Jonathan Quick

Stars hold off Kings, extend winning streak to five

Anton Khudobin saved his best for the final seconds to help preserve a 2-1 victory for the Dallas Stars.

Jamie Benn and Blake Comeau scored 37 seconds apart early in the second period as Dallas erased a one-goal deficit and extended its winning streak to five games.

Anze Kopitar netted his 16th of the season, but the Kings fell for the third straight game. Jonathan Quick had 30 saves.

Lindell stays hot

The Stars defenseman has been collecting assists left and right during a four-game point streak. Lindell picked up another two helpers Wednesday, extending his total to seven during the stretch and 16 on the season.

John Klingberg has not played since the 2020 Winter Classic and Lindell has stepped up to provide offense from the backend in his absence.

In this day and age, every NHL team needs mobile defensemen that can push the pace. Lindell has provided that and more during the five-game winning streak.

Johns close to returning

Stephen Johns has reported to the AHL for a three-game conditioning stint. The 27-year-old D-man has been sidelined since 2018 with post-traumatic headaches.

“You’re talking about a young man who is 6-foot-4, he can skate, he can shoot a puck, he’s a physical presence,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the team’s website. “He’s what every team is looking for. He’s a good person. He brings a lot to the table. When we signed him, he was coming off a very good year for us and we thought he was going to be a big part of our top four. … Now, we have an opportunity to bring him back.”

If Johns does return to the NHL, the Stars will get an extra boost on the backend before evaluating their strategy for the Trade Deadline.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Panthers still aren’t getting money’s worth with Bobrovsky

Panthers Bobrovsky
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Few teams needed better goaltending more than the Florida Panthers last summer. So, when Sergei Bobrovsky hit the free agent market, the Panthers ignored red flags like age and a mixed 2018-19 season to snatch Bob up.

On paper, the move makes a ton of sense. The Panthers disappointed last season, yet there was a feeling of “… But what if they could just get some stops?” Then, poof here comes a seemingly perfect opportunity. Goalies of Bobrovsky’s caliber rarely hit the open market. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time a two-time Vezina winner became available at least somewhat close to their prime years, yet there Bobrovsky was.

But, again, there were some red flags flashing.

During a busy Saturday afternoon in the NHL, the hockey world got a reminder that you don’t always get what you pay for when you hand $10 million per year to a goalie, even one as accomplished as Bobrovsky.

[Bobrovsky wasn’t off to a great start, in particular.]

Panthers pull Bobrovsky against Sabres

The Panthers likely already entered the first intermission vs. Buffalo with serious frustration. Despite managing an 11-5 shots on goal advantage through 20 minutes, the Sabres managed a 1-0 lead.

Things spiraled out of control for Bobrovsky and the Panthers during the middle frame, as Bob allowed two more goals. Joel Quenneville saw enough, pulling Bobrovsky after the 31-year-old gave up three goals on just seven SOG.

Blaming Bobrovsky alone is unfair, as he could only do so much. Take, for example, this Conor Sheary 2-0 goal:

 

Still, there’s only so much you can do when a goalie barely stops more than half of the attempts he faces.

Bobrovsky giving Panthers more of the same numbers

Teams who allow too many goals face chicken-and-the-egg arguments. That’s often fitting, really, because usually the problems are a mix: goalies should stop more pucks, but their teams could put them in better situations.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon either misdiagnosed the problem as mostly goalie-related, or was throwing up a Hail Mary pass that Bobrovsky could save his bacon.

Either way, it’s painful to note how similar the Panthers’ problems are despite throwing a ton of money and resources at goaltending.

Heading into Saturday, Bobrovsky sported a putrid .897 save percentage. Adjusting for context only helps so much; Bob’s -10.94 goals saved against average languishes among the worst in the NHL. By that standard at Hockey Reference, Bob has only been slightly more effective than the likes of Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones, starters suffering through profoundly miserable seasons.

