The All-Star break is a great time to recognize the most valuable fantasy player from each NHL team. Some were expected to be there; others have been surprises.
Since standard Yahoo leagues count six categories for skaters (goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal) and four for goalies (wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts), the most accurate way to evaluate fantasy production over a particular time frame is to use Yahoo's performance-based rankings.
Unlike NHL.com's fantasy rankings, Yahoo's do not have future production in mind. These ranks evaluate how each player's statistical coverage stacks up to his peers, and can be used to identify the most valuable players for each team based on fantasy production to this point in the season. Each player is listed with his position(s) of eligibility and overall rank entering the break.
Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron (C, Yahoo rank: 7th)
Bergeron has sustained his hot start, continues to produce almost a point per game (44 in 49 games) and fuels the Bruins' power play (20 PPP, T-3rd in NHL). He also ranks 11th in SOG and is largely responsible for Brad Marchand’s offensive production (26th).
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O'Reilly (C/LW/RW, 96th)
The Sabres are near the bottom of the League standings, but O'Reilly has been a leader and top-100 fantasy player for Buffalo, which has not had a player reach 50 points in the past two seasons. O'Reilly is on pace for 64 points and has already equaled his goal total from 2014-15 (17) in 32 fewer games.
Detroit Red Wings: Petr Mrazek (G, 21st)
Mrazek, one of my preseason sleepers, has usurped Jimmy Howard as Detroit’s starter and has the second-best even-strength save percentage (.942) among goalies with 30 or more games. He has won 18 of 33 games with three shutouts, is tied for second in SV% (.932) and is third in goals-against average (2.03).
Florida Panthers: Roberto Luongo (G, 16th)
The Panthers are leading the Atlantic Division, and their 36-year-old goalie (oldest in NHL) is having a throwback fantasy season. He's tied for sixth or better in wins (22), GAA (2.08), SV% (.930) and shutouts (4), and has taken Florida to new heights despite its power play being fourth-worst in the NHL (16.2). Luongo was drafted on average with the 65th pick in Yahoo and is closing in on the top 15.
Montreal Canadiens: P.K. Subban (D, 18th)
Montreal, the best team in the NHL at Thanksgiving, has fallen apart without Carey Price. Still, Subban has held up his end of the fantasy bargain, ranking third in assists, fourth in points, tied for second in power-play points, tied for seventh in SOG and tied for 12th in PIMs among defensemen. He's the third-best fantasy D-man because of his coverage, and has a higher ceiling if he sees positive shooting regression (3.0 percent; four goals).
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson (D, 10th)
Seven players are averaging better than a point per game so far this season; the only defenseman in that group is Karlsson, who has 52 points in 50 games. He's on pace for 85 in 82, which would be the first season of 80 or more points from a defenseman since Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom had 80 in 2005-06.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nikita Kucherov (RW, 31st)
Ben Bishop (33rd) was not far behind, but Kucherov has nearly replicated his fantasy performance from 2014-15 (21st) despite it being an injury-plagued, underachieving season for Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Kucherov is on pace for nearly 70 points and tied for second in the League since Dec. 5 (28 in 23 games).
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri (C, 75th)
It's a rebuilding season for the Maple Leafs, but Kadri has become fantasy-relevant. He is eighth in the League with 176 SOG and has eight goals in his past 25 games after starting the season with two in his first 23. Kadri has chipped in 41 PIMs and 101 hits, and doesn't hurt you in any fantasy category. His ownership (34 percent) is the lowest of anyone on this list.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (C/RW, 1st)
Kane is having an offensive season for the ages, leading the NHL in goals (30, tied for career-high), assists (43), points (73) and power-play points (25) while ranking fourth in plus/minus (plus-22) and tied for fourth in SOG (190). He has a 15-point lead in the NHL scoring race and is on pace for 112 points, which hasn't been done since Henrik Sedin in 2009-10.
Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon (C/RW, 23rd)
MacKinnon is arguably the fantasy bounce-back player of the 2015-16 season, already eclipsing his goal and point totals from 2014-15 (14 goals, 38 points in 64 games) with 18 goals and 41 points in 52 games. MacKinnon, 20, has more than doubled his PPP output (15) compared to last season (seven), and is largely responsible for linemate Matt Duchene's return to elite standing.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn (LW, 2nd)
Benn's point production has improved with each passing full season since he entered the League in 2009-10, and he’s already closing in on a 30-goal (28), 30-assist (30) season with 32 games left to play. He and Tyler Seguin are tied for the second-best point pair in the NHL (35 team goals with each getting a point), and Benn is the only player with more than 30 points, 40 PIMs and 150 SOG.
Minnesota Wild: Devan Dubnyk (G, 62nd)
Dubnyk has proved his 2014-15 season was no fluke, ranking ninth in GAA and SV% among goalies with 30 or more games played. The Wild's offense has gone cold of late, hurting his wins total; he's in the midst of an 0-4-1 stretch with two or fewer goals allowed in four of those games.
Nashville Predators: James Neal (LW/RW, 22nd)
Neal has been more valuable than any of his teammates from a fantasy standpoint. He's on pace for 48 points, 96 PIMs, a plus-24 rating and 259 SOG, making him the closest thing to Benn's elite coverage. He's playing alongside recently acquired Ryan Johansen and has six points in his past seven games with 21 SOG in that span.
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko (RW, 12th)
Tarasenko, the second-best goal-scoring right wing behind Kane, is tied for fourth in the League with 25 goals and seventh with 184 SOG. He also has 15 PPP and is on pace for 40 goals despite little line stability; he’s been splitting time on lines centered by Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera.
Winnipeg Jets: Blake Wheeler (RW, 27th)
Slightly topping dual-eligible Dustin Byfuglien (RW/D, 28th), Wheeler is one of the most underrated players on a year-to-year basis. He’s tied for third in games with at least one point (34), behind only Kane (44) and Benn (35). He averages 2.9 SOG per game and has the third-most assists (35) in the League.
Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Faulk (D, 65th)
The Hurricanes have 26 power-play goals; 12 were scored by Faulk (T-2nd in NHL). The 23-year-old is second in SOG (154) and tied for seventh in scoring (33 points) among defensemen, and leads Carolina in each category. He's the ninth-best fantasy defenseman and the Hurricanes’ only top-100 player.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Scott Hartnell (LW, 38th)
Hartnell ranks seventh in PIMs (85) and is one of two forwards (Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers is the other) with nine or more PPP to go along with 90-plus SOG and 60-plus PIMs. He's one of the most self-sustainable fantasy players in the game, covering five of the six standard categories through Columbus’ ups, downs and frequent line changes.
New Jersey Devils: Cory Schneider (G, 14th)
Schneider is tied for sixth or better in wins (22), GAA (2.03), SV% (.929) and shutouts (4), and is tied for second in the League in road SV% (.939; minimum 15 road games) despite playing more road games (22) than any other goalie. He's the foundation of the Devils' surprising season.
New York Islanders: Kyle Okposo (RW, 83rd)
Shocked to see Okposo with a better fantasy standing than John Tavares (86th)? Okposo has been inconsistent in his contract year but has had his moments. He has eight multipoint games, including four three-point performances, mostly alongside Frans Nielsen on New York's second line. All in all, Okposo gets it done on the power play (12 PPP) and covers five standard categories; his one weakness is plus/minus (minus-8).
New York Rangers: Derick Brassard (C, 63rd)
Brassard edged Rick Nash (64th) for the Rangers' top fantasy honor. His 36 points in 48 games lead New York. His 106 SOG are second among Rangers behind Nash (149), but he has five more goals, five more PPP and a slightly better plus/minus. Henrik Lundqvist has 23 wins (T-4th in NHL) but is facing more SOG per game than he did last season, impacting his goals-against average (2.41 in 2015-16; 2.27 career).
Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux (C/RW, 34th)
It's been an up-and-down season for Giroux, but he still has the most points in the NHL since 2010-11 (415 in 417 games) and is heating up in January with 10 points in his past nine games. He's spent much of the past month alongside Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds on the Flyers' top line, and his power-play production (16 PPP, T-16th) alongside the same running mates has not disappointed.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin (C/RW, 8th)
Sidney Crosby (32nd) has turned his season around under new coach Mike Sullivan, but he's still looking up to Malkin in terms of fantasy value. Malkin's elite point (47 in 48 games) and PPP (21, 2nd in NHL) production together with PIMs (55) and SOG (137) coverage have him in rare fantasy air. Malkin has posted these numbers despite linemate Phil Kessel's disappointing season (31 points).
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin (LW/RW, 3rd)
Ovechkin has 29 more SOG than any other player in the League. His power-play production (14 PPP) is low by his standards, but he's plus-20 (5th in NHL) and is two goals behind Kane for the League lead in seven fewer games. He has missed one game through the break, so he could reach 50 goals for the third straight season. The Capitals are the only team with four players in Yahoo's fantasy top 20 at the break (Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov 11th, Braden Holtby 17th, Nicklas Backstrom 19th).
Anaheim Ducks: John Gibson (G, 44th)
Gibson (69 percent owned) was not recalled by the Ducks until Nov. 24 but was worth the fantasy wait. He has 11 wins and four shutouts (T-3rd in NHL) through 21 games, and has the best GAA (1.91) among goalies with five or more games played. That efficiency has made up for his lesser workload, earning him a spot among the fantasy top 50.
Arizona Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D, 30th)
Ekman-Larsson is either leading or tied for the lead among Arizona skaters in points (34), PPP (16) and SOG (149), and is also tied for second among NHL defensemen in goals (14). He has exceeded his PIMs total from last season (40) with 48 in 49 games, and is the fifth-best fantasy defenseman behind Karlsson, Brent Burns, Subban and Byfuglien because of coverage.
Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau (LW, 36th)
Gaudreau, third among left wings in points (47), should soon surpass his rookie goal total (24 in 80 games); he has 20 goals through 48 games. The 22-year-old has taken the next step as a fantasy asset despite his linemates’ struggles and linemate Jiri Hudler's injuries, as evidenced by his place among the top 40 assets.
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall (C/LW, 15th)
Hall has regained elite form after an injury-ravaged 2014-15 season. Even with all the Oilers' injuries around him this season (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle), Hall has found chemistry with Leon Draisaitl and is among the League's top 10 with 48 points in 50 games. He's also fourth in SOG (190) and carries a five-game point streak into the break.
Los Angeles Kings: Tyler Toffoli (C/LW/RW, 39th)
How is Toffoli ahead of Anze Kopitar (47th) and Jeff Carter (70th)? He was linemates with each player during his respective hot streak. Toffoli is having a breakout season given his low average draft position (124.5). He’s tied for the best plus/minus in the NHL (plus-24) and is tied for ninth in goals (22). The 23-year-old has made strides with the man-advantage, scoring seven power-play goals in 49 games after getting five in 148 career regular-season games entering 2015-16.
San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski(C/LW/RW, 6th)
Pavelski is statistically one of the top 10 players in the NHL. He's tied for fourth in goals (25), fifth in points (49), seventh in plus/minus (plus-18) and third in PPP (20). His production has gotten even stronger during linemate Joe Thornton's recent hot stretch (points in 18 of 19 games). Among players with 200 or more games since 2013-14, Pavelski is second in goals (103) and has the best shooting percentage (16.7).
Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin (LW, 9th)
Daniel is one of four players in the League with at least 20 goals, a plus-15 rating and 150 SOG; the others are Kane, Ovechkin and Benn. He's been an elite player for a decade and is not slowing down, even with twin brother Henrik Sedin missing the past four games with injury (two goals, one assist, plus-3, 12 SOG in that span).