Here are five more young forwards who are ready to make an impact at the NHL level – either offensively or with other aspects of their game.
An increasing number of 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.
Matt Beleskey – Anaheim
The gritty winger led the Ducks in hits in 2013 with 103. Beleskey recorded 104 hits in 2011-12, but he needed almost 30 more games to get to that number. He will have his work cut out for him in Anaheim finding ice time, as the Ducks are will be graduating a lot of talented young forwards from the AHL to the NHL. However, Beleskey supplies a needed “ability” for the Ducks, and because of that he should find a consistent spot on the third or fourth line.
He’s a decent player with the puck, but that won’t be why the Ducks dress him. However, having some offensive ability increases his fantasy value tremendously. Beleskey had eight goals and 13 points in 42 games this year (in only 12 minutes of ice time per game, too) – he should be good for at least 12-16 goals and 20-30 points each year.
Cory Conacher – Ottawa
Anaheim is one of the few teams out there that has a collection of young forwards that rivals Ottawa’s. The Senators have one stud youngster in Mika Zibanejad (they traded one more to the Ducks in Jakub Silfverberg), but what is most impressive is how many solid and proven NHL players they have in the system – JG Pageau, Erik Condra, Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, Zack Smith… the list goes on.
Conacher, who was acquired from Tampa Bay last season, fits into this group. He’s been proving doubters wrong his entire career, as he has had to battle against type-1 diabetes for much of his life. Concaher had five points in 12 games with Ottawa after the trade. He is only one year removed from a 39-goal, 80-point, 114 PIM MVP season in the AHL. If he sticks on line two, he could score 20-25 for the Senators this year, along with a solid number in the PIM category (he only had 20 PIM all of last season, but expect that number to increase as he gets comfortable playing his game at the NHL level).
Antoine Roussel – Dallas
The undrafted Frenchman had a fantastic 2013 season for the Stars. In 39 games, Roussel had seven goals, 14 points, 85 PIM, and a lot of new enemies around the league. He has been a PIM machine at every level he has played at, and the Stars love the tenacity he brings to the ice every night.
Dallas has brought in a few new faces up front this year, but Roussel will still have a home in the bottom six. He can play all three forward positions, and his versatility is going to help him stay in the lineup on a regular basis. He had 75 hits in 39 games in 2013, too. He may find it tough to keep scoring on 15% of his shots, but he could break into the double digit goal total in 2013-14. Like Conacher, expect Roussel’s PIM number to increase a lot as he continues to get more comfortable playing his game in the NHL.
Boone Jenner – Columbus Blue Jackets
Jenner is going to be Mr. Everything for the Jackets in the near future. He’s a great leader. He blocks shots and can check opposing stars. He’s physical and throws thundering body checks. Oh, and he’s a really good offensive player, too. Jenner will have to win a spot at training camp this year, as the Jackets actually have a pretty solid collection of forwards up front.
In 56 games with Oshawa last year, Jenner had 45 goals, 82 points, and 58 PIM. He has 20-25-goal upside at the NHL level, but he will make a name for himself by doing the little things. And thankfully many hockey leagues out there have started to reward players who do the little things (block shots and throw hits, to name two).
Casey Cizikas – Long Island
With Tavares and Moulson creating offense, Grabner and Nielsen flying around the ice, and Clutterbuck and Martin throwing their bodies around with reckless abandon, it will be easy for Cizikas to fly under the radar next season (and beyond). He’s a very solid two-way forward with offensive upside and a lot of other strong attributes. He wins faceoffs, he throws hits, and he chips in with the odd goal.
He may lose some ice time this season to another talented young center in the organization (Brock Nelson). Nelson also bears watching from a multi-cat perspective. You couldn’t go wrong with either of them. The Islanders are going to be a good team for a while. A lot of that is because of how quickly Tavares has developed into a dominant force, but credit has to be given the development of the support players. Throughout the lineup you will find Islanders draft picks who can chip in with hits, energy, speed, defensive awareness, and goals.
Previous Columns from the Fantasy Preview Series:
- Clendening, Donovan, Corrado, Pysyk, and Krug – Five Defensive Prospects You Need to Know
- Beck, Armia, Jensen, Rattie, and Rajala – Five Forward Prospects You Need to Know
- Petrovic, Gaunce, Gudas, Cowen, and Borowiecki – Five Multi-Category Defensemen for 2013-14
- Maroon, Coyle, Latta, Abdelkader, and Panik – Five Multi-Category Forwards for 2013-14
- Cundari, Smith, Dillon, Stone, and Donovan – Five (More) Multi-Category Defensemen for 2013-14
- Biggs, McGinn, Anderson, Wilson, and Ross - Five OHL Multi-Category Forwards You Need to Know
- Thrower, Murray, Lazar, and more - 10 Multi-Category WHL Prospects You Need to Know