Such numbers parallel the season-sinking work of James Reimer and Roberto Luongo from 2018-19. Uncomfortably so.

Also uncomfortable: comparing 2018-19 Reimer with the 2019-20 version. Nestled in the Carolina Hurricanes cocoon, Reimer improved his save percentage to .914 versus last season’s rough .900 mark. Reimer’s career average is also .914, making you wonder what happened in Florida — though it’s crucial to remember that, as always, “goalies are voodoo.”

Nature versus nurture

When the Panthers hired Quenneville, they described Coach Q as “transformative.” So far, the Panthers’ overall play seems … mostly middle of the pack?

The Panthers give the impression of probably deserving a little bit better from goaltending, but by how much? What portion of the blame goes to Bobrovsky and other goalies versus the team around them?

Panthers outscore some, but not all, of their problems

Florida deserves credit for hanging around the East playoff bubble considering their troubles stopping pucks.

While allowing a third-worst 3.35 goals against per game (before Saturday) qualifies as worrisome, the Panthers also rank third-best with 3.55 goals for per game. The Panthers generate more goals than they allow, so maybe the situation isn’t so dire.

Perhaps the Panthers’ well-compensated coach can turn enough knobs to make life easier for their well-compensated goalie?

After performances like Saturday’s dud against Buffalo, it’s easy to get pessimistic about Bobrovsky. An optimist may counter that Florida isn’t that far away from finding the right balance.

Unfortunately, a realist will note that the Panthers wouldn’t be in the playoffs if they began right now, and face a significant hill to climb in an Atlantic Division that’s starting to look stacked once again — at least at the top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Power Rankings: Blues take over top spot

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In this week’s edition of the PHT Power Rankings the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues climb to the top spot thanks to their current eight-game winning streak.

That streak has them running away with the top spot in the Central Division and Western Conference, while they also enter the week just one point back of the Washington Capitals in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

They will not need a great second half just to make the playoffs this season. They have already put themselves in position to not only return, but also make another run at the Stanley Cup.

Also this week the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche hit their first slides of the year, the Philadelphia Flyers are back on the good side of their streakiness, and the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers continue to trend in the wrong direction.

To the rankings!

1. St. Louis Blues. The defending champs just keep getting better.

2. Washington Capitals. Before John Carlson this season, you have to go back to the 1991-92 season for the most recent time a defenseman had at least 50 points through his team’s first 40 games of the season (Phil Housley and Brian Leetch both accomplished it that season).

3. Pittsburgh Penguins. They are one of the best teams in the league and are going to be getting Sidney Crosby back very soon.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs. They waited too long to make that coaching change. They are different, better and more dangerous team under Sheldon Keefe.

5. Boston Bruins. Their overtime and shootout luck has been lousy lately, but they do have at least a point in seven consecutive games (4-0-3 record).

6. Philadelphia Flyers. The streakiest, most unpredictable team in hockey is back on the good side of things. They are capable of a 10-game winning streak or a 10-game losing streak at any time, and neither one would — or should — surprise anyone.

7. Dallas Stars. With this defense and goaltending they are going to be a very tough out in the playoffs.

8. New York Islanders. They have won just two of their past six games and given up 26 goals during that stretch. This is their first slump of the season. Nothing to be alarmed about. They are fine.

9. Colorado Avalanche. Like the Islanders, the Avalanche have hit a little bit of a slump the past two weeks and slid just a bit. The type of thing that happens over the course of an 82-game season. Also like the Islanders, they are fine.

10. Carolina Hurricanes. The Dougie Hamilton Norris Trophy campaign needs a bigger PR department.

11. Tampa Bay Lightning. Do not give up on the Lightning just yet. This sleeping giant is starting to wake up.

12. Vegas Golden Knights. Max Pacioretty is playing some of the best hockey of his career and the Golden Knights are starting to rapidly climb the standings.

