- Sean Allen
Special to ESPN.com
Sean Allen is a fantastic analyst for ESPN.com. In 2008 and 2009, he was named Hockey Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can tweet it @Seanard.
- Victoria Mathias
- ESPN.com Fantasy Contributor since 2010
- Part-time animator at NEWSTALK1010.
As we approach the halfway point of the season for most teams, our fantasy hockey experts Sean Allen and Victoria Mathiasch take a break from giving mid-season grades to those who have made the best impression, positive and negative. A look back, if you will, at those who have shone so far and those who have perished under the fabulous spotlight of this unique campaign.
Fantasy Hockey MVP
Sean Allen, ESPN Fantasy Hockey Writer: I look for three criteria for this award: a very low average draft position (ADP), high fantasy points per game, and a scenario where fantasy players can benefit from production. Joe Pavelski answers the phone. While Vincent Trocheck, Ondrej Palat and James van Riemsdyk are other players I’ve watched with very low ADP and elite production so far, none of them have had the same start to the season as Pavelski. With an ADP of 138.4 in fantasy drafts, Pavelski and the Stars will start the season a week later due to COWIDA deadlines – and Pavelski started with an absolute bang. Pavelski had 8.2 fantasy points with two goals and two assists in Game 1. As if that wasn’t enough to get him into every lineup, his second game of the season was good for 6.4 fantasy points. That blistering start put Pawelski in a fantastic lineup from day one. The fact that he remains third among skaters with 2.9 fantasy points per game means he’s done well.
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Victoria Mathias, ESPN Fantasy Hockey Writer: To provide a different perspective, I leave out all criteria except the number of games played and base this honor on simple math. Who gave managers the most value for money? The answer is Marc-André Fleury. The Las Vegas guard leads his peers – yes, even Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy – with 5.8 fantasy points per game. The fact that few of us expected such a heavy workload for a presumed tandem – Robin Lehner’s injury is no stranger to that – has only enhanced Fleury’s fantastic charm.
Allen: With an ADP of 180.8, Jacob Cichrun gave me the edge here. He ranks fifth among defenders with 2.3 fantasy points per game this season. He was on many lists of potential candidates for the season, including ours. That’s what we said: While Cichrun has yet to play a significant role in the power play, he and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are already of great value to fantasy. … I bet the Coyotes will eventually hand the reins to Chychran to show his true offensive capabilities. And they took the reins.
Mathias: Right now, I’m waving the flag of fantasy for Vincent Trocheck. The Hurricanes’ center, currently sixth on the forward list, was selected 187th. Some ESPN.com executives were lucky enough to take this gem late in their selection, and good for them. A sleeping city.
bust in the middle of theseason
Allen: Now if we understood why Mika Zibanejad is not performing this season. The situation and teammates are similar to last season, when Zibanejad was by far the best fantasy skater in the NHL on a play-by-play basis. Last season he scored 3.2 fantasy points per game (for comparison, Austin Matthews leads with 3.5 this season and Connor McDavid is second with 3.2). Zibanejad has scored just 1.4 points per game this season, which puts him tied with Alex Yafallo and Teddy Blueger in fantasy points. He suffered from being benched for part of the game last week and has shown quiet signs of life lately, but the bust label is unavoidable here.
Mathias: Of course, the correct answer is Zibanejad, but I’ll mix it up and give the league’s most disappointing pair of hitters double gold in Buffalo. There has been a lot of anticipation of what Jack Eichel might accomplish when he can finally play with a true star winger, Taylor Hall. Twenty-four games and a total of four goals later, fantasy managers were shaking their heads about what had happened that was so terrible. Eichel is now expected to miss at least a week with an upper-body injury. What a waste.
Mid-season Fantasy Rookie
Mathias: Minnesota’s Kaapo Kahkonen, who is also a well-known teammate in this category, provides a pleasant surprise. While many of us suspected Kirill Kaprizov would be more or less overwhelmed, the expectations for the Wild goalie were much more modest. As required by his EPA 223.8. In his first real NHL campaign at age 24, Kahkonen is a top-five fantasy netminder (minimum 10 games).
Allen: He’s been shockingly ineffective, and I don’t expect Ilya Samsonov to do well, but you have to give credit to Vitek Vanecek for sticking with the Capitals for fantasy managers wanting to give him a chance. On a play-by-play basis, it wasn’t good. His 2.10 fantasy points per 60 minutes ranks 39th among all guards (he would only rank 36th if you exclude guards with a flex rate of less than 10%). But sometimes quantity trumps quality. Vanecek ranks 11th among goalies with a 76.8% save percentage, behind Andrei Vasilevskiy, Philipp Grubauer and Connor Hellebuyck.
Mid-season fantasy defender
Mathias: With all due respect to Tampa’s elite defender, Jeff Petry deserves top marks from me in this class. Petrie leads all NHL rookies in scoring, just a hair (0.1) behind Victor Hedman’s 2.7 points per game, who is in second place. The snap also reflects my premature underestimation of what the Montreal defenseman will bring to the fantasy side. Many forecasters see him in the top 10. To my great embarrassment today, I didn’t.
