NHL.com examines the fantasy hockey value of right wing Phil Kessel with the Arizona Coyotes and projects his statistics for 2019-20. It also analyzes the impact of the trade on forward Alex Galchenyuk and the Pittsburgh Penguins. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.
The Arizona Coyotes have acquired elite right wing Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins, significantly improving their top-six forward group, power play and overall team fantasy outlook.
[RELATED: Kessel traded to Coyotes | Kessel, Tocchet reunite]
Kessel was better than a point-per-game player over the past two seasons (174 points in 164 games; T-13th in NHL) with the second most power-play points (78) over the span behind Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (84). With the trade to Arizona, Kessel loses valuable exposure to elite skaters Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on the first power play; Kessel also frequently played with Malkin at even strength during his time with the Penguins.
Kessel may have a lower point ceiling than the NHL career-high 92 he scored with Pittsburgh in 2017-18, but he is the highest-caliber offensive player Arizona has had in recent memory. The Coyotes have not had a 75-point scorer since Ray Whitney in 2011-12 (77) or an 80-point scorer since Keith Tkachuk in 1996-97 (86). Kessel is a four-time 80-point producer, reaching that mark twice with the Penguins (2017-18, 2018-19) and twice with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2011-12, 2013-14).
Kessel will be the focal point of the Coyotes' first power-play unit with valuable defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forwards Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan, boosting the fantasy value of each of those skaters. Keller, who scored 65 points as a rookie in 2017-18 but regressed to 47 this season, and Schmaltz, who had 14 points in 17 games after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks but missed the final months of the season with an injury, have bounce-back appeal after the acquisition of Kessel.
Video: Penguins trade Kessel to Coyotes for Galchenyuk
The best-case scenario for Kessel would be to play with left wing Keller and center Schmaltz on a stacked top line at even strength in addition to patrolling the first power play. Kessel has familiarity with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant with the Penguins when they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.
The Kessel trade also improves the outlook for Arizona's goalies; Antti Raanta was already an injury bounce-back candidate before the Kessel trade, and Darcy Kuemper had a .925 save percentage in 55 games this season as Raanta's replacement. Whether one of the Coyotes goalies emerges as the full-time starter or they go with a timeshare tandem, they have realistic hopes for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing by four points this season.
Arizona's offense has plenty of room for improvement after the addition of Kessel; it ranked tied for 28th in goals per game (2.55) and was 26th in power-play percentage (16.3) this season. With Kessel, two strong goalie options and a penalty kill that was tied for the NHL's best (85.0 percent), the Coyotes look to end their playoff drought of seven seasons, the second longest in the NHL behind the Buffalo Sabres (eight).
FANTASY IMPACT OF TRADE ON GALCHENYUK, PENGUINS
The Penguins have acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk, who has combined for 45 PPP over the past two seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and Coyotes, in the Kessel trade. Galchenyuk, who has played center and wing in the NHL, was already a fantasy sleeper candidate and now gains value with potential exposure to Crosby and/or Malkin depending on where he fits into Pittsburgh's top six and power-play mix.
Galchenyuk, a potential 2020 unrestricted free agent, is worth targeting in late rounds of a standard fantasy draft with a chance to help fill the secondary scoring void left by Kessel. Galchenyuk, who scored NHL career-highs in goals (30) and points (56) with the Canadiens in 2015-16, could match or exceed those totals if he gets position and lineup stability with one of Pittsburgh's top centers.
Kessel's departure likely means left wing Jake Guentzel, who scored a NHL career-high 40 goals this season, will be promoted to the first power play, giving him a higher fantasy ceiling moving forward. Guentzel thrived on a line with Crosby at even strength but was not a regular member of the first power-play unit.
Guentzel still scored six power-play goals and 11 PPP this season and is now likely to score 20-25 PPP in a full-time role on one of the most potent special teams units in the NHL. Guentzel is the favorite to take Kessel's spot on the first power play with Crosby, Malkin, Letang and right wing Patric Hornqvist. Crosby, Malkin and Letang remain elite fantasy options at their positions despite Kessel's departure. Guentzel was ranked higher than Kessel before the trade and will remain in that order with a greater threshold.
That said, Kessel should exceed 70 points if the Coyotes take the next step. While Kessel may lose some appeal in fantasy drafts after going from the well-known Penguins to the up-and-coming Coyotes, he has played 774 consecutive games (third longest active streak in NHL) and remains one of the 10-15 most valuable fantasy right wings for next season.
Projection for Kessel with Coyotes in 2019-20: 82 games, 29 goals, 43 assists, 72 points, minus-9, 27 PPP, 240 SOG, 20 hits
Draft range for Kessel in 12-team fantasy league: Round 6 or 7 (picks 61-84)
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