13 Florida Panthers. Jonathan Huberdeau has three four-point games in the past two weeks and is climbing the point leaderboard.

14. Vancouver Canucks. Jacob Markstrom has solidified their goaltending spot, but what is it going to cost to keep him?

15. Columbus Blue Jackets. A 10-game point streak is keeping them in it. That lost point against Chicago might hurt, though.

16. Minnesota Wild. That slow start where Bruce Boudreau’s job seemed to be in question is a distant memory right now.

17. Arizona Coyotes. They are still in the thick of the Pacific Division race but are cooling off fast.

18. Nashville Predators. An ugly weekend took some of the steam out of their recent strong play. Still, they are only a couple of points out of a playoff spot and have multiple games in hand on every team ahead of them.

19. New York Rangers. They may not be a playoff team just yet, but Artemi Panarin is doing his best to drag them to contention.

20. Calgary Flames. Since that 10-game point streak came to an end they have won just two of the next seven. Before that 10-game point streak they had lost six in a row.

21. Chicago Blackhawks. Sunday’s shootout win in Columbus was just the second for Robin Lehner since the start of the 2015-16 season. The shootout is the Achilles heel for one of the NHL’s best goalies.

22. Montreal Canadiens. Carey Price leads the league in games and minutes played, but he hasn’t been particularly sharp. That’s a big problem for the Canadiens.

23. Winnipeg Jets. The concern here was always what happens when Connor Hellebuyck slows down even a little. That has happened over the past couple of weeks and the results have not been pretty.

24. Buffalo Sabres. They were 8-1-1 after 10 games. They are 9-15-6 in 31 games since. Now they are without Jeff Skinner for the next 3-4 weeks.

25. Edmonton Oilers. We have all seen this movie enough times to know how it ends.

26. Ottawa Senators. D.J. Smith is getting more out of this roster than I thought he would.

27. Los Angeles Kings. There is nothing wrong with the way they play, they just do not have enough talent to make it matter. Combine that with continued decline of Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick and things get bleak really fast here.

28. Anaheim Ducks. They simply have zero offense, and none of the young players on the roster have really taken a big step forward yet to help fix that. 

29. New Jersey Devils. Jack Hughes added another career first over the weekend by scoring his first career overtime goal.

30. San Jose Sharks. Timo Meier‘s hat trick came at the perfect time for him and the Sharks, but this team is still in a LOT of trouble. They are 2-10 in their past 12 games and are going to need an insane second half just to make the playoffs. Are they capable of that?

31. Detroit Red Wings. Still on track to be one of the worst teams of the salary cap era.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

NHL Power Rankings: Best players of the decade

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a look back at the best players of the past decade.

Just because it needs to be said, this is not a list of the best players in hockey right now.

It is a look at the best players over the course of the past 10 years as a whole. That means players that have played at a consistently high level for most of the decade (seven or more years) will get more attention over players that have dominated in more recent years (though there are always exceptions) as a means of limiting recency bias.

Who makes our list?

To the rankings!

The Elites

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a rocky start to the decade for Crosby as injuries robbed him of a significant chunk of his career when he was playing some of his best hockey. But he still finished the decade as the most dominant all-around player in the league. Of the 257 players that played at least 500 games in the decade, Crosby is one of only four players to average more than a point per game (his 1.23 average was by far the best) while he also won a goal-scoring crown, a scoring title, an MVP, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and captained the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups during the  2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals. The best goal scorer of all-time continued to dominate the league. Ovechkin’s 422 goals this decade (as of publication) are 79 more than the next closest player, while he won the goal scoring crown in six of the previous nine seasons (including six of the past seven). He is the foundation of the one of the decades most successful organizations with two Presidents’ Trophies and a Stanley Cup.

3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators/San Jose Sharks. One of the most impressive individual performances of the past decade was Karlsson dragging the 2017 Senators to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He was so dominant during that run he actually received Conn Smythe votes even though his team did not reach the Stanley Cup Final. He is a two-time Norris Trophy winner for the decade and a runner-up two other times. One of the most impactful defensemen ever.

