Biggest Fantasy Hockey Steals

Identifying the biggest steals from this season’s fantasy hockey drafts and attempting to find what has gone right and why they were so underrated on draft day.

In Part Two of my steals and busts series, I focus on the bright spots and positives I hope many of us had on draft day this season. Determining a “steal” was considerably harder than the busts because there were several players who were not drafted in many leagues, but quickly turned into a must-add early in the season. Names like Matt Duchene (FanTrax ADP 371) and Ryan Hartman (Unranked) come to mind. For the purpose of this article, I tried to stick with names I believed were drafted rather than added from the waiver wire.

I have selected three forwards, two defenseman and a goalie that have surpassed their expectations or ADP (average of Yahoo and ESPN). In addition to some writing on each player, I conclude with a factor I saw as the main reason for their success.

Timo Meier, SJ (ADP 167)

The best Swiss forward in the NHL is also one of the most underrated in the league. It is concerning how many categories Meier ranks alongside today’s stars in and how little he gets talked about. The West Coast factor is certainly one of them, at least for Canadian fans, but maybe let’s let Meier be one of our secrets for next season?

Meier currently sits 9th in the NHL in Expected Goals For (15.8) ahead of known snipers like David Pastrnak, Kyle Connor and Alex DeBrincat. The thing about Meier is that he was drafted 100+ spots below all of those names.

Meier - Blueshirt Banter

Timo’s 66 point season in 2018-19 could be argued as his breakout season, but after back-to-back down years of 49 and 31-point campaigns, Meier sort of fell off the maps of many including FantasyPuck’s. He has definitely returned to form this season on a San Jose team that is healthier than they have been in a couple of years. 40 points in 34 games to date puts Meier on pace for career-highs in nearly all offensive categories.

Bob Boughner has been rewarding Meier with the most TOI he has had in his career with nearly 19 minutes per game alongside centres Tomas Hertl or Logan Couture. The line mates for Meier are significant for his success in my opinion. He has been able to settle in with talented rookie Jonathan Dahlen and Logan Couture for majority of the season, unlike last year where San Jose was often playing bottom-six forwards on lines with stars like Meier, Hertl or Couture.

I expect Meier to continue his success throughout the rest of the season as he helps San Jose play for their first season above .500 in 3 years.

Bottom Line: Consistent and appropriate line mates prove to result in success not only for Meier, but for San Jose as a whole. Gone are the days of John Leonard, Patrick Marleau or Matt Nieto in the top-six. ( I wrote this part before tonight but WOW! 5 goal game!)

Vladimir Tarasenko, STL (ADP 136)

One of the riskier draft picks this season, Tarasenko is following in fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin’s footsteps and rejuvenating himself when a lot of folks were counting him out. Not only returning to form, but playing at the best pace of his career.

Vlad is sitting right on 1.00 points/g (34 points in 34 games) and his previous career-high (0.95) was in 2014-15 when he had 73 points in 77 games. After playing just 34 games over the past two seasons due to injuries and multiple surgeries, Tarasenko looks like the 2010’s Senko we all knew and loved. The production is there because the chances are still there like before. Vlad is top-20 in the NHL in shots (118) and if this rate continues I see nothing except an injury that can slow him down.

I will fully admit I was off Tarasenko on draft day. The risk of him not being the same producer he was prior to his injuries was too much and I faded him. I regret that now, especially given his ADP.

Tarasenko - Pro Hockey Rumors

Despite losing significant names like Pietrangelo, Hoffman, Schwartz and Dunn over the past couple of seasons, St. Louis does not seem to go away and continues to be a threat in the West. They won the Buchnevich for Blais trade with NY Rangers as Buch has slid nicely into their top-six and coincidently formed an immediate connection with Tarasenko. The two have played over 200 minutes together this season and have a 56% CF% along with 21 Goals For compared to just 7 Against.

Buchnevich at ADP 152 could get a spot on this list on his own, but Tarasenko’s reemergence as an elite producer is more noteworthy given what he has been through.

Bottom Line: I don’t know what unique gene Russians have to make them such dominant players even in their 30’s, but Tarasenko has this too. He has been able to mesh with new addition Pavel Buchnevich and pick up right where he left off in 2018-19.

