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Fantasy stock rising after 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Pastrnak, Kuznetsov, Dubois among postseason standouts who can alter landscape next season

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

When it comes to a player's fantasy value, the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be a game-changer.

Below are 15 players that have seen their fantasy value rise or bounce back as a result of strong production and/or lineup changes in the postseason. Fantasy owners should keep these players fresh on their minds for keeper decisions and early fantasy draft preparation, especially once average draft position data becomes available this summer.

 

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NOTE: Potential unrestricted free agents have been excluded from this list. … Players are listed in order of latest NHL.com fantasy rank.

 

David Pastrnak, RW, BOS
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 21; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 10

When healthy, the Boston Bruins have the most potent line in the NHL with Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Assuming that line remains intact, each is a top 20 overall player after a strong postseason, especially in the seven games against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pastrnak had 13 points in the first round (tied for NHL lead), including six points in Game 2. He finished with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists), six power-play points, and 44 shots on goal in 12 playoff games. Fantasy owners likely already viewed Pastrnak highly after he finished among Yahoo's top 25 in each of the past two seasons, but this playoff proves the 22-year-old deserves first-round consideration next season.

 

Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 39; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 20

The Winnipeg Jets defenseman has been consistently ranked among the preseason top 25-30 overall players in recent years because of exceptional category coverage of goals, points, power-play points, penalty minutes and hits. But his performance on a per-game basis in the regular season and dominance in the postseason (16 points in 17 games) have him moving up to 20th overall and first at his position in the post-playoff top 250. There were plenty of upper-echelon fantasy defensemen that underachieved this season (e.g. Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, Duncan Keith), but Byfuglien finished fourth at the position despite missing 13 games because of injuries with the lowest shooting percentage of his NHL career (4.1). With even-strength and power-play exposure to high-ranked forwards Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele for an elite team over a full season, Byfuglien is the safest bet among defensemen to finish in line with a high ADP.

 

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WSH
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 30; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 21

The Washington Capitals center had 83 points (27 goals, 56 assists) and 30 PPP in 79 regular-season games, but still managed to find a higher gear in the postseason. He led all players with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 24 playoff games and was plus-12 with 12 PPP and 89 SOG on the top line with elite left wing Alex Ovechkin. Kuznetsov should see his fantasy value skyrocket after a breakout postseason highlighted by seven points (one goal, six assists) over the final three Stanley Cup Final games against the Vegas Golden Knights. Kuznetsov has cemented a long-term role centering Ovechkin, who led the NHL in goals this regular season (49) and postseason (15), so the 26-year-old is worth reaching for in the late second round (especially if you draft Ovechkin in the first). Kuznetsov and veteran Nicklas Backstrom split time centering Ovechkin in the regular season, so it's not outlandish to expect 95-100 points from the former if he sticks with Ovechkin full-time next season.

 

Mark Scheifele, C, WPG
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 121; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 25

Scheifele missed 22 games because of upper-body injuries in the regular season, but produced a point per game (60 points in 60 games). The Jets were the most-valuable team to own players from in fantasy this season, but Scheifele's year-end rank was low because of the time missed. However, Scheifele, who had 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 79 games two seasons ago, has reminded fantasy owners he should be considered among the top 10 centers next season by scoring 20 points (14 goals, six assists) with a plus-6, five PPP and 45 SOG (31.1 percent shooting) in 17 playoff games. On a line with Wheeler and Kyle Connor and the first power-play unit with Laine for the years to come, Scheifele should be available in the second or third round of drafts next season and challenge for the NHL scoring title if healthy.

 

Braden Holtby, G, WSH
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 342; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 34

It seems like ages ago that goaltender Philipp Grubauer started Games 1 and 2 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that's because Holtby barely flinched after regaining the starting job. After the worst fantasy peripherals of his NHL career (2.99 goals-against average, .907 save percentage, no shutouts in 54 games), Holtby went 16-6 with a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 playoff starts, including 10-3 on the road, to lead the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title. This elite play is in line with Holtby's prior fantasy seasons, so his resurgence puts him back in the top-five fantasy goalie realm for next season. The Capitals have an interesting backup goalie dilemma with Grubauer a potential restricted free agent and top prospect Ilya Samsonov signing an entry-level contract May 4, but it's refreshing for fantasy owners to know Holtby, 28, is still in his prime and will remain the starter for the foreseeable future after his best postseason yet.

 

Mitchell Marner, C/RW, TOR
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 71; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 42

The Maple Leafs forward went through some growing pains in the first half of the regular season, even spending time in the bottom six. But Marner scored 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 53 games from Dec. 9 to the end of the regular season, and had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven playoff games. Forwards James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak could become UFAs, but that shouldn't affect Marner's fantasy stock next season. He thrived alongside Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau in the second half and postseason, produced on a line with Tomas Plekanec during Kadri's three-game playoff suspension and could even see time with elite center Auston Matthews. Marner is a candidate to score a point per game next season, so he's worth reaching for inside the top 50 and much higher in keeper / dynasty leagues.

 

Brayden Point, C/RW, TBL
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 74; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 82

After a breakout regular season (66 points in 82 games) playing on a separate line from elite right wing Nikita Kucherov, the 22-year-old had 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in his first 17 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. He was a huge reason the Lightning made quick work of the Bruins in the second round, winning in five games. Seven of Point's points came against Boston, and it's significant that he had three even-strength goals when Boston's entire forward group combined for five in the series. Ranked 252nd in Yahoo two seasons ago, Point jumped into the top 75 this season and should be a fringe top 50 player in most drafts after this impressive postseason.

