Canadiens Fantasy Hockey Picks
The dog days of hockey summer have felt excruciatingly long this year, especially considering how solid this offseason has been for the Habs so far (aside from the Weber surgery news).
After a flurry of firings, hirings, junior signings, and having a completely positive draft weekend the flow of Canadiens news has been rather dry aside from bringing back Tomas Plekanec.
Sure, there have been rumors, rumblings, and talks of a training camp boycott by Pacioretty, but nothing is coming to fruition and in the case of Pacioretty the rumored boycott was started aaaaaand debunked within minutes by the same person who started the rumor.
It kind of sums up what’s happening in Habs media land right now, nothing to report on so might as well make some junk up in the never-ending quest for clicks and ad revenue.
I’ve maintained since I began writing here that I am simply a die hard fan, not an insider in any way. With that you can be assured I won’t be starting any rumors, but I have always expressed my opinions on matters and what I think should happen.
So, with not much happening in Habs Land aside from the Summer Showcase I figured I would give my thoughts on which Habs to target in your respective fantasy hockey leagues!
If you’re not engaged in some kind of fantasy sports leagues and you consider yourself a knowledgeable, engaged fan then I suggest you look into starting your own league with friends/colleagues/family. It’s a chance to put your money where your mouth is or just engage in friendly competition.
For those of us that love hockey, but don’t know much outside of the Habs universe, it’s a chance to learn about more players in the league. To track important stats like Power Play %, Power Play Points, Short Handed Points, and Save % league wide to give yourself the edge and also be aware who could be snagged through your leagues waiver wire.
Your knowledge of hockey should improve if you are fully engaged in your leagues and those years you assemble a top team in your league will instill a sense of accomplishment. Or if you’re in a keeper league (you keep your roster year to year and engage in a summer draft of players not yet drafted to teams in your league, there are a few variations) you build your team like a GM, engage in trade talks with your rival GM’s, and engage in all manners of trash talking.
It’s a fun experience and can maintain long standing relationships around hockey.
With all that said, this year is a roll of the dice when trying to determine how good the Canadiens will be. The last season was a disaster with a multitude of injuries and sub par performances by key contributors on the Habs roster.
This year it’s looking like a forgone conclusion that the top 3 teams in the Atlantic will consist of Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto. The Canadiens best shot at success appears to be securing a Wild Card slot and that will prove quite difficult as well.
So much depends on the play of Carey Price, more effective defensive strategies, and getting the forwards to finish their looks on net. Last season the Canadiens generated a lot of opportunities (during the first half, before aiming for a draft spot was more interesting than shooting for a playoff spot) but lack of finish prevented them from maintaining pressure on opponents. It didn’t help that many of those opportunities that went unfinished went the other way and ended up behind the Habs goalie, followed by another goal against less than a minute later.
Just a difficult year all around and one that SHOULDN’T be repeated.
So who on the Habs could help you earn Fantasy glory then?
I’ll try to help you figure that out.
First Hab Off The Board, Slide/Steal Candidate: Carey Price
There isn’t likely to be any Canadiens going early in your drafts this season. Typically, Carey Price is first off the Habs board early, but if your group of poolies follow the Toronto-centric media he’s likely to drop far down your leagues draft board this season. The media would have you believe the Habs and Price are done and that could help you scoop him him up later in the draft.
Price is coming off an injury plagued year that was also quite below the Carey Price standard. Carey had his worst statistical season of his career with 49 GP, 16 W, 26 L, 3.11 GAA, and .900 SP%. Basically, if you picked Price in the first few rounds like you should have last season you were likely scrambling to fix your goaltending mess fairly quickly and it may have cost you big time in your league.
That shouldn’t be the case this season as Price’s injury and the media tales of his decline will scare away all GM’s who aren’t Canadiens fans. There is almost a 99% guarantee the Habs fan in your league will take Price ahead of where the experts will say so be aware of that too if you really want to add Price to your team.
Be sure to draft one of the leagues top 5 teams goaltender as soon as a goalie is taken or if the players drafted are starting to hit the 70 pt potential range. Typically goalie points are 2 pts for a W, and an extra 2 Pts for a shut out. So picking a top teams goalie will likely give you a 35+ W goalie who will snag 3-6 shut outs on top of that so pay attention as the best teams will have elite players at F, D, and G. You won’t win without out drafting your peers so ensure to make your own list of top players at each position and pick accordingly.
For the Canadiens to compete for a Wild Card they will need to win about 45 games, with Price likely scoring about 38 of those wins. The Weber injury definitely puts the defense at a disadvantage until the end of November so shut outs might be a rarity this year.
Best case scenario is Price is good for 38 wins and 5 shut outs over 65 games. This would be a return to form for Price on a team that could struggle to score again. That’s a 82 point season for Carey and would help your team be competitive.
Worst case scenario (injuries not included) would see the Habs goaltender struggle again and secure around 25 wins and 1 shut out for a 52 pt season. This would be a nightmare realized again in Montreal and it’s these types of sentiments that will be the reason Price will be available later and his eventual selection will be met with jeers from your rival GM’s.
Bottom line, I’ll split the difference and say Price is good for 31 wins and 3 shut outs this season. A 68 point season won’t win you the championship if he’s your #1 G, but if you happen to get your hands on one or two of Hellebuyck, Holtby, Vasilevsky, Quick, Murray, Rask, Anderson, Bobrovsky, Dubnyk, or Gibson then getting a Carey Price back up wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. In fact, all those goaltenders should go before Price in your leagues so if you had a couple of them already, added Price as your #3 and he bounces back to his career norm then you will have the best goaltending scenario in your league.
