If you’re willing to listen, there remain players being consistently undervalued (and overvalued) in fantasy circles. Stick with me and won’t lead you astray.
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Free Nazem Kadri! This isn’t the first time I’ve ranted on this subject, but the recent injury to Tyler Bozak has only served to reinforce my earlier point. Consider that Bozak has recorded three goals, three assists and 12 shots on goal in 11 contests this year despite garnering 21:16 of ice time per game, including 3:14 on the power play. By contrast, Kadri has averaged just 16:38 per game in his 13 contests, 2:35 of which have come with the man advantage, and has registered five goals, seven assists and 23 shots in that span. In the two games Toronto has played since a back injury forced Bozak out of the lineup, Kadri has accumulated four points playing on the top line alongside Phil Kessel, which leads me to wonder how productive Kadri could be if Randy Carlyle would simply let him skate on this line permanently. Let’s hope we find out.
Despite the fact that he seems to constantly battle nagging injuries, Johan Franzen has always found a way to excel with the man advantage, registering double-digit power play goals four different times in his career. That seems to have changed this season, however, as the arrival of Daniel Alfredsson has severely cut into Franzen’s ice time. The Mule has routinely averaged better than three minutes of power play time per game in the past, but that number has fallen to just 2:21 this season. For a player who has always been merely average at even strength, a reduction in valuable power play time is a clear sell signal in my opinion.
I typically don’t pay close attention to the plus/minus rating for individual players when I draft my teams in the fall because it truly is more of a team statistic, but there are certain scenarios where the trend becomes difficult to ignore. The minus-10 rating posted by Justin Schultz in 14 games this season looks bad enough on its own, but when you consider that the defenseman registered a minus-17 in 48 contests last year, it seems there’s more at play here than simply being the victim of a bad situation. While his skill level is not up for debate, it’s fair to question whether some of his offense comes as a result of him ignoring his defensive responsibilities.
It would be easy to dismiss the hot start experienced by Calgary’s Jiri Hudler (13 points in 11 games) as being the product of good luck, but there may be a more sustainable change occurring here that people haven’t noticed. I’ll admit his shooting percentage of 27.8 will regress to the mean, even for a player who posted rates near 20 percent in each of the last two seasons, but Hudler’s role on the team in 2013-14 seems different from what it was last year. In 42 games last season, Hudler averaged just under three minutes of power play time per game, which placed him fourth on the Flames among forwards. Conversely, no Calgary forward has averaged more PP time than the former Red Wing this season, where he has averaged better than four minutes per outing. This role change is also reflected in Hudler’s deployment stats, which indicate he has started a greater percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone than he did a year ago. Given the opportunity he has been afforded on the talent-starved Flames, he’s a player I like in deeper formats.
After an illustrious junior career with the Portland Winterhawks that led to him being the fourth overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Ryan Johansen had to be considered a disappointment entering this season, as he had amassed only 33 points in 107 games. If early returns can be trusted, the 21-year-old is beginning to demonstrate why he was such a coveted prospect in the first place. His role among the Blue Jackets top six forwards seems very secure since he has become the top faceoff man on the roster and when you throw in the fact his ice time is steadily creeping upwards, I think he’s a good bet for 50-55 points. That may not make him worthy of a roster spot in your league, but in some of the deep formats I play in, that’s certainly useful. I think there’s also significant upside beyond that in future years and I am targeting him in any keeper league I compete in.
Bargain Bin Finds (Yahoo ownership percentage below 20 percent)
As usual, I have scoured the Yahoo ownership rates to uncover a few commodities I think have been inappropriately underrated.
Ryan Malone (18 percent) – Back in his usual spot alongside Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, which happens to be one of the best gigs in the NHL, Malone not only offers some scoring upside, but also his typical penchant for penalty minutes. He’s an excellent pickup in rotisserie formats.
Carl Hagelin (11 percent) – I mentioned him in this space a week ago, but despite the fact he has returned to the Rangers lineup his ownership rate has barely budged. I suggest you grab him now before he gets scooped up in your league.
Morgan Rielly (6 percent) – The Maple Leafs have committed to keeping him with the team for the whole season and he’s already third on the club in points among defenseman and he leads all Toronto blueliners in shots on goal per game. This ownership rate will skyrocket before the season is out.