Important to value production over name in Fantasy Hockey

Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson, right, has been a great fantasy value. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By Janet Eagleson, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports

What constitutes a fantasy star? Sometimes, a star is a star. But sometimes – especially in single-year leagues – the name doesn’t matter as much as the production.

Hear me out.

I own both of these players. They both play on their team’s second lines. Each has about 200 NHL games under his belt (give or take). Player A is 21 and owned in 91 percent of Yahoo leagues, while player B is 24 and owned in 64.

Here are their current stats:

Player A (LW): 17G/13A/-1 in 39 games; 111 shots, 10 PPP
Player B (LW/C): 17G/12A/+13 in 36 games; 73 shots, 6 PPP

Player B boosted me early – he had 23 points, including 13 goals, in 24 games through the end of November. Player A exploded out of the gate with seven points, including five goals, in his first five games. But he then went to sleep with just four goals and three assists in his next 16.

Sure, this could be about playing streaks. I get that. But there’s more to it than that.

Player A was my seventh-round pick, ahead of Jaden Schwartz and Vladislav Namestnikov. Player B? He came off the wire.

I’m struggling in the Friends and Family league where I own both, in large part because I play too many formats and I haven’t paid close enough attention to my team.

But until very recently, William Karlsson (Player B) has helped bail me out because he has been as good or better than Nikolaj Ehlers (Player A).

And in the middle, Jason Zucker helped me bridge Ehlers’ slumber with 18 points, including 11 goals, in 17 games.

Most people wouldn’t even consider a trade of Karlsson plus Zucker for Ehlers. But when you take away the names and look at the contributions, there is no comparison.

Maybe there will be at year’s end. But we’ll have to wait to see.

Now, let’s look at who caught my eye last week.

Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass, G, Chicago (26 and 1 percent Yahoo owned, respectively) – Corey Crawford is out “indefinitely,” so it’s on Forsberg and Glass to shut the door in the Windy City. It won’t be easy – Forsberg has just two wins in 21 NHL appearances and at 32, Glass finally made – and won – his NHL debut Friday night. Chicago may suddenly be in the market for some help, but until then, one of these two will be starting. Both are dicey plays, but getting a starting goalie off the wire is free money, even if they occasionally hoark up a hairball. And who knows – these two might actually have value if their mates can reclaim their 5-on-5 dominance, which would take some pressure off their inexperienced ‘tenders.

Sam Gagner, C/LW/RW, Vancouver (3 percent owned) – Three weeks ago, I flagged this guy to you as a speculative pick – somebody had to fill Bo Horvat’s skates. Well, Gagner is doing just that. He’s skating between Brock Boeser and Thomas Vanek, and is on a four-game, six-point streak. The team isn’t good and they struggle defensively. But Gagner is getting prime minutes at even-strength and hopping the boards on the second power-play unit. That and his ability to slot into any forward spot make him surprisingly valuable in deep formats.

Riley Nash, RW/C, Boston (1 percent owned) – Nash had a HUGE night Wednesday against the Sens – three-point games don’t just happen to guys like him. And heading into the weekend, Nash has five points, including two goals, in his last four games. He won’t keep this pace up, but he might set new career marks. So, he might just bring value in extremely deep leagues.

Calvin Pickard, G, Toronto (3 percent owned) – Pickard has been tearing up the AHL this season to the tune of a .919 save percentage. Now, he gets to show that off as backup to Frederik Andersen, at least for the next 10 days. Why 10 days? Pickard will need to clear waivers if he’s up any longer than that, so the clock is ticking. Unfortunately, the Buds don’t have any more back-to-back situations during that span, but there’s always a chance he gets another start. He was serviceable against the Avs on Friday night. And he will get a lot of leeway with a high-potency offense in front of him.

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmonton (11 percent owned) – Puljujarvi has all the tools to become Garth to Connor McDavid’s Wayne. Excellent! The Finn is fast enough to play with McDavid and has the skill and size to help make that line more than a one-man show. Puljujarvi is still just 19, so it’s little wonder his maturity is the knock on his game. But he’s starting to show a bit of the flair that made him a World Junior fave at 17. Right now, Puljujarvi is finding some chemistry with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But his value will spike if he pulls out his Garth gear. I’m monitoring and I think you should, too.

Thomas Vanek, LW/RW, Vancouver (16 percent owned) – The enigmatic Austrian is on fire right now, in part because of the peculiar chemistry he has with Sam Gagner (see above) and Brock Boeser. Vanek’s pedigree – intense talent with inconsistent effort – remains. But can you overlook 10 points, including five goals, in his last four games? Thought not. Don’t miss out.

Sami Vatanen, D, New Jersey (11 percent owned) – This guy was all over the ice – in a good way – Friday night. Honestly, I was surprised by how many times commentators said his name. Vatanen seems to be finding his courage and his fit with the new-look Devils (yes, Dan Pennucci, your Devils ARE good). Vatanen fired eight pucks on net Friday night and has 18 in his last four games. Yes, 18. He only fired 22 in 15 games as a Duck! Vatanen has a new role on the east coast and I think he could be a big second-half fantasy surprise. Those shots won’t all be goals, but there will be a whole lot of rebounds for guys like Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier to tap in. He’s on my roster and I’m waiting.

Nikita Zadorov, D, Colorado (3 percent owned) – This is another hunch. Tyson Barrie’s busted hand just took him out of the Norris Trophy running just before Christmas, so the rest of the Avs’ D will need to adjust. Zadorov has three assists in three games since Barrie’s injury. And while the big Russian isn’t known for his offense, he does have some power-play experience in his past. That, coupled with my disgust for Erik Johnson’s game, means I’m putting my money on Big Z to pick up some of the slack.

Back to a name.

My Friends and Family team has suffered from awful performances from my early-round picks. Maybe I should have known better – Cam Talbot was my second rounder and Wayne Simmonds was my fourth. Conor Sheary was clearly a stretch at 10.

Spit.

Thank goodness for Filip Forsberg (fifth), Schwartz (13th), Mika Zibanejad (14th) and Namestnikov (19th).

But none of it has been enough to offset my goaltending – Talbot and Mike Smith? One seemed like a sure thing and the other, a sure bet. Now I’m third from the bottom in all goalie categories.

They seemed like good names. Right?

Wrong.