Fantasy Fresh Starts: Pacific Division

Fantasy hockey season is just around the corner and many leagues are gearing up to draft their teams. With all the changes that inevitably happen in the offseason, fantasy values can change from season to season. Trades, free agent signings, and new teammates throw a wrench into any draft strategy.

So who do you pick? The fantasy team here at THW has got you covered! Throughout September we will be looking at each division’s key additions and the fantasy impact they could have on their new team. Hopefully, this will make it easier to choose players on draft day. First up, the Pacific Division!

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks were busy this offseason adding five new faces to their roster. Most of the moves were completed right out of the starting blocks as general manager Jim Benning was busy in the trade market and free agency. When all was said and done, he added J.T. Miller in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Micheal Ferland, Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn and Oscar Fantenberg in free agency. However, only three of those names will be of interest to fantasy hockey owners. Let’s take a look at who you should be targeting!

J.T. Miller (LW, RW)

Miller will be a solid fantasy option in 2019-20, especially if he plays with Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat. Look for him to also get power-play time on the top unit with the aforementioned Pettersson and sniper Brock Boeser.

J.T. Miller Lightning
J.T. Miller (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

In standard leagues, Miller could provide up to 25 goals and 50 points if all goes well. He will give you hits and power-play points too. As for more advanced leagues that track faceoffs, he could also provide some faceoff wins as he has 1103 of them in his career. Even if he plays as a winger on the top two lines, he will most likely spell Pettersson or Horvat occasionally on the power play and five on five.

Micheal Ferland (LW, RW)

Ferland is a bit of a wild-card in fantasy hockey this season. Because of his ability to play up and down the lineup, he could be worth drafting in the later rounds or not at all. If he ends up playing with Pettersson or Horvat, his value skyrockets. But, if he plays with Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle, his value in fantasy hockey is very low.

Related:Vancouver Canucks’ Micheal Ferland: What Should Fans Know?

With Pettersson and Horvat, Ferland has the potential to generate legitimate point totals to go along with his hits and blocks. But with Beagle and Sutter he only provides value in the hits and blocks categories. This makes the decision on draft day a tough one. He is only worth a flyer in the late rounds or as a potential add during the season once we know where he ends up playing in the lineup.

Tyler Myers (D)

Myers could provide a lot of value to your fantasy hockey team this season. Almost guaranteed to play in the top four on the Canucks, he can provide numbers in multiple categories. He will be playing 20-25 minutes a night in all situations, so there will be plenty of opportunities for him to generate points. His partner could also be the slippery Quinn Hughes, which would open him up for even more production.

Tyler Myers - Winnipeg Jets
Tyler Myers – Mar. 10, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for advanced stats like shots and blocks, Myers has made an impact here too. In the past two seasons, he has averaged over 150 shots and 100 blocks. He should be able to match or better those numbers this season with the Canucks.

Calgary Flames

The Flames were another active team this offseason dipping into the trade and free-agent markets to improve the team. After signing Cam Talbot in free agency to form a tandem with rising star David Rittich, general manager Brad Treliving turned his attention to the struggling James Neal. When everything was said and done, he shipped him off to the Oilers for another potential problem in Milan Lucic. Flames fans are hoping that a change in venue will reignite the forward that wreaked havoc as a member of the Boston Bruins.

Milan Lucic (LW)

Lucic has not been a huge contributor to fantasy squads in the last couple of seasons. Despite playing on the same team as hot commodity Connor McDavid, Lucic has not been able to produce consistently. He now brings his talents to the Red Mile.

Milan Lucic Oilers
Milan Lucic – Oct. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He will likely play in the bottom half of the lineup, so don’t expect a lot of goals and points from him. He may get time on the power play with the second unit, but I don’t think he will improve on the four power-play points he got in 2018-19. However, in banger leagues, he could provide some value as he produces a lot of hits and penalty minutes every season.

Related: 3 Reasons the Calgary Flames Won the Milan Lucic Trade

Cam Talbot (G)

Joining Lucic in the former Oilers club is Talbot. He will be fighting for starts with rising star David Rittich. As the preseason and regular season unfold, we will see who gets the bulk of the starts. Regardless, Talbot is a solid addition to any fantasy squad. Finally having a solid defense core in front of him should do wonders for his goals against and wins. Can he return to the form that saw the number 42 in the win column?

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes made one of the bigger splashes of the offseason by acquiring three-time All-Star Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins. His addition makes other forwards on the Coyotes roster more fantasy relevant. This is especially true for Derek Stepan, as he now has a legitimate sniper to feed pucks to, which increases his value immensely. The team also acquired center Carl Soderberg from the Colorado Avalanche, but he won’t nearly impact the roster as much as Kessel ultimately will.

Phil Kessel (RW)

For the first time in his career, Kessel will be playing in the Western Conference. What this means for fantasy hockey owners remains to be seen, as he no longer will have perennial All-Star Evgeni Malkin feeding him the puck five-on-five or Sidney Crosby threatening from the right side on the power play.

Penguins right wing Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Kessel will, of course, be slotted in on the top line and top power-play unit on the Coyotes so his ice time will not suffer. In fact, it may go up to around 20 minutes instead of the usual 17 he got on the Penguins.

Related: Phil Kessel – A Biography of the NHL Star

The impact of not having Malkin on his line will be significant, as Stepan is clearly a step down from the big Russian forward. His assist totals may also take a hit, as he does not have the same skilled forwards to finish off his passes. Regardless, Kessel should still be a solid addition to any team as he is still good for 25 goals and 60-70 points due to the speed and shot he possesses.

