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Most valuable players entering fantasy playoffs

Notable trends among Yahoo's top head-to-head rosters

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Toews finds Panarin for one-timer

CHI@STL: Panarin blasts one-timer past Allen in 3rd

3/9/16: Jonathan Toews passes to Artemi Panarin, who blasts a one-timer past Jake Allen to tie the game at 2 with under two minutes to play

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The fantasy playoffs begin next week in head-to-head leagues, so this is a perfect time to recognize the most integral players from the most successful fantasy rosters.

Yahoo has a feature which displays the most valuable fantasy players beyond in-game statistics. By hovering over the "Research" navigation bar on the fantasy hockey landing page and selecting "MVPs," you can view the players who appear most often in Yahoo's top 500 public league teams. You can also sort by head-to-head and rotisserie league types.

So how is this different from Yahoo's performance-based rankings? In addition to performance and standard category coverage, this feature takes into account factors such as average draft position, waiver wire pickups and position eligibility.

Here are the four most notable trends to take away from the list of most valuable players (as of Friday, March 11). Check out the full list to see which players from your team made the top 50:

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ROOKIE STEALS

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres were the highest-touted rookies entering the 2015-16 season, but Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks and Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers have stolen the show. In head-to-head leagues, Panarin (26.8 percent) and Gostisbehere (26.4) are the most frequent players on Yahoo's best public league rosters. Panarin latched onto current top-ranked fantasy asset Patrick Kane's line the first week of the season and has never looked back, posting 62 points (18 on power play) in 66 games (T-10th on NHL scoring list). Gostisbehere, recalled Nov. 14 after Mark Streit's injury, has 37 points in 47 games, with 20 points on the power play (T-11th among defensemen).

Not counting McDavid (1.06 points per game), who can play a maximum of 45 games this season because of his lengthy injury absence, Panarin (0.94) has the best rookie points-per-game average among those with at least 40 games played since Evgeni Malkin (1.09, 78 games) and Paul Stastny (0.95, 82 games) in 2006-07. Panarin was drafted on average with the 147th pick and in only 10 percent of Yahoo leagues, while Gostisbehere was not draft-eligible because he did not start the season in the NHL. Gostisbehere (0.79) has the highest points-per-game rate among rookie defensemen since Vladimir Malakhov (0.81, 64 games) in 1992-93. If you drafted Panarin late or added either rookie off the waiver wire, you struck fantasy gold.

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DUAL-ELIGIBLE D-MEN

The strategy of targeting Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets, the only dual-eligible defensemen in the game, continues to pay large fantasy dividends. Burns (26.2 percent) and Byfuglien (20.4) appear often among Yahoo's most successful public league teams, largely because they offer such rare eligibility (D/RW). The added flexibility is valuable on busy game nights when you may not be able to fit all your players into your lineup, especially if you have games limits at each position in rotisserie leagues. Burns ranks among the top 10 players (sixth) based on standard-league performance, while Byfuglien ranks 22nd. Byfuglien has covered all six categories, while Burns has covered five and leads all defensemen in goals (24) and shots on goal (285). If you're in a hits league, Byfuglien and Burns have even more value. In terms of average draft position, Burns (45th) and Byfuglien (37th) have managed to exceed lofty preseason expectations.

Video: SJS@CGY: Burns puts the Sharks on top in 1st

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LIVING IN WAYNE'S WORLD

Wayne Simmonds, one of my preseason draft bargains (Yahoo ADP: 90.7), continues to outweigh his preseason draft stock. He started slow with nine points in his first 23 games, but has turned his season around on the Philadelphia Flyers' top line and first power-play unit alongside Claude Giroux. Simmonds covers five of the six standard fantasy metrics and also racks up hits (163), per usual. He appears more frequently (23.4 percent) among Yahoo's top 500 public league teams than any other dual-eligible forward. On top of his strong offensive totals in points (46), PPP (17) and SOG (168), he's tied for third in the League with 129 penalty minutes.

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CRAW-INSPIRING YEAR

Braden Holtby of the League-leading Washington Capitals might win the Vezina Trophy, but Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks covered more categories for his fantasy owners and provided more bang for your buck based on average draft position. Crawford (ADP: 41.5) was drafted nearly two rounds later than Holtby (ADP: 24.5) on average. Despite the pressure of being the starter for the defending Stanley Cup champions, Crawford (2.21 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) has posted better peripheral numbers than Holtby (2.25 GAA, .922 SV%) and has the most shutouts (seven) in the NHL this season. He ranks fourth among all fantasy assets based on performance this season behind only Kane, Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. In terms of the Yahoo's MVP metric, Crawford ranks first overall in rotisserie formats (36.4 percent) and fourth in head-to-head leagues (25.4).

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