The Top 15 fantasy winners from the Western Conference who exceeded expecatations this year.
Another fantasy hockey season has found its way into the record books and what a great finish this season with a high volume of games to the condensed schedule after the Olympic break. Many of us are already looking back at our draft decisions and waiver wire pickups wondering what was and what could have been. The season is still fresh in our minds, making it the perfect time to reflect on those players that surprised us the most. Last week Russ Miller’s Eastern Edge column focused on the top 15 fantasy winners in the Eastern Conference. Following his lead, let’s take a look at the top 15 fantasy winners in the West who exceeded our expectations this year.
15. Patrick Maroon, Ducks (62-11-18-29)
Maroon was on the radar of zero percent of fantasy general managers going into 2013-2014 and gradually progressed from irrelevant to waiver wire fodder to a decent depth pickup. The 25-year-old career AHL forward had only 15 games to his NHL credit but managed to stick with the big club this year putting up close to a 40 point pace. A bonus peripheral Maroon contributed for those who were wise enough to snag him off the waiver wire – 101 PIMs.
14. Hampus Lindholm, Ducks (78-6-24-30)
Most of us had reserved expectations for Lindholm this season. At best we figured the young Swede would be a worthy farm player that may come along in a few years. Instead Linholm posted some solid numbers this year. His 30 points in 78 games was a nice surprise and only trailed Torey Krug among rookie blue liners. The bonus peripheral is Lindholm’s plus-29 which is fourth overall among all defensemen in the NHL.
13. Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues (64-21-22-43)
A worthy farm option for numerous owners over the years but many of us had Tarasenko pegged for a 40 point season at best this year. In the end he posted just over 40 points but these statistics were accumulated in just 64 games. Tarasenko’s numbers over an 82 game season prorate to 27 goals and 28 assists – 55 points. He appears to be on the cusp of taking the next step.
12. Craig Smith, Predators (79-24-28-52)
Somehow Smith managed to put together an impressive campaign on an offensively challenged Nashville team surpassing his career high 36 points from 2011-2012. Smith’s 52 points ranked him 77th overall in NHL scoring making him a waiver wire savior and a championship piece for many fantasy squads. His plus-16 on a team where minuses were the norm made his addition to fantasy rosters look borderline genius.
11. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (65-33-20-10)
Lehtonen has long been a staple on many fantasy rosters. This year he and the Stars overachieved. Lehtonen’s 33 wins were good for third overall in the Western Conference and his 65 games played was tops in the league. Most impressive, Lehtonen’s 1735 saves were good enough for second overall in the NHL. Tack on his 2.41 GAA and .919 save percentage and owners benefitted from his consistency this year. Lehtonen’s five shutouts also tied him for third in the NHL.
10. Jaden Schwartz, Blues (80-25-31-56)
Schwartz took the next step this season after an unimpressive 13 points in 45 games as a rookie in 2012-2013. Likely shored away on the farm in many dynasty leagues, the sophomore winger flirted with 60 points this season falling just short of the mark. Despite the deep two way talent in St. Louis, somehow Schwartz walked away from the regular season with a team leading plus-28.
9. Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (82-24-39-63)
Typical rookie seasons for players of MacKinnon’s first overall stature have been 50-55 point campaigns meaning the Avalanche rookie exceeded expectations. The most impressive peripheral statistic from MacKinnon this year is his plus-21. MacKinnon’s 241 SOG ranked him 25th in the league and his five game winning goals were also a nice bonus. Congratulations on that Calder Trophy.
8. Tyson Barrie, Avalanche (64-10-28-38)
The under the radar Avalanche defenseman quietly posted .59 points per game and five of his 10 goals were game winners. Despite missing 18 games, Barrie still finished 27th in scoring among all blue liners. Tack on his plus-17 over the season and the 22-year-old has established himself as fantasy relevant.
7. Roman Josi, Predators (72-13-27-40)
The Swiss defenseman took the next step this year improving on his career high 18 points last season. His 40 points in 72 games prorates to 46 points which is Kevin Shattenkirk territory this season. The fact that Josi also ended the season at just minus-2 while playing the hard minutes (lining up over 85% of the time with Shea Weber) against the opposition’s best makes his season even more impressive. Josi was also 21st in the league with 150 blocked shots this season.