4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. Bergeron is the player that a significant portion of the hockey world thought Jonathan Toews was this decade. An elite two-way player in the sense that he can take over a game and dominate a game offensively just as much as he can defensively.

5. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. This almost feels like it’s too low (and maybe it is!) given what McDavid has done since entering the league. But he’s also still only 23 and only played in half the decade. But what a half-decade it has been. McDavid is a lock for 100 points every year, is currently the most feared offensive player in the world, and is a one-man highlight reel every shift. He makes you want to watch the Oilers.

The second tier elites

6. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins. When he is at his best he sometimes looks like the best player in the world. Even when he is not at at that level is still one of the most game-changing forces in the league. He and Crosby were the foundation of a Penguins team that won the most regular season games in the decade, the second most playoff games (three behind Boston), played in three Eastern Conference Finals, and won two Stanley Cups. 

7. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. The best goalie of his generation and one of the best to ever play the sport. Lundqvist spent the past decade masking all of the Rangers’ many flaws on defense and taking them on several deep postseason runs that they otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. Don’t let the lack of a Stanley Cup take away from his dominant playoff performances, either. A .922 career save percentage in the playoffs and nearly unbeatable in Game 7s.

8. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings. The Western Conference version of Bergeron. When the Kings’ Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 are discussed it is usually Jonathan Quick‘s goaltending that gets mentioned first. Or Drew Doughty and their defensive play. But let’s not overthink it here — Kopitar was the best player on those teams, and by a wide margin. An underrated and sometimes overlooked part of his greatness: What he did for the Slovenia olympic team at the 2014 games. That team was far more competitive than it should have been, and Kopitar was the reason why.

9. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. The best goal scorer of his era not named Ovechkin. Had it not been for a couple of significant injuries taking away his age 23 and 26 seasons he might already be above the 500-goal mark for his career.

10. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins. When Chara and Bergeron were on the ice together, combined with whichever franchise goalie they had in net at the time (Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask) there was not a tougher team in the league to score against.

The rest of the best

11. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. The hype in his draft year was off the charts, and he has not only lived up to it, he may have even exceeded it. One of the league’s best defenseman from almost day one.

12. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks. The best player and the one driving the bus on those Blackhawks championship teams. In terms of individual and team hardware he has a Hall of Fame resume.

13. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals. An elite offensive player, an always underrated defensive player, and one of the best playmakers in the league.

14. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. If you ever argued that he was the best player in the world, you overrated him. Saying he wasn’t quite that good was also not disrespecting him. He was a top-five (maybe even top-three or four at times) center for a long time. There is nothing wrong with that.

15. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks. One of the best offensive players this decade. His problems off the ice will always detract from that and be a part of his story.

16. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. Hate him all you want, he has been one of the league’s best all-around players for five-plus years now. Even before that he was a key part of an elite Bruins team.

17. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings. There was a three or four year stretch where he might have been the best pure defensive player in the league.

18. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers’ consistent mediocrity during his career makes it easy to overlook how good he has been. He is not to blame for that consistent team-wide mediocrity, either.

19. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. When Price was healthy he consistently turned a mediocre-to-bad Canadiens team into something formidable. His 2014-15 season is one of the best individual goaltending performances in recent NHL history.

20. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens/Nashville Predators/New Jersey Devils. He appears to be well into a decline right now with the Devils, but for the first seven or eight years of the decade he was one of the league’s must-see players.

Just missing: Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Kris Letang, Sergei Bobrovsky, Pavel Datsyuk.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Top NHL players in fantasy hockey
• Most significant goals
• Favorite goals, best/worst jerseys
Best NHL teams of the decade
Biggest NHL trades

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Decade in Review: Top NHL players in fantasy hockey

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As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, fantasy highlights, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

Welcome to our weekly fantasy hockey column where we usually recommend players you should consider adding and dropping. This time we’re going to do something a little different though. With the decade almost over, we’re going to take this opportunity to highlight the best fantasy players of the 2010s.

To make things interesting, we’ll look at this from two different angles. First we’ll highlight the best fantasy player from each season from 2010-11 through 2018-19 and then we’ll highlight the best overall fantasy players of the 2010s.

2010-11: Only one player reached the 100-point milestone and that was the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin, who scored 41 goals and 104 points. He won the Art Ross Trophy just a year after his twin brother, Henrik claimed it. However, unlike Henrik Sedin, Daniel didn’t collect the Hart Trophy along with the Art Ross. Instead the Hart went to the Ducks’ Corey Perry, who had 50 goals and 98 points. Tim Thomas claimed the Vezina Trophy with a 35-11-9 record, 2.00 GAA, and .938 save percentage in 57 contests in 57 games while Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy for the seventh and final time. Lidstrom had 16 goals and 62 points in 75 contests. However, none of them would be my pick for the best fantasy player of the year.

Carey Price, Canadiens – In terms of GAA and save percentage, Price lagged behind Thomas with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, but the advantage of Price was how much the Canadiens leaned on him. Price played in 72 games and being able to use your top goaltender that often is incredibly helpful in fantasy leagues. Those extra starts also led to Price topping Thomas in wins and shutouts with 38 and eight respectively. This is one of those cases where I’d argue Thomas was the better goaltender that season, but Price is the one I would have rather owned in fantasy leagues.

2011-12: Just like last season, there was only one player who reached the century mark. This time it was the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, who had 50 goals and 109 points in 75 games. He cleanly won the Art Ross by 12 points, but Tampa’s Steven Stamkos decisively won the Richard Trophy with an incredible 60 goals while Malkin finished second in that regard. Stamkos finished second in the overall scoring race. Between those two offensive stars, Malkin was picked as the Hart winner. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist won the Vezina with a 39-18-5 record, 1.97 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 62 starts. The Norris was claimed by the Senators’ Erik Karlsson, who had 19 goals and 78 points in 81 contests. Those are plenty of amazing players to choose from, but I think Malkin has the edge here.

Evgeni Malkin, Penguins – I was honestly initially leaning towards Stamkos given how rare it is to have a player score 60 goals in this era, but Malkin had the edge in every other major category that fantasy leagues care about at the time. Obviously, Malkin had more points, but he also had a solid edge in plus/minus (plus-18 to plus-7), power-play points (34 to 25), and SOG (339 to 303). Malkin also had few more penalty minutes (70 to 66), which was a pretty standard fantasy category at the time. None of those category leads alone made Malkin the better fantasy option that season, but put together Malkin is the clear choice.

2012-13: This was the lockout shortened season that was limited to 48 games. Tampa’s Martin St. Louis won the Art Ross with 17 goals and 60 points, but the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin won the Hart with 32 goals and 56 points. The Vezina was claimed by Sergei Bobrovsky, who posted a 21-11-6 record, 2.00 GAA, and .932 save percentage in 38 games. Montreal’s P.K. Subban was the Norris winner with 11 goals and 38 points in 42 contests. This time around, there is a decisive winner in my mind and that’s Ovechkin.

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – As noted above, Ovechkin had nearly double St. Louis’ goal total while only falling four points shy, so in that regard, Ovechkin is clearly the better fantasy option. Ovechkin also bested him in other big fantasy categories too including plus/minus (plus-two to neutral), penalty minutes (36 to 14), power-play points (27 to 20), and shots (220 to 112). So there really isn’t much wiggle room to say that you would have been better off having St. Louis that season. In fact, I’d argue that Stamkos was also better than St. Louis that season from a fantasy perspective. Stamkos had 29 goals, 57 points, 157 shots, and 32 penalty minutes, but did lag behind both St. Louis and Ovechkin in plus/minus (minus-four) and power-play points (18).

