With the 2018 All-Star Game and weekend festivities rapidly approaching, why not put together a fantasy All-Star team?
A few ground rules for this specific list:
- It will have traditional positions (wings, center, two defensemen, one goalie) rather than the current setup.
- Versatility matters.
- Also, players who were drafted low or were on waiver wires get a big bonus. If you were able to land a top-50 guy far beyond the top 50 picks, your chances of winning your league skyrocket.
Good? Good. Let’s get rolling.
Left Wing – Alex Ovechkin
This one was tough mainly because Jonathan Marchessault went from a guy who likely wasn’t drafted in many leagues (in fact, Marchessault is still available in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues), yet he’s a top-50 guy.
Ovechkin’s just too dynamic to ignore, though, and it’s what he does beyond the obvious that makes him very useful.
His 208 shots on goal is tied for first in the NHL, and Vladimir Tarasenko‘s played in two more games. Ovechkin’s 94 hits tie him for 34th among forwards. His 20 penalty minutes and +10 rating make him a guy who checks a lot of boxes peripherals-wise.
The obvious stuff is great, too. He leads the league with 30 goals. Ovechkin is also 13th in points with 53, so he’s getting helpers as well.
Simply put, the deeper your league goes with categories, the more obvious a choice Ovechkin and some others end up being.
Center – Sean Couturier
Couturier falls along the Marchessault lines.
Steven Stamkos has better numbers, as does Nathan MacKinnon. Still, Couturier didn’t get drafted in many cases, yet he’s part of a resurgent top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek in Philly. The two-way center who’s largely done the heavy lifting is showing he’s more this season, scoring 23 goals and 23 assists. There are some nice peripherals with a +10 rating and even 26 blocked shots.
Value means a big difference in fantasy. Most people can pinpoint the obvious the guys, even if they end up slightly better than expected. The off-the-radar guys make the real difference.
Right wing – Nikita Kucherov
Look, not every pick on this list would mildly surprise somehow.
He leads the league with 63 points, and it’s not like it’s all assists, as he still has a shot to catch Ovechkin with his 27 goals. From a +13 rating to 22 power-play points, Kucherov covers all the bases.
Other members of high-end lines deserve consideration too, especially someone in the Marchessault/Couturier realm of overachievers like Brayden Schenn.
Defenseman: John Klingberg
Six goals and 42 assists for 48 points would be a nice season for Klingberg, let alone just a bit more than half of a season’s worth of work (50 games). While he collects more helpers, the six goals are quite nice. Klingberg has 119 shots on goal in those 50 games, and is basically doing it all.
His points total exceeds every other defenseman by seven points, and he’s 10+ points ahead of every blueliner beyond …
Other defenseman: Brent Burns, who has 41 points after collecting two assists on Thursday.
He now has eight assists during a six-game point/assist streak. During the month of January, Burns has one goal and 15 assists for 16 points in 12 games. Since December, he’s generated a remarkable 30 points in 25 games. If anyone can catch Klingberg, it’s Burns.
Even beyond that, Burns will probably be the most valuable fantasy defenseman going forward, unless Erik Karlsson resumes being fully Erik Karlsson, as he covers more categories.
On one hand, after a +19 rating in 2016-17, he’s -21 this season. (Plus/minus is a flawed stat, but it’s frequently used in fantasy.)
Burns can provide penalty minutes (24) and can be valuable even if he doesn’t score goals because he shoots so much (202 SOG, 50 more than every other defensemen, third in the NHL with fewer games played than Ovechkin and Tarasenko), and he’s logging a ton of ice time with 25:20 per game.
Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy, followed by Connor Hellebuyck
OK, Vasi is obviously the guy. He leads the NHL in wins with 29, shutouts with 7 (everyone else as four or fewer), and his .931 save percentage stands out among starters. He’s clearly the best.
That said, Hellebuyck deserves a mention because he was likely picked up on waiver wires or very low in deep drafts. Even among Winnipeg Jets fans, you’d think Steve Mason was selected in almost every instance.
If you hopped on the Hellebuyck bandwagon early, you enjoyed most of the benefits: 26 wins (second to Vasi), sixth-best 1,147 saves, and a fantastic .924 save percentage.
Maybe you have a different way of looking at things, and you can’t deny MacKinnon, Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, or someone else from being mentioned. With that in mind, feel free to share your All-Stars, even if you keep it strictly to players who happened to land on your team(s). We’d be delighted to hear about your big steals, shrewd moves, and near-misses.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.