William Nylander, TOR (ADP 120)

There were several names I could have put in this last forward spot, but something about the consistency Willy has had this season and over the past couple of years earns him the spot over someone like Chris Kreider.

Similar to Tarasenko, Willy is right on the point-per-game mark at 36 points in 36 games. Nylander is on pace to surpass his previous career highs in goals (31), assists (45) and points (61) and the way things are looking in Toronto, I see no reason why he can’t do it. Nylander has cemented himself with John Tavares in the top-six and after some initial time not on the top power play unit, Sheldon Keefe and company have come to their senses and allow their 5 best players to play on PP1, Nylander included. With this PP exposure, he has already posted more power play points (14) then he did all of last year (11).

Nylander - The Leafs Nation

Willy is seeing the most TOI (18:59) he has ever seen in his career and has definitely stepped up his production in place of Mitch Marner who has missed around 10 games this season.

Fans have quickly forgotten about the contract hold-out after his entry-level deal expired and Nylander has turned into one of the better bargains in the league at less than $7m per season.

I’m not sure if there is the dislike for Toronto being shown in the draft but there is no reason for players such as JG Pageau, Alexander Radulov or Taylor Hall to be drafted ahead of Willy. Anyone who was wise enough to scoop him up in the middle rounds likely are looking at their steal of the draft.

Bottom Line: Veteran centre John Tavares has been influential in Nylander’s production and development. Tavares is the best in the league at high-danger attempts and these often result in goals. Any goal by Tavares is positive for Nylander as he is usually on the ice with him. Success for Toronto’s second line is success for Willy.

Tony DeAngelo, CAR (ADP 148)

FantasyPuck mentioned Tony D in a few articles and videos prior to the start of the season. We acknowledged that the DeAngelo situation was a touchy subject and it was a risky draft pick. But if a professional organization like Carolina is willing to take the chance on him, so can you in your $50 fantasy league and hopefully you did!

DeAngelo has been everything Carolina had hoped for and more. Being productive on the top D-pairing and on PP1 as well as staying out of trouble off the ice. Tony has been interviewed on some topics including Covid-19 and has refused to comment on them proving to me that he is showing some added maturity this year. His talent and production we saw in New York was too attractive to let go to waste. This is the reason we see someone like Evander Kane preparing to get another shot in the NHL.

DeAngelo - The Hockey Writers

Tony D has been limited to only 28 games thus far, but he is slightly under a point-per-game as a defenseman! 25 points in 28 games puts him on a 73-point pace through 82 games which is prime-Erik Karlsson numbers. I’m sure Carolina fans quickly forgot about his past troubles and have been pleased with his performance this season, as I have been too as a DeAngelo owner in many leagues.

In regards to DeAngelo, no news is usually good news. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well to be quite frank. He doesn’t eat minutes (19:07 per game), he doesn’t shoot a ton (58th among D) and he doesn’t block shots (20), but strategic deployment by the Hurricanes has led to DeAngelo’s best season yet. By this I mean his 73% Off. Zone Start %. Carolina has seen excellent results because they have set him up for success by allowing him to start play in the offensize zone almost 3/4 of the time. All the power to them as they have the shutdown D like Slavin, Pesce and Cole to handle the defensive zone.

Bottom Line: Tactical deployment and a matured attitude has led to DeAngelo making the most of his second chance. Keep doing what you are doing Brind’Amour because myself and other fantasy owners will take all the offensive play time we can get.

Devon Toews, COL (ADP 113)

For me, Toews is one of those guys that gets drafted this high because of the team he plays on. If he were on a mediocre team such as Edmonton or Los Angeles, I think we see him fall about 30-40 spots. Almost like a handcuff in fantasy football, Toews may excel if someone gets hurt or goes cold. Without a doubt, he has taken full advantage of the opportunity to the tune of 26 points in 24 games.

