Reviewing the 10 best plus/minus players to own in fantasy hockey
Plus/minus was officially tracked in the NHL starting with the 1967-68 season. All players on the attacking team gain a “plus” when an even-strength or shorthanded goal is scored at the same time that all players on the defending team get a “minus”. Whether or not the net is empty does not matter for purposes of plus/minus.
The plus/minus statistic is calculated on a per game basis but it is only over a full season that the true measure of plus/minus can be realised. It is more of a team statistic than an actual individual attribute, although one can argue that having certain players on the ice increases the opponents chance of scoring.
Let’s take a look at who has the best plus/minus so far …
#10 – Corey Perry, ANA
Perry has averaged a plus rating of 5.8 since joining the Ducks in 2005/6. He has only posted a minus season (minus-7) once and that was in 2011/12. His personal best is plus 12 which came in back-to-back seasons, 2006/7 and 2007/8. Considering that he has never finished in the top 10 since joining the league his current rating of plus-24 is quite the accomplishment. He is also tied with teammate Ryan Getzlaf but has played four more games. Anaheim has 22 games remaining so expect Perry to set a new career best in plus/minus.
#9 – Jarome Iginla, BOS
The 18-year veteran is on pace to record his best plus/minus total since 2007/8 when he posted a plus 27 with the Flames. His positive 25 in 57 games with Boston is only the fourth time he has been above 20. Iginla has finished the season in the top 10 before, in 2001-02 and 2007-08 when he posted a plus-27. If he continues at this rate he should finish above 30 for the first time in his career. It helps that the Bruins are one of the better 5-on-5 teams in the league as well. Playing on a team that has had three of more players in the top 10 for plus/minus for the previous three seasons is impressive in itself. Expect Iginla to finish the season with a plus-35.
#8 – Patrice Bergeron, BOS
The first thing that jumped out at me when researching Bergeron’s plus/minus was the horrific minus-28 he posted in 2006-07. However, this is also the only time he has posted a negative number in this category. He recorded his best number for plus/minus (plus-36) in 2011-12 which is also the season the Bruin’s won their sixth Stanley Cup. Bergeron is in his 10th year with Boston and is on pace to match his career best. His plus 25 in 57 games is his second best total to date. He is also still has a chance to lead this category as he is only three away from the leader. I would be very surprised if he finishes outside the top 10 by season’s end.
#7 – Chris Kunitz, PIT
Kunitz has never posted a negative plus/minus in his 10-year career. Unfortunately he does have a negative record with the Thrashers when he played for them in 2005-06. He played two games and posted a minus-3. After he was traded to the Ducks he posted a plus 19 in 67 games. The following season he followed that up with a plus-23 in 81 games. He didn’t post another double digit positive until 2010/11 with Pittsburgh. His career high was last season when he finished with a plus 30 in 48 games. His plus-25 in 58 games puts him on pace to finish with plus-35 and a new career high.
#6 – David Krejci, BOS
Krejci also has a plus-25 rating in 57 games so it comes as no surprise to learn that he has been skating with Iginla for 66% of his even-strength shifts. He also led the league in plus/minus in the 2008-09 season with a plus-37, his career best. In that year he also never posted a single game total lower than minus-1. This season he has only had three games with a minus-2 rating and eight with a minus-1. Apart from January 28, when he posted a plus-5, the others have been a respectable plus-2 or plus-1 rating. He is slightly off target to beat his career best but finishing with a plus-33 is nothing to sneeze at.
#5 – Francois Beauchemin, ANA
Last season Beauchemin posted a plus-19 rating in 48 games. Prior to that he only had two other positive seasons and that was 2005-06 and 2006-07 where he posted plus-8 and plus-7 respectively. He has not finished higher than 12th overall so the fact that he is number five so far, in his 10th NHL season, is encouraging. He is currently second on the Ducks squad in plus/minus and is on pace to obliterate his career high. Beauchemin has a plus-26 score in 50 games played and the 33-year-old will finish higher than plus-30 for the first time in his career. Expect Beauchemin to be as consistent as he has been and finish with a plus-34 rating.
#4 – Marian Hossa, CHI
Hossa is in his 16th season and during that time has only posted a negative plus/minus twice. The first was a minus-1 in the 1997-98 season when he was drafted 12th overall by the Ottawa Senators. The other was a minus-14, which he recorded in the 2007-08 season, with the Atlanta Thrashers. He has averaged a plus-12 during his career and this current run of plus 26 in 55 games is his second best to date. Hossa finished in the top 10 last season and has been in the top 15 twice before, 2008-09 he finished 12th and 2009-10 he finished 14th. Chicago has 22 games remaining so expect Hossa to post a plus-8 down the stretch to finish with a personal best of plus-34.
#3 - Hampus Lindholm, ANA
Drafted 6th overall in the 2012 entry draft this talented rookie is excelling in just about every category possible. Averaging 19 minutes per game and posting a plus-26 in 57 games shows that he is quite capable of handling the defensive aspect of the NHL. He has skated with Beauchemin for almost 60% at even strength so that obviously has something to do with his numbers. This is his first season and therefore one cannot tell if these stats are consistent or not. However, what is consistent is the fact that his worst plus/minus in a single game is a minus one. He has nine games where he has recorded a plus-2 and has also recorded a plus-3 and a plus-4. Expect many more positive seasons from the 6-3 defenseman as he becomes more comfortable and his confidence increases.
#2 – Johnny Boychuk, BOS
Boychuk has never finished a season with a negative plus/minus rating. His career best is plus-27 which he recorded in 2011/12 and that was good for 8th overall. He has a plus-27 in 53 games with the Bruins so unless he goes completely off the rails he is on pace to beat his personal record. The only thing holding Boychuk back is the fact he has never played a full season. Looking at the 2011-12 season and specifically the games from February 11 until April 3. During that timeframe he posted a plus-6 so if he repeats those numbers he will end with a new career best of plus-32 by season’s end. Boychuk is also skating with Zdeno Chara for 32% of even strength shifts and Chara is no slouch in the plus/minus category either.
#1 – Matt Niskanen, PIT
The 27-year-old defenseman is surprising a lot of fantasy hockey managers with his plus-28 rating in 58 games. His career high is plus-22 which he recorded in 2007-08 while with the Dallas Stars. Since then he went on to post three consecutive minus seasons and it wasn’t until 2011-12 with the Penguins that he started to see the positive side again. This is his seventh NHL season and he has already equalled his goal totals and is two shy of his career best in assists so why not improve upon his plus/minus as well. He averages 20 minutes of ice time per game, which is good for 78th out of all defensemen. He is skating with rookie defenseman Olli Maatta for 35% of even strength shifts so the defensive responsibilities are increased further. Consider that, and the fact that he is having a career year, and one wonders if he really was just an “add-on” in the James Neal trade?
Enjoy the Olympics everyone and may the country you cheer for make you proud!
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