Fantasy hockey and fantasy spots in general has blown up in the last ten years, giving people the excitement of dominating their buddies and even winning some cash along the way. Unfortunately, after the first wave of all stars get picked, most newcomers struggle to make successful selections when all the big names are taken. This is the time where you can seriously boost your depth and create a dominant team that is prepared to handle injuries and weak performances.
As a note, I use yahoo fantasy hockey as my main platform and dual position players are key. Be sure to check your league settings and take this into consideration when making your picks.
1. Erik Gustafsson: Defence, Chicago Blackhawks ( 79 GP : 17 G : 43 A : 60 points)
Despite playing in only 155 NHL career games, Gustafsson is 27 years old and is in the prime of his career. He plays on the left side behind Duncan Keith, but could easily find even more ice time this season as Keith's age and speed become problematic for the veteran. Gustafsson proved to be an effective point producer even strength and 5 on 5, which is a huge asset for later selections. His defensive numbers are average, but this type of player should be chosen to supplement a teams offence in the later rounds.
2. Nick Schmaltz: Center, Arizona Coyotes ( 17 GP : 5 G : 9 A : 14 points)
Schmaltz is a very skilled center who is still finding his way in the NHL. He had his breakout year in 17/18 where he managed to rack up 52 points with Chicago. However, injuries and a trade to Arizona have caused Schmaltz to fall off the map in most fantasy leagues. Arizona has a serious lack of scoring depth at center, which leads me to believe that he will be paired on the top line with Keller or Phil Kessel riding shotgun on the wing. I am expecting him to have a good season offensively, but his +/- and faceoff percentage could be damaging depending on what type of league you play in.
3. Kevin Labanc: LW / RW, San Jose Sharks ( 82 GP : 17 G : 39 A : 56 Points)
With the loss of Joe Pavelski, the Sharks roster definitely took a step backwards. However, even without their captain, the core of the team is still strong and filled with depth. The top 6 forward group in San Jose will have a lot of youth, speed and skill. Labanc will certainly fill a role alongside center Logan Couture or Thomas Hertl, who will likely be used as a full time center on one of the top two lines. Even with extremely limited ice time, Labanc found ways to put up great offensive numbers and contribute both even strength and on the power-play. If Hertl stays as a full-time center, Labanc will be the Sharks best option on the right side and will likely get a sizeable increase in ice-time.
4. Nazem Kadri: C, Colorado Avalanche ( 73 GP : 16 G : 28 A : 44 Points)
Since the big Tavares signing, Kadri has had his ice time greatly diminished despite his high skill level. Prior to this season, Kadri posted back to back 32 goal performances and was a reliable two-way center for the Leafs. However, it was time for Kadri to depart and I believe his value will skyrocket as a result. He is essentially guaranteed the second line job and will likely see time with either Rantanen or Landeskog at various points. With Burakovsky and a couple other young players, the Avalanche will likely spread out their top wingers on the top two lines and add some depth to their offence. I expect Kadri to have a great season and add some scoring to the second PP unit.
5. Jacob Trouba: D, New York Rangers ( 82 GP : 8 G : 42 A : 50 points)
Trouba may or may not be a sleeper this year, depending on the pre-draft rankings. However, he will surely fall below the core group of top tier defenders like Karlsson, Doughty and company. I expect many teams to overlook Trouba after the trade from Winnipeg, despite the added value and workload. I expect Trouba to get a couple more minutes a night and a lot more opportunity to play with the skilled top PP unit featuring Panarin, Zibanejad and potentially Kakko.
6. Paul Stastny: C, Vegas Golden Knights ( 50 GP : 13 G : 29 A : 42 points)
In an injury shortened season, Stastny looked pretty comfortable finishing the year with Pacioretty and Stone. This trio was arguably better than the Karlsson line on many nights and it gave Vegas some much needed scoring depth. Moving forward it is hard to speculate as to what the lines will look like, but Stastny should find himself with two very talented wingers. I expect added production this season if he can stay healthy and build chemistry with his linemates. This will be key for Stastny as one downfall was his lack of power-play production last season. With a full season ahead, I hope to see him get more opportunities on the power-play, only building his value further.
7. Michael Ferland / J.T. Miller , Vancouver Canucks
The reason I place both these players on the list is because we honestly have no idea how the Canucks lineup will look for opening night. It is fair to say that both players will get a shot at the top 6, but we really want to find out who will play with Pettersson and Boeser. In most leagues, both of these guys will add value to your team. Miller finished the year with 47 points as a member of the Lightning and Ferland had 40 with Carolina. Both played very limited roles at just 14 minutes a night, but still managed to get good production offensively while also throwing a good number of hits. In an increased role, both of these guys could easily break 50 points. Miller is also a winger who can take faceoffs from time to time, which could mean he is the favourite to pair off with Pettersson early on, at least until he can work out that aspect of his game.