Fantasy Thoughts: This season’s most surprising studs and dismaying duds


Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl celebrates scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Feeling a sense of emptiness? Yes, me too. Sadly, another fantasy hockey season has come to a close but, my goodness, how fun was that?

The 2018/19 campaign will undeniably be known for the uptick in offence league-wide. Led by Nikita Kucherov’s dominant 128-point Art Ross winning performance, five others were able to hit the 100-point plateau with relative ease (Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, Leon Draisaitl, and Brad Marchand). Meanwhile, eight others were able to register 90-plus point outputs.

With the positive came the negatives too, especially in goal. The goaltender position continued to be as volatile as ever. Lots to mull over as we head into another summer of craziness.

It’s time to tie a tidy bow on this fantasy campaign:

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TBL Andrei Vasilevskiy – G (SN Pre-Season Rank: 24)

Far and away, Vasilevskiy was the best goalie in the NHL this season, reality or fantasy for that matter. I’d consider him all but a lock to win the Vezina Trophy. Despite missing significant time with a broken left foot, the Russian was still unbelievably able to lead the entire league in wins (39). Pound-for-pound, no other netminder was really in Vasilevskiy’s realm. The 24-year-old is poised to force himself into first round consideration in standard leagues come the fall. By a country mile, the All-Star remains the top crease option in fantasy hockey.

TBL Brayden Point – C (SN Pre-Season Rank: 100)

Suffice it to say, Point was on point. He’s firmly put himself in-line for a major payday in the summer. The 23-year-old was a fantasy monster providing extensive category coverage across the board. The Alberta native fell just eight points shy of the century mark (92). He won’t be ranked 100th next season, that’s for sure.

EDM Leon Draisaitl – C, LW, RW (SN Pre-Season Rank: 23)

It may have been overshadowed by the McDavid injury, but it was nice to see Leon Draisaitl get to 50 goals in the season finale on Saturday night. How do you possess two 100-point scorers and still miss the playoffs? Well, that’s what they’re pondering at this very second in Edmonton. All I’ll say is good thing the fantasy game revolves around individual success. Regardless of the dumpster fire around him, the German forward was able to bounce back in a big way offensively this season. He’s certainly cemented himself amongst the elite in the fantasy world for many years to come.

CAR Sebastian Aho – C, LW, RW (SN Pre-Season Rank: 61)

Has Aho usurped Florida’s Aleksander Barkov as the most underrated player in the NHL right now? His 30-goal 83-point breakout season only strengthens that argument. Aho’s tremendous play was one of the main reasons that the Hurricanes got back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons. From a fantasy standpoint, I think he’s still just scratching the surface in terms of potential. More to come.

STL Ryan O’Reilly – C (SN Pre-Season Rank: 80)

Undoubtedly, the 2009 second rounder was as lucrative a sleeper play as you could find this season. He was, by far, the most consistent regular-season contributor for the St. Louis Blues this season. Considering St. Louis’ top-line didn’t find their stride until roughly the 50-game mark, I’d argue O’Reilly still has a higher offensive ceiling. Excellent move by general manager Doug Armstrong.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.


WPG Patrik Laine – RW (SN Pre-Season Rank: 6)

In normal circumstances, it would be difficult to scrutinize a 30-goal scorer. That said, not everyone’s Patrik Laine. The 20-year-old should be able to pot 30 goals in his sleep. His regular-season was confusing and mystifying to say the least. Remarkably, he scored 18 times in November. That’s right, 60-percent of his production came over a 12-game span. Also, 15 of the 30 were power play tallies. Not much of a hot take here but, unequivocally, I have faith that Laine will eventually find his scoring prowess again. He’s just way too talented.

WPG Connor Hellebuyck – G (SN Pre-Season Rank: 28)

Behind Vasilevskiy, Hellebuyck seemed to be the consensus number-two in terms of fantasy goalies going into the season. Yeah, that didn’t go according to plan. He was okay but not great, bad news for owners who grabbed him early. In Hellebuyck’s defence, regression is quite common in year one following being handed a massive new contract. I’m jumping back on the Hellebuyck file again next season. BUY.

SJS Martin Jones – G (SN Pre-Season Rank: 57)

By far, the 29-year-old had the worst statistical year of his career (36-19-5, 2.94 goals-against, 0.896 save-percentage). Personally, I view it as an anomaly. Jones has always been pretty consistent. Despite the terrible numbers, he was still able to crack the top-five in wins. At least you were able to corner one goalie category. Target him next year.

NAS Wayne Simmonds – RW (SN Pre-Season Rank: 64)

Sadly, I don’t think Simmonds is a bonafide fantasy option anymore. The kilometers are starting to catch up to the 30-year-old power forward. From an offensive standpoint, it’s been a hellacious contract year for the two-time 30-goal scorer. I wonder how much money he’s lost in free agency. Without question, Simmonds will slip into the 130-170 range in my fantasy rankings next season. Love his heart and leadership, though.

TOR William Nylander – C, RW (SN Pre-Season Rank: 66)

Not much of a shocker here. Considering his late arrival – 20 games in – it was going to be an uphill battle from the get-go for the Swedish forward. The point totals aren’t the underlying issue here, the goal scoring dip is. Prorated over 82 games, he fired at a 13-goal clip this season.

Picking Nylander was a gamble from the beginning. There was no telling how long the contract stalemate was going to last. The house won this round.

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