By Darren Kennedy
Most years I wonít start to take my fantasy pool preparation seriously until around June or July. Up until that point Iím enjoying the NHL playoffs in springtime and then the warm weather of summer (trying, in vain, to get really into Soccer).
The last couple years Iíve changed my strategy a bit, taking notes throughout the year that could be applied to the next one. My thinking is that all the subtle nuances of player performance that I notice during the year will often disappear over the summer, forcing me to re-learn a lot information.
Maybe Iím expecting Alex Barkov to take a massive step forward and want to bump him up a few slots on my draft board. If I decide that in November it might be difficult to recall exactly what my thought process was by the time September rolls around.
Which brings me to todayís post. There are a number of players in the midst of uncharacteristically poor seasons. Guys that should be considered strong fantasy assets that may even be on the waiver wire of your pool. There should be significant value to be found next year as their poor production in 2013-14 will invariably drag them down the ESPN or YAHOO rankings.
The 32 year oldís 33 points in 62 games isnít overly impressive. But, looking across his stat line all of the numbers are close to career norms. The one issue lies with his assists totals which are far lower than most years. With Los Angeles playing a more defensive style there is no guarantee theyíll score more next season. However, Williams has a track record over the last four years of being a reliable 50 point, 230 shot player with a positive plus minus. In 10 or 12 team leagues heíll likely be available in the late rounds (or from the waiver wire) and is more than capable of providing mid round value.
Patric Hornqvist, Nashville Predators
Heís long been one of my favorites (largely because he has a cool name, though Iíll concede that does little to boost his fantasy value) for quite some time. What I like most about Hornqvist is that he fills two categories that typically are difficult to fill Ė goals and shots. This year he has fired 182 shots in only 56 games. That is an 82 game pace of 266 which is among the fantasy elite (his career high is 275). A lot of poolies will shy away from Nashville because of their lack of offense, and rightly so. That can actually work in Hornqvistís favor, since heíll receive plenty of power play time and opportunities. There is a real possibly that he challenges 25 goals and 260 shots in 2014-15. Think of him as the next Radim Vrbata
(before everyone learned who Vrbata was and started drafting him too early).
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
His poor play and subsequent injury will likely push him out of the conversation as an elite defenceman. For me, heís only 12 months removed from posting 38 points in 35 games. There are few (maybe one) other blueliners capable of producing that kind of fantasy value. Heíll always come with a degree of injury risk and you may not get a full 82 or even 70 games out him, but I am cautioning most poolies not to drop him outside the top five. If heís there in the fifth or sixth round of your draft it might be worth the risk.
The Sedins are entering into that scary intermediary period for star players. Around the age of 32 or 33 weíre no longer 100 percent sure what to expect anymore. Daniel was once relied on for 80 or points and around 250 shots Ė those days appear to have passed. This season has been a struggle under the new coaching staff, with only 40 points in 62 games Ė which comes directly after a 2013 season in which he finished with a mere 40 in 47 games. What may be happening with Daniel (and to a lesser extent his brother) is that poolies have pushed him too far outside the elite. While Iíll concede that heís unlikely to claim another Art Ross there is still reason to believe that 65-70 points and 240 or more shots is achievable next year in the right situation. There is a chance that Vancouver makes changes this offseason (including the coach) and both Sedins will continue to receive ample power play time. I would shy away from him in the early rounds but much like Letang he could provide value in the sixth or seventh.
Who are some of the undervalued names youíll be targeting next year?
Darren is a fantasy hockey writer and founder of darrenfantasyhockeycom.
You can find him on twitter @FantasyHockeyDK