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Fantasy hits league draft guide for 2016-17

50 players who can help in increasingly popular category

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

The fantasy hits just keep on coming. The percentage of leagues counting this statistic continues to rise with each passing season.

According to Yahoo, 43 percent of private customizable leagues and 39 percent of all leagues count hits. In addition to pre-ranking players using NHL.com's top 200, hits league owners should gear their rankings and draft queue toward players with added value in this category structure.

DRAFT GUIDES: STANDARD | KEEPER | POINTS-ONLY | AUCTION

Here are 50 players (34 forwards, 16 defensemen) who should be prioritized in hits leagues. The players on this list should be specifically targeted based on reliability in the category in addition to their offensive track record and/or potential. They are listed in order of value in a hits league, which may differ from their standard-league NHL.com rank.

Alex Ovechkin, LW, WSH - Ovechkin is the MVP in hits leagues; he has led the NHL in goals and shots on goal each of past four seasons with the second-most power-play points and 10th-most hits in the span.

Jamie Benn, LW, DAL - Benn is the clear No. 2 overall pick in a hits league; he's one of two players (Patrick Kane) who had 40 goals and 40 assists last season, and he had plenty more hits (156) than Kane (37).

Video: BOS@DAL: Benn sends Hayes to the ice with body check

Brent Burns, D, SJS - No defenseman covers goals, points, PPP and SOG quite like Burns. He also has three straight seasons of at least 100 hits, giving him a slight edge over Karlsson for the best at the position in this format.

P.K. Subban, D, NSH - Subban was limited to 68 games because of injury but still had 51 points and 102 hits. He's in a more favorable offensive and power-play spot with the Predators than he was with the Canadiens. Consider him a top 10 pick in any format, but he may be available later than that.

Kris Letang, D, PIT - Letang has two straight seasons of at least 130 hits, and had an NHL career-high 67 points in 71 games last season. He remains an injury risk but covers every fantasy category at a high level.

Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG - Byfuglien ranked fifth in goals (19), sixth in hits (222) and third in SOG (247) among D-men last season. He's well worth a second-round pick in a hits league. Defense is easily the strongest position at the top of a hits league draft.

Corey Perry, RW, ANA - Perry is one of five forwards among NHL.com's top 20 who had more than 100 hits last season, when he had an NHL career high of 104. Count on this physical wing for strong goal, point and SOG totals every time around.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, ARI - Ekman-Larsson should be taken in the 20-25 range of a hits format; he was one of three D-men with at least 19 goals (21) and 150 hits (154) last season. The scary part is he may have an even higher ceiling with the Coyotes improving.

Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG - Wheeler had a low hits total (92 in 82 games) by his standards in 2015-16 but has three seasons of at least 110 hits and was one of three players with 75 points (78) and 250 SOG (256). A line of Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine could be lethal.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, PHI - Simmonds is in a great spot on the first line and top power-play unit with Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere. He was one of two players (Ovechkin) with at least 30 goals, 60 points, 20 PPP, 220 SOG and 190 hits last season.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm4: Simmonds knocks down Niskanen

Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA - Getzlaf has had at least 100 hits in each of the six full seasons that the category has been officially tracked. He's a glaring bargain if available outside the top 30 in a hits league draft.

Drew Doughty, D, LAK - Doughty has seven straight seasons of at least 100 hits and had 50 points (51) for the first time since 2009-10 last season. With no category weaknesses, he's worth taking in third round of a hits draft.

Filip Forsberg, LW, NSH - Forsberg has had more than 60 points, 230 SOG and 100 hits in each of his two full NHL seasons. He turned 22 on Aug. 13 and is a gold mine in keeper leagues that count hits.

Milan Lucic, LW, EDM - Lucic has the third-most hits (743) League-wide over the past three seasons. He should open up space for Connor McDavid and return to 60 points in the process.

Brayden Schenn, C/LW, PHI - Schenn was one of four players (Ovechkin, Simmonds, Boone Jenner) with at least 25 goals, two SOG and two hits per game, and he plays on the same power-play unit that makes Simmonds so dangerous.

Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL - Landeskog deserves to be among the top 10 LW in a hits league; he has at least 140 in each of past three seasons and is a lock for at least 20 goals, 50 points and 10 PPP.

Shea Weber, D, MTL - Weber's value in standard leagues could take a hit upon joining the Canadiens, but he should be just fine in those that count hits and/or blocked shots; he was the only D-man with at least 20 goals, 160 hits (169) and 160 blocks last season.

Andrew Ladd, LW, NYI - Playing alongside top-tier center John Tavares could help Ladd return to elite fantasy form; he had 62 points, a plus-9 rating, 212 hits, 19 PPP and 224 SOG with the Jets in 2014-15.

Video: CHI@STL, Gm2: Ladd puts a body check on Shattenkirk

Rasmus Ristolainen, D, BUF - Ristolainen, a restricted free agent, has had 118 and 139 hits in his first two full NHL seasons. He has a chance to expand on his point total on the Sabres' first power-play unit with Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo.

Boone Jenner, C/LW, CBJ - Jenner's value skyrockets in a hits league; he was one of two players (Ovechkin) with at least 30 goals and 200 hits last season.

Justin Faulk, D, CAR - Injury bounce-back candidate had 109 hits in 64 games in 2015-16 and 157 in 82 two seasons ago. Carolina's possession-based system and new additions could stabilize his suspect plus/minus.

Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT - Hornqvist should flank Sidney Crosby for much of the season and was one of three players (Ovechkin, Evander Kane) with at least 150 hits and 250 SOG last season.

Ryan Kesler, C, ANA - Kesler was one of six players with at least 50 points and 168 hits last season. The Ducks' depth of physical centers makes them a tough team to contain in the regular season.

Brent Seabrook, D, CHI - Seabrook had an NHL career-high 49 points last season, plays on Chicago's first power-play unit (25 PPP) and has had at least 100 hits in each of the seven seasons since it became an official category.

Jake Muzzin, D, LAK - Muzzin had NHL career highs in hits (197), blocks (135), assists (32) and SOG (203) last season, and was on the first power-play unit (13 PPP) with Doughty. Draft him in the 16-20 range among D-men in a hits league.

Video: ANA@LAK: Muzzin drives Garbutt into the boards

Leo Komarov, C/RW, TOR - Komarov ranked first in hits per game (4.2) last season among forwards with more than 10 goals and could play alongside Auston Matthews among the Maple Leafs' top six.

Mika Zibanejad, C/RW, NYR - Zibanejad brings skill and physicality to the Rangers; he has had more than 110 hits in each of past three seasons. He could be in line for 60 points if he takes Derick Brassard's spot on the first line and top power-play unit in New York.

David Backes, RW, BOS - Backes should either center the Bruins' third line and get first-unit power-play minutes or line up on the right side of Patrice Bergeron at even strength. He has at least 45 points and 200 hits in each of past six full NHL seasons.

Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ - Hartnell has six straight full NHL seasons of at least 100 hits and had 49 points last season despite the Blue Jackets' struggles. He's attainable in late rounds and will boost your hits total.

Ondrej Palat, LW, TBL - Palat should play with either Tyler Johnson or Steven Stamkos, setting up a bounce-back season. You can bank on Palat providing a stellar plus/minus and at least 100 hits.

Video: BOS@TBL: Palat times a big check on Hayes

Chris Kreider, LW, NYR - Kreider has skated with Zibanejad early on this preseason and could score 50 points for the first time in his NHL career. His hits total continues to improve (146 in 2013-14, 162 in 2014-15, 177 in 2015-16).

Alec Martinez, D, LAK - Martinez was one of two players (Weber) with at least 10 goals, 150 hits and 150 blocked shots last season. He also is a combined plus-42 over the past three seasons.

Zdeno Chara, D, BOS - The veteran still touches on all categories, including hits (134 last season). You could do much worse than having him as your fourth D-man in a hits league.

Evander Kane, LW, BUF - Off-ice issues and injuries remain a concern, but he's still one of two players (Ovechkin) to average 3.9 SOG and 2.8 hits per game over the past four seasons.

Shane Doan, RW, ARI - Doan always is good for more than 110 hits with strong coverage of goals, points, PPP and SOG -- even on the third line in the late stages of his NHL career.

Brandon Dubinsky, C, CBJ - Dubinsky is one of seven players with at least 600 hits and 45 goals over the past three seasons. He is the Blue Jackets' No. 1 center when healthy.

Troy Brouwer, RW, CGY - Brouwer is a candidate for a first-line role next to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan or a second-line spot alongside Sam Bennett. He has 200 or more hits in each of the past five full NHL seasons.

Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT - Kunitz was tied for second in the NHL in hits per game (3.3; minimum 80 games) behind Matt Martin. The veteran still is among the Penguins' top nine and could play alongside Evgeni Malkin.

Video: PIT@FLA: Kunitz sends Kulikov into the boards

Johnny Boychuk, D, NYI - Boychuk wore down in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs but always has had a strong plus/minus and decent category coverage in the regular season; he's had at least 140 hits and blocks in each of the past three seasons.

Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, DET - This perennial 100-hit producer took the next step last season with an NHL career-best 207. He's good for 40 points with 10-15 on the power play and is dual eligible in Yahoo.

Anders Lee, LW, NYI - Lee could be a late-round steal if his low shooting percentage (8.2) evens out; he plays on the Islanders' first power-play unit and had at least 164 hits in each of his first two NHL seasons.

David Perron, LW/RW, STL - Perron likely will be second on the Blues' RW depth chart behind Vladimir Tarasenko. He had 105 hits in 43 games with the Penguins and 37 in 28 games on Getzlaf's wing with the Ducks last season.

Dion Phaneuf, D, OTT - Phaneuf's offensive numbers, especially on the power play, took a dive with Ottawa last season, but he still averaged 2.4 hits per game after the trade from the Maple Leafs and is a two-time 200-hit producer.

Nazem Kadri, C, TOR - Kadri had a high SOG volume (260), a respectable points total (45) and nearly 150 hits (148) last season. Better shooting fortunes (6.5 percent) and an improved supporting cast could lead to an even better season.

Jordan Staal, C/LW, CAR - Staal was one of 12 players with at least 20 goals, 150 SOG and 160 hits. He should have high-upside linemates at even strength as the first- or second-line center for the up-and-coming Hurricanes.

Dustin Brown, LW/RW, LAK - Brown was one of four players with at least 200 SOG (218) and hits (234) last season. He has a chance to return to the Kings' top six after Lucic's departure and Marian Gaborik's injury; long overdue for a shooting percentage correction (5.0).

Video: WSH@LAK: Brown plants Chorney in open ice

Charlie Coyle, C/RW, MIN -  Coyle has a chance to be the top-line right wing alongside Zach Parise and newcomer Eric Staal. He has more than 130 hits in each of past two seasons and is fresh off his first 20-goal (21), 20-assist (21) season.

Nick Foligno, LW, CBJ - Foligno was a fantasy bust last season in standard leagues but carries hits value (555 over the past three seasons; T-22nd among forwards). He did have a low shooting rate (8.1 percent) last season, so there's a chance he can rebound offensively if he returns to Columbus' top six.

Matt Beleskey, LW, BOS - Beleskey was one of seven players with at least 400 hits and 30 goals over the past two seasons. He'll play top-nine minutes for the Bruins and get at least second-unit power-play minutes.

Nick Holden, D, NYR - Holden was seventh among D-men in hits per game (2.6; minimum 55 games) last season with the Avalanche. He scored 10 goals in 54 games in 2013-14 and could be featured offensively by the Rangers, who lost Keith Yandle this offseason.

Additional hits specialists: Matt Martin (LW, TOR), Radko Gudas (D, PHI), Tom Wilson (RW, WSH), Cal Clutterbuck (RW, NYI), Cody McLeod (LW, COL)

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