Getty ImagesDobber checks in every week to force-feed you the latest fantasy hockey trends. The founder of DobberHockey.com and a columnist for The Hockey News website, he long ago immersed himself into this rollercoaster world and is unable to escape.
So how did you do this year? If you didn't have at least one of these 20 players, you probably aren't on top. These are the Top 20 scores in rotisserie for 2011-12, in which you rank each category and then tally up each rank number.
This snippet, courtesy of Frozen Pool, encompasses the entire campaign.
But besides picking the best of the year, success is also the result of grabbing players who produced far above what most projected. My annual Top 10 Fantasy MVPs list involves balancing expectation with result. It's about drafting a player 120th in September and he puts up numbers that would rank him closer to 30th had the draft been redone in April. It's about not suckering for Michael Grabner's three-month hot streak late last season, but instead suckering for Jamie Benn's three-month hot streak late last season.
You won't see Steven Stamkos' name here. Before the season began you had him penciled in for 50 goals and close to 95 points. Zdeno Chara is another fantasy stud this year — but 50 points and 100 PIMs is about what you figured before you took him. You drafted these players in a certain round and received the appropriate return for that pick.
Without further ado, it's time to take a look at the players who saved your ass in 2011-12 by playing well above expectations.
10. Michael Ryder, Dallas Stars
As of 10 days ago (i.e. before many teams got too far into streaming their players to take advantage of games remaining), he was only owned in 63% of Yahoo! leagues. Amazing, when you consider his 35 goals, plus-22 rating and over 200 shots. He had 18 goals in each of his last two seasons and averaged 37 points and plus-1. This year has seen quite the jump. I don't know what the other 37% of the leagues were waiting for — ninth in goals, 24th in plus/minus, 58th in shots and his overall roto rank is 21. Given that he was drafted in just 3% of leagues, it's safe to say that expectations were low.
9. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
Fourth-year magic has been sprinkled on Wheeler and he's become one of the best 6-5, 200-plus pound players in the world. Seven years after Phoenix shocked everyone by drafting him fifth overall, we're now seeing why. He has 54 points in his last 58 games, leading me to believe that 75 points is in his future.
8. P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders
At the age of 27, Parenteau had played 27 NHL games. Yep, NHL teams felt that his consistently huge production in the AHL was unworthy of a look on a scoring line at the big-league level. Occasionally, he may have gotten a call-up, but was subsequently stuck on a line with a couple of pluggers — and then sent back down because he wasn't producing. But 18 months ago, the Islanders had an idea. What if they took this high-scoring AHLer and actually, gulp, tried him on a scoring line? As we watch him close in on his 70th point this season, we know how that idea turned out. As a bonus, Parenteau has a shot at 100 PIMs. If he makes it, he'll probably be the only player to hit 70 points/100 penalty minutes (although Scott Hartnell has a shot, too).
Next in line — Keith Aucoin? Why not? The 33-year-old AHLer has 33 points in his last 83 NHL games and is plus-8 in this span, usually not on a scoring line.
7. Ray Whitney/Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes
I'm putting the two players together because it's a cheesy way of expanding this list from 10 players they have been two peas in a pod all season long. Whitney sets 'em up, Vrbata knocks 'em home. Looking at Whitney's stats over the last three years — 77 points, 58 points and 57 points — at his age (he'll be 40 in May), drafting him as a 50 to 55-point player was a safe bet. But getting a 75-point player is huge, and his career high plus-25 doesn't hurt either.
Whitney's presence has given Vrbata career totals in goals (33), points (60), plus/minus (plus-23) and game winners (11). He needs three assists and two power-play goals to set career highs in those numbers as well. Although he has just 22 PIMs, his career high is 26 making him one scrap away from nailing every category. Hell, if he does get into a fight he would set a career high in that category as well, with 'one'.
6. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
Jaroslav Halak has been a Top 5 goalie over the last four months. But Elliott has been the No.1 goalie over the last six months. The result has been a cannibalization of Halak's starts that will cost him 30 wins. It's pretty hard to unseat a goaltender who has a 1.97 GAA and 0.925 SP, six shutouts and a 25-12-7 record, but Elliott beats even those stellar numbers. Despite not playing even half the games, he's still a Top 10 goalie in most points-only formats.
5. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
Landeskog was a Top 3 preseason Calder pick on most ballots. But his stats across multiple categories are completely unexpected. A plus-23 on a team with just seven regulars on the positive side of the ledger is as rare a sight as a Jaromir Jagr body check. Think about that — three players are tied for third on the team at plus-3. Landeskog has 22 goals, 51 points and 264 shots on goal. These numbers are worthy of the first five rounds, yet he was drafted 20th round if he was drafted at all.
(Put down the torches and pitchforks Flyers fans — Jagr has 14 registered hits in 69 contests)
4. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
What Karlsson is doing this year is so much more impressive than what Mike Green did four years ago (31 goals and 73 points in 68 games). For one, a slight breeze brushing across his jersey doesn't send him to the IR for two months. For two, Karlsson doesn't have quite the caliber of star power to feed the puck to (or be fed by) on the power play. You drafted Karlsson expecting perhaps an upgrade to 55 or maybe even 60 points. You were willing to take the plus/minus hit for that, since he was a minus-30 last campaign. Instead, it looks like you're getting 80 points and at this point a plus-18. Even more amazing — on December 16 he had two goals in 33 games. So scoring 17 in his next 44 is certainly comparable to what Green did.
3. Claude Giroux/Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers
Hartnell is having the season of his life, and he has Giroux and his breakout campaign to thank for it. I had my doubts about Hartnell. After seeing his ice time holding at under 13 minutes per game as of Game 6, and he had just two assists and four penalty minutes to show for it, I was ready to bail. But I couldn't pawn him off on anyone. Thankfully 72 games later he's scored 36 times, tallying another 63 points. He has set career highs in goals, points, plus/minus and power-play goals. By the end of the season you may add penalty minutes, assists and shots on goal to that list. Thanks guys, for turning my trade offers down.
Meanwhile, Giroux is third in league scoring and would be giving second a healthy run were it not for the concussion that cost him four games.
2. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
Smith was arguably the last drafted of the 25 or so starters who were likely No.1 goalies as of September. Nobody trusted his horrible, injury-influenced numbers of the past three or four seasons. But if you grabbed him as your No. 3 goalie you probably had him as your No. 1 guy by November. Career bests in save percentage, wins, games played, shots faced and shutouts — and his second best goals-against average.
1. Evgeni Malkin/James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins
I only had two one-year drafts last summer, but in each of them I licked my chops watched hopefully as Evgeni Malkin slipped deep into the first round. He got to me in one and I snapped him up faster than you could say medial collateral ligament. In the other one, I missed him by three spots. In each of those leagues, the owner of Malkin is in the Top 2. As for James Neal, as you can see from the snippet above he is the third best across-the-board fantasy own of this season thanks to his goal, assist, power-play point and shot totals. But without Malkin as a linemate, Neal would be just another Pascal Dupuis. Just like I can't give Hartnell his own spot at No.3 without mentioning Giroux, I also can't give Neal the MVP on his own.
Honorable mentions: Phil Kessel, for posting some huge points but missed out due to the terrible team he is on plus/minus rating … Kris Versteeg, for pushing many a poolie to top spot by January, but then forgetting that the season kept going … Brian Campbell for finishing second in scoring among defenseman, but contributing absolutely nothing to your roto team besides assists … PK Subban gets an honorable mention as well — I know many of you are hard on the guy this year, but he led all defenseman in penalty minutes, was fourth in shots on goal and will also post close to 40 points when it's all said and done.
Dobber can be criticized and ridiculed over at his own site. Follow him on Twitter (@DobberHockey), but only if you like cool tidbits on player trends. If you're in a Fantasy Baseball league, check out his draft kit over at DobberBaseball.com