|Top 10 Keeper League Left Wingers||Tweet|
|Written by Jeff Angus|
|Sunday, 13 May 2012 14:35|
The first few Top 10 lists I have put out in 2012 were much easier to compile than this one. Defensemen and centers are (for the most part) correctly identified on pool sites like ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS. However, these sites use different measures for figuring out whether a player is a left winger or a right winger. In pools that discern between the two positions, it is important to make sure you know which position a player plays before picking him (unintentional alliteration, I promise).
When I asked readers to give me their top 10 left wingers, the lists were pretty similar. “You should make two lists – one with Dale Hunter as Washington’s coach and one without,” was one of the better comments sent my way. Alex Ovechkin, recent struggles aside, is still the top left winger in fantasy hockey. I put him as number one on this list for the third consecutive year. Even if Hunter does return as Washington’s coach (your guess is as good as mine), Ovechkin won’t remain a 15 minute-a-night player. The regular season is a different animal.
After Ovechkin, the list opens up a bit. I kept going back to my one-to-three-season scope when faced with a tough decision – it was tempting to put Taylor Hall or Evander Kane near the top (both placed on the list), but there are more proven veterans who are safer bets to produce in the immediate future.
I was asked to clarify by what “standard categories” means, so here is the league format that I am basing my selections on:
I put an emphasis on offensive categories. They are harder to find in the draft – it is much easier to scoop up a PIM/HITS type of player on the waiver wire than it is to get a player who fills the G/A/PPP categories nicely.
I did my best to pick actual left wingers. In my ‘honorable mentions’ section at the end I have included notes on players who may be listed as LW but actually play more C or RW.
Ovechkin scored a career-high 65 goals back in 2007-08. In his last two seasons, he has scored only 70 goals, combined. He recorded 26 less assists this season compared to last, in only one less game. His plus-minus has dropped from plus-45, to plus-24, to minus-8 over the past three years. His SOG total has declined from 528 (yep, 528), to 368, to 367, to 303 in the past four. Stats don’t tell the whole story, but with Ovechkin, they tell a lot of it. For whatever reason (burden of being the Captain, off-ice issues, change in team playing style), he isn’t the same physically dominant superstar he once was.
Has he peaked offensively? Yes. Is he going to score 65 goals again? Probably not. Is he now a 35 goal scorer? Again, probably not. He has been durable for his career, which is an important attribute in a player you will be picking with your first pick. Ovechkin has never been considered a playmaker, but his 27 assists in 2011-12 placed him behind the likes of Frans Nielsen, Kyle Wellwood, and Tyler Bozak.
The downward trend we are seeing with Ovechkin’s production is troublesome, but it isn’t enough to drop him from the top spot on this list. If Dale Hunter comes back, Zach Parise signs with the Red Wings, and Rick Nash is traded to Vancouver, that may change.
2. Zach Parise
One thing is for certain with Parise – he is going to become a very, very rich man come July 1st. If the Devils fail to re-sign their Captain before he hits the open market, there will be at least a dozen teams willing to break the bank for the 27-year-old franchise forward. He is the hardest working player on the ice, and when you combine that with his terrific skill level, it makes for a player capable of doing great things each and every time he hops over the boards.
Parise scores, passes, is an effective special teams player, and he shoots the puck a lot. He was also good enough to bump Ilya Kovalchuk over to the right wing. Like Ovechkin, Parise’s production this past season was below what we have come to expect (31 goals and 69 points). Parise played the most minutes per game in his career (21:29 per contest), but his 293 SOG was his lowest output since the 2007-08 season. He played just under two minutes per game on the penalty kill. In his two best offensive seasons (2008-09 with 45 goals and the season after with 38), Parise played just 21 seconds and 33 seconds on the penalty kill per game, respectively. If you own him, now may be the time to start canvassing Pete DeBoer to get Parise off the PK.
3. Daniel Sedin
The Sedin twins turn 32 this fall. How many elite seasons do they have left? Daniel missed the final 10 games of the regular season due to a concussion. His production through the first 72 games left much to be desired (67 points, a far cry from the 104 he put up one year before). What changed in his game? The Canucks as a team struggled to score after a January game against Boston (you could argue that both clubs weren’t the same after).
The reason why the Sedins are such valuable fantasy commodities is their consistency. Daniel has scored at least 29 goals in every season since 2006-07. His PIM totals are respectable for a skill player (although I still don’t like ‘rewarding’ the fact that he takes a lot of hooking and holding penalties), and he is always a plus player. In fact, due to the zone start strategy employed by Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, Sedin, Sedin, and Alex Burrows have the three highest plus-minus totals among all NHL forwards over the past three years (and it isn’t even close).
He may not break 100 points again, but the Canucks should get their offensive game back after a full offseason and some upgrades through free agency and trades. Count on another 30 goal, 80-90 point season from Daniel in 2012-13.
4. Evander Kane
It won’t be long before Kane is number two on this list. He had a coming out party in 2011-12, scoring 30 goals and finishing with 287 SOG in 74 games with Winnipeg. He has the tools to become a 40-goal power forward, and it won’t take long for him to get there. His PIM totals will increase too. Kane had 89 PIM in his last season in the WHL, and he plays a physical style and is unafraid to drop the gloves when necessary. In the 34 Winnipeg wins he suited up for, Kane scored 24 goals. In the 40 losses with him in the lineup, he scored just six. Obviously a top player is going to have better production in wins than losses, but this glaring discrepancy highlights how valuable he is to the team already.