6. Joe Pavelski, Sharks (82-38-41-79)
The perennial 65 point player greatly exceeded expectations this season. Pavelski had already established himself as a valuable keeper in dynasty leagues and a higher round pick in one year leagues, but few experts would have predicted his eighth place finish in NHL scoring which tied him with Alexander Ovechkin at 79 points. Pavelski’s 41 goals also tied him for third in the Rocket Richard race but owners should adjust their expectations going into 2014-2015. Pavelski’s shooting percentage this year was 18.4% - sixth in the league among players who played more than 50 games.
5. Alexander Steen, Blues (68-33-29-62)
In just 68 games Steen annihilated his career high 51 point campaign from 2010-2011. Knowledgeable hockey fans knew the potential was there and despite missing 14 games Steen still finished 11th overall in the goal scoring race and his 9 game winning goals placed him third in the “clutch” category. Steen’s plus-17 was also a nice peripheral. Going forward, owners know better than to rely on him for more than 70 games each season.
4. Tyler Seguin, Stars (80-37-47-84)
Seguin entered 2013-2014 as a must own in dynasty leagues but in partial keeper leagues he was a borderline drop after posting just 32 points in 48 game in 2012-2013. In one year leagues Seguin turned out to be one of the best value picks of the year. Even with the preseason excitement of a fresh start alongside Jamie Benn, few could have predicted that Seguin would finish fourth in league scoring and put up 1.05 points per game over 80 games. Bonus peripherals from the young and now established superstar include a plus-17 rating and eight game winning goals.
3. Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (81-26-39-65)
Early in the season I wrote a piece suggesting that Landeskog was a 40 point player perhaps not ready to take the next step. Now I am ready to eat crow. Landeskog finished 30th in scoring this season with 65 points, posted a plus-21, and looks ready to take a run at 70-75 points next season. Perhaps he is more than the two way 50-55 point player many of us expected. Landeskog’s 71 PIMs and 176 hits (35th among forwards) also contributed as great bonus peripherals.
2. Mark Giordano, Flames (64-14-34-47)
Some may be surprised to see Giordano so high on this list but considering he posted a plus-12 on the bottom dwelling Flames while scoring at a .73 points per game pace, and we have a player that greatly exceeded expectations. After posting just 15 points in 47 games last season, Giordano has improved to a must own option as his points per game pace this season prorated to 60 points. Seven of his 14 goals came on the power play.
1. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (63-41-14-6)
Varlamov’s place at the top of this list is an unlikely surprise. The Colorado goaltender led the league in wins with 41 and saves with 1867. Varlamov’s .927 save percentage was second overall among goalies that played at least 50 games and he also chipped in with a respectable GAA of 2.41. Varlamov is the biggest reason the team made the jump from second worst in the league to second best in the West.
Josh Harding – It is too bad we did not get the chance to see Harding play a full season. Before hitting the injured reserve list he led the league in GAA with 1.65 and posted a .933 save percentage. He was on his way to the Vezina Trophy.
Ryan O'Reilly – The toughest omission from the above list, O’Reilly put up an impressive 64 points in 80 games. However Mr. Lady Byng is not going to help you with PIMs anytime soon. Still, it was a great season from the 23-year-old in 2013-2014.
Jacob Trouba – A decent rookie season that saw him post 29 points in 63 games. Another difficult omission from the above list but in the end he was left off as we expected him to post close to these numbers going into this year.
Andrew Cogliano – A third liner that can bring 21 goals and 21 assists and post a plus-13 while lining up against the opposition’s best every night is great value. Cogliano seems to get better every year.
If you can think of a player that was missed, comment below!
Enjoy your Easter weekend and stay tuned. Later this week Russ Miller (writer of the Eastern Edge) will bring you his top 10 (or so) fantasy losers from the Eastern Conference and I will follow suit with the Western edition next Monday.
Dallas is a fantasy writer at DobberHockey. He still hasn’t tweeted, but you can follow him @dallasg_11