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Posted - 04/07/2015 :  11:36:57  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Category: Eastern Edge

Looking at Eastern Conference players to key on and avoid in playoff pools.

Even with most of the year’s hockey pools coming to a close this week, the beginning of the NHL playoffs is a very important time in fantasy hockey. Player values change all the time and the postseason is no different in that regard. This week we will look at the top two teams from each division in the Eastern Conference, with analysis being done from the perspective of playoff pools or keeper leagues (or both).

In playoff pools, the drafts usually go unfold in similar fashion. People will try to get a hold of multiple players from teams they think will survive at least a couple rounds. As we are going to see, the majority of players produce similarly during the regular season and playoffs which makes player valuation much easier. However, there are always outliers that cannot be ignored. While focusing on the right teams is essential, the choices that you make within those clubs are equally important, especially in the later rounds.

In keeper leagues the impact of the NHL playoffs is completely indirect. People can be very emotional and overreact to sudden changes in player performance. In fantasy hockey that means there will be opportunities to buy low and sell high. While playoff performances could be a sign of things to come, the regular season is what really matters in most keeper leagues and many of the odd production changes will ultimately amount to nothing.

Sergei Gonchar – Gonchar has been out of the lineup in recent weeks and has been largely forgotten after doing a respectable job in a depth role alongside youngster Nathan Beaulieu. At this point he is nothing more than a dark horse with a history of big offensive production. If the Canadiens suffer an injury on the back end this week Gonchar could suddenly be worth consideration.

Andrei Markov – While Markov has a history of bouncing back from major injuries to remain a high-end NHL defenseman, his production has not translated to postseason hockey. The fact that Markov is so heavily-utilized (24:49 this year) does not help this late in the season. Keep this in mind when making your selections for playoff pools.

David Desharnais / Lars Eller – Desharnais has struggled mightily in postseason play, in part due to his lack of size and his predictability as a pass-heavy centerman. Eller came up big last year when the Canadiens made it to the conference final. History could repeat itself if Desharnais struggles yet again.

In keeper leagues, even if the two swap places this postseason look for things to return to normal in October. Eller has simply never been able to keep a spot in the top-six and will likely disappoint again next year barring a major change in his consistency, making him a potential sell-high candidate this summer. Meanwhile, Desharnais has shown that he can be a serviceable playmaker and his chemistry with Max Pacioretty will help keep him in a favorable role.

Devante Smith-Pelly / Dale Weise – The Canadiens are a team that needs added bulk and secondary scoring help, which may become a more alarming need depending on the severity of Pacioretty’s injury. While Smith-Pelly has not performed well to date since being acquired from the Ducks, his young age must be taken into account. There is still time for the power forward to develop. His strong playoff performance last year in Anaheim (five goals in 12 games) can be considered a sign of encouragement. A second strong playoff performance would actually make him more appealing in keeper leagues. Again, Smith-Pelly brings the size and physical play that the Habs need and will get opportunities to grab a hold of a top-six spot if he is showing signs of breaking out.

Meanwhile, Weise is having a career year and has had success in the Canadiens’ top-six earlier this year. His willingness to go to the net and grind along the boards could lead to some surprising production. Long-term he is unlikely to be anything more than a depth player so his value mainly lies in playoff pools where owners can take advantage of Weise’s strong play this year.

New York Rangers
Keith Yandle – The Rangers’ prized deadline acquisition started off cold in his new environment but has since heated up significantly. Yandle took part in three playoff teams with the Coyotes and posted 19 points in 27 playoff games, an impressive total for a blueliner. With goals hard to come by in the postseason, Yandle will be leaned on heavily on the man advantage which could lead to another productive run.

Dan Boyle – While Boyle has declined sharply in recent years, there are positive signs that could be setting up for another quality postseason run for the 38-year-old. In 10 of his last 11 outings he has logged 20 minutes or more including heavy utilization on special teams. The points have not come yet but the history is too good to pass up as a late-round pick in your playoff pool.

Martin St. Louis – The future Hall-of-Famer has had a tough year statistically. The 39-year-old has seen both his production and ice time drop. In fact, he only has 56 points in 89 total regular season games with the Rangers. At your playoff pool draft many of your opponents will show up with nothing more than the stat sheet in their hands. St. Louis, who currently sits sixth on the Rangers in points, could be overlooked. Every time it looks like he might be fading away for good, he comes back with a vengeance.

Mats Zuccarello – Since signing his contract extension with the Rangers on March 1st, Zuccarello has tallied 14 points in 17 contests – a pace of 68 points over 82 games. While this pace is probably unsustainable especially during the playoff rounds, the offensive surge has Zuccarello in sight of his second consecutive 50-point campaign. With two consecutive respectable playoff campaigns under his belt, he appears to be a safe bet for your playoff pool with an upside to produce much more if he can extend his hot streak a few more weeks.

