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Biggest steals of last season with outlook for 2019-20

Zibanejad, Meier have staying power, Lehner, Rielly could lose value after offseason developments

by Jonathan Baron / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

NHL.com identifies 10 of the biggest fantasy hockey steals of the 2018-19 season based on average draft position and final rank, analyzing whether each has staying power for 2019-20. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Mock draft | Team previews | Cheat sheet

Positional rankings polls: Top center | LW | RW | Defenseman | Goalie

 

NOTES: Players are listed in order of NHL.com rank for this season. … Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (2018-19 ADP: 154.1; final rank: 104) was the biggest rookie steal but missed time because of injury and has been excluded from this list.

 

Sebastian Aho, C/LW, CAR
2018-19 ADP: 64.3; final rank: 19
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 34

The Carolina Hurricanes center had an NHL career-high 83 points (30 goals, 53 assists), becoming their first player with at least 80 points since Eric Staal in 2007-08. Aho, who frequently plays with valuable wing Teuvo Teravainen, could also see more usage with wing Andrei Svechnikov, giving Carolina's top line a higher gear. The Hurricanes also acquired forward Erik Haula (from Vegas Golden Knights on June 27), who scored 29 goals in 2017-18 and could boost the Hurricanes' top six.

Video: CAR@BOS, Gm1: Aho tips in Svechnikov's shot for PPG

 

Alex DeBrincat, LW/RW, CHI
2018-19 ADP: 122.4; final rank: 59
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 54

The Chicago Blackhawks wing had 76 points (41 goals, 35 assists) in his second NHL season on a line with center Dylan Strome, who became valuable in fantasy (51 points in 58 games) after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes. DeBrincat led the Blackhawks with 13 power-play goals on the first unit with elite forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and another fantasy steal in defenseman Erik Gustafsson (undrafted in fantasy; 60 points, 18 on power play) and has a higher ceiling over a full season with Strome.

 

Morgan Rielly, D, TOR
2018-19 ADP: 105.6; final rank: 38
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 56

The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman had an NHL career-high 72 points (20 goals, 52 assists) last season, the third most among defensemen behind Brent Burns (83) and Mark Giordano (74). Rielly brought exposure to elite forwards Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitchell Marner on the first power play and could benefit from the acquisition of Tyson Barrie if they play together at even strength and/or on the power play. That said, if Barrie usurps Rielly on the first power-play unit, the latter would lose some fantasy value.

 

Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR
2018-19 ADP: 167.5; final rank: 45
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 66

The New York Rangers center had NHL career highs in goals (30), assists (44) and points (74). Zibanejad is tied for the sixth most power-play goals over the past two seasons (25) and will be on an improved first unit with elite left wing Artemi Panarin (signed with Rangers on July 1), valuable rookie wing Kaapo Kakko (No. 2 pick in 2019 NHL Draft) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (acquired from Winnipeg Jets on June 17). Zibanejad should also get a boost in fantasy value from playing with Panarin on the top line, giving Zibanejad a realistic chance to score at least a point per game this season.

 

Timo Meier, LW/RW, SJS
2018-19 ADP: 172.1; final rank: 56
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 73

The San Jose Sharks forward had an NHL career-high 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in the regular season and had 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Meier's fantasy stock should continue to rise with exposure to valuable center Logan Couture at even strength and an elevated power-play role after forward Joe Pavelski's departure (to Dallas Stars). San Jose's power play, which ranked sixth in the NHL last season (23.6 percent), features elite defensemen Erik Karlsson, who re-signed with the Sharks, and Brent Burns.

Video: STL@SJS, Gm1: Meier tallies off defender for second

 

Dylan Larkin, C, DET
2018-19 ADP: 148.7; final rank: 53
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 89

After a disappointing second season in 2016-17 (32 points in 80 games), Larkin rejoined the fantasy landscape in 2017-18 (63 points) and then was nearly a point-per-game player last season (73 in 76 games). Larkin is expected to play with wings Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi on the Detroit Red Wings' first line, a trio that combined for 39 points over the final eight games last season. With stability over a full season, that line has enormous upside, giving Larkin a strong chance of exceeding 80 points.

 

Thomas Chabot, D, OTT
2018-19 ADP: 159.3; final rank: 168
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 101

The Ottawa Senators defenseman emerged last season after Karlsson was traded, leading them in average ice time (24:17 per game). Chabot, Ottawa's highest-scoring returning skater (55 points in 70 games), was eighth among defensemen in points per game last season (0.79; minimum 50 games) but missed time because of two injuries. He's worth taking around the top 100 overall and higher in points-only formats, even after elite forwards Matt Duchene and Mark Stone were traded last season. Ottawa has sneaky young talent around Chabot, including forwards Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Drake Batherson and defenseman Erik Brannstrom.

 

Elias Lindholm, C/RW, CGY
2018-19 ADP: 145.5; final rank: 22
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 112

The forward had NHL career highs in goals (27), assists (51) and points (78) in his first season with the Calgary Flames on their top line with elite forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Lindholm's linemates had the primary assist on 10 of his 17 even-strength goals and can help him maintain his production from last season. But there are concerns in reaching for Lindholm in fantasy; his previous high in points was 45 in 2016-17 and shooting percentage last season (14.8) was significantly higher than his previous seasons combined (8.9).

 

Robin Lehner, G, NYI ➡ CHI
2018-19 ADP: 176.9; final rank: 14
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 162

The goalie finished second in save percentage (.930) behind Ben Bishop (.934) with an NHL career-best 25 wins and six shutouts in 46 games for the New York Islanders last season under coach Barry Trotz. Lehner signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, giving him questionable fantasy value this season. The Blackhawks allowed the second most goals (291) last season ahead of only the Senators (301), still have a shaky defense, and Lehner will be in a timeshare situation with veteran Corey Crawford.

 

Josh Anderson, RW, CBJ
2018-19 ADP: N/A; final rank: 34
NHL.com rank for 2019-20: 218

The Columbus Blue Jackets right wing went undrafted on average in fantasy leagues but had NHL career highs in goals (27), assists (20) and points (47). Anderson brings rare category coverage; he was one of three forwards with at least 40 points and 200 hits last season (others: Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson). With Panarin and Duchene leaving the Blue Jackets in free agency, Anderson could now see a bigger power-play role but also shouldn't be considered until late rounds because of team fantasy concerns.

 

Other fantasy steals from last season who are highly ranked for 2019-20: Brayden Point, C, TBL (NHL.com rank: 33); Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (45); Jordan Binnington, G, STL (47); Mark Stone, RW, VGK (57); Mark Giordano, D, CGY (74)

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