(Note: Our friends at Dobber Hockey are back for some fantasy fun. All stats are through Wednesday night's games.)
The yin to the Fantasy Goats' yang, here are the players who single-handedly won more than a few leagues around North America.
The cheesy way of doing this would be to just take a screenshot of the Top 10 NHL scorers and slap it on here. But it's not about the best players — it's about setting an expectation for players and judging them on how much they beat that expectation.
Similar to you, the reader, setting your expectations low with this column. Now judge accordingly.
10. Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
Keeper league owners of Grabner have had a bit of a roller coaster ride. Promising prospect goes to a team with opportunity (Florida Panthers). Then he blows it (waived). Then he's picked up by the Islanders and becomes the most prolific rookie scorer in the league. For roto-league owners, they didn't draft him at all. But damn if he's not the best waiver wire pickup of the season. This wire pickup was a key reason to my surging up seven spots in the league. Unfortunately, I wasn't eighth at the time, I was somewhat lower than that, but let's not go there. He has 36 points in his last 35 games.
9. Mikhail Grabovski, Toronto Maple Leafs
Sixty points, 60 penalty minutes, 10 power-play goals, plus-15, and 240 shots is what Grabby is looking at when it's all said and done. That beats expectations by at least 20 percent in each of those categories. Earning a plus-15 rating for Toronto is like getting 60 points for Nashville. Completely beyond the realm of possibility, yet he did it.
8. Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Looch is enjoying a massive breakout in his fourth NHL campaign, crushing his career highs in goals, points, plus/minus, power-play goals, game-winning goals and shots on goal. His penalty minutes aren't bad either. It's interesting that in 133 junior games, Lucic scored 39 goals and yet he's scored 39 in his last 123 NHL contests. Some styles really do translate better at the NHL level. It confuses the hell out of fantasy owners, but it does translate better.
After three seasons of 45 or fewer points, and after posting a minus-22 in that span, Visnovsky earned himself middle-round consideration at best in rotisserie drafts. But he's going to get 67 points this year and lead all rearguards in scoring, not to mention his career-best plus/minus rating. As with the Goats, just being on certain teams will dictate the fantasy MVPs, whether it's the style of play or a breakout season by a certain individual which is dragging a couple of teammates along with him. Visnovsky is the first of three Ducks to make this list.
6. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
If Sidney Crosby doesn't get hurt, Letang moves up this list. Simple as that. He'll barely clear 50 points now, but when Sid was around he was on pace to top 70. Throw in his 100 penalty minutes and a solid plus/minus and you have a top fantasy blueliner. He's also fourth among rearguards in shots with 222. When the Penguins shovelled a crapload of money towards Paul Martin, I thought for sure that Letang's PP time was going to take a hit. But not only was he fine in that area, his breakout campaign made Alex Goligoski expendable.
When players head into their late 30's, fantasy owners tend to rein in their expectations. It's a sound theory, but 40-year-old Selanne didn't get that memo. He has a spot among the Top 10 scorers locked up, despite missing six games. Had he not missed those six games, he'd be sitting fifth or sixth in the NHL standings. He's also third in the NHL in power-play goals and his PIMs are the fourth highest of his 18-year career.
4. Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta Thrashers
Byfuglien was our biggest fantasy surprise at the midpoint, but he hit a wall when buddy Tobias Enstrom was hurt. Still, his 326 shots on goal have him keeping up with Alex Ovechkin for tops in the league and he's still fifth in scoring among rearguards. Not bad for a player who went undrafted in a lot of leagues.
3. Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
He sits behind Nicklas Lidstrom and Visnovsky in scoring amongst defensemen, but Yandle provides solid penalty minutes and a nice plus/minus as well. He also gets more shots on goal than the other two and his preseason expectations had him closer to 50 points. I like Yandle as a future 70-point defenseman and he would probably be there now if his first 20 games were like his last 50.
2. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
How can TT not get a mention when everything he touches turns to gold? A .940 save percentage? Really? That's just insane. Thomas was not a top goalie on any draft lists last summer. Not even in the Top 10. In fact, I'd stake Matt Cooke's reputation on it.
1. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
The Fantasy MVP and possibly the reality MVP. Perry was a low first rounder/high second rounder in the summer, as he was a winger who should have been good for 80 points and 100 penalty minutes. Flirting with 50 goals is quite the jump from his career high of 32. He has 38 points in his last 25 games and he fired an astonishing 30 shots on goal in the last four games.
Honorable mentions: Claude Giroux, for being the best despite three or four teammates getting more press/hype even to this day; Patrick Sharp, who would have been on this list had he not been stalled with this latest injury; Jonathan Toews, for single-handedly dragging his team into the playoff picture when it seemed in doubt; Nicklas Lidstrom, for defying science and turning 30 this year instead of 40; Justin Williams, for figuring out that he doesn't have to get injured every year. Oh, wait a minute … ; Clarke MacArthur, for finding a team that he can be a first-liner on; Steven Stamkos, for teasing us into believing he was on the same level as Sidney Crosby for a couple of months.
Dobber can be criticized and ridiculed over at his own site, as well as at TheHockeyNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@DobberHockey), but only if you like cool tidbits on player trends. If you're in a Fantasy Baseball league, you may want to check out his draft kit over at DobberBaseball.com
- Anaheim Ducks
- Lubomir Visnovsky