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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    Report: Ehrhoff headed to Bruins on a PTO

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    The Boston Bruins were under some serious pressure this summer to improve their group of defensemen.

    That didn’t happen.

    With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, it appears the Bruins are bringing in a veteran blue liner — at least on a professional tryout.

    On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that unrestricted free agent blue liner Christian Ehrhoff is about to join Boston on a PTO following his showing at the World Cup of Hockey.

    In six games with Team Europe, Ehrhoff had three assists — all at even strength — and nine shots on goal.

    Ehrhoff is now 34 years old, and the Bruins already have a pair of seasoned defenders in Zdeno Chara (39 years old) and John-Michael Liles (35 years old) on their roster. Adam McQuaid turns 30 years old in October.

    Ehrhoff played last season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, and was placed on waivers in February while with the L.A. Kings, before he was traded to Chicago. Age and injuries have caught up to him, and he never did fit with the Kings’ style under Darryl Sutter.

    He was most productive during two seasons in Vancouver, a puck-moving defenseman that could effectively skate the puck out of trouble and move the attack that way if need be. But that was from 2009 to 2011. His production has dipped, especially over the last three years.

    He was also pivotal to Vancouver’s power play, especially in 2011 when the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final — against Boston.

    Again, that was five years ago.

    Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs

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    The Buffalo Sabres will not have goalie Robin Lehner in their lineup Friday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    As per the Sabres, Lehner is dealing with a forearm contusion and will not dress for this preseason game. Jason Kasdorf will start in net for Buffalo.

    Members of the media in Buffalo have noted that if this were a regular season game, Lehner would be able to play.

    Lehner had ankle surgery in March, ending his 2015-16 season. His ankle issues dated even further back, to the beginning of last season when he suffered a high-ankle sprain.

    The Sabres have some exciting young players on their roster, especially up front, but they need Lehner to be healthy if they are to take a run at a playoff spot this season.

    Behind him sit Linus Ullmark, Anders Nilsson and Kasdorf, who have a combined 73 games of NHL experience between them all.

    Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

    “Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

    “The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

    (The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

    On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

    Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

    The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

    McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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    It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

    The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

    He left the game and didn’t return.

    Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

    According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

    The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

    In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.