Fantasy Hockey Cheat Sheets: Hits leaders

While Pro Hockey Talk doesn’t specialize in fantasy hockey (our Rotoworld cousins do, though), we still think that there are areas where we can help you, the budding imaginary general managers. For that reason, we’re going to discuss different philosophies, strategies and cheat sheets as fantasy drafts begin to increase around North America.

clutterbuckin.jpgPrevious entries: Penalty Minutes, Faceoff winners, Shots on Goal leaders.

Today’s entry: Hits leaders.

One of the biggest developments in fantasy hockey this season is that Yahoo added the hits and blocked shots categories to their fantasy hockey format. Both stats are intriguing because they help to justify the selection of defensive defensemen; after all, the Brooks Orpiks of the world aren’t going to put together big point totals but they earn nice salaries in real life because they protect their goalies at all costs.

Personally, I prefer hits as a category for two reasons. First, forwards are likely to get plenty of hits too so it’s not a category strictly for defenseman. Secondly, stats bloggers succeeding in convincing me that a blocked shot isn’t always a great sign. While it proves that a blueliner has incredible courage, its often a last-ditch effort for a player who is out of position.

If you are choosing between hits and blocked shots, I’d go with hits but there’s nothing wrong with going for both. I’ll still do a post on blocked shots (and perhaps a “five-tool player” entry that ties it all together?) later on, though.

Anyway, I checked Yahoo’s stats and they only have the top hitters for the 2009-10 season. Here are the top 10 hitters from the last three seasons, via NHL.com.

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As I’ve done with shots on goal and penalty minutes leaders, here are the NHL players who ranked in the top 10 in hits at least twice in the last three seasons.

Cal Clutterbuck: 1, 1, NR
Dustin Brown: 2, 3, 1
Ryan Callahan: 3, 4, NR
Stephane Robidas: 4, NR, 10
David Backes: 5, NR, 5
Brooks Orpik: 6, 2, 6
Alex Ovechkin: NR, 9, 9

dustinbrownchecks.jpgClutterbuck only played two games in 07-08, so chances are he’ll be a top hitter next season too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Ovechkin threatened the top 10 last season if he didn’t miss 10 games (then again, more checks might have meant more trouble for Alex O in 09-10). LA Kings captain Dustin Brown’s name will be known in more hockey circles because of the hits category as he’s a perennial hits leader who also scored 24, 24 and 33 goals in the last three seasons.

Ryan Callahan won’t bring in many points, but Orpik could be a very valuable defenseman if you have blocked shots and hits as two categories (especially if you expect him to net a nice plus/minus). David Backes brings a very nice mixture of goals, PIM and hits to the table.

Really, though, it all comes down to the fact that you can now add “hits” to “obvious pun opportunities” on the short list of reasons to draft Cal Clutterbuck. If that’s not good enough for you to add hits as a category, then I don’t want to be in a league with you.

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    ‘Dialed in’ Hurricanes could add more drama to playoff race

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    At first glance, Carolina’s potential playoff push seems like a longshot.

    The ‘Canes head into tonight’s action five points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and would need to leapfrog both the Bolts and Isles just to get there.

    BUT!

    The ‘Canes have a game in hand on both New York and Tampa Bay, and two on Boston. They also get to play six of their last nine at home, and are currently riding a terrific streak in which they’ve collected 17 of a possible 20 points (7-0-3 in their last 10).

    “Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “You’ve got to continue to keep pace. Around the league everyone seems to find a way to win, so you’ve got to keep pace and then hopefully somebody falters.”

    Looking ahead, the next 48 hours will decide if this dream becomes a reality. Carolina begins a crucial back-to-back set against the Red Wings tonight, with both games to be played at PNC.

    Tonight’s game, you may recall, is the makeup date for the Dec. 19 postponement due to unplayable ice.

    As such, the ‘Canes now get a Red Wings team playing its third game in four nights, following Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay and yesterday’s 3-2 OT win over Minnesota. Veteran Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall isn’t expected to face Carolina, and the club is unsure if Darren Helm (lower body) can go.

    The ‘Canes, meanwhile, are pretty healthy and firing away. Jeff Skinner has a five-game goalscoring streak, Elias Lindholm has points in each of his last 10 contests and Sebastian Aho in each of his last six. The club has also received terrific netminding from Eddie Lack, who has gone 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage.

    If they can get a result tonight, attention will be turned to the out-of-town scoreboard. The Isles are at home to the streaking Nashville Predators (6-1-0 in their last seven), and the Bolts host the Blackhawks, who are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Florida.

    The Bruins aren’t back in action until Tuesday, when they host the Preds.

    Report: Coyotes majority owner has a ‘potential new partner’

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    The Arizona Coyotes’ ownership group may be getting a new member.

    According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Randy Frankel is a “potential new partner” for majority owner Andrew Barroway.

    Frankel, who made his money on Wall Street, is already a part owner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

    Shannon also reported that the Coyotes required a mid-season cash call, to the tune of $20 million, from their ownership group. Arizona has averaged just 13,020 fans at home games this season; hence, the revenue shortfall.

    The Coyotes, of course, are trying to get a new arena built in the greater Phoenix area. So far, their efforts have been for naught.

    Related: Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

    Report: Rangers land Gophers standout Lettieri

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    University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri has agreed to join the Ranger organization, per the Star-Tribune.

    Lettieri, 22, finished second on the club in goals this year, with 19, and third in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo reports Lettieri is joining New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, and that he and the Blueshirts are closing in on a two-year, entry-level contract.

    Lettieri has some interesting bloodlines. His grandfather is former Minnesota North Stars player/head coach/GM Lou Nanne, and his father is former professional soccer netminder Tino Lettieri, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup.

    The younger Lettieri went undrafted, and was a free agent following Minnesota’s NCAA championship loss to Notre Dame.

    Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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    Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

    Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

    The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

    Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.