He has played really well for Canada at the World Championships as well, continuing his strong stretch run (12 goals and 26 points in 28 games).
5. Bobby Ryan
Ryan is the only player in the league to score at least 30 goals and finish as a plus player in each of the past four seasons. He may not start next season in Anaheim (his name continues to surface in trade rumors, and where there is smoke…), and his fantasy value would change depending on where he ends up. The Ducks have liked putting him in different spots in their lineup. They can load up a top line by putting him with Getzlaf and Corey Perry, or they can spread out the offense and slide Ryan down to line two.
Simply put, Ryan is a really good player who does a lot of things at an elite level. I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet, either.
6. Taylor Hall
If you search Hall’s name on Youtube, you are unfortunately as likely to come across a video clip of him on the receiving end of a big hit as you are a clip of him scoring a goal. His reckless, high octane style of play is fun to watch, but he puts himself in vulnerable positions on a regular basis. In the past two years, Hall’s seasons have been ended by significant injuries. Last year, it was a high ankle sprain after a fight with Derek Dorsett. This past season, it was a torn shoulder labrum (more of a wear-and-tear injury). He has the speed, skill, and work ethic to be a 50-goal scorer in the NHL, and he has the linemates to help him get there, too.
The future multi-category monster had a rookie season for the ages (both on the ice and on the stat sheet). Landeskog suited up for all 82 of Colorado’s games. He was the first rookie forward in league history to score over 20 goals and record over 200 hits in the same season, and just the second rookie ever to accomplish the feat (Dion Phaneuf being the first back in 2005-06).
Landeskog was billed as a future Captain and a player dripping with ‘intangibles’ when Colorado drafted him last summer. He was exactly as advertised in his rookie season, but his impressive offensive abilities weren’t given their due. Landeskog led Colorado in hits, SOG, plus-minus, and goals. To get an idea of how impressive his SOG total was (270), here is a comprehensive list of other NHL players who have recorded 225 SOG or more as 18 or 19-year-old NHL rookies:
The one knock on Landeskog at the draft – he was already much more physically mature than the likes of Sean Couturier or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Scouts believed he was closer to reaching his peak. In fantasy hockey, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This isn’t the NHL, and you aren’t building a team to win in five years (at least I hope you aren’t). Landeskog isn’t even 20 and he is already one of the best multi-category forwards in the league.
I try to avoid drafting a player based entirely on external influences (quality of linemates, lack of competition for a position, and so on), but Hartnell has too good of a thing going on in Philadelphia to overlook. He is the veteran grit on a team loaded with youthful skill. He has established terrific chemistry with both Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere. He’s a fixture on the top power play unit, as well. Hartnell was one of two players in the league to have at least 130 PIM and 60 points in 2011-12. Not including a disappointing 14-goal campaign in 2009-10, Hartnell has scored at least 22 goals in every NHL season since the lockout. He was only three shy of 40 this year, thanks in large part to Giroux.
For the next few years, there are few better players to own than Hartnell if you want to fill the power forward spot on your fantasy roster.
And that other player to record at least 60 points and 130 PIM in 2011-12?
9. Milan Lucic
Lucic is a power forward in every sense of the word. He physically dominates against opposing defensemen (Mike Komisarek will forever be seeing Lucic in his nightmares) with his thunderous hits and fists. And he is starting to dominate on a regular basis against opposing goaltenders, too. Lucic’s story is quite remarkable – as someone who saw a lot of him in the WHL, it was tough to predict how the hulking winger with the choppy skating stride would develop into an integral part of a Cup winning team.
Lucic has broken the 120 PIM mark three times in his career. He has averaged close to 30 goals, over 60 points, and just under 130 PIM in the last two seasons (while only missing four games).
He was on a torrid offensive pace through the first half of the season, but his goal production slowed a bit down the stretch (a shooting percentage of 31 for the month of November proved to be unsustainable). Like Hartnell, Lucic is in a great situation surrounded by a ton of talent.
10. Jamie Benn
Things get a bit murky with Benn. Dallas likes him up the middle, but he doesn’t take faceoffs on a full-time basis. He was fourth on Dallas in faceoffs taken, trailing Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro, and Verne Fiddler. Benn is a natural winger, but he gets to handle the puck more at the center position. He is listed as a left winger on all statistical sites (and at the very least should have dual eligibility for next season and beyond).
Benn has all of the tools to become a 90-to-100 point player. He’s big, skilled, gritty, and consistent.
Players left off who I consider right wingers:
Max Pacioretty – the franchise forward in Montreal was one of a few bright spots in a turbulent season. Has 45-goal upside. Well-rounded skill set.
Thomas Vanek – has the hands (especially around the net) to score 50, but the consistency isn’t there.
Patrick Sharp – can play all three forward positions, but best on the left side. Was tough leaving him off since he does so many things well.
Matt Moulson – a natural goal scorer in every sense of the word.
Mac Vincent said:
Ross The Boss Palmer said:
|Last Updated on Monday, 14 May 2012 23:37|