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Fantasy Spin: Category MVPs win championships

by Pete Jensen

When the fantasy playoffs roll around, production across the board is magnified. One category point, more or less, could make the difference between moving on and being sent home.

When the fantasy playoffs roll around, production across the board is magnified. Time and time again, category coverage wins championships. (Photo: Mark Buckner/NHLI, Len Redkoles/NHLI, Debora Robinson/NHLI, Getty Images, John Russell/NHLI)

Time and time again, category coverage wins head-to-head fantasy leagues, and this season provides the latest reminder. Watching some of the game's proven multi-category producers peak at the right time and others burst onto the scene over the course of a full season gives owners all the more confidence in them moving forward. Whether they are fueling your championship run or proving to be a thorn in your team's side as opponents, these assets should not be forgotten come draft day next season.

Here are the most valuable six- and seven-tool assets around the NHL to prioritize in drafts next season depending on your league format.

Corey Perry (RW, Anaheim Ducks)

Categories covered: G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SOG

Round to target him in 2014-15: 1

Perry had a 98-point, 104-penalty minute, 290-shot season back in 2010-11 and has returned to point-per-game form this season on the League's top point pair with Ryan Getzlaf. He is tied for the NHL lead in game-winning goals and is among the top 10 League-wide in goals, points, rating and shots. Perry has no category weaknesses and is making a strong push for the No. 2 overall ranking in multi-category formats considering the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin is a rating liability (minus-31, second-worst in NHL).

Shea Weber (D, Nashville Predators)

Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 48
SOG: 178 | +/-: -6
Categories covered: G, A, PIM, PPP, SOG, HIT, BKS

Round(s) to target him in 2014-15: 2-3

Matt Cubeta and I both had Weber among the top-five fantasy defensemen (37th overall) entering the season, and he's been even better than advertised. Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators leads the 'D' points race and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens also brings impressive coverage, but Weber warrants selection in the first two rounds moving forward as well. He's one hit away from a 20-goal, 150-hit, 150-block season, something no player has achieved in a single season over the past nine campaigns.

Joe Pavelski (C/LW/RW, San Jose Sharks)

Categories covered: G, A, +/-, PPP, SOG, BKS

Round(s) to target him in 2014-15: 2-3

Pavelski and the Dallas Stars' Tyler Seguin are the only players with three hat tricks this season. Only Ovechkin (nine) has more multi-goal games than Pavelski (eight). Pavelski and Getzlaf are the only forwards League-wide with 60-plus blocks and 30-plus goals. The 29-year-old has been as explosive and well-rounded as anyone down the stretch and should be valued higher than elite-level teammates Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture in drafts next season.

David Backes (C/RW, St. Louis Blues)

David Backes
Center - STL
GOALS: 27 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 55
SOG: 155 | +/-: 16
Categories covered: G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, HIT

Round(s) to target him in 2014-15: 3-5

Backes saw a significant goal-scoring drop-off during the shortened season of 2012-13 (six in 48 games), but has returned to his usual 25-30 goal range in 2013-14 (27 in 68 games). Backes' line with Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie is built for the long haul, and Backes continues to chip in hits at a high rate (252, third in the NHL). Owners should no longer have any reservations in drafting or keeping Backes, who is closing in on his third career 50-plus point, 100-plus penalty minute season.

Wayne Simmonds (RW, Philadelphia Flyers)

Categories covered: G, A, PIM, PPP, SOG, HIT

Round(s) to target him in 2014-15: 3-5

Simmonds is one of the League's most dangerous power-play producers with 13 goals in those situations this season (tied for second in the NHL with Pavelski and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz). He has eclipsed the century mark in hits (120), penalty minutes (106) and shots (178) to go along with a career-high 22 power-play points in 3:25 per game with the man advantage on the team's top unit with Claude Giroux. At 25, Simmonds is among the most coveted keeper-league assets in multi-category leagues and is worth reaching for in future drafts based on the difference he has made during this season's stretch run.


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