2013-14: The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby claimed both the Art Ross and the Hart with 36 goals and 104 points in 80 games. No other player even came close to him in the scoring race. The Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf taking second place with 31 goals and 87 points in 77 contests. Chicago’s Duncan Keith was the Norris winner with six goals and 61 points in 79 games and the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask won the Vezina with a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 58 starts. A season I chose Ovechkin as the best fantasy player, I’d give the edge to his main rival of the era, Crosby.

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – All-in-all, this was a pretty meh season when it came to fantasy standouts. Just one player with even 90 points, one player with at least 50 goals (Ovechkin), and not a single goaltender started in at least 65 games. Under these conditions, Crosby won almost by default. It’s worth adding that in addition to his decisive win in the scoring race, Crosby also contributed a plus-18 rating, 46 penalty minutes, 38 power-play points and 259 shots to fantasy owners. He was the leader in any of those categories, but the fact that he was able to help in all of them certainly helped his case. That contrasted Ovechkin, who did lead the league in goals (51) and edged out Crosby in power-play points (39), but was a major burden in terms of plus/minus (minus-35) and fell well behind in points (79).

2014-15: We’ve reached the campaign where Price pulled off the rare feat of winning both the Hart and Vezina. That’s quite the accomplishment, but it was due in part to the lack of competition from forwards. Dallas’ Jamie Benn won the scoring race with 35 goals and 87 points in 82 games and he was one of just five players to even record 80 points. Ovechkin did score 53 goals, but he managed an underwhelming 28 assists. So there wasn’t really a forward who seemed terribly deserving of the Hart. Defenseman Erik Karlsson did have a strong campaign with 21 goals and 66 points in 82 contests en route to winning the Norris, but he wasn’t a serious contender for the Hart either. That’s not to say Price didn’t have a fantastic season though. He certainly stood out from the crowd with a 44-16-6 record, 1.96 GAA, and .933 save percentage in 66 starts, which is why I’m also comfortable saying he was that season’s top fantasy option.

Carey Price, Canadiens – This is the second time in the span of five seasons I’m listing Price as my top fantasy choice. With the relatively weak state of forwards in 2014-15, Price’s main competition was other goaltenders. The Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby would have been my second choice. He had a 41-20-10 record, 2.22 GAA, and .923 save percentage in 72 starts. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne had as many wins and a slightly better GAA (2.18) compared to Holtby, but Holtby appeared in nine more games and also clearly led Rinne in terms of shutouts (nine to four), which is a big help from a fantasy perspective.

2015-16: Only one player managed to breach the 90-point milestone this season and that was the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, who finished with 46 goals and 106 points. His efforts led to him winning both the Art Ross and Hart. The Vezina was claimed by Braden Holtby who posted a 48-9-7 record, 2.20 GAA, and .922 save percentage in 66 starts. In terms of blueliners, Drew Doughty won the Norris with 14 goals and 51 points in 82 contests, but he arguably wasn’t even in the top-five in terms of best fantasy defensemen. For me the top blueliner from a fantasy perspective was the Sharks’ Brent Burns, who had 27 goals and 75 points in 82 contests. Karlsson did have the edge in points with 82, but it’s not often you can find a defenseman who will provide you with even close to 30 goals. At the end of the day though, I feel Holtby was the best fantasy option.

Braden Holtby, Capitals – It’s rare for a defenseman to get 27 goals and certainly Kane was a clear winner in the scoring race, but Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s NHL record with his 48 wins. No other goaltender gave you even close to that win total in 2015-16 with LA’s Jonathan Quick being the next best option at 40 victories. Holtby was also a strong contributor in GAA and save percentage too while finishing in a tie for second in starts, so he was far more than a goaltender who contributed in one category.

