Missed shots are one of our favorite bonus statistics from the NHL. On the surface, they appear to be somewhat meaningless. But when you consider that missed shots on goal are one more effort by a player to drive a scoring chance, they begin to carry some weight.
What we like even more is having an occasional look at shots plus missed shots to see which NHL players are trying most frequently to put the puck on the net. A lot of the time, you'll end up with a who's who of the NHL by looking at the this statistic, which in and of itself is quite telling.
If the leaders in shots plus missed shots are generally the guys who are dong the most fantasy damage, then it begs us to consider the players who maybe aren't getting the tallies yet as victims of some bad luck. After all, they are doing what we want our fantasy players to do -- putting the puck at the net. If it happens to be a little off now and then, that's less of a concern than if a player wasn't shooting at all.
So, this time, we will look at shots plus missed shots since Jan. 1 in the NHL to see which players are putting the puck in the general direction of the net with the most frequency.
Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres: Leading the NHL in shots plus missed shots since Jan. 1, Eichel also leads the league in successful shots since then. He has 81 shots on goal, and a total of 112 shots plus missed shots. With 29 points in 35 games this season, Eichel is making up for the time he lost to a preseason ankle injury. He tends to score in bunches, as all of his points have come in 17 games this season -- meaning he has been held off the scoresheet entirely 18 times. A little more consistency, which will come with time, and Eichel will be a top-20 fantasy asset as early as next season. But with all those shots on goal and some teammates heating up around him, he might already be in that tier for the short term. Eichel is 17th on the ESPN Player Rater for the past month.
Evander Kane, LW, Buffalo Sabres: Given that Kane is currently slotted in on a line with Eichel, this trio (also including Sam Reinhart) is keeping opponents busy. Kane is third in the league since Jan. 1 in shots plus missed shots, with 107. Even though we've been touting him here for fantasy usage on ESPN for a while now, perhaps we've been too soft on our recommendations. Kane is still available in 47 percent of ESPN leagues, but is 11th for fantasy value among skaters on the ESPN Player Rater for the past month. We aren't hearing about Kane's off-ice behavior this season, and it is looking more and more like he's back on the path to being one of the more dangerous wingers in the NHL. Pick him up.
Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins: We've been saying all season that eventually Bergeron would come around for his fantasy owners, and his shots plus missed shots since Jan. 1 back up his resurgence. Tied for seventh, with 95 pucks sent toward the general direction of the net, Bergeron has been a top-10 fantasy player for the past month. Even though dynamic scorer David Pastrnak has been moved away from Bergeron and Brad Marchand, David Backes is a quality replacement as a winger, and should easily help Bergeron continue his torrid pace for the rest of the season.
Frank Vatrano, C, Boston Bruins: Seeing Vatrano ranked 14th in the NHL since Jan. 1 with 86 shots plus missed shots is a big positive, but the coaching change in Boston split the train of thought on him. On one hand, he was demoted from a scoring line to the third line. On the other hand, in three games since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the bench, Vatrano has four points. Logic suggests his scoring pace will slide a bit with less ice time, as he hasn't eclipsed 13:10 under Cassidy, but Vatrano is showing his AHL scoring chops have at least some translation to the NHL. It would be easier to get on board if he were still playing on the second line. That said, Cassidy has already gone through two other wingers trying to find a replacement for Vatrano on the second line, so he could just go back to skating him with David Krejci sooner than later.
Jacob Trouba, D, Winnipeg Jets: Trouba's fantasy relevance has been such a slow build this season that he's almost flown under the radar as an asset. Beginning the campaign on a contract holdout and then not immediately having an impact on the box scores following his return kept him off most fantasy teams for the bulk of the season. Since Jan. 1, he's 16th in the NHL with 84 shots plus missed shots and has outperformed Dustin Byfuglien for fantasy value during the last month. He's available in 44 percent of ESPN leagues, and could be the defenseman you need to make a final push.
Jake Muzzin, D, Los Angeles Kings: The ship has long since sailed on Muzzin earning his third consecutive 40-point season, but that doesn't mean he's off the fantasy radar. After some serious December doldrums, with two assists and 17 shots in 14 games, Muzzin has collected four goals, five assists and 55 shots on goal in 18 games since Jan. 1. He's 44th in the NHL in that time, with 70 shots plus missed shots. While he isn't the underrated fantasy darling he's been the past two seasons, he should close the campaign with enough value to be active on rosters in most leagues.
Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Detroit Red Wings: His stats don't stand out for fantasy purposes, but don't be fooled by the surface numbers. The goals Athanasiou does score tend to be of the highlight-reel variety. Tied with Muzzin and Connor McDavid with 70 shots plus missed shots since Jan. 1, Athanasiou is getting enough ice time and opportunity to begin carving out a role as a future scoring winger. He's probably not in position to earn a spot in most fantasy leagues yet, but keep an eye on him for a hot streak, and certainly keep him in mind headed into next season.
Forwards rising and falling
Alexander Steen, LW, St. Louis Blues (up 28 spots to No. 70): Coach Ken Hitchcock's loyalty to the Jori Lehtera-Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Tarasenko line is hard to argue with since Tarasenko has been so great under Hitchcock's tutelage. That said, who isn't excited to see Tarasenko playing with some different linemates under new coach Mike Yeo? It looks like that Yeo is committed to rolling a Tarasenko-Steen-Paul Stastny top line (when Stastny's health allows it), which is a pretty significant upgrade in overall skill level on the ice with Tarasenko. Steen should be a big beneficiary of this change, as his ice time with Tarasenko has been hit and miss this season. Stastny has missed the bulk of the past two games with a lower-body injury but could be back this week to get this line on task.
Defensemen rising and falling
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames (down 15 spots to No. 78): "Pointless" has described Mark Giordano's play for the past month, both literally and figuratively. He hasn't scored since grabbing three points on Jan. 17, and is now on pace for only 32 points this season. While Giordano collects fantasy value in other categories, the lack of points are starting to hurt. Dougie Hamilton finally passed him on the ESPN Player Rater as the Flames' most valuable fantasy defenseman. Giordano has been prone to funks in the past, so the hope is that he busts out of this one in time for a good March and April. But given the under-performance by many Flames for fantasy purposes, don't count on it.
Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (up six spots to No. 160): Jones has edged Zach Werenski for fantasy value during the past month, and is ranked 20th among all defensemen during that time. His minutes have gone into the stratosphere lately, as he's averaging 25:29 for the month of February. After notching seven points in 15 games through the end of November (which included an injury), Jones has 21 points in 33 games since Dec. 1. For the record, that's an 82-game pace of 52 points since Dec. 1.
Goaltenders rising and falling
Jake Allen, G, St. Louis Blues (up 49 spots to No. 91): Under coach Mike Yeo and a new defensive system, Allen is 4-1, with a 1.40 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in five games. In backup Carter Hutton's only start since Yeo took over, Hutton earned a shutout. It's a small sample, but the change behind the bench has paid early dividends defensively for the Blues. And Allen, who was struggling mightily prior to the change, is the biggest beneficiary.
Roberto Luongo, G, Florida Panthers (down 16 spots to No. 100): Of all NHL goaltenders to have started seven games during the past month, Luongo has the worst GAA -- and it's not even close. With a 4.06 GAA, Luongo easily has a worse GAA than Cam Ward's 3.78 during that span. It wouldn't be as concerning if we weren't able to point to backup James Reimer's 2.45 GAA in five games during that same time period. It's the same Panthers team in front of Luongo and Riemer, yet Luongo allows almost twice as many goals. If this trend doesn't turn around right quick, fantasy owners may want to look for another No. 2 goaltender for the stretch run. At the very least, Reimer is looking like must-handcuff material.
Rust? Who says there's any rust? Not Craig Anderson, that's for sure. Fresh off an extended personal leave of absence, Anderson stepped back into the Ottawa Senators' crease for a 33-save shutout of the relatively hot New York Islanders this weekend. He'll be the starter for the stretch run, and is worthy of snagging as a No. 2 goaltender where available (wink, nudge, Luongo owners).
Still no Evgeni Malkin for the Pittsburgh Penguins, so take everything with a grain of salt, but Jake Guentzel was alongside Sidney Crosby on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. That's the type of role that could elevate the rookie from "moderately interesting but not relevant" to "worth a gamble."
After Max Domi potted two points in his third game back, the Coyotes promptly reunited their top line of Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Domi. The results was four points between them in a 4-3 victory against the visiting Penguins.
Brendan Gallagher returned for the Montreal Canadiens, and was back on a line with Alex Galchenyuk. It helps Galchenyuk a little, but the money spot on the Habs' depth chart is with Max Pacioretty and/or Alexander Radulov, who remain on a line together with Philip Daunault.
After a brief breakup, Viktor Arvidsson was brought back up to the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg in time for a hat trick on Saturday. He's still available in more than half of ESPN leagues, but shouldn't be.
Top 250 rankings
Here are the updated rest-of-season top-250 rankings of forwards, defensemen and goalies, including position ranks.
Note: Sean Allen's top 250 players are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice for skaters, and wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies.