NHL.com identifies the most valuable fantasy players at each position and biggest surprises at the midway point of the 2018-19 season (statistics entering Jan. 4, 2019). For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.
MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: News tracker | Top 25 lines | Team power ranks
NOTE: These selections are based solely on fantasy performance to date and take into account daily fantasy production and season-long standing.
Nathan MacKinnon, COL (22.1 FanDuel points per game)
The best duo in the NHL at the halfway mark is MacKinnon and right wing Mikko Rantanen; they have at least a point on 48 team goals, by far the most in the League. MacKinnon and Rantanen each rank among the top five in NHL scoring and have made left wing Gabriel Landeskog a huge steal based on preseason fantasy rank. MacKinnon leads the NHL in shots on goal (186) through 41 games and is producing points at an even higher rate (1.46) than his breakout season of 2017-18 (1.31).
Video: COL@TBL: MacKinnon goes five-hole on Domingue
Biggest center surprise
Elias Pettersson , VAN (15.8 FanDuel points per game)
The Vancouver Canucks rookie is the clear Calder Trophy favorite at the midway point of the season. Despite missing time early on with a concussion, Pettersson is one of 15 players with at least 20 goals and 20 assists at the midseason mark. Pettersson, who has played frequently with valuable right wing Brock Boeser when each has been healthy, is on pace to have the highest points-per-game average (1.11) among rookies since Alex Ovechkin (1.31) and Sidney Crosby (1.26) in 2005-06.
Left wing MVP
Johnny Gaudreau, CGY (19.5 FanDuel points per game)
The Calgary Flames left wing has 15 more points (61) than Ovechkin (46) and was attainable two rounds later on average in preseason drafts. Gaudreau and linemates Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm are each better than a point per game, and Gaudreau leads all left wings and ranks fifth overall in points per game (1.45). The Flames are leading the Pacific Division at the midway point, and Gaudreau is having his best season yet under new coach Bill Peters.
Biggest LW surprise
Jeff Skinner, BUF (16.3 FanDuel points per game)
Acquired by the Buffalo Sabres on Aug. 2, Skinner ranks second in goals (28) behind Ovechkin (30) at the midway point. Skinner has formed one of the most productive lines in the NHL with center Jack Eichel and right wing Sam Reinhart and scored a point per game through 41 games. Skinner's plus-17 is on track to be the best performance in the category by a Sabres skater since 2006-07, and his bounce-back season has Buffalo in Stanley Cup Playoff contention.
Video: FLA@BUF: Skinner wires shot past Luongo while falling
Right wing MVP
Nikita Kucherov, TBL (20.8 FanDuel points per game)
The Tampa Bay Lightning forward has been arguably the most valuable fantasy player despite being playing away from elite center Steven Stamkos for much of the first half. Kucherov leads the NHL in points (69), assists (49), power-play points (26) and multipoint games (21) through 41 games and has made his even-strength unit with center Brayden Point and wing Tyler Johnson one of the League's most potent.
Biggest RW surprise
Elias Lindholm, CGY (15.8 FanDuel points per game)
The Flames right wing has been among the 10 most valuable fantasy players in season-long leagues at the midway point after being drafted on average outside the top 150 overall. Lindholm, whose previous NHL career in points was 45 in 72 games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016-17, has already surpassed that total with 48 points in 42 games with his new team on a line with Gaudreau and Monahan. Lindholm is also on pace for his best plus/minus (plus-25; leads all NHL forwards) and has tied his previous high in PPP (16).
Morgan Rielly, TOR (16.8 FanDuel points per game)
He is tied for the defenseman scoring lead (44 points) with Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks despite playing two fewer games as of Jan. 4. Rielly also has a much better plus/minus (plus-24; 4th in NHL) and more goals (13) than Burns (plus-4; seven goals) and was drafted outside the top 100 in most fantasy leagues. Rielly has benefited from exposure to elite forwards Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitchell Marner on the Toronto Maple Leafs' first power play and is among the top 10 defensemen in PPP (14; T-8th).
Video: NYR@TOR: Rielly beats Georgiev with sweet wrister
Biggest D-man surprise
Thomas Chabot , OTT (16.3 FanDuel points per game)
The Ottawa Senators defenseman has been one of the biggest fantasy surprises with 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in 38 games at the midway point after low expectations surrounded his team following the trade of elite defenseman Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks. Chabot has provided Ottawa's top forwards Mark Stone and Matt Duchene with scoring support in all situations and shattered his rookie point total (25 points in 63 games) from last season.
Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK (19.2 FanDuel points per game)
Despite a slow start for Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights, he leads the NHL in wins (23) and shutouts (six). He's had the heaviest workload of any goalie in terms of games and starts (37) and went 15-2-3 with a .919 save percentage and three shutouts in the 20 games leading up to the midway point. Fleury has navigated Vegas' ups and downs, including multiple top-six forward injuries and the 20-game suspension of top defenseman Nate Schmidt, and is on pace to challenge for Martin Brodeur's single-season wins record (48 in 2006-07).
Biggest goalie surprise
Robin Lehner, NYI (19.6 FanDuel points per game)
The New York Islanders goalie leads the NHL (minimum 15 games) with a 2.13 goals-against average and .929 save percentage through his first 20 games. New coach Barry Trotz has had a profound impact on the goalie tandem of Lehner and Thomas Greiss; New York is tied with the Anaheim Ducks for first in team save percentage (.917) at the midway point after allowing the most goals in the NHL last season (293).
Video: NYI@STL: Lehner makes lunging stop on Tarasenko
Subscribe now to NHL Fantasy on Ice, a twice-per-week fantasy hockey podcast with Pete Jensen and Rob Reese.