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This is one of the first of many players I'll be recommending as potentially very good picks that will often be available in later rounds of fantasy hockey drafts this season. I usually play in leagues that count shots, hits, PIM, PPP and the usual G, A, sometimes +/- and blocks too.
Here's why Evander Kane is a SmartPick
Name, Position: Evander Kane, LW
Age: He just turned 24 this summer and has already played six NHL seasons.
Hits/Size: 6'2, 198: Kane is a big, strong power forward and can bring hits to your team in addition to many offensive stats.His career average is 195 hits per 82 game season, but two seasons ago he had a 225 hit pace and last season he was on pace to break 250 hits if he had played 82 games. If Kane had continued hitting at that pace he would have been in the the top ten most hits this season, pretty impressive considering how much he scores and shoots.
Goals: He only had one 30-goal season, and that was four seasons ago. This sounds worse than it is because out of his six pro seasons he only broke 70 GP twice. In reality his career average is about 25 goals per 82 games. Since his 30-goal year he's paced 29 goals, 25 goals, and 22 goals per 82 games, so he's been struggling but will get a fresh start with a greatly improved Buffalo team this season and will likely be given much more playing time than he was getting last season in Winnipeg.
Shots: This is another category that makes Kane a must-draft. Last season Kane was on pace for 279 shots, just outside the leagues top five, and the year before Kane was on pace for 325 shots, which would have been second in the league only to Ovechkin(386).
Pedigree: 4th overall in 2009, don't underestimate Kane when his name pops up during your draft and you thought all the star forwards were gone.
Team: We have yet to see Kane play for Buffalo, but there are many reasons to think this change of scenery will help him this season. Firstly, he will likely be playing in the top six and the Sabres have greatly improved their line up since last year. Centering Kane will likely be either Ryan O'Reilly or Jack Eichel, both new additions, and the top six will be likely be filled out by Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensens. Considering half of the top six wasn't in Buffalo last season, there is reason to believe this team could seriously surprise a lot of people.
Personally I think Tyler Ennis is also underrated, since Buffalo has been a pretty terrible team for most of his career yet he still manages to consistently put up 20 goals 40/50 points and about 200 shots. With so many good young players in this top six there is absolutely no reason to think that if Kane plays a full season he won't put up 200+ hits, around 300 shots, 25+ goals and 50+ points. Using a high pick for O'Reilly, Eichel or Ennis might be tempting but given Kanes consistently dominant shooting and hitting ability Kane is the safest pick with the most upside.
Two more quick reasons to pick Kane :1) Buffalo has great forward depth as well and might see Sam Reinhart, the 2nd overall pick in 2014, play third line centre with Brian Gionta and Johan Larsson. 2) Out of the small group of players that statistically emulate Ovechkin ( a lot of goals, points, hits, shots, and some PIM) Kane is almost definitely the next closest player. Other players you could look for for great category coverage are Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic and David Backes.
Kane is ranked 94th but has gone closer to 105th on average. If I could take him with the 94th pick or even a bit higher I'd still think this pick would be a steal. Players drafted in the same range as Kane who are likely much less valuable are Wayne Simmonds who doesn't shoot nearly as much as Kane, Brandon Saad who doesn't shoot, score or hit as much as Kane, Chris Kreider, Marian Hossa, among others!
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