A quarter of the way through the fantasy hockey season, which fast-starting studs should you consider cashing in? Here are five names to consider.
Most NHL teams have played roughly 20 games, give or take, in 2015-16, meaning we’re a quarter of the way done the season. The sample size is just big enough to start assessing your fantasy hockey rosters. The teams flying out to great starts should stop the chicken counting and start pondering which of their many great players will sustain elite production all year long. Knowing which guys to sell high separates the league winners from the second-half flameouts.
With that, let’s look at five hot starters to consider selling high, ranked in order of how big of a return they could net you on the trade market. Remember, putting someone on this list is not necessarily an indictment of his skills. It might simply mean he’s producing far above a long-established career norm.
5. Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes
Hanzal is towering pivot, 6-foot-6, who reminds me of a young Michal Handzus. Hanzal has a first-round draft pedigree. He centers the upstart Coyotes’ top line and has most frequently been flanked by Anthony Duclair and Tobias Rieder, both of whom are having breakout years. Hanzal is healthy after off-season surgery to repair a herniated disc. He’s amassed 18 points in 18 games.
Should we believe Hanzal has become a point-per-game producer, a few months before he turns 29? Heck no. First off, he’s done this before. He had 22 points in 23 games by the end of November in 2013-14. He finished the season with 18 points in his next 42 games. For his career, Hanzal has 105 points in 168 October/November games, good for 0.63 points per game. From December to April: 159 points in 343 games, good for 0.46 points per game. Oft-injured Hanzal also hasn’t played more than 65 games in a season since 2009-10. He’s missed at least 17 games in every non-shortened season since then. SELL.
4. Michael Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils
Unlike Hanzal, Cammalleri has an established track record of B+ fantasy pool success. He’s seven-time 20-goal man. He’s topped 30 goals and 80 points twice. He averages 29 goals and 61 points per 82 games in his career. Cammalleri, however, hasn’t eclipsed 27 goals or 50 points since 2009-10. He currently averages better than a point per game and is on pace for 86, which would be a career high at age 33. That’s obviously not going to happen.
Cammalleri is different from Hanzal in that I expect Cammalleri to remain fantasy relevant all-season. His shooting percentage of 13.2 is right in line with his career mark of 12.6, so the seven goals in 20 games seems sustainable. He should end up with 25 to 30 goals. He plays 18:53 per night and gets plenty of power play time, too, so the opportunities are there. But Cammalleri will not finish with more than 80 points. He should be hard-pressed to even top 60. The scariest stat for him so far this year: zero, as in zero games missed. In his past five full seasons he’s missed 17, 15, 16, 19 and 14 games. He’ll get nicked up again. He’s useful enough that I certainly wouldn’t give him away for a song, but he’s someone you’ll want to cash in. His best hockey of 2015-16 is likely behind him now.
3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
And here come the pretzels. Don’t hurt me for calling Draisaitl a sell high! I love this kid. He’s a truly elite prospect. He’s been brilliant since Edmonton called him up from AHL Bakersfield, and that’s no fluke. But we have to understand just how dominant Draisaitl has been, and just how unrealistic it is for him to keep up his pace in the low-scoring NHL of today. He has 17 points in 11 games, good for an NHL-best mark of 1.55 points per game. Only three 20-year-old skaters in NHL history – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Rob Brown – have averaged more points per game in a season. Maintaining that pace would mean 95 points over Edmonton’s remaining 61 games. Draisaitl would finish with 112 points in 72 games.
Draisaitl is good. But his insane, hilarious shooting percentage of 31.8 tells us a regression is coming. He currently scores goals at the same rate at which an all-star baseball player gets hits. You owe it to yourself to see how much the hype has inflated his trade value. Unless you’re in a keeper league, in which case you should hold the German sensation tightly.
2. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Some sell-highs are less complicated than others. Suter is a great real-life hockey player. Offensively, he’s consistently decent but never dominant. Since 2007-08, he’s never finished with fewer than 31 points or more than 46, though his 32 points in lockout-shortened 2012-13 pro-rated to 55.
Even if we assumed Suter can reach his high watermark again despite turning 31 in a couple months, the man has 19 points in 19 games. Ryan Suter will not record 82 points. He will not record 72 points. Or 62. He is racking up assists on a team scoring on 11.1 percent of its shots. That number should regress to the mean, and Suter’s torrid pace will slow.
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Bergeron is a nice second or third center for any fantasy team, as he has a high floor. He’s so important to the Bruins as a two-way player that he’ll never play outside the top six, at least not until he enters the final third of his career. But what’s with the 20 points in 20 games for a guy who consistently averages 55 to 65 points a year, or about 15 per 20 games?
One reason is his power play dominance. Bergeron’s 12 power play points lead all NHLers. That’s right. He has more power play points than Patrick Kane. Bergeron has amassed 60 percent of his points with the man advantage. That’s double his career rate of 30.3. Great player, but he’s a guy who wins Selkes, not Art Rosses. He makes for a neat sell high because, on top of the high-end production, he’s an established name brand. He could net you something decent.
BONUS CATEGORY: The John Klingberg Conundrum
My, oh, my, that John Klingberg. The Dallas Stars defenseman is the second coming of Erik Karlsson. Klingberg’s 24 points tie him for fourth in league scoring. Klingberg is on pace for 89 points, which would be the highest output from a blueliner since Ray Bourque got 91 in 1993-94. So yes, of course Klingberg is going to slow down. At the same time, let’s look at that league scoring list. Two other Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, join Klingberg in the top four. This team might slow down but could still easily lead the NHL in goals. Klingberg could regress significantly and still produce like a top-three fantasy D-man the rest of the way. Expect a cool-down, but don’t go nuts trying to sell him off, as he’ll remain highly valuable all year.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin