Most under rated players and sleepers are gobbled up in the first few months of the year. However, there remains a material number of under owned fantasy players who have had strong performances so far in 2016-2017 and are likely to continue producing for fantasy hockey managers. My fantasy hockey advice pertaining to the following list of players can be summarized in one word: “Add”. Stay tuned for an upcoming article that will outline a corresponding group of players who are over owned and deserve to be dropped – together the two articles represent add drop analysis for your fantasy hockey team in order to start 2017 on the best footing possible with moves available to you.
Charlie Coyle – Min – C/RW (pre-season rank #279, current rank #28, 63% owned)
At this point in the season it looks like Coyle has fully developed into a top-3 forward on a powerful Minnesota Wild team (2nd in the west, 1 point behind Chicago but with 3 games in hand). In 34 games, he has produced 12 goals, 17 assists, a plus-minus of 14, 22 PIMs, 6 PPPs, 3 GWGs, 73 shots on goal and 36 blocked shots. He is 1st for goals scored and is tied for 1st on the Wild for points – he is also 2nd in PPPs, 3rd in SOG, and 4th in blocked shots. With an average of over 17:30 of ice-time per game, Coyle has been handed a considerable amount of repsonsbility and has repaid head coach, Bruce Boudreau, with extraordinarily consistent production (across all categories for fantasy hockey managers). Charlie is also very hot right now – he has 2 multi-point efforts in a row and 14 points in his last 11 games played. 63% ownership isn’t “low” per se, but it’s very low for how well Coyle has played this year.
Derek Stepan – NYR – C (pre-season rank #169, current rank #35, 49% owned)
I honestly am surprised that Stepan’s ownership was ever under 50% this season – he has been a consistent scorer for his entire career, scoring over 40 points every season (including 44 points in 48 games played in lockout shortened 2012) and over 50 points every year except for 2012 and 2010 (when he scored an impressive 45 points as a rookie). This season he continues to reward his fantasy hockey teams: 9 goals, 19 assists, +12, 7 PPPs, and 87 SOG in 37 games. He is thus 1st in scoring on an offensively potent Rangers squad but ranks 7th in ownership across Yahoo leagues (among Rangers). This production is also very sustainable given he ranks 2nd among forwards in time on ice, logging time on the penalty kill, at even strength, and on the powerplay. Just like Coyle, he is currently riding a nice hot streak with 7 points in a 4-game point streak and 13 points in his last 12 games. What more can I say? I’m a huge fan of Stepan and even named my fantasy partially after him last year = Stepan in Shat(tenkirk).
Alexander Wennberg – CLS – C (pre-season rank #362, current rank #44, 59% owned)
This modest ownership I understand given Wennberg has only registered 37 shots on goal (and 6 goals) in 33 games played. But the guy is an assists machine with 24 on the year. He is also a respectable +11 and has 15 PPPs to boot. Wennberg is the quarterback of a very effective powerplay (1st in the NHL at 27.1%) and will continue to generate a steady supply of assists and PPPs for those in need. Gotta love the emergence of young stars this year – it’s just too bad that the spotlight doesn’t shine as much on guys like Wennberg and Coyle who are skillful players in almost every aspect of the game.
Viktor Arvidsson – NSH – LW/RW (pre-season rank #491, current rank #62, 45% owned)
In my last version of the Weekly Dekes I noted Arvidsson’s surprising contribution to the Preds. He is also a winger and therefore becomes more valuable given the depth of fantasy relevant talent at center. 20 of his 23 points have come at even strength or shorthanded (4 SHP) and he therefore has the potential to increase his scoring rate if given a greater role on Nashville’s powerplay. I’m also quite impressed that he leads the team in shots on goal, especially when James Neal is a teammate (although Neal has played 4 less games and is only 10 SOG behind Arvidsson).
Mikael Backlund – CGY – C (pre-season rank #360, current rank #69, 12% owned)
The Flames are one of five teams who have played 37 games so far this season, the most in the NHL so far. And Backlund has also scored 6 points in his last 2 games played. Therefore I’m not surprised about his low ownership, but I do believe it deserves an uptick, especially in deeper leagues. Mikael is looking to build off of his career-best 47 points in 2015 and is currently on pace to record 49 points in 2016-2017. Calgary has been a much stronger team since late November and could carry that momentum into the last half of the season. The slow start for the entire team could mean that Backlund surpasses 50 points for the first time. It could be the right time to buy-in to Backlund: he is 2nd in points and shots on goal.