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Allen: On ADP, I left out Hedman and Petry, who were both picked in the first five rounds of the fantasy draft, and chose a defender who ranks third in fantasy points per game this season. Drew Doughty had a PDS of 112.6, which is 25th all-time. Defender in the draft. The fact that he is now in the top 3 is a pleasant and welcome surprise. He improved to 2.2 fantasy points per game in the 2017-18 season, but was otherwise a consistent producer of about 1.9 fantasy points per game. Doughty is scoring 2.5 points per game this season.
Mid-season fantasy goalkeeper
Allen: Even given his ADP for the first round, Andrei Vasilevski should get a chance here. Whether it’s the only triple-digit points in the NHL right now or an insane 83.2 percent in a season shortened by a lockout, Vasilevskiy easily makes good on his investment despite the high cost.
Mathias: In my opinion, naming one goalie MVP of the entire league, then giving the award for best fantasy goalie to another character is wrong. It doesn’t make sense. Fleury wears two crowns on my fantasy throne in the middle of the season. I prefer Vasilevsky in goal, though. When Robin Lehner recovers – and he will – he will inevitably bite Fleury in the ass for playing for the Knights. Maybe not too much, but not too little either.
My best design
Mathias: I’m damn glad I had Max Pacioretty with the 76ers in one of my ESPN.com drafts. He shoots, he scores, he contributes in most aspects of fantasy. Pacioretty is No. 1 in shots per game (4.55) and 11th in goals among NHL regulars with 2.4 points per game. Not bad for an eighth round pick.
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Allen: Alec Martinez’s small sample of the Vegas Golden Knights last season had some decent undertones. I’m usually late to the draft, and Martinez was one of my last scoops in most leagues. I certainly didn’t expect him to be the fourth defender in fantasy points per game at this point, but I’ll take it.
My worst project.
Mathias: It turns out that picking Ilya Samsonov as the best goalie in the fourth round was not the smartest decision. Despite his limited experience, I was swept up in the hype. While Samsonov couldn’t expect to be on the bench for most of the first half due to the league’s COVID-19 protocol, it still wasn’t fair to expect a fantasy moon from a young, unproven player. As an example, he lights up exactly once in five limited appearances. I hope that now that Samsonov is supposedly healthy, he can reward my undying loyalty by making much more of the Capitals’ second half. It’s kind of promising that his last expression was his best.
Allen: I really thought the Detroit Red Wings could put together a quality lineup this year on a bad team. I agreed with Dylan Larkin, Anthony Manta and Tyler Bertuzzi, even going so far as to put all three in the same category. How do I do it? Bertuzzi is IR and has no intention of returning, Larkin was a disaster and Mantha was not guaranteed to be on the score line. So, yeah, not so good.
Top receiver with wire breakage
Allen: For ESPN.com’s fantasy game, ADP 230.0 literally means uninjured. If you take a player in even a handful of leagues, it starts to drive up the ADP and represents that the player was on the roster behind the draft board. It’s hard to find anyone who is declared a hero by these definitions with a warning. Jordan Staal had an ADP of 217.3, so some of you followed him. I’m sure no one wrote Tyler Toffoli. His ADP was 192.3. Alex Tuch? ADP 219.4 I chose Max Comtois, whose ADP 229.7 means it’s probably only me and Comtois’ immediate family who drafted him. The return was assured: Comtois is increasing his ice time and currently ranks 93rd among skaters in terms of fantasy points per game. Importantly, he showed signs of potential for a few weeks, which prompted managers to pick him.
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Mathias: Sean certainly deserved to have Alec Martinez at the end of more than one competitive fantasy matchup, but I was happy to get a Vegas sleeper down to the wire in one of our all-division leagues. A few weeks ago, on the 25th. January. Judging by Martinez’s ADP of 212.0, I wasn’t the only lucky fantasy manager. What a great season’s success.
Candidate exceeds expectations in second semester
Mathias: Let me introduce two candidates. First: Johnny Gaudreau can only get better under new boss Darryl Sutter (right?). The Fire forward hasn’t responded to Jeff Ward’s coaching as much as he has in terms of production in recent years. Gaudreau and center Sean Monahan seem doomed to fail or flourish under Sutter. For Calgary fans, we hope that’s the case. I also want to see what T.J. Oshie can do on Washington’s second half top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. After replacing the suspended Tom Wilson, Oshie already has a goal and two assists in two games. No more production like that and Wilson can be electively mixed elsewhere again.
Allen: Apart from the current slump, I’ll take Patrick Lane as a test to improve performance in the second half. The stakes are too high for the Blue Jackets not to make him the focal point of the offense. Coach John Tortorella knows it, Lane knows it, everyone on the team knows it. Lane had 10 points in his first 10 games with the Blue Jackets, but has been meaningless in his last seven games. The keys to making this attack work with Lane’s shot are there, and I expect Tortorella to find them and use them to his advantage.