Carl Soderberg (C)

Soderberg joins the Coyotes from the Avalanche, where he put up a career-high 23 goals. With the Avalanche, he was used primarily on the second line with Matt Nieto and J.T. Compher. On the Coyotes, he most likely will center the third line, as Nick Schmaltz showed well (14 points in 17 games) after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks.

His linemates could be anyone from Barrett Hayton, Conor Garland, Lawson Crouse or Michael Grabner. Of that list, Grabner is the only forward who has eclipsed 20 goals in a season. He could see some power play time on the second unit, but I don’t project him getting a lot of time there.

Carl Soderberg - Avalanche
Carl Soderberg, November 4, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In banger leagues, he does provide value as he accumulated 71 and 99 hits in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons respectively. He blocks a fair amount of shots as well (131 over the past two seasons). In advanced leagues that track face-offs, he can give you a lot of wins as he had over 400 in two straight seasons. Soderberg is a good penalty killer too, so that could add value for leagues that track shorthanded goals.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers were also one of the busier teams this offseason. Newly minted general manager Ken Holland wasted no time in fixing issues from the old regime. After shoring up the goaltending with free agent Mike Smith, he turned his attention to solving the Lucic problem. He found the solution just down the road in Calgary.

Hoping that a change of scenery is all that is required, Holland acquired Neal. It could end up being a stroke of genius or just another headache in Oil Country. Are Neal and Smith worth picking up?

James Neal (LW, RW)

I can’t think of anyone in the league that needs a fresh start more than Neal. After signing a lucrative contract last offseason with the Flames, he was expected to be a huge boon to the team. Instead, he became an albatross. Buried at times on the fourth line and even being a healthy scratch, he turned in the worst performance of his career.

Calgary Flames James Neal
James Neal (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

The ten-time 20-goal scorer joins his third team in three years and will be looking to rebound in 2019-20. However, the lack of production last season should not scare people away from selecting him in the mid-to-late rounds.

Related: James Neal Will Have a Big Impact on the Edmonton Oilers

There is a solid chance that he could play on Connor McDavid’s wing as well as on the first unit power play. So the opportunity for goals and points will be there. No matter what, he will have a solid pivot to ride shotgun with as he could have McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins feeding him the puck every game.

Mike Smith (G)

Smith shores up the crease for the Oilers, which was manned almost exclusively by Mikko Koskinen in 2018-19. This season he will have competition. For fantasy purposes, Smith is more valuable if he becomes the de facto starting goaltender for the Oilers. After having a less than stellar season with the Flames turning in a 2.72 goals-against average (GAA) and .898 save percentage (SV%), he hopes to have a bounce-back season in 2019-20.

Mike Smith Flames
Mike Smith (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Unfortunately for Smith, he is attempting this feat with a weaker defense in front of him. He most likely will face more shots, which could mean more goals against. If he couldn’t put up good numbers behind a top ten defense in Calgary, I doubt he will do so for the Oilers. He is also 37 years old with a history of injuries. Definitely not a good recipe for a starting fantasy goaltender.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights’ offseason was relatively quiet, as the only noteworthy transaction was acquiring goaltender Garret Sparks from the Toronto Maple Leafs. But unless he somehow unseats Jordan Subban from the backup position, he is not fantasy relevant. So, let’s take a look at one player that could have a bigger role this season, and as a result, become more valuable in your fantasy league.

Jimmy Schuldt (D)

Schuldt could be an interesting player to keep an eye on draft day this season. After signing a one-way contract, he could be in line for a bigger role in 2019-20. With a spot open on the bottom pairing with veteran Derek Engelland, it looks like it is his to lose.

After generating a lot of offense in the NCAA with St. Cloud University (239 points in 156 games), the slick defenseman may see time on the power play as well. He could be a worthwhile pick up in the later rounds.

Anaheim Ducks

If there was any team that should have been busy this offseason, it was the Anaheim Ducks. We are now less than a week from training camp, and they have lost more then they have added. Veteran leader and fantasy contributor Corey Perry has taken his talents to the Dallas Stars, and there is no one to take his place. However, there is at least one face that could provide value in fantasy leagues.

Jani Hakanpaa (D)

After four seasons away from North American hockey, Finnish defenseman Jani Hakanpaa returns to attempt to make a mark in the NHL. Originally drafted by the St Louis Blues in the fourth round in 2010, he will try to crack the shallow defense core of the Ducks. Hakanpaa was signed to a one year contract on July 3.

Last season he posted 11 goals and 23 points in 52 games with Karpat of the SM-liiga. He also helped lead Finland to a gold medal in the World Championships. Because of the lack of right-handed defensemen in the organization, Hakanpaa has a legitimate chance of playing games with the Ducks this season.

Related: Anaheim Ducks 2019 Offseason Primer: The Defense

If he does, he is worth picking up in the later rounds for penalty minutes and hits. Over the four seasons with Karpat, he accumulated 239 minutes in penalties. As for other categories, I don’t expect him to add much unless he can translate the offensive success he had in Finland to the NHL.

There you have it, all the new additions to the Pacific Division teams that will have a fantasy impact. I hope that this primer provided you with some extra knowledge to stay ahead in your fantasy league. Stay tuned for the next iteration in the fresh starts series, the Central Division!