The biggest fantasy hockey winners this NHL off-season

Matt Duchene has put himself in a good spot. (Getty)
Matt Duchene has put himself in a good spot. (Getty)

Some people are just having a better summer than others.

For example, take Artemi Panarin, who secured $81.5 million to be paid out over the next seven years after signing a deal with the New York Rangers.

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The Bread Man, however, represents only one of many NHLers who have been on the move this off-season. For our selfish purposes, let’s take a look at the faces in new places that will benefit the most from their new destinations in fantasy hockey.

1. Nazem Kadri - Colorado Avalanche

The Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the best offensive teams last season. The club finished fourth with 286 goals and managed to produce a solid mark of 21.8% on the power play.

The problem for Kadri, though, was that he wasn’t able to carve out a more statistically rewarding role on the team.

After signing John Tavares, Kadri was relegated to third-line duties. That won’t be the case with the Avalanche, as the tenacious centre is the odds-on favourite to start the season as the Avs’ second-line middleman.

That means Kadri will most likely see an uptick from the 16:11 of ice-time he received per game last season. And given how much of a problem Colorado’s first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen is for opposing defences, that should deflect much of the attention away from Line 2.

One other thing working in Kadri’s favour is that his shooting percentage last season was sizeably lower than his career mark. Scoring on 11.5% of the shots he’s taken throughout his NHL tenure, the two-time 30-goal scorer finished with an underwhelming 8.7% total last year. His larger body of work indicates more shots will find the back of the net next season.

2. Gustav Nyquist - Columbus Blue Jackets

This off-season has not been very kind to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene parted, along with Panarin, which means the team will most likely take a hefty step backwards next season.

For fantasy though, we don’t care about that. What we care about is opportunity - and Nyquist should get his chance to return fantasy value in Ohio.

The Swedish forward is in line to operate on both Columbus’s top line and power-play unit. Being placed in those valuable roles, even though the Jackets may struggle next season, will give the winger lots of chances to rack up points.

Nyquist should be a pretty safe bet to replicate his 22-goal 2018-19 campaign, if not improve upon it. His 22 markers were accompanied with a shooting percentage of 10.8%, slightly below his career total of 11.3%.

The 29-year old’s floor should be around the 20-goal, 50-point mark again, while also offering the potential to earn and maintain a spot on the Blue Jackets' top PP unit. He is shaping up to be a nice volume-based selection later in fantasy drafts.

3. Matt Duchene - Nashville Predators

There’s no question that the Nashville Predators struggled offensively last season. The team notched the third-lowest goal total of all teams to make the playoffs, boasted the worst power play in the entire league, and were the only post-season team from the Western Conference to not have someone on their roster record 65 points or more.

But despite all of the club’s struggles, there’s no question that the addition of Duchene will be mutually beneficial.

For starters, the Haliburton, Ont., native will be able to help address the Preds’ poor power play. Before his trade to Columbus, the Ottawa Senators’ power play produced at a mark of 20.9%. After he was dealt, that number shot down to 18.5%. The loss of Mark Stone from the Sens should also be noted as a key reason why that occurred. However, the Blue Jackets power play did get better with Duchene in the lineup. The club was striking at a success rate of 15.1% before his arrival and wound up being 16.3% with him on the team. The improved results from the PP unit carried over into the playoffs, where Columbus wrapped up the post-season with a conversion mark of 25%. The coveted trade deadline acquisition contributed to that success with three goals and an assist.

In a fairly likely best-case scenario, Duchene will start the season as the team’s No. 1 centre. That would mean he’d be operating on a line with Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, which is not bad at all for fantasy purposes.

One area to be cautious about though is goal scoring. The 10-year pro’s SH% last season concluded at a staggering 18%. Throughout his career, he has levelled off at 12.9%, so some regression in that category can be expected.

All in all, Duchene seems fairly likely to reach the 65-point plateau in his new home while also being a contributor to the club’s power play.

4. Jacob Trouba - New York Rangers

Trouba should take off with the New York Rangers next season.

He should see some increased time on the PP in the Big Apple, which will help unlock his full fantasy hockey potential. The 6-foot-3 blueliner finished last season with 18 power-play points, good for 16th in the league among rearguards. The defenceman was very efficient on the man advantage, being one of just three players in that top 16 who received under 200 minutes on the PP. Coupling that with playing on a special teams unit alongside Panarin and Mika Zibanejad means he should continue to grow as a contributor in that category.

Trouba also offers some appeal for those who value hits in their league. He’s by no means a wrecking ball, but the former Michigan Wolverine still can throw his weight around. He totalled 112 hits in his previous campaign, finishing 65th at his position.

While point production is typically harder to predict amongst defencemen, I’d say we just saw Trouba starting to come into his own with his 50-point year in 2018-2019. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him replicate or improve upon those numbers this coming season.

5. Wayne Simmonds - New Jersey Devils

After selecting Simmonds and getting burnt by it last season, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this.

But it’s a new year, and I think my heart can handle giving him a second chance - especially when you consider where the power forward is slotted to go in fantasy drafts.

As it stands right now, Simmonds is ranked 234th, according to NHL.com. That means you can select the 30-year-old for literally nothing as your draft is about to conclude.

Last season, the 11-year pro’s average draft position on Yahoo Fantasy was 89.8. People were willing to select him in the eighth round despite recovering from surgery all off-season. However, this summer, a healthy and motivated Simmonds is slipping to the bottom of the barrel.

Landing with the New Jersey Devils is shaping up to be a near-perfect destination as he should compete with Kyle Palmieri for a spot alongside Taylor Hall on the team’s top line. It’s also sounding like the veteran will get a shot to prove himself on the club’s power play.

Simmonds’ track record prior to last season suggests he can be a contributor on the man advantage. Before his tumultuous 2018-19 campaign, he had recorded seven straight seasons of 15 or more PP points.

Additionally, the winger demonstrated last year that hits are always going to be a part of his game, which is great for leagues that value the statistic. He finished 15th at the right-wing position with 137 checks.

When you get to the end of your draft, it’s worth taking a flier on a driven and healthy Simmonds, who will enter the season on a one-year, prove-it deal.

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