Rick Nash – Nash’s incredible 69-point campaign, including 42 goals, will surely see him drafted high in playoff pools. However, his history shows that he may not be the best option in the early rounds. Nash has participated in the postseason just three times over the course of his long career and was a disappointment each time. While he will probably improve upon his career playoff mark of 0.44 points per game, it will be very difficult to carry his current production into the postseason. Case in point, Nash has just 33 points in 43 games since January 1st.

In keeper leagues, Nash’s entire season presents an opportunity to sell high but only if the player coming back is one of the NHL’s elite players. He has pushed the point-per-game mark in two of three campaigns in New York but has largely posted disappointing point totals relative to his perceived value over his career. If you cannot land a true upgrade then Nash is by no means the next Dany Heatley. He will remain very productive moving forward.

Tampa Bay
Victor Hedman – Hedman’s career numbers in both the regular season and playoffs are somewhat misleading because his totals were mediocre for many years before reaching his current level as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. His injury-plagued campaign could set his value low in playoff drafts composed of many casual fans given that he is far down the Lightning scoring leaderboard. He is not even leading Lightning defensemen in points this year!

Anton Stralman – That honor belongs to Stralman who leads the Bolts with 38 points. As we saw a few weeks ago, Stralman took advantage of many injuries on the Lightning blueline to post an unexpected breakout campaign. With Hedman due soon and both Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn expected back in the coming weeks, Stralman’s opportunity may not be as golden should the team make it into the deep rounds barring further injuries of significance.

Steven Stamkos – While Stamkos has emerged as an elite NHL forward, he has yet to put together a postseason run that matches some of his gaudy numbers. He is still very young and still has plenty of time to grow into a dominant playoff performer. Just keep his history in mind when making your pick at your playoff pool draft.

Ryan Callahan – Callahan is a popular NHL player due to his grit and work ethic, in addition to his contributions in various fantasy formats. Unfortunately, his strong play over the years has never translated into a strong postseason run no doubt in part due to his style of play wearing him down over the course of the season. He remains a talented producer and could always breakout with a strong playoff performance but be aware that there is major risk if you draft Callahan.

Mike Green – For all of the flak that Green takes for his inconsistent play over the years, he remains an effective offensive contributor even in the playoffs. His career mark of 0.58 points per game is very strong for a defenseman. The fact that he is not popular in fantasy land could leave him sitting on the board in the later rounds of your playoff pool.

In keeper leagues things are very muddy for Green at the moment. Set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, it is far from a given that he returns to Washington. If he hits the open market he will be hard-pressed to find a better environment to boost his offensive numbers than his current home.

John Carlson – Like Hedman, Carlson’s career numbers are skewed by development years that fell short of his current level of play. The fact is that Carlson has emerged as a premier NHL defenseman, posting a career-high 53 points despite not getting prime power play minutes. The lack of opportunities with the man advantage could make it difficult to translate his production into the postseason but he should still be a factor.

One has to wonder if Carlson has another gear should he manage to get top power play minutes. This opportunity could present itself this fall should Green depart as a free agent. A strong playoff performance by Carlson could make Green expendable in the eyes of management and greatly increase Carlson’s keeper value.

Nicklas Backstrom – A career point-per-game player, Backstrom has not been nearly as effective in postseason play. Most notably, his lack of production since the start of the 2011 playoffs where Backstrom has a total of just 13 points in 29 games has made him a multi-year bust in playoff pools. This should rank him well behind other players of similar regular season production.

Joel Ward – Ward has developed a reputation of strong postseason play over the years. Taking out his incredible run with Nashville in 2011 (13 points in 12 games), he only has 13 points in 27 playoff contests. Still, the fact that he has been able to log solid minutes constantly this year should help make Ward an attractive later-round pick, even in smaller playoff pools.

Brooks Laich – Consider Laich a dark horse in deeper playoff pools as this season has mostly been one to forget. Despite a lack of production, Laich is still getting third-line minutes and has had some excellent playoff campaigns in the past.

Marcus Johansson – Johansson has developed into a consistent point producer capable of hitting the mid-40s with ease. On the other hand, his postseason performances have not been nearly as good. Should history repeat itself he could be buried down the depth chart in favor of some of the Capitals’ responsible depth guys. This could in turn make him a decent buy-low option for deeper leagues this summer if people overreact to another round playoff outing.

Troy Brouwer – Brouwer has become an effective power forward that has earned a spot in most fantasy leagues. However, his postseason production has been extremely disappointing to say the least with just 16 points in 64 games with Chicago and Washington. Given that Brouwer’s career numbers in the regular season tend to fall in the range of 0.5 points per game, there is very little reward for the risk that comes with drafting him. It would be best to avoid him outside of deep playoff leagues.

Written by Eric Daoust of

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4809 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2015 :  07:09:55  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Get me a Western Conference prep! Please!

Don't Leaf me hanging, Buds!
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