This year has been full of surprises in the fantasy world. From disappointing injuries, sophomore slumps and down years to record breaking performances, it;s been a great year to watch hockey (aren't they all) from a fantasy and a real life perspective. So let's take some time to look at some of the best, worst and most interesting performances in this past season.
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Carey Price - MTL - G
In most fantasy leagues, goalies count for fewer stat categories than skaters, but are often what pushes you over the edge and to a championship. They are also the hardest to predict. Carey Price is a lock to win the Vezina with 41 wins, 9 shutouts, a .936 save percentage and a 1.92 GAA. He started off the year average, but has gotten better every single month.
Alexander Ovechkin - WSH - LW, RW
In 76 games, Ovechkin put up a stat line of 50-27-77 while being +11. He managed 22 power play goals, 9 power play assists and 11 game winning goals. On top of all of that value, he had 236 hits and 31 blocks while averaging over 20 minutes per game. He's a super special player and we all should feel honored to have watched his career.
Rick Nash - NYR - LW, RW
Rick Nash has returned to form with the Rags this year, putting up 40-26-66 and a whopping +28 in 75 games. This year, he has also been valuable on the penalty kill, notching 4 short handed goals.
Erik Karlsson - OTT - D
Erik Karlsson continues to show why he is the best offensively minded defenseman in the league. He has put up 20-42-62 while being +7 this year in 76 games. He makes the most of his power play time scoring 5 power play goals and adding 22 power play assists.
Most Disappointing Player
Winner (Loser): Kari Lehtonen - DAL - G
This year has been quite a disappointing year, held together by the awesomeness that is Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. With off-season acquisitions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, the Stars failed to address their less-than-capable defense. As mentioned before, the hardest position to predict is the goaltender, because it relies so much on the team in front of it. This year, Lehtonen has 34 wins in 64 starts, a .906 save percentage (.013 lower than last year) and a 2.88 GAA (.47 lower than last year). His 5 shutouts are making his year look a lot better than it actually was.
Patrick Elias - NJD - C, LW
Patrick Elias has managed to show signs of aging much later than most players. This year he only managed to put up 11-21-32 in 64 games while being -16. In 63 games last year, he had amassed 53 points. Also, the Devils are bad.
Jay Bouwmeester - STL - D
All around, this has been a disappointing year for Jay Bouwmeester. In 66 games, he only has 2-9-11 while being +6. Last year he had 37 points in a full season. Even though he was probably a late round draft pick for you, he was probably dropped a few weeks in.
Nathan MacKinnon - COL - C, RW
Nathan MacKinnon had a slow first half of the year, but it's hard to drop a player with the talent that you know he has. He finally started to get hot, scoring goal after goal after goal... and then broke his leg. MacKinnon's season finished with 14-24-38 while being -7 in 64 games.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Johnny Gaudreau - CGY - LW
Johnny Gaudreau has been riding the wave all year. He came out of camp flying and continues to impress as a rookie. He's put up 22-38-60 while being +8 in 76 games. Even more impressive, only twenty of his points have come on the powerplay. He's going to be a fun player to watch for many years to come.
Filip Forsberg - NSH - C, LW, RW
This award was Filip Forsberg's to lose, and in my opinion, he lost it. Forsberg started out 9-13-22 in his first eighteen games and continues to impress even though he has cooled down a bit. Currently he has posted 23-36-59 while being +14 in 78 games. Much like Gaudreau, only 19 of his points have come on the powerplay.
Mark Stone - OTT - RW
Mark Stone has had himself a very solid rookie performance in Ottawa. This year, he has put up 19-35-53 while being +13 in 74 games. He's improved a lot over his 8 point in 19 game season last year.
Mike Hoffman - OTT - LW
Not to be outshone by his teammate, Mike Hoffman leads all rookies in goal scoring with 26. Add 21 assists for a total of 47 points in 73 games and you have a nice rookie tandem in Ottawa. If Ottawa ends up making the playoffs, they are going to be fun to watch.
Sacrificial Lamb Award
Winner: Kris Russel - CGY - D
There are no honorable mentions because no on else is even close. This award is given to the player who puts it all out on the line and sacrifices their body, game in and game out. Kris Russel has 272 blocked shots this year with the next best being Roman Josi with 207. The research that I've done shows that the NHL started tracking this statistic in the 2008-09 season. That season had the old record, of 271 blocks by Zbynek Michalek. Russel has broken this record already, and still has 5 games left. On March 5, he had 15 blocks. 15. He also managed 2 assists in that game as well! On top of his NHL record-setting block count, he has stepped in, in the absence of Mark Giordano, and played solid defense while putting up 4-28-32 in 75 games.
Trade Differential Award
Winner: Devan Dubnyk - MIN - G
In the fantasy world, a player on your team being traded in real life can go one of two ways. It can go really really well, or very poorly. If you had Devan Dubnyk, solely for starts, when he was traded, you got yourself a superstar fantasy player for the second half of the season. Since being with Minnesota, Dubnyk has 26 wins in 34 games, while posting a .939 save percentage and a 1.70 GAA. If Carey Price wasn't having such the year he was having, with how low scoring the league's best players are, I'd advocate that Dubnyk should win the MVP. He's taken a team that was looking forward to the draft, to a team who will definitely be in the playoffs.
Breakout Player of the Year
Winner: Nikita Kucherov - TBL - LW, RW
Last year, Nikita Kucherov had 9-9-18 in 52 games. That's a totally respectable rookie year. This year, he went from first gear to fifth gear putting up 28-33-61 in 78 games while averaging under 15 minutes per night. Those are amazing numbers for a second year player, getting that amount of time on what is one of the deepest lineups in the league. Unless you are in a 20 team league (and even then), he probably went undrafted and became a very nice free agent add for a lucky fantasy owner.
Andrew Hammond - OTT - G
Is he legit? I don't know, and I wasn't even going to have an honorable mention, but I couldn't write this article without pointing out Andrew Hammond. He put up average stats in the AHL just to be called up and essentially win the starting job over Craig Anderson. In his 18 games played this year, he has 15 wins, a .938 save percentage and a 1.85 GAA. Those are great numbers that probably helped a very lucky fantasy owner late in the season for a playoff push, much like he has helped Ottawa for their playoff push. He's gone from a nobody to a fan favorite that people throw hamburgers at. That gets an honorable mention in my book.