As part of NHL.com's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.
Leading the way: John Tavares
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are the top two fantasy assets in the game, but Tavares is a candidate to go right behind them in drafts. He missed the NHL scoring lead by one point, but was the only player League-wide with at least 35 goals (38), 35 assists (48), 30 power-play points (31) and 250 shots on goal (278). He had a positive rating (plus-5) for the first time in his career, and has yet to hit his ceiling. Although the New York Islanders could regress in a competitive Metropolitan Division that saw offseason reinforcements (Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets, T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals), Tavares gives the Islanders hope of competing for a Stanley Cup and fantasy owners a chance to reap the benefits of his elite coverage.
ISLES' FANTASY-RELEVANT PLAYERS
Below is a list of the fantasy-relevant players in the New York Islanders organization. These players have been arranged by NHL.com's fantasy staff based on projected value and by position. These players range from top-tier assets to deep sleepers and should be on your radar in standard Yahoo leagues.
* Red indicates newcomer to team
New York's top-six forward group is very much up-in-the-air in terms of fantasy value. Tavares put Anders Lee on the map in 2014-15 while Kyle Okposo was injured, but that duo was broken up upon Okposo's return. The Islanders coaching staff stuck with Josh Bailey alongside Tavares for much of the regular season, but Ryan Strome played alongside Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and is bound to crack the top 100 fantasy forwards soon. The bottom line is that Tavares, who turns 25 on Sept. 20, is entering his prime and has made the players around him better through the years. He's worthy of an early first-round pick, and fantasy owners should keep a watchful eye on his linemates for obvious reasons.
Undervalued: Travis Hamonic
Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy saw heightened roles and emerged as fantasy-relevant defensemen last season after being traded to the Islanders, but Hamonic posted a deceptively strong campaign as well. Hamonic, 25, had career highs in points (33) and rating (plus-15) to go along with strong totals in penalty minutes (85) and SOG (132). He was also one of 10 players with 200-plus hits (213) and 100-plus blocked shots (131). Hamonic accomplished that with two defensemen ahead of him on the power-play food chain, and chipped in eight power-play points despite limited opportunities (1:11 of power-play ice time per game). While the perception is that Boychuk and Leddy are much more valuable entering drafts, Hamonic's final Yahoo rank last season (156th) indicates he's in their vicinity. If Hamonic improves on his low shooting percentage (3.8), he could score 6-10 goals on top of being a valuable points-rating-PIMs producer. Don't hesitate to begin targeting him in round 13, and even higher in hits-blocks formats.
Overvalued: Kyle Okposo
Okposo is a name that fantasy owners know because he broke out alongside Tavares in the past, but with younger players also carrying top-line upside (i.e. Lee, Strome), it could be a year that Okposo is phased out as Tavares' linemate. He has stellar points (.92) and SOG per game (3.0) averages over the past two seasons, but had four goals and three assists in his final 14 regular-season games and a quiet postseason after missing time because of an eye injury. He's also facing an uncertain situation as a pending unrestricted free agent next summer. Consider Okposo a top-100 fantasy player, but there are too many question marks to draft him in the 50-70 range. Landing him in the seventh or eighth round provides better value.
Deep sleeper: Too early to pinpoint
This is a situation you'll want to monitor into training camp, as the Islanders have high-level prospects waiting in the wings but little roster turnover and each of their top-12 forwards returning. Bailey, who has plenty of NHL experience coming off a career-best 41 points and 140 SOG in 2014-15, will almost certainly be taken outside the top 200 in fantasy drafts, so he could emerge as a steal if he continues to play most of his minutes alongside Tavares or in a second-line role. Even deeper down the line, forward prospects Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang are scoring threats who could make a splash if they crack the roster because of an injury, trade or forward waived during the season. On the blue line, Islanders top 'D' prospect Ryan Pulock is eyeing a full-time role and has a booming shot that could earn him power-play reps over the course of the season. While Pulock would be behind Boychuk, Leddy and Hamonic on the depth chart, the market is often so thin at the position that efficient depth D-men from contending teams have value.
Goalie outlook: Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss
The Islanders are looking to set the tone early in their first season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but those hopes could be dashed if Halak takes a step back with a difficult schedule looming in October. Last season, expectations were tempered and Halak was a pleasant surprise, finishing among the top five goalies in wins (38, 5th) and shutouts (six, T-4th). But he was outside the top 20 in the two other standard-league categories (2.43 goals-against average, .914 save percentage) and his even-strength SV% with a heavier workload didn't stack up to his stingier totals with the St. Louis Blues. It's safer to see if he falls into the 15-17 range among goalies instead of reaching for him in the 12-14 range. He could feasibly play 60-plus games for the first time of his career, but his peripherals may be mediocre. Greiss was signed by the Islanders in July after serving as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup with the Penguins last season, but has never played more than 25 games in a season. He only would become fantasy-relevant if Halak goes down with injury, but the Islanders would be in deep trouble if their season turned in that direction.