Fantasy Hockey: Making Sense of the Player Ranking Madness

Crosby, Stamkos and Ovechkin are fantasy hockey machines.

Crosby, Stamkos and Ovechkin are fantasy hockey machines.

Let’s get this out of the way – Fantasy Hockey is awesome. I’ve been playing it for over 10 years myself. In the course of doing so, I’ve come to realize ONE thing:

NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING!

PROOF? The compiled list at the bottom of this article!

Sure, picking Sidney Crosby as the #1 selection in this year’s draft is a no brainer. Heck, throwing up big names like Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos in the top 5 of your rankings makes sense too (unless you’re NHL.com where he came in 6th).

Sidney Crosby is special to watch (NHL)

Sidney Crosby is special to watch (NHL)

Sidney Crosby led the league in scoring last year and when he’s healthy is better than a point per game player. In the last 5 seasons, Sid the Kid averages 1.43 points per game. That’s worth about 3 to 5 points in most fantasy hockey leagues when he laces them up for your squad.

As for Ovechkin and Stamkos, GOALS – and lots of them! In most leagues you get extra points for goals and bonuses for PP, SHG, GWG, etc… Nobody does it better than these two.

Stamkos from 2009-2011 potted 51, 45 and 60! The lockout and broken leg hurt him but that’s a clip of .63 goals per game since 2009. He also scorched goalies for 72 PPG and 2 SHG in that time frame. This makes Stamkos the easy #2 pick.

Ovechkin or Stamkos, you can't go wrong (NHL)

Ovechkin or Stamkos, you can’t go wrong (NHL)

Ovi on the other hand is a monster. While he has been scoring goals at a pace of .57 per game, his PP tallies are off the chart. The Big Russian has 73 PPG since 2009. Almost half his goals (.20 per game) come on the man-advantage. What separates Alex from others? Durability and consistency. Without a doubt he should go no less than 3 overall.

Which brings me to where the picture gets cloudy. Recently, many of the big sites have revealed their player rankings and I have to tell you – I’m baffled by what I’m seeing.

We decided to gather up the top 100 from NHL.com, ESPN and CBS Sports to try and make sense of it all. I would love to tell you I did – but I can’t!

When it comes to the TOP 5, ESPN and I are on the same page. After that – they go off the rails. Let’s start with Henrik Zetterberg at #9. Does ESPN even care about health? NHL has him at 29 and CBS at 80! Henrik has a back problem and it could rear its head again this season. He is also 33 and hasn’t scored 25 or more goals since 2008. While I disagree with 80th overall, 9 is crazy.

New York Islanders' John Tavares(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

New York Islanders’ John Tavares(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Here’s a pick for you folks – think John Tavares early in the 1st round. He may very well score 50 goals and 100 points this year. He’s not only that good, he’s motivated. And if he nets 40 and 90 points – you still win. If JT didn’t get hurt last year, he was on pace for 92 points.

What about on the blue line? Erik Karlsson is by far the best offensive defenseman in the league. Even with that rag tag bunch in Ottawa, he will score points. CBS has him at 5, which is a little too high. NHL and ESPN come in at 19 and 16 respectively. Only NHL.com doesn’t have him as the first d-man off the board. While Duncan Keith may have won the Norris, Karlsson won the points battle with 13 more. He finished with 74 points and no one else was close. By the way, he’s only 24.

Erik Karlsson (CBC.ca)

Erik Karlsson (CBC.ca)

As for Mr. Money in the Bank (sorry WWE fans) PK Subban, only NHL.com has him ranked as the #1 d-man. CBS has him as the 4th and 27th overall, while ESPN has him way down at 36 with 5 better blue liners ahead of him. It’s enough to make you scratch your head and say – “so where does he go?”.

PK Subban MTL (Getty)

PK Subban MTL (Getty)

For me, he’s not better than Karlsson, Weber or Chara. You can make an argument with anyone else if you like. Matter of fact, if your league doesn’t give a -1 for +/-, I’d take Byfuglien over him too.

Lastly, we get to the back-stoppers. This is where I literally scratch my head.

First, you want a goalie that will play 60 or more games for you!

Second, you actually want them to play for a good team!

Third, you want them to stop the puck!

For my money, the best goalie in the league, or at least in fantasy hockey is Henrik Lundqvist. Sure, you can mention Tuukka Rask as being a better pick for all the reasons I mentioned above, but BEN BISHOP? What math are you using CBS? Plus #3 overall based on points projections! Bishop comes in at 26 (NHL) and 40 (ESPN), and that may still be too high. If Bishop is taken ahead of Lundqvist, Rask, Price, or Quick – somebody blew it.

Henrik Lundqvist NYR (NHL)

Henrik Lundqvist NYR (NHL)

As for Lundqvist, he’s ranked 8th (CBS) and 11th (NHL) and is no less than the 2nd goalie off the board. ESPN has him at 66th. What? Are you serious? I don’t care what the “experts” say about the Rangers chances – they are usually wrong anyway. No goalie has been more consistent than The King.

To rank 9 goalies ahead of him is preposterous. Especially, when the #1 goalie is Ryan Miller and you still have him in St. Louis. He now plays for powerhouse Vancouver (oozing with sarcasm). What else is crazy is ranking Marc-Andre Fleury ahead of him. Did you even watch the games?

All jokes and jabs aside, projections of any kind are difficult. All three of these lists are flawed and filled with guesses. However, of the 3 lists mentioned – I feel NHL.com has it the best. CBS comes in a close second but ESPN falls apart after the TOP 5.

Bottom line is this, it’s always a good idea to check out several rankings and create your own list before going into a draft. Another key is to understand your league’s scoring system like the back of your hand. It’s advisable to adjust your rankings after doing so.

Finally, go with the flow. If a run on defenseman or goalies start, get on the train. Your best laid plans are meaningless unless you adapt to the draft. If you can digest all of this, your fantasy hockey season will not only be fun, but a smashing success.

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