center position in the NHL has much less volatility than the wing. Teams are constantly on the lookout for the fan-favorite pivot who can lead the attack, but finding guys to play beside them is a lot simpler. Wingers ebb and flow from the scoring lines like the phases of the moon during the season, but it typically takes an injury to force a club to employ a new center. This should lead you to give centers a little priority early in the selection, since fewer will emerge throughout the campaign.
If your league divides players into left and right wings, there’s also a positional scarcity to consider, but we’ll go over it in more detail in the wingers preview.
Keep in mind that any statistical study of centers vs. wingers is hampered by the highly human process of categorizing these individuals. In fantasy leagues, Leon Draisaitl is a winger, yet he was seventh in the NHL in total faceoffs last season. With 13 total faceoffs, Drake Batherson is classified as a center.
Send this article to your commissioner if your league still separates the roles. This one, too. And this one as well.
I prefer top-tier men.
New York Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad (ESPN rank: 21, my rank: 13): He’s finished 15th, ninth, and 24th in fantasy points among skaters the last three seasons. Given his poor start to the season (two goals and four assists in his first 19 games), finishing in the top 15 was a remarkable achievement. In this offence’s top-six forwards, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko will both be a year older and wiser, thus Zibanejad may be rated low even at my No. 13 position.
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Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars (ESPN ranking: unranked, my ranking: 26): He’s approaching his 30th season, so he’s no longer a spring bird, but he should still have plenty of gas in the tank, particularly for a sniper. He doesn’t even have to revert to his former self to be among the league’s best scorers, as I’ve pegged him at 2.2 fantasy points per game (FPPG) next season; for perspective, he’s outperformed that in three of his last five healthy seasons. Despite the fact that the Stars attack developed without him last season, there is still space for a Seguin-led scoring line and his role on the power play.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (ESPN 103, my 34): During the previous six seasons, he’s averaged 2.48 FPPG, and his 2.02 last season may be attributed to the absence of Nikita Kucherov. Over 139 games in 2018-19 and 2019-20, Stamkos averaged 2.61 goals per game. For the next season, I’ve given him a cautious 2.33 FPPG, which still places him in the top 40 – providing he doesn’t pull a Stamkos and get hurt. It’s worth remembering that he’s missed a significant portion of three of the last five seasons.
Guys in the middle of the pack I like it.
Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks (ESPN 77, mine 59): Horvat isn’t as spectacular as Elias Pettersson and doesn’t have the same potential, but I like him among the Canucks centers for consistency and dependability. With the acquisition of Conor Garland and the entrance of Vasily Podkolzin, the club was able to improve its scoring lines once again, resulting in more than enough weaponry to be split between two lines.
Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils (ESPN rank: 238, my rank: 73): We saw some flashes from Hughes early in the season last year, but he wasn’t a fantasy factor by the end. The Devils, on the other hand, are trying to reclaim their competitiveness and have brought in some new weapons to help them do it. For the first time in Hughes’ brief career, Dougie Hamilton will provide the club with a competent power-play quarterback. Hughes should have a semi-breakout season, in my opinion. He’ll need to improve in the future, but for now, I believe he’s a season-long fantasy commodity.
Sleeper I’ll live and die by it.
Alex Wennberg, Seattle Kraken (ESPN rank: unranked, my rank: 232): Wennberg gets his first shot at becoming a No. 1 center since 2016-17, with Yanni Gourde out to start the season. Although it was a long time ago, Wennberg, then 22, led the Blue Jackets top line with Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno to a career-high 13 goals and 59 points. With the entrance of Pierre-Luc Dubois the following season, Wennberg’s ice time began to decline, and he never came close to matching that amount again. But, like with William Karlsson with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, the door is wide open here. Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle are among the Kraken’s weaponry on the wings. Wennberg’s main competitor for the starting center position, Gourde, had shoulder surgery in the offseason, so he should have some time to prove himself.
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Back-end choice who may work out in a pinch
Nolan Patrick, C, Vegas Golden Knights (ESPN rank: not ranked, my rank: not ranked): Patrick, C, Vegas Golden Knights (ESPN rank: not ranked, my rank: not ranked): Chandler Stephenson fits in nicely at the top of the Knights depth chart in terms of chemistry. However, in terms of ability and conventional center play, he is not the kind of player you’d expect to see at pivot for a Stanely Cup contender. Patrick, while having a stellar resume previous to his tenure in the NHL, has demonstrated virtually nothing in the league so far. After missing a full season due to injury, he seemed lost on the Flyers last season. But deep down, he’s still the dominating two-way center from the WHL who was drafted second overall by the Flyers in 2017. I don’t anticipate much from the Golden Knights, but if there’s one location in the NHL where a bust center can rediscover his game, it’s here.
This season, I’m avoiding bust concerns in every selection.
Dallas Stars’ Roope Hintz (ESPN rank: 33, my rank: 45): As shown by my No. 45 overall rating for Hintz, I still like him as a fantasy asset, but I don’t want to spend more than that, and would like to pay less. The return of Seguin as an offensive spark is unlikely to benefit Hintz, and it may even work against him. This season, I don’t anticipate the offensive line of Hintz, 37-year-old Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson to be the primary source of offense. There will still be some power-play time and scoring here, but I don’t see Hintz duplicating last year’s outburst, which would give him a No. 33 rating.
This is the first year that I’ve started using the NHL Center Ice website to check out the fantasy options for my fantasy hockey team. I came across one of their articles that gave me some good advice, which I’ll summarize here. Most fantasy hockey leagues allow you to pick up to three centers (C), but why not go with four if the position is stacked like it is this year?. Read more about nhl standings and let us know what you think.
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