Fantasy Hockey: Super sleepers
In this week's edition of CBCSports.ca's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, we debate our end-of-season awards for most valuable player and least valuable player. And because it's never too early to start thinking about next year's draft, we name the most likely candidates to have breakout campaigns in 2010-11.
Why do this with a couple weeks still left in the season? So we can bring you a two-part fantasy hockey playoff preview starting next week. You're welcome.
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All stats are through Wednesday's games.
Who's the 2009-10 fantasy MVP?
Jesse: Picking a fantasy most valuable player is a lot different from picking a real MVP. We're not necessarily looking for the best player, but rather the guy who supplied the best value from his draft position. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are both having terrific years, but they went in the top three in almost everyone's draft. So, as Denny Green would say, they were who we thought they were. But you know who wasn't? Craig Anderson. The Avs goalie went unselected in many leagues, and with good reason: Colorado was terrible last year, and Anderson figured to split time with Peter Budaj. But, right off the bat, Budaj got the swine flu and Anderson stood on his head, winning the starting spot. Now Anderson leads the league with 1,868 saves, is tied for second with seven shutouts, and ranks seventh with 36 wins. That's good enough to get the fantasy MVP nod over Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov, who has 39 wins and an NHL-best eight shutouts, but had a higher draft-day profile than Anderson. While "Bryz" was selected, on average, 74th in Yahoo! leagues, Anderson went 169th. That's the 15th round in your standard 12-team league.
Jordan: It's true, a player is only as good as where you drafted him. Alex Semin was a much better pick last year because he was drafted close to 100th overall in most leagues. He scored 79 points in 62 games and, as a result, catapulted to an average pick of 17th this year. Based on that philosophy, this year's MVP is without question Steven Stamkos. The Lightning sophomore was drafted 109th on average in Yahoo! leagues, which works out to somewhere between the ninth and 10th rounds, but he's played like a seasoned veteran that should have gone (and will go next year) in the first round. Stamkos leads the league with 19 power-play goals and 36 power-play points, is third with 43 goals, sixth with 84 points and 10th with 249 shots. What's most noteworthy is his progress from last year. Stamkos has improved his plus/minus by 13 ticks, his goals by 20, his assists by 18, his power-play goals by 10 and, by season's end, he will have doubled his points output. To me, the only player even relatively close to Stamkos is Henrik Sedin. Yes, Sedin was taken higher than Stamkos with an average pick of 83rd overall, but the fact that he is currently leading the league in assists (71) and points (99) is remarkable. And I should also point out that Sedin is 10th in the NHL with 681 faceoff wins (his success rate is 49.6 per cent) and is third with a plus-35 rating.
Who's the 2009-10 fantasy LVP?
Jordan: It's a split decision for least valuable player between Cam Ward and Dion Phaneuf, with dishonourable mention going to Tim Thomas, Rick DiPietro and Pascal Leclaire. Even considering his injury woes and the mediocre team in front of him, Ward has been very disappointing. After averaging 35 wins and four shutouts over the past three seasons, his record is a lowly 14-21 with no shutouts and a 2.74 GAA. Let's put it this way: Ward has the same number of wins as Dan Ellis and Jonas Gustavsson, who were drafted nowhere near the Canes goalie, and he barely has more wins than mediocre backups like Alex Auld, Brent Johnson, Mike Smith and Andrew Raycroft. Phaneuf, splitting the season between a good team in Calgary and a bad team in Toronto, has produced the worst statistical season of his career. With nine games to go, he has just 10 goals, 15 power-play points and only 27 points total, which is 20 off his previous career-low.
Jesse: The easy answer here is Evgeni Malkin, who went second overall behind Ovechkin in most Yahoo! leagues. And sure, 70 points and 24 goals at this stage of the season is not good for a No. 2 pick. But it's not a train wreck, especially considering Malkin got those 70 points in 63 games. Let's go with a guy who stayed healthy and yet still underachieved. Someone like Chris Osgood. Apart from a brief bout with the flu in November, Osgood has been fit as a fiddle. It's his performance that has sickened fantasy owners. A late fourth-rounder in the average Yahoo! draft, Osgood has won a grand total of seven games in 20 starts, with a terrible (especially for a Red Wings goalie) save percentage of .890. He hasn't started since Jan. 27, long ago ceding the No. 1 job to Jimmy Howard, who has won 30 games with a .924 save percentage after going in the 14th round of the average fantasy draft.
In honour of Stamkos's breakout year, who will be next season's super-sleeper?
Jordan: This will be a three-horse race. The candidates: Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask and Matt Duchene. Halak was drafted an average of 160th overall this season, while Carey Price went 92nd. As the season winds down, Halak has been a force between the Habs' pipes. He's played roughly the same number of games as last year up to now, but has five more wins, three fewer losses and has dropped his GAA to 2.45 from 2.86 and raised his save percentage from .915 to .923. Whether he plays in Montreal or somewhere else next year, he'll be the bona fide No. 1. As for Rask, all that really needs to be said is that he's taken over the starting job from the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Thomas. In my mind, Rask is the league's most improved player on an average Bruins squad. He now leads the league in both GAA (2.02) and save percentage (.930) with four shutouts and an 18-10-4 record. And what can I say about Duchene? If not forTyler Myers he would win the Calder after surprising almost everyone with his poise and skill at such a young age. His totals of 23 goals and 50 points — 19 of them on the power play — will certainly increase next year.
Jesse: I don't think we can predict with much certainty what Halak will do next season. What if he signs with, say, Edmonton? Or Florida? That could hurt his fantasy value. And if he stays in Montreal, I don't see him being named the clear cut No. 1 guy as long as Price is around. Another split-time arrangement seems more likely. I like your Duchene pick, and I'll also tap John Tavares as a top breakout candidate for next season. The 19-year-old's scoring skills have transferred nicely from juniors to the pros, as he's already cracked the 20-goal barrier. More good indicators: like Stamkos, he was a No. 1 overall pick, and their rookie-year stat lines are eerily similar: Stamkos recorded 23 goals and 46 points, while Tavares was at 21 and 43 through 73 games. One red flag, though: Stamkos had more upside heading into his sophomore season after averaging just 2:50 of power-play time and 14:56 of total ice as a rookie. Tavares is already at 4:00 and 17:46, so there's less room to grow.