Angus looks at five more multi-category fantasy sleepers for next season...
Here are five young forwards who are ready to make an impact at the NHL level – either offensively or with other aspects of their game.
More and more fantasy hockey leagues are embracing hits and blocked shots as positive statistics. Why? Well, for starters, they are both recorded in every single NHL rink. The accuracy isn’t the same as a goal or an assist (the fluctuations in how these stats are recorded from rink to rink are quite pronounced, actually), but adding these statistics gives fantasy value to a wider net of players. It is widely known that the New York Rangers receive a significant home advantage when it comes to hit recording – the Madison Square Garden statistician is very trigger-happy.
If you learn which rinks tend to award hits more liberally, you can use that information to your advantage.
And it is a nice way to reward gritty forwards and defensemen who otherwise would get little to no attention in fantasy circles. Some leagues are also moving away from PIM (a subject that was debated here last year), as PIM are inherently a negative statistic. Debating aside, there is no arguing that including PIM, hits, and blocked shots in fantasy leagues makes it more challenging (and thus, more rewarding) to evaluate and rank players as draft day approaches.
Patrick Maroon - Anaheim Ducks
A 6-4, 225 pound power forward with 259 PIM over his last two AHL seasons. Maroon is 25 years old and older than most prospects, but he also is a prototypical late bloomer. He's skilled for a big guy, but he will have to play with an edge to have an NHL future (and fantasy value). Maroon has three 20+ AHL goal seasons and one 30+ goal season. He's ready for the NHL, but do the Ducks have room for him?
He recently signed a two-year, one-way contract. The Ducks think he's ready for the show, and they will love the fact that his cap hit is very close to the league minimum. Assuming Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, and Etem are top six forwards next year, that leaves a lot of spots open for the likes of Maroon, Devante Smith-Pelly, Matt Beleskey, Andrew Cogliano, and Peter Holland, among others. Maroon brings size and grit that none of the other guys do, which may give him an edge. Good hands, lots of PIM, and good production in other categories, too. He has all the makings of a future multi-category star (or under-the-radar gem).
Charlie Coyle - Minnesota Wild
Originally acquired from the Sharks in the Brent Burns trade, Coyle has all the makings of a future top line power winger. He's big, skilled, and tough. In 37 games as a rookie in 2013, he finished with eight goals, 14 points, and 28 PIM. Is he a first line winger now? No, probably not (yet).
Coyle won't rack up the PIM (for a big guy, he isn't much of a penalty taker), but he will produce goals, assists, SOG, and hits.
One of Coyle's biggest strengths is his two-way play. He's typically the first player in the offensive zone and commonly is the player chasing the puck to the boards. Once puck possession changes teams, Coyle often starts making his way to the D-zone and starts harassing opposing players there.
Coyle is very strong on his skates, and it typically takes multiple hits for him to get knocked off the puck, and by that point he has already passed the puck to a teammate. He could use some more practice at winning puck battles around the boards (this is always a skill that can be improved upon), but most likely this will come once he gets more experience.
Minnesota is forging an identity of grit and two-way play up front, led by Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. Coyle is cut from the same cloth. Even as a rookie, he was stronger than most defensemen he went up against. He already has his "man strength" and he is only going to get stronger. Parise-Koivu-Coyle is going to be a tough line to play against for a long while. And it allows the team to spread out their scoring a bit more, putting Jason Pominville on line two (hopefully with rookie Mikael Granlund, who has had a year to get stronger and more prepared for the NHL).
Michael Latta - Washington Capitals
Latta was acquired by the Caps in the Filip Forsberg-Martin Erat swap. Don't overlook him, though.
Latta, who was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Preds, plays where he’s needed. The Caps don’t have many centermen in the system who can step up and play in the NHL. College players like Travis Boyd, Caleb Herbert, and Thomas DiPauli are years away from becoming NHL players — if they ever do. Ryan Potulny and Casey Wellman play both center and wing and, while older than Latta, haven’t been able to establish themselves as NHL players. The Bears’ first-line center is the AHL’s leading point-scorer, Jeff Taffe, who doesn’t have a contract with the Capitals. After his trade to the Caps, Latta has automatically become a #1 Caps center prospect (of course, if you don’t consider Evgeny Kuznetsov as a center, which we do not).
As the Caps acquire more highly-paid players, Latta and his cheap contract may become a boon for the team.
Latta had 30+ goals and 150+ PIM in his final two OHL seasons with Guelph. The stats show exactly what kind of player he is - a tenacious and gritty two-way center with good hands and offensive instincts. The Caps don't have many young centers ready for action, and they will want to cut some salary this summer, too.
198 PIM in the AHL in 2012-13 is one reason. His rookie contract is another. If there was no Latta in the trade, the Capitals wouldn't have moved Forsberg (according to GM George McPhee). Decent goal/assist production along with a lot of hits, PIM, and faceoff wins? He's a pitbull on skates (with talent). Expect a lot of this in the NHL very soon:
Justin Abdelkader - Detroit Red Wings
Abdelkader has become more of a household name in 2013 thanks to his changing role on the Wings. He spent a lot of time on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk (and he scored 10 goals there, too). The Wings love Abdelakder's energy, physicality, and tenacity, and it rubs off on his linemates (he also opens up more open ice for them). Abdelkader is a great skater and has decent hands - if he sticks for most of 2013-14 with Datsyuk, he could be one of the better multi-category guys in hockey.
Great linemates, he brings something to the table that the Red Wings otherwise don't have (little competition), he's young, cheap, and he is proving that he can play on a scoring line. If his ice time remains in the 14-15 minute range (up from his career average by two minutes), he could be a 20-goal hitter with decent PIM and SOG totals. Abdelkader probably won't be a 100+ PIM guy, but he should be in the 60-80 PIM range with more ice time.
Richard Panik - Tampa Bay Lightning
Perhaps the best of the young Lightning forwards (and there are a lot of them - Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Vladdy Namestnikov, Brett Connolly, Ondrej Palat, and so on and so on). Panik is big, skilled, and surprisingly gritty, too. He had 22 goals, 41 points, and 82 PIM in 51 AHL games in 2012-13. He added nine points in 25 NHL games (including a three-point game against Washington). He'll fight for the second line RW spot behind Steven Stamkos, and he should be the early favourite to earn it (at least right now).
Panik is NHL ready. He is in the middle of a phenomenal AHL postseason run with Syracuse. He's big. He is a good player away from the puck. He's also a great skater, too. Once he figures out how to combine his skill, size, and grit, he is going to be a very good second line winger in the NHL. It may not be next year, but it will come.
In the coming weeks I will be profiling more multi-category sleepers (both forwards and defensemen). There will be a lot more on these guys in our 2013-14 Fantasy Guide, released as a PDF on August 1st. I received a lot of feedback that really reinforced the point - people want to read about multi-category sleepers! Fantasy hockey is trending towards these statistics as scoring categories, and we at DobberHockey will do our best to keep you in the know on the future greats.
Previous Posts from Jeff:
- 2013-14 Fantasy Preview: 5 Defensive Multi-Category Sleepers
- 2013-14 Fantasy Preview: Five Defensive Prospects You Need to Know About
- 2013-14 Fantasy Preview: Five Forward Prospects You Need to Know About