Victor Rask – CAR – C (pre-season rank #265, current rank #84, 34% owned)
I also have spent a decent amount of energy promoting Rask as an undervalued fantasy asset. He is Carolina’s number one forward in ice-time and he has responded by scoring the 2nd most points on the team (26 in 33 games played), generating the 4th highest plus-minus, and the 3rd most powerplay points and shots on goal. The days of Eric Staal are gone and the days of Rask and Skinner are just beginning. Here’s another reason to grab Rask, Carolina’s schedule at the back-end of the season is packed full of games – including the postponed games vs. Detroit that was not played on Dec 19th. This means more man games during what should be fantasy hockey playoff time. Check out this guide for more information on scheduling and games per week by team during your league’s fantasy hockey playoffs.
Andrei Markov – MON – D (pre-season rank #221, rank #128, 63% owned)
Markov’s ownership has been dropping since the Montreal defenseman was injured on December 17th. He has been ruled out for the next three games (which ends after the Dec 31st game vs. the Penguins) and I therefore expect his ownership to continue to drop among impatient fantasy hockey owners. Therefore, only pick him up if you have an open spot on your IR; otherwise wait for more news before acquiring the veteran blueliner. So now you might be wondering, why else should I pick up Markov? He is currently ranked 6th among all NHL defensemen in points per game (excluding Scott Mayfield’s 3 points in 3 games played for the Islanders). Conversely, his ownership is 37th among all NHL defensemen. Markov will also reward your team with modest category coverage. In 31 games played he has recorded 8 PPPs, 44 SOG, 32 blocked shots, and 12 penalty minutes while maintaining a respectable +7 plus-minus. In a world of scarce fantasy assets on the backend, keep your eye on Markov and at least grab him when he is healthy again.
Andrej Sekera – EDM – D (pre-season rank #312, current rank #137, 31% owned) or Oscar Klefbom (pre-season rank #243, current rank #208, 19% owned)
Fantasy owners aren’t showing much love for Edmonton’s top two defenders. Sekera has been the most consistent and leads the way in points with 17 in 36 games played (including 5 PPPs) and a +9 rating compared to 12 points for Klefbom (4 PPPs) and a -5 rating. Therefore Sekera is a safer bet but Klefbom represents youth and a higher offensive ceiling and is therefore a higher risk / higher reward play – and more logical for deeper keeper leagues. Both players are less relevant in leagues with a small number of teams but could also be important additions in deeper leagues. Edmonton, after all, has shown a high degree of improvement so far this season. These two defensemen are the most likely beneficiaries among the Oiler blueliners.
Rickard Rakell – ANH – C/LW (pre-season rank #164, current rank #153, 49% owned)
Rakell’s ranking is understated given he has only played in 25 games this season due to contract negotiation delays in October. Now that he is in the lineup, the Swede has scored 14 goals (3 GWGs) on 70 shots on goal while averaging over 17 minutes of ice-time per game. He also has 7 assists and 6 PPPs which equates to a point-per-game pace of 0.84 – enviable for 51% of leagues where there are surely dozens of owned players producing far less. Turn the microscope a little further and you’ll notice that this puts Rakell at 0.56 goals per game which is 3rd best among all NHL players who have played more than 5 games this season. Now that’s good! Grab Rakell and enjoy his dual-eligibility and continued development, especially important in keeper leagues.
Morgan Rielly – TOR – D (pre-season rank #219, current rank #165, 47% owned)
Rielly is shaping up to be Toronto’s best defenseman. The 22-year old has 1 goal and 15 assists in 33 games played. He also has 74 shots on goal and 57 blocked shots while generating a steady -1 rating so far. Rielly’s shooting percentage should also trend upwards as the season progresses. Ultimately, the Vancouver-born defender is a promising young player on an improving Maple Leafs team. He is good now but will only continue to progress as he becomes more experienced at the NHL level. Rielly should be owned in all deep leagues and most keeper leagues.
image source: blueshirtsbeat.com