2016-17: And now, we enter the era of Connor McDavid. The Oilers forward actually made his debut in 2015-16, but he was limited to 45 games due to injury. This time around he played the full 82 games, contributing 30 goals and a league-best 100 points. With no other player reaching even the 90-point milestone and the Oilers making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, McDavid won the Hart. Bobrovsky won the Vezina for the second time with a 41-17-5 record, 2.06 GAA, and .931 save percentage in 63 starts. Burns was picked for the Norris with 29 goals and 76 points in 82 contests and it’s Burns I’ll ultimately select as my top fantasy choice for this season.

Brent Burns, Sharks – As I mentioned above, Burns was close to being my top choice in 2015-16, but Holtby’s record-tying wins total edged him out. This time around, no player had a similarly historic season and Burns was just as good. He finished just a single goal behind McDavid and 23 points, which is amazing numbers to get out a defenseman. Burns also led the league with 320 shots, had a strong plus-19 rating, and his 25 power-play points put him just three shy of McDavid. I also want to give an honorable mention to Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, who posted a 42-22-8 record, 2.39 GAA, and .919 save percentage over a staggering 73 starts. McDavid got the Hart, but I’d argue that Talbot was the single biggest factor in the Oilers’ making the playoffs. He gave them the stability in goal they desperately needed and when he faltered in 2017-18 and beyond, the Oilers fell with him.

2017-18: The Devils’ Taylor Hall won the Hart with 39 goals and 93 points in 76 games, but he wasn’t the league’s best fantasy forward. In fact there were several forwards I would have rather had over him, including the man I’ll pick as the 2017-18 campaign’s top fantasy option. Before I get to that though, I want to highlight Rinne, who won the Vezina with a 42-13-4 record, 2.31 GAA, and .927 save percentage and defenseman Victor Hedman, who won the Norris with 17 goals and 63 points in 77 contests.

Connor McDavid, Oilers – The primary reason why McDavid missed out on the Hart is because the Oilers missed the playoffs, but that’s not a factor in fantasy leagues. Instead, the factors are McDavid’s 41 goals, 108 points, plus-20 rating, 20 power-play points, and 274 shots in 82 games. Of those categories, the only one Hall was clearly the better player was power-play points, where he had 37. Hall also enjoyed the slightest of edges in shots (278 to 274). Neither of those makes up for McDavid’s lead in the other categories though, especially McDavid’s clear edge in points. In fact, I’d argue that McDavid’s closer competition was Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, who had 39 goals, 100 points, a plus-15 rating, 36 power-play points, and 279 shots. Between Kucherov and McDavid, the gap is actually razor thin.

2018-19: I mentioned a few times above that just one player reached the 90-point milestone that season. In the case of 2018-19, 14 different players got at least that many points. The leader among them was Kucherov, who finished with 41 goals and 128 points in 82 games en route to winning the Hart. His Lightning teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina with a 39-10-4 record, 2.40 GAA, and .925 save percentage in 53 starts. The Norris went to the Flames’ Mark Giordano, who scored 17 goals and 74 points in 78 games.

Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – With scoring on the rise in 2018-19, Kucherov had arguably the best fantasy season of any player over the decade. His 128 points gave him the clear edge over the second place McDavid (116 points). Kucherov also bested McDavid in plus/minus (plus-24 to plus-three), power-play points (48 to 33), and shots (246 to 240). Obviously the SOG totals were pretty close and they both finished with 41 goals, but Kucherov’s clear lead in the other major fantasy categories makes him the easy pick. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl deserves an honorable mention though, for finishing with 50 goals, 105 points, a plus-two rating, 29 power-play points, and 231 shots.

So with all that done, how do we pick the best player of the decade? The first question is if we’re looking for quantity or quality? From the start of 2010-11 to present (including this season), Patrick Kane leads the league with 754 points in 696 games, but I didn’t tap Kane as the fantasy leader in any single season. What Kane brought to the table was relative health and consistency. With the obvious exceptions of the lockout shortened 2013 campaign and the still in progress 2019-20 season, he recorded at least 64 points in every campaign. Meanwhile, Crosby averaged more points per game, but injuries resulted in him appearing in 107 fewer contests.

Kane also had the benefit of being in his prime entering the decade. What about those who entered the league during it? They’re at an obvious disadvantage if what we’re looking at are the totals. For example, there’s McDavid, who has only appeared in 326 games in the 2010s for obvious reasons, but he’s the clear decade leader in terms of points-per-game (min. 200 games played). In that category, the top-five are McDavid (1.33 PTS/G), Crosby (1.23), Malkin (1.15), Kane (1.08), and Stamkos (1.06).

This is just looking at skaters. There’s even more of a headache when evaluating goaltenders. When a forward declines for example, that just means that they’ll produce fewer points, but a goaltender has a GAA and save percentage that will be dragged down. Take Price, who is the only person I selected as the best fantasy option in two separate seasons. However, he also had a disastrous 2017-18 campaign where he posted a 3.11 GAA and .900 save percentage in 49 games and he’s been a mixed bag this season as well. That gives him a somewhat less impressive 2.42 GAA and .919 save percentage over the decade, though even then he’s still one of the best goaltenders over this 10-year period.

There’s no ideal way to pick a player, but ultimately the point of this is to make a choice and so I will:

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – If you participated in a fantasy draft over the last decade, there was one thing that was almost always true: Crosby was a clear top-five pick and sometimes the clear top pick overall. You can’t really say that for any other player over the last decade. The closest comparable to that over the same time frame is Ovechkin, but even Ovechkin had a brief period of time where it looked like his shine had worn off back in 2016-17 when he scored 33 goals and 69 points in 82 games and that came after a series of campaigns where he was still scoring goals, but posting underwhelming numbers in other categories. Crosby had disappointing seasons too, but when he disappointed, it was always due to injury and consequently, you knew that if he was healthy, he would be one of the league’s top players if not the very best. Even with the rise of McDavid and Kucherov, Crosby has managed to stay near the top of the pack, scoring 35 goals and 100 points in 79 contests last season. 

There are plenty of others that deserve honorable mentions though. Beyond Kane, Ovechkin, McDavid, and Price, who were all already mentioned, Phil Kessel deserves to be highlighted for being consistently near the top of the league even if he never was quite at the heights of those others. He has 269 goals and 663 points in 742 contests this decade. Stamkos and Malkin were other major standouts who were slowed somewhat by injuries. Stamkos has 332 goals and 655 points in 616 games while Malkin has 257 goals and 652 point in 566 contests. Meanwhile, there is one player you might not expect to find in the top-10 of this decade’s scoring leaders and that’s Blake Wheeler. Health and consistency have led to him scoring 213 goals and 643 points in 733 games, which is good for ninth place on the points list.

When it comes to defensemen, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns were the top two scorers with 564 and 537 points respectively. Keith Yandle might surprise you a bit in third place with 77 goals and 473 points in 741 contests.

In goal it’s hard to pick a standout for the entire decade, but I think Rask is the closest to it. Though he started the decade as Tim Thomas’ understudy, which means he has less overall games played than the likes of Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Price, but Rask has averaged out to be the best of them. He has a 253-151-57 record, 2.31 GAA, and .920 save percentage in 467 contests over that span. Bobrovsky isn’t quite the best goaltender of the decade, but he is the most interesting. He won the Vezina twice, but he also had some pretty underwhelming campaigns sprinkled in there. Taken as a whole, he has a 268-162-41 record, 2.50 GAA, and .918 save percentage in 485 games.

Next week we’ll be back to looking forward, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this look down memory lane.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey. 

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Most significant goals
• Best players of the decade
• Favorite goals, best/worst jerseys
Best NHL teams of the decade
Biggest NHL trades