Early on in the ’14-’15 NHL season, fantasy owners are frantically searching their free agents pools, looking for that diamond in the rough. Whether it be a young goalie off to a strong start or a forward who has seen a jump to a more prominent role. What fake gamers shouldn’t forget is those defensemen! Not just any defensemen, but those who can put up 35 to 40 points. What is the primary path to d-men racking up points? The power play!
The man advantage is a fantasy goldmine for fantasy owners. No matter the league format, power play production is a hot commodity, especially from the blue line. In the season’s first two weeks, two under-the-radar, young defensemen have risen to the top of the fantasy must-have: Calgary defenseman TJ Brodie and Anaheim defenseman Sami Vatanen.
TJ Brodie: With 7 points in his 1st 8 games, Brodie’s Y! availability has dwindled down to 28% in the last couple of days, as the majority of fantasy owners now understand just how good he is. At 24, Brodie has steadily developed into a fine offensive blue-liner for a couple years, as witnessed by his career-high 31 points in 81 games a year ago. What could be the biggest factor in him taking the leap from 30 points to the 50 range? Power play time/game. Last year, Brodie averaged 1:36/game. Thus far that time has risen to 2:17 in 8 games. Suddenly, his percentage of power play points from a year ago (22.6%) could rise into the 30-35% range (the golden standard is Erik Karlsson, who last year saw 41.9% of his points come on the power play). Additionally, Calgary is a much improved, hard-working team. More power play opportunities equal a strong possibility of production from Brodie.
The Flames’ front office predicted this rise from Brodie and recently signed him to a 5-year, $23.5 million contract extension. The Flames made a leap of faith, now it’s time for you, the fantasy owner to do the same thing.
Sami Vatanen: Vatanen is a young, offensive-minded blue liner playing for an excellent team. He’s seen a spike in power play time – on a line with Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler nonetheless. Label me interested! Vatanen is off to an exceptional start, as an injury to incumbent #1 defenseman Cam Fowler has opened the door. All he’s done with the opportunity is record 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games, all of which have come on the man advantage. The season is still young, but Vatanen is currently averaging 4:30/game on the man advantage, and with the names listed above as his linemates, the 23 year-old Finn could be on the verge of fantasy stardom. Currently owned in only 45% of Yahoo! leagues, Vatanen is a must own at this point, and a point total well into the 40’s is a reasonable prediction.
The only two chinks in Vatanen’s armor moving forward? The return of Fowler, who is a slick, offensive-minded young defenseman who is the true power-play quarterback for the Ducks. Although it’s dreamy to think that all of his points will come on the power play, but regression in that area will be automatic in the long term. Having said that, Vatanen’s value right now is sky high; grab him while you can.
Neither one of these two young studs will give you much in the way of periphery categories (blocked shots, PIM or hits). But hey, who cares at this point?! Their power play production has them both at the top of the must-own fantasy list.
Statistical credits: NHL.com, calgarysun.com, ducks.nhl.com, capgeek.com
Photo cred: http://i.imgur.com/tuNfJTo.jpg
Derek Gibson is The Sports Script’s resident fantasy hockey guru. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @Extra_Attacker!