The Top 10 Hitters in fantasy hockey.
One of the things that captivates me the most about hockey was the spectacular hits that players dish out on a regular basis. I grew up playing rugby and there was nothing better than lining up my target as he streaked down the wing. The feeling of my shoulder hitting his hip and hearing the unmistakable sound of agony from my opponent is one I will cherish forever. The outcome was usually a fumble which resulted in a turnover for my team.
A hockey hit is no different, the aim is to separate the player from the puck. Whether it is a well-timed hip check or a glass shattering body check, the outcome is still the same.
The focus of this week’s Fantasy Top 10 is hits. If your league has this statistic as a category then take note because here are the 10 Best Hitters in the NHL.
#10 – Martin Hanzal, PHO
Hanzal is currently tied with Zac Rinaldo with a total of 135 hits, he made the list because his peripherals are far superior to Rinaldo’s. Over the past 4 seasons Hanzal has averaged 2.7 hits per game, with his career best being 239 hits in an injury plagued 2011/12 where he only played 64 games. He is currently on pace to achieve 270 hits and if you combine that with his increased point production (32 points in 41 games), his 114 shots on goal and his 49 penalty minutes then you have the makings of a very worthy rotisserie contributor. Expect him to deliver another 135 hits as the season progresses and he will be a very shrewd add if you can acquire him via the wire or trade.
#9 – Steve Ott, BUF
The 31-year-old left wing appears to be slowing down as he has only recorded 135 hits to date. His best season was 2011/12 in which he recorded 278 hits. In last season’s shortened campaign he was on pace to beat his career best by recording 187 hits in 48 games (pro-rated to 319 hits). Ott is not going to help with goals or assists and even his penalty minutes are lower than what he has produced in the past but if you are looking for help in this category then he may be worth a look. Provided of course you can stomach the dismal minus-17 rating he currently has. The last time his plus minus was this bad was 2009/10 when he went minus-14 in 73 games. He is on pace for 260 hits but expect that number to be closer to the 220 mark.
#8 – Milan Lucic, BOS
The Vancouver native is hitting more this season than any other, he currently has 141 hits in 44 games. His career best is 201 in 81 games which he recorded in 2011/12. If he keeps up his 3.2 hits per game pace then he should finish with roughly 262, provided he plays in all of the remaining 38 games. Lucic can also be counted on to provide highlight reel hits and one of my favourites dates back to 2008 when he smashed Mike Van Ryn through the glass. Lucic is no slouch in the other categories as well with 30 points and a plus-13 rating. Good luck trying to get him from a fellow manager.
#7 – Cal Clutterbuck, NYI
I am a little surprised that Clutterbuck is seventh on this list considering his hit totals in the previous four seasons. In 2009/10 he recorded 318 hits in 74 games for a hit-per-game ratio of 4.29 and then posted 336, 288 and 155 (302 pro-rated). He currently has 144 hits in 41 games for an average of 3.5 hits per game. If Clutterbuck is going to come anywhere near his career best he needs another 192 hits in the remaining 35 games. That would mean at least five hits per game which is highly unlikely and he has never played a full season which further reduces the chances of him reaching that number. Look for a slight increase as the Islanders fight for a playoff spot. Expect another 119 hits with minimal offensive contributions.
#6 – Chris Neil, OTT
The Ottawa veteran was on track to surpass his career best in hits (271) as he landed 146 in 42 games but is currently on the IR with a hamstring injury. He has recorded over 200 hits in each of the previous four seasons, including the lock-out shortened season where he amassed 206 hits in 48 games for an average of four per game. Health is the only roadblock for Neil as he has shown that he can maintain, or exceed, his current pace of 3.47 hits per game so expect another 115 in 30 of Ottawa’s remaining games. Like Clutterbuck, and most of the names on this list, he won’t provide much offense but he will help with penalty minutes.
#5 – Colin Greening, OTT
Greening’s best season was 2011/12 where he recorded 189 hits and 37 points in 82 games. He won’t come anywhere close to matching his offensive totals but he is on track to beat his hits. He currently has 149 in 46 games for a per-game pace of 3.23 and if this continues he should finish with 264. The 27 year old is in his fourth NHL season so it remains to be seen whether or not he can sustain this level of production. Expect a slight regression from his current rate so look for a further 110 hits by seasons end.
#4 – Radko Gudas, TB
Drafted in the third round, 66th overall, in 2010 the 23-year-old is already a big hit with fantasy owners and this is only his second NHL season. He has one of the coolest names, even if it does remind me of a cheese commercial, and he is hitting at a rate of 3.8 hits per-game. He has 152 in 40 games and only twice has he gone a game without one. He’s not a big player by NHL standards but he certainly knows how to hit, just ask Teemu Selanne. Gudas has already squashed last season’s totals in every category and it will be interesting to see if he can keep this level of play going. He has a long way to go to beat the top hitter in this list but he’s heading in the right direction. Expect him to end the year with 340 hits, 175 penalty minutes, a healthy plus/minus and a few points thrown in for good measure.
#3 – Dustin Brown, LA
I specifically targeted Dustin Brown in the early rounds of the Dobber Pro League draft and like many fantasy owners I am thoroughly disappointed. The season is more than half over and all he has to show for it is a measly 15 points. Good thing this list doesn’t take that into consideration and is only looking at hits. Brown is consistent with his hit production averaging roughly 3.5 hits per game over the past four seasons. He has 154 hits in 45 games so far and considering that he rarely misses a game due to injury one can expect this to continue. Look for Brown to finish the season with 280 hits and hopefully he can figure out how to get points back on the board. If you’re in a league that has hits as a category then I recommend trying to buy low on Brown.
#2 – Cody Franson, TOR
The 6’5” Toronto defenseman is averaging 3.8 hits per game and he has already beaten his career best (124) by 49. He is also only eight points away from his personal best (29) as well. What’s more impressive is that 14 of his 21 points have come on the power play and with 35 games left to go he should increase those totals. Franson has 170 hits, 21 points and 65 shots on goal. Unfortunately he has a minus-11 rating and only 18 penalty minutes but if it is hits you want, you can’t go wrong with Franson.
#1 – Matt Martin, NYI
Martin has led the NHL in hits for the past two seasons and is well on the way to doing so again. He has 230 in 47 games which equates to almost five hits per contest. His career best is 374 and he achieved that in 80 games during the 2011/12 season. He is hitting at approximately the same rate (4.85) and had the season been a full 82 games he would have ended up with 399 hits. With 35 games remaining it is entirely possible that he could reach the 400 mark if he continues to hit the way he is. There is no reason to expect any regression, only an injury will slow Martin down. If you own him then it’s safe to say that you have this category in the bag.
Previously in Fantasy Top 10: