Here's a look at three of the hottest topics in fantasy hockey right now.
1. Empty-net goals
Empty-net goals count just as much as Vladimir Tarasenko's gorgeous goal back on Nov. 3. Every goal carries the same value in fantasy hockey. And while empty-net goals might not occur in every game, there are certain players who have the chance to record either an empty-net goal or assist on one more than others. These players are typically the ones trusted by their coaches who are out there for the final minute of ice time in a close game in which the goalie is pulled.
If you look at the table below on the left, you'll see a list of forwards that are on the ice most with the opposing team's goalie pulled over the past three seasons, according to war-on-ice.com. Meaning, these guys are on the ice the most when facing an empty net. While it won't always translate to getting an empty-net goal (and it hasn't in some cases), they have been given more opportunities to get one than other players in the past three years.
The table below on the right displays a list of forwards that have produced the most points while the opposing team's goalie is pulled over the past three seasons, according to war-on-ice.com.
It's probably not the biggest surprise to see guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Patrice Bergeron receiving the most ice time with the opposing goalie pulled. They are among most reliable two-way players in the game and they are already proven fantasy stars. But for players like Tomas Plekanec, Mikko Koivu and several others, it can help result in a few extra fantasy points that can end up being the difference in winning a head-to-head matchup.
And while Getzlaf does lead the League in ice time with the opposing goalie pulled, it's actually only resulted in six points for him. In Bergeron's case, the production has translated, as he's among the League leaders in points with nine. Joe Thornton is an interesting case. He has eight points in these situations over the past three seasons (including an NHL-best five empty-net goals this season alone), despite totaling 27.4 minutes with the opposing goalie pulled (63rd most among all players).
When all is said and done, having players on your fantasy roster that receive these crucial minutes late in the game could end up helping your team. It doesn't always translate to success, but if they're given the opportunity, they'll have a better chance to get you a goal or an assist.
2. Braden Holtby is good
Goalie - WSH
GAA: 2.14 | SVP: .925
Really good. If you didn't know already, the Washington Capitals
standout is the third-ranked goalie in Yahoo fantasy leagues this season, behind only Carey Price
of the Montreal Canadiens
and Pekka Rinne
of the Nashville Predators
. And considering Holtby was the 19th goalie selected on average back on draft day, it's safe to say no goalie has provided more unexpected elite-level value than Holtby. With 24 wins in 44 games, the 25-year-old is on pace for a career-best 40 wins, and if he can maintain or come close to his current 2.17 goals-against average (GAA) and .925 save percentage (SV%), they would be the best marks since his rookie season in 2010-11 when he posted a 1.79 GAA and .934 SV% in 14 games. Enjoy the ride if you've got him on your team.
3. Who's No. 1 on defense?
Defense - WPG
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 33
PIMs: 101 | SOG: 156 | +/-: 6
With St. Louis Blues
defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
expected to have abdominal surgery in the next week or so, another defenseman will end up taking over the role as No. 1 fantasy defenseman. While NHL.com insider Brian Metzer ranked Kris Letang
of the Pittsburgh Penguins
as his new No. 1 defenseman with Shattenkirk out
, I think by season's end it will be Dustin Byfuglien
of the Winnipeg Jets
at the top. Letang has come on really strong of late (15 points in his past 10 games), but is still always an injury concern and the fact that Byfuglien provides complete category coverage gives him the edge. Among defensemen, Byfuglien's 12 goals are tied for second, his 33 points are 11th, his 101 penalty minutes are first and his 156 shots on goal are fourth. He's also a plus-6 and has 11 power-play points, so he won't hurt you in any category. While Shattenkirk may have ended up as the No. 1 fantasy defenseman had he not gotten hurt, I'll now say Byfuglien reigns supreme by season's end.