With the 2019-20 regular season now officially completed, fantasy seasons have also come to an end. Unfortunately, many leagues were abandoned before a champion was crowned.
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However, every good fantasy manager knows the importance of evaluating the previous season and the work that needs to be put in to get an edge on the competition for next season, and it starts now. We are breaking down the best of the best of the 2019-20 fantasy hockey season and all the studs that were destined to lead their owners to fantasy glory.
All players average draft positions (ADP’s) are based on Yahoo Fantasy Hockey Rankings.
Stats Don’t Lie
These big-name players have had exceptional seasons and have rewarded their fantasy owners with stud performances. The stats for these players speak for themselves and they have been the cream of the crop this season.
Nathan MacKinnon – Center, COL (ADP: 4.0)
The Halifax native has led both the Colorado Avalanche and fantasy teams all season long. He was highly touted entering the season with such a high average draft position and has played up to those standards putting up 93 points in 69 games before sustaining an injury.
He would have had a great chance to break his previous career highs this season if not for his injuries. There’s no doubt that MacKinnon will continue to be an elite fantasy asset for years to come, and a top-five pick in all drafts regardless of format.
Leon Draisaitl – Center, EDM (ADP: 14.9)
Draisaitl has always taken a backseat to McDavid and may not get enough credit because he plays on the same team as a generational talent. This season, however, he was a dominant force for the Edmonton Oilers and had a career year, leading the team in goals (43), assists (67), and points (110).
His career-high in points was enough to claim his first Art Ross Trophy, and his position eligibility in Yahoo leagues makes Draisaitl even more valuable to fantasy owners. It would be surprising to see him go as late as he did this season in future drafts, as he has shown he is an elite offensive talent who can provide a plethora of stats for any fantasy roster.
John Carlson – Defence, WSH (ADP: 45.1)
If you were lucky enough to grab the Washington Capitals rearguard for your fantasy team, you drafted the likely 2019-20 Norris Trophy-winner. Carlson led all defencemen in points with 75 and finished tied for 12th in scoring league-wide.
He is a strong all-around defenceman, but he will hold extra value on fantasy rosters that count power-play points as long as he continues to feed Alex Ovechkin those one-timers on the man advantage.
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He was often taken as the fifth defenseman off draft boards, but it won’t be surprising if, after this season, he becomes the consensus third defenseman taken in re-draft leagues, surpassing Erik Karlsson and Roman Josi who were both taken before him.
Best Draft Value
Every general manager (GM) knows the importance of finding late-round talent, and it’s no different in the fantasy hockey world. Targeting high-upside players in the mid and late rounds can help take your fantasy team to the next level and become a true contender for a championship. The players in this category drastically outperformed their draft value and put together stellar fantasy seasons.
Mika Zibanejad – Center, NYR (ADP: 100.3)
A lot of people may have overlooked the former Ottawa Senator but Zibanejad was a mid-round pick who provided his owners with first-round value. He posted a career-high 75 points in only 57 games, good for 12th in league scoring, and his best season since becoming a New York Ranger.
He has developed great chemistry with newly signed Artemi Panarin, and they should become even more of a force as the chemistry continues to build after their first season as teammates. The Rangers are transitioning to an offense-first mentality, ranked fifth in the league in goals scored and seventh on the power play this season, which is a great situation for a team’s top centerman. He had a true breakout season, and it’s highly unlikely he comes at such a big discount in drafts next season.
Kyle Connor – Left Wing, WPG (ADP: 130.6)
The Jets forward has continued to improve with each passing year and took a huge step in his development this season, putting up a career-best 73 points, tied for first on the team. With an ADP somewhere in the tenth round of most 12-team drafts, Connor produced second-round value in standard six by six category leagues and provided even more value in dynasty as he is still only 23 years old.
He has solidified himself as a premier goal scorer in the Jets’ offense posting three consecutive 30-plus-goal seasons. He has always come at a significant discount in drafts, but people should start paying more attention to him after providing yet another great fantasy season.
J.T. Miller – Left Wing/Right Wing, VAN (ADP: 166.2)
After joining the Vancouver Canucks from the Tampa Bay Lightning, who paid a hefty price for his services, Miller put up a career season playing in the Canucks’ top-six forward group. He crushed his previous career-high of 56 points back in 2016-17 with a 72-point campaign in 69 games this season.
He has played primarily alongside rising star Elias Pettersson who is still finding his game as a young player and should continue to benefit Miller as he matures. The lack of winger depth in the Canucks organization means Miller’s spot in the top six is not at risk, and he should continue to see solid minutes next season. If you were one of the fantasy GMs who targeted him in the late rounds of drafts, knowing the opportunity that awaited him, congratulations because he rewarded you with first-round value.
Finding top-end talent from rookies may not have the same value in re-draft leagues compared to the heightened value they hold in dynasty formats, but they can still be impactful players nonetheless.
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Rookies are always hit or miss, and some take longer to develop than others, and some hold more hype and higher expectations. This season has shown that many players grow in their limited experience, and play large roles for both their NHL and fantasy squads.
Quinn Hughes – Defence, VAN (ADP: 137.6)
If you drafted Hughes this season, he likely came at a significant discount in the round ten or later range. After his rookie campaign, it’s unlikely he makes it past round six in future drafts.
He led all rookies in scoring this season with 53 points in 68 games and has become the quarterback for Vancouver’s first power-play unit, which is a big reason their power play ranked fourth league-wide. Still only 20 years old, he should be one of the top ten defensemen taken in fantasy formats and see a significant bump in ADP moving forward as a legitimate number one defenseman.
Cale Makar – Defence, COL (ADP: 121.8)
Another defenceman who put the league on notice after his play in the 2019 Playoffs, also comes at a significant discount in fantasy drafts. He has 50 points in 57 games this season and has taken over as the team’s top defenseman. He is incredibly gifted offensively but does not shy away from a solid defensive game.
For fantasy purposes, he has been one of the best d-men in the league, sitting seventh in points by defensemen. In standard 12-team drafts, you should have been able to snatch him up in the tenth round or later, which won’t happen again in the 2020-21 season. It’s hard to imagine him not improving as he continues to mature, which is what makes him worthy of a huge bump in ADP next season to retain his services.
Igor Shesterkin – Goalie, NYR (ADP: Not Ranked)
Although the goaltending depth chart was crowded in the Rangers organization, Shesterkin seized his opportunity and proved what the hype was about thanks to his stellar play in the AHL this season. With Henrik Lundqvist and Alexander Georgiev locking up the goalie duo at the start of the season, Shesterkin had to wait until early January to get his chance, and he has shown no signs of giving it back posting a 10-2-0 record as a starter.
If he was on your fantasy roster, he likely would have been acquired via the waiver wire as he was not ranked to begin the year, making him one of the biggest discounts in terms of value. If you were able to snatch him off the wire in a keeper or dynasty league, you’ve solved any goaltending concerns on your roster for years to come.
These players have been difference-makers for their fantasy owners this season, although they may not have led them to fantasy glory because of the cancellation of the regular season. This recap should give fantasy owners an early idea of players who may still be worth targeting in drafts heading into next season.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I have been covering the Edmonton Oilers here on The Hockey Writers since 2019. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.