If I am being honest, I don’t see Toews having the offensive season he has had without Bowen Byram having the persistent concussion problems (can’t help but feel terrible for that kid). Toews is an excellent defender and given the offensive D-men Colorado has you would think they utilize Toews in the same way Carolina utilizes Jaccob Slavin or the way St. Louis utilizes Colton Parayko. These guys may see some PP2 time here or there but their main priority is shutting down the opposition’s top forwards with 25+ minutes per night. Well Toews does that too, plus he gives you elite offense. In what is somewhat of a breakout year for Toews (5 points away from his career-high) he is playing the most he has ever played before given the significant drop off in talent on the Colorado blueline after Makar, Toews and Girard.

Toews - Colorado Hockey Now

Toews is making a case to be the most underrated D-man in the league if not already, and is currently +30, tops in the NHL along with Wild forward Ryan Hartman. While we have had nothing to complain about so far with Devon Toews, one may consider him a sell-high. If you feel like you can maximize your return for someone you took in the 10th or 11th round, I would pull the trigger. But be aware that if something were to happen to Makar, Toews would likely be next in line with no Byram in the lineup.

Toews and Makar are the most deadly D pairing in the league with a blend of explosive offence and strong D. Toews ranks third in the league in points/60 by a D-man behind teammate Cale Makar and Tony DeAngelo (cough, cough). Toews will certainly smash his career-highs and likely crack the 50-point plateau, something that mid-round D dreams are made of.

Bottom Line: You never want to think selfishly when it comes to serious injuries, but if there has been one beneficiary to Byram’s missed games, it has been Toews. This has opened a new offensive talent we didn’t know existed and one that would normally be given to the young Byram.

Sergei Bobrovsky, FLA (ADP 116)

It has been two straight years where I have had to defend Bobrovsky in hockey talks online and amongst friends. Drafting goalies in fantasy is not the same as voting for the Vezina and I think people often overlook Bob because he may be a victim of exaggerated statistics. Given the impressive team in front of him, it is no surprise his record looks the way it is (19-3-3) and that his GAA is top-10 in the league at .921. Many argued that Jonathan Quick was carried by LA during their cup runs in the 2010’s and that Corey Crawford was overrated because of the dominant Blackhawks teams in front of him. Whether this is true or not, in fantasy, we care about maximizing Wins and minimizing Goals Against.

Bobrovsky - The Rat Trick

Bob has won two Vezina’s and the most recent was in 2016-17. His shaky 2019-20 season might have been just what we needed for fans to sleep on him and allow him to fall to the double digit rounds. In addition to some inconsistent seasons, the buzz was all around rookie goaltender Spencer Knight in Florida. In most leagues, Knight was the first Florida goalie off the board. The coach at the time Joel Quenneville actually was quoted in an interview saying Bobrovsky would be the #1 to start the season. Where it would go from there was up to performance but Bob has been miles above Knight thus far and has put those drafting Knight ahead of him to shame.

I am not going hit you with some insane Bobrovsky stat this season. He is not going to win the Vezina and nor should he. He has been the perfect goalie for the high-powered Panthers this season and someone who has reconnected with his 2016-17 self. Bob is currently sitting with his best Sv%, GAA and Goals Saved Above Average rate since his time in Columbus. I expect the Wins to keep on rolling in even if they are 5-3 and 4-3 victories.

Bottom Line: Bob has regained his composure in Florida, perhaps due to the attention being off him early on, and is coming close to being worth his absurd $10m/year price tag. He may never win another Vezina, but with a team like Florida the high-danger chances against should be at a minimum and Bob can cruise to another 35-win season. It’s easy to play goalie when the puck is never in your zone.

Honourable Mentions:

F- Jason Robertson, DAL (28GP, 13G, 19A, 32P, ADP 100)

F- Chris Kreider, NYR (39GP, 24G, 11A, 35P, ADP 134)

F- Tyler Bertuzzi, DET (31GP, 18G, 13A, 31P, ADP 172)

D- Mackenzie Weegar, FLA (38GP, 3G, 22A, 25P, ADP 109)

D- Erik Karlsson, SJ (31P, 8G, 15A, 23P, ADP 162)

G- Jacob Markstrom, CGY (12-8-5, 2.23 GAA, .924 Sv%, ADP 121)


That wraps up another FP Don article. I hope you enjoyed it. This mini-series was fun to make! Let me know who you biggest steal was this year.

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