Top Habs Forwards: Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi
The next season for all three of these players is huge. I’ll prognosticate based on Pacioretty still being a Canadien and starting the season with the Habs.
Max is likely going to heading into the season with all the motivation in the world. The last year of a value contract will see him working his hardest to secure a long and lucrative deal to ensure his family’s financial independence after his playing days are over. When your way of life and security of your family are the foundation of your motivation you can bet the effort will be there.
Max should find himself back in the 30+ G, 30+ A range this season and thus a valuable fantasy hockey contributor.
Drouin and Domi find themselves in a similar situation as young, talented, high profile players awaiting that one break out season to get the ball rolling on their productive careers. Both players are skilled playmakers and skaters with high IQ and compete levels. Both players also need to shoot more often instead of looking to pass.
These players could end up forming a deadly 1st unit PP attack as teams will have to cover Pacioretty’s shot, and cannot just over pressure the teams best puck handler in Drouin. Domi on this unit should either ensure better coverage scenarios for Drouin or Drouin will be finding Domi open if the defense goes to over cover Drouin and that will result in looks and goals. Either way, this will be an improvement and Drouin has already shown how effective he is on the man advantage in his NHL career. This alone could improve Drouin’s point totals by 10 compared to last season and if your league counts PP points then he will be a very smart pick in the middle of your draft. I could also say the same for Domi and I would think both players could see themselves with 20+ G, 35+ A seasons with some of the Habs F’s finishing the chances they will create.
So Domi and Drouin are likely to be 50 point players minimum, but there is a very real possibility they approach 60 points or better very soon. That puts them at a .73 PPG pace and they are likely going to be picked far down in your draft. They could be key depth pieces that give your team the edge in the long run.
Honorable Mention: Brendan Gallagher.
I don’t think Gallagher will ever become a 30 assist player and as such it limits his fantasy value in points only leagues. His 31 goals last season were no fluke as there isn’t many in the NHL that can match his work ethic and will to win. So if your league counts goals in its own catagory then Gallagher will be a must in the mid rounds for said Goals. If they count goals, PPP, and PIMs then Gallagher is a player you may be able to steal from GM’s that are using lists based on Point Projections only. Be informed and pick according to your leagues rules. Points only, Gallagher will be picked very late, if at all. Multiple point catagory leagues, Gallagher will be a smart grab in the middle.
Top Habs Defensemen: Shea Weber, Jeff Petry
The choice of Weber is a no brainer, but with his surgery delaying his start until sometime in November he will be a smart grab later in your draft. If Weber plays only 60 games you’re likely to get 30-35 points out of him and a great PPP boost if your league counts them. This is the season where a Canadiens bounce back will reward poolies handsomely as Price and Weber will go far below where they typically are picked.
I’m off the opinion that Weber is a genetic freak of sorts. A player regarded around the league as strong, tough, and elite. A Mark Messier type athelte. Picking Weber will never really hurt you (outside of unpredictable injury) but this season he will slide and if you steal him for depth you can bet by seasons end he will have remained in your line up since he returns to action.
Until Weber returns, Jeff Petry will be the #1 PP defenseman and with new offensive coaching and the Domi Factor I think we will see improvement on the teams PP that ranked 13th in the NHL last season (21.2%). Petry is coming off a career best 12 G, 30 A season while playing in all 82 games. He is a risk as his previous career high was 28 points, but with Weber out for a couple month he will get around 20 games on that top PP unit and with the Habs PP already doing pretty well for itself Petry could be another smart pick late in the draft.
Jeff put up 6 PPG and 17 PPA last season and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t replicate that as Montreal’s 2nd best offensive Defenseman. In points only he could be a late round steal, in a multi category league his points, PPP, and possible 10 goals could be very advantageous. But also be aware if your league is counting +/- as Petry had a near team worse -30 rating. His other stats could outweigh the +/- but without careful consideration and thought you likely aren’t winning anything. Always be prepared and you should be rewarded.
Break Out Possibilities/Waiver Wire Watch
Last year I tried to call the break outs of Philip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen. Their advanced stats were great and their career trends pointed towards improvement rather than regression. Unfortunately for all, the season was filled with injury and inconsistencies all around and resulted in a stalling of both players positive career arc.
With both players likely destined for a 2nd line role I feel like they will definitely produce better than last season, as it couldn’t get much worse for either player. Danault played only 52 games and battled a Chara induced concussion after blocking a shot with his bucket. Despite that Danault put up 8 G and 17 A in a season that destroyed the stats of all aside from Petry and Gallagher.
If Danault remains in a 2nd line C/ 2nd PP unit role and remains healthy we should see him approach the 50+ point mark and could help a team big time on the waiver wire. His all around solid play will also keep some categories safe in mulitiple scoring catagory leagues. He won’t be drafted in your league, but just be aware that a quality young C is going to be playing 2nd line minutes. An injury or hot streak could see him scooped up by aware GM’s rather quickly, depending on his play of course.
Lehkonen battled his own injuries throughout the year and despite some great looks and a fantastic shot release he was limited to only 12 G and 9 A in 66 games. It may appear that Lehkonen is a shooter first and thus his point value may be limited, but should his shot begin finding the back of the net with consistency he could eventually see himself approach the 20 G mark or more. So if Lehkonen does start cashing in on that wicked shot and your team counts G’s in a separate category he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Enjoy these last few weeks of summer folks and never bet what you can’t afford. If fantasy sports isn’t fun for you and it’s costing you money then don’t do it. If you enjoy friendly rivalries and have a quality group of GM’s to trash talk with then I would suggest you enjoy it, you will miss it when it’s gone!