Top First Half Fantasy Players

Ryan Dadoun
Rotoworld

We’re in the All-Star break, so there were no games last night. Given that there was nothing to recap, let’s instead take this time to look back on the 2019-20 campaign thus far and highlight the top fantasy players of the 2019-20 campaign thus far.

If you’re interested in more All-Star break reflections, you should check out Thursday’s Fantasy Nuggets, where I highlighted four of the most interesting teams of the first half. With that’s said, let’s look at the standouts. Just to be clear, I’m evaluating these players based on their worth in standard fantasy leagues and not their overall performance as a player. That means more defensive minded players and in particular defensive defenseman will be largely disregarded because fantasy hockey puts more of an emphasis on offensive production.

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GOALTENDERS

Most Disappointing – That’s easily Sergei Bobrovsky. The average place he went in Yahoo drafts was 22nd overall or third among goaltenders. For that, fantasy owners have gotten a 19-12-4 record, 3.24 GAA, and .898 save percentage in 37 games. His first season with the Panthers has clearly not gone well. He’s struggled before, but not to this extent. The Panthers just have to hope that this isn’t an indication of how his time with them will go because they made a seven-year, $70 million commitment to him.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Tristan Jarry entered the 2019-20 campaign as the Penguins backup goaltender, but he’s been their better option for most of the season. He’s 16-8-1 with a 2.16 GAA and .929 save percentage in 25 games. It’s enough to raise the question of if the Penguins would be better off putting their long-term hopes on Jarry instead of Matt Murray. Jarry was only drafted in 2% of Yahoo leagues, so those who scooped him up have gotten great value for the low price.

Top Fantasy Option – Andrei Vasilevskiy got off to a slow start, but he’s more than made up for it at this point. He entered the break on a 10-game winning streak, which gives him a 24-9-2 record this season. He also has a 2.54 GAA and .917 save percentage in 35 contests. Darcy Kuemper was on course to earn this distinction, but he ended up being limited to 25 games due to injury.

DEFENSEMEN

Most Disappointing – It feels like a bit of a cheat to say, but Dustin Byfuglien. The average pick for him was 54th in Yahoo leagues, which made him usually the seventh defenseman taken. However, the fantasy owners who selected him have gotten nothing in return. He didn’t report to the Jets training camp and has been suspended all season as a result. However, he has been rehabbing from ankle surgery and has been in contact with the Jets, so it’s still possible that he’ll return at some point. If I were to limit myself to defensemen who played, then I’d pick P.K. Subban, who has six goals and just 11 points in 48 games this season.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – The good news for the Jets, who haven’t had Byfuglien this season, is that Neal Pionk has exceeded expectations. He’s scored five goals and has already set a new career-high with 32 points in 51 games. Those are great numbers for a defenseman who was only drafted in 4% of Yahoo leagues. It’s worth noting that he’s also a significant contributor in other standard fantasy categories like power-play points (18), shots (107), and hits (127).

Top Fantasy Option – Easily John Carlson. He’s just running away with the defensemen scoring race right now with 13 goals and 60 points in 49 games. The next best blueliner is Roman Josi, who is 12 points behind Carlson. At this rate, Carlson might end up having the best offensive season of any defenseman in the salary cap era.

FORWARDS

Most Disappointing – It’s not his fault, but Vladimir Tarasenko’s shoulder injury has prevented him from doing much for fantasy owners. He was taken on average with the 26.5th pick in Yahoo leagues, but he has three goals and 10 points in just 10 games. He’s not expected to return before the end of the regular season either. If we’re limiting ourselves to just players who have stayed healthy, then Phil Kessel has underwhelmed. He has 11 goals and 31 points in 51 games along with an ugly minus-20 rating. Not exactly what we were hoping for from his first season with Arizona.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Bryan Rust has been a solid member of the Penguins’ supporting cast for years, but he’s found another level in 2019-20. He has 21 goals and 43 points in 36 games. That’s a huge leap for someone whose career-high was 38 points prior to the 2019-20 campaign. Rust was only drafted in 3% of Yahoo leagues.

Top Fantasy Option – There’s a lot to like with David Pastrnak. He has 37 goals and 70 points in 51 games. He has a big lead in goals compared to Connor McDavid (27), Leon Draisaitl (27), and Nathan MacKinnon (30), which helps give Pastrnak a fantasy edge. Pastrnak also has the best plus/minus rating of that group at plus-16. While many people don’t feel plus/minus is a great statistic, it is a statistic that is counted in many fantasy leagues. Pastrnak also has right winger eligibility, which makes him a bit more desirable than McDavid or MacKinnon, who are both only eligible as centers. All of them are amazing options, but if you could only have one in the first half, then Pastrnak was the forward who would have helped you out the most.

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