 

Ryan Johansen, C, NSH
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 89; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 95

Since his 71-point, 202-SOG season for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014-15, Johansen's points-per-game average and shot total have dipped in each of the past three regular seasons. His power-play production also declined this regular season (15 PPP; 23 last season), but he excelled in those situations this postseason with six PPP and 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 13 games overall. He should be available in a similar range to his ADP last season (100.1), and his linemates Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson have showed enough consistency to be trusted in fantasy moving forward. Even if the Nashville Predators incorporate forward prospect Eeli Tolvanen into their top six, exposure to another high-end wing could make Johansen, 25, even more appealing, especially in leagues that count faceoff wins and hits.

 

Pierre-Luc Dubois, C/LW, and Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ
2017-18 Yahoo ranks: Atkinson: 115; Dubois: 118; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: Atkinson: 81; Dubois: 121

The Blue Jackets had an up-and-down season with a ton of line changes, but they appear to have found a combination with staying power in 19-year-old Dubois centering Artemi Panarin and Atkinson. These three forwards combined for 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in Columbus' six-game loss to the Capitals in the first round. Drafting Panarin (24th in Yahoo) early and then snagging either Dubois or Atkinson in the fringe top-100 range could be a worthwhile strategy next season. Atkinson is a proven goal-scorer with a consistent shot volume who finished 37th in Yahoo two seasons ago and second in scoring (11 points in 10 games) for the United States in the 2018 World Championship behind Patrick Kane (20 points).

 

Reilly Smith, LW/RW, VGK
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 82; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 115

The Golden Knights wing led the expansion team in scoring during the Cup Final (six points in five games) and in assists (17), points (22) and power-play points (seven) over the entire postseason. He should remain on the top line with center William Karlsson (potential RFA) and left wing Jonathan Marchessault next season, and it's encouraging that Smith kept the production going even when his linemates went cold against the Capitals. He's a fringe top 100 overall player who could slip in drafts, so don't forget about his unheralded playoff performance come draft day.

 

Jake Guentzel, C/LW, PIT
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 176; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 120

The breakout star of the 2017 playoffs took a step back this regular season playing mostly away from Sidney Crosby, but Guentzel returned to that prime spot this postseason and responded with an even better performance. He matched his 2017 playoff point total (21 in 25 games) in 13 fewer games and leads the NHL in goals per game (0.62; minimum 20 games) over the past two postseasons. His regular-season rank was underwhelming because of Pittsburgh's even-strength struggles, but don't underestimate his upside if he can lock down a spot on Crosby's line or translate his power-play production (12 PPP in regular season) to the first unit.

 

Tom Wilson, LW/RW, WSH
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 66; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 133

It's fair to call Wilson a product of playing on a line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, but Wilson has solidified himself as a fantasy-relevant right wing for years to come. Even after an NHL career-best regular season, Wilson provided a glimpse of his offensive ceiling with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and a plus-11 in 21 playoff games. The 24-year-old power forward could be underestimated in drafts and is worth reaching for anytime outside the top 100 in leagues that count hits and/or penalty minutes. Time will tell if his fantasy ceiling can reach the heights of elite category cogs of the past decade like Corey Perry and Wayne Simmonds, but consistent top-line placement, further offensive growth and greater discipline could help Wilson deliver value along the lines of Scott Hartnell, David Backes or Milan Lucic during their primes.

 

Tomas Hertl, C/LW/RW, SJS
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 162; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 135

The San Jose Sharks took major strides this postseason after acquiring Kane at the NHL Trade Deadline, and their first-round sweep of the Anaheim Ducks without injured center Joe Thornton was a testament to their much-improved secondary scoring. Hertl played on the second line with Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker and first power-play unit with Couture, Joe Pavelski and defenseman Brent Burns, totaling nine points (six goals, three assists), three PPP and 34 SOG in 10 games. The Sharks have some big decisions this offseason with Hertl potentially becoming an RFA and Thornton set to hit the UFA market, but Hertl has risen above his recent injury history and is clearly fantasy-relevant again.

 

Alex Tuch, RW, VGK
2017-18 Yahoo rank: 223; NHL.com rank for 2018-19: 177

Tuch was an unheralded depth scorer on Vegas' road to the Cup Final, scoring 10 points (six goals, four assists) with five power-play points and 44 SOG in 20 playoff games. He played most of the postseason on the second line with wing James Neal and center Erik Haula and first power-play unit with Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith and defenseman Shea Theodore. Tuch averaged three SOG per game in the Cup Final (15 SOG in five games, tied for second on Golden Knights) and should stick in Vegas' top six next season with Neal and wing David Perron set to hit the UFA market.

 

Other postseason standouts worth monitoring in fantasy: Timo Meier, LW/RW, SJS (2017-18 Yahoo rank: 173); Jake DeBrusk, LW, BOS (213); Nikita Zadorov, D, COL (271); Nolan Patrick, C, PHI (325); Cory Schneider, G, NJD (341; offseason hip surgery; could miss training camp); Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, WSH (404); Connor Brown, RW, TOR (415)

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