Which players have enjoyed the biggest spike in fantasy value after all the off-season trades and signings?
With every off-season comes a flurry of trades and signings, which alter many players’ fantasy values. It’s not just the guys switching teams who change in fantasy pool worth, either. There’s a ripple effect. Player X may skyrocket in projected production after being dealt to Team Y, but the roster spot he leaves behind may open a hole for a certain prospect to climb the depth chart.
Which players have ascended the most in 2015-16 fantasy draft rankings so far? Here are some names to consider.
1. PHIL KESSEL, RW
This one’s a no-brainer. Say what you want about Kessel’s physique, but he’s one of the purest goal scorers on the planet, and he’s guaranteed to play with one of the best centers of this generation. Kessel flirted with 40 goals playing alongside Tyler Bozak, so he’ll push for 50 on Sidney Crosby’s or Evgeni Malkin’s right side. Kessel should be a first-round pick in deeper leagues. Don’t underestimate the potential gains for Crosby or Malkin, too, as Kessel will constitute a massive linemate upgrade for either of them.
2. T.J. OSHIE, RW
Oshie’s new linemates in Washington will be (a) Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom or (b) Evgeny Kuznetsov and probably Marcus Johansson. Even the latter would be decent news for Oshie, who should get to use his offensive creativity better in the Eastern Conference and away from the tough-checking Central Division. It’s more likely Oshie gets the plum first-line assignment with Ovie and Backstrom, however, as Oshie is younger and faster than fellow new arrival Justin Williams. Oshie isn’t a true star, but he could easily become a 70-point player in D.C. He’ll be a fun guy to draft, but don’t forget my cardinal rule: pick for talent first and linemates second, as guys can always get shuffled to different units. Don’t reach too much.
3. ANDREJ SEKERA, D
The Edmonton Oilers aren’t guaranteed to catapult into the post-season, even though they have brand-new management and have added a boatload of useful new pieces. They are excellent bets to score a lot in 2015-16, though, adding Connor McDavid to the lineup.
The Oilers aren’t paying Sekera $5.5 million to ride the pine. He should be their main workhorse on defense and, because he’s a quality puck-moving defenseman, he should be in on plenty of goals and get major power play time. It wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see Sekera eclipse his career high of 44 points, set in 2013-14.
4. MILAN LUCIC, LW
Some poolies might dispute the idea Lucic gained fantasy value with a trade to L.A. After all, he was a top-six winger already in Boston, and he’s switching to the tighter-checking conference. Kings GM Dean Lombardi, however, made it very clear he acquired Lucic to play on the Kings’ top line. That means Lucic upgrades from David Krejci to Anze Kopitar at center, with Marian Gaborik on the right side. Lucic’s reckless physical game may shorten his career, but he’s still only 27 and not in decline yet. He should return to the 25-goal, 60-point range. And even if he somehow slides down the depth chart, he’ll remain valuable for his penalty minutes and hits.
5. MARTIN JONES, ROBIN LEHNER & CAM TALBOT, G
I’ll cheat and lump all three stoppers into one category since they’re in similar situations. Each goalie has been given a chance to start for a team that missed the playoffs last season. Each, then, is a nice fantasy sleeper for volume stats – wins, saves, and shutouts. Rate stats like goals-against average and save percentage will be riskier to rely on, especially for Lehner and Talbot, whose teams were terrible defensively last season. Jones is the best bet for fantasy value because his Sharks weren’t as bad as the Oilers and Sabres and because he’ll play for a defense-minded coach in Peter DeBoer.
OTHER GAINERS TO WATCH
Marko Dano, RW: He’s talented, he’s feisty, and the Hawks need him in their top nine.
Mike Green, D: Ice time should skyrocket with Wings. Was No. 5 D-man in Washington.
Carl Hagelin, LW: Linemates should be Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. Or maybe Boudreau tries Hagelin with Getzlaf and Perry?
Nazem Kadri, C: If and when Tyler Bozak gets traded, Kadri becomes Toronto’s top center.
Eddie Lack, G: All he has to do is beat out Cam Ward for Canes’ starting gig.
Derrick Pouliot, D: Pens refused to part with him in Kessel deal for a reason. They expect a rise to Olli Maatta’s level in 2015-16.
Justin Williams, RW: Even if he doesn’t play with Ovie, will have some skilled linemates with Caps.
James Wisniewski, D: Somebody has to play all those minutes in Carolina. Wisniewski should be a nice, cheap source of points.
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