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Fantasy hockey: Non-standard category pickups

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen chases a loose puck. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

For many managers, fantasy competition is about more than goals, assists, plus/minus, average time-on-ice, power play points, shots and penalty minutes - the standard notes on ESPN.com's scale for skaters. So, in a shout-out to all those who favor the custom fantasy route, here's a look at some well-rounded contributors who satisfy non-standard categories better than others. Largely players who, if not outwardly available, might serve as realistic trade targets.


Hits

Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres: The big Finnish defenseman consistently demonstrates an inclination for throwing his body around. Ranking 12th in the NHL last season with a total of 235 hits, Ristolainen is noticeably bettering that pace this first quarter, sitting fifth with 74 (3.5/game). And it's fair to expect more from the 26-year-old from a production view. Collecting 40-plus points each of the last four campaigns, Ristolainen is off stride early with only seven. But he's leading the Sabres' blue line in shots (by quite a margin) and competing on the club's top pair and secondary power play. He'll snap out this particular funk soon enough. Meanwhile, grab the largely available d-man in leagues that reward both a physical approach to the game and contributions to the scoresheet. See also: Zack Kassian, RW, Edmonton Oilers

Blocked shots

Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks: If preferring power-play production from a member of the Canucks' blue line, rookie Quinn Hughes is your guy. If however your league favours those who throw themselves in front of the puck, earn penalty minutes, plus score, look to the veteran defenseman instead. Edler ranks second only to Oscar Klefbom with 61 blocked shots, while also "boasting" 30 PIM and 14 points through 22 contests.

Power-play goals

Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild: After a relatively dormant October, the 35-year-old sniper is finally heating up, scoring four goals (one assist) in his past three games, two of them counting with the extra skater. He's also shooting more, which usually helps. Skating on the Wild's top line and power play, Parise can again be expected to lead his squad in scoring, at even-strength and with the man-advantage. Rather quietly, he averaged an impressive 0.82 points/game only last year. While the veteran winger is available in more than 40% of ESPN.com leagues, after such a slow start, he might also merit targeting as an underrated asset via trade.

Power-play assists

Oscar Klefbom, D, Edmonton Oilers: Three members of the Oilers currently rank in the league's top-five in power-play assists: Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and this guy. Most managers would be thrilled with 10 assists though 23 games from the majority of their fantasy defenseman, yet here Klefbom sits with that precise number collected on the power play. He has another six at even-strength. The 26-year-old is also averaging near 26 minutes per game - almost 27 since Halloween - and, as mentioned, he leads the entire NHL in blocked-shots. How this blueliner isn't overwhelmingly spoken for across the fantasy board confounds me. He doesn't score goals, I give you that. But still.

Short-handed points

Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs: Basically you want a speedy, scoring forward who kills penalties on the regular. In that vein, I like Kapanen for his proven ability to quickly break out following a misplay by the opposition. He's tied a-top the league with six other players with two shorties to date (of six goals total). Also, it will be interesting to see how new bench boss Sheldon Keefe works his lines, once settled in a bit. Mike Babcock's replacement is plenty familiar with Kapanen, having coached the young forward with the AHL Marlies. See also: Anthony Cirelli, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

Faceoffs won

Phillip Danault, C, Montreal Canadiens: I remain surprised at how little fantasy interest the Canadiens' No. 1 center continues to generate. Riding a five-game point streak, the 26-year-old already has six goals and 11 assists on the year (plus-nine), while averaging more than 18 minutes/game. As for the category in question, Danault ranks fourth in the league in faceoffs taken (443), and fifth in wins (236) for a wholly respectable rate of success of 53.3%. Yet he's still available in more than 75% of ESPN.com leagues. Bonus bit: Managers in leagues that reward both faceoffs won and power-play goals should consider targeting Bo Horvat via trade. Vancouver's captain ranks second overall in the former category - Horvat and Ryan O'Reilly are in a class all their own - and eighth overall in the latter. He's also averaging near 21 minutes/game in November.

Game-winning goals

Phil Kessel, RW, Arizona Coyotes: Do you realize that Connor McDavid has only two game-winners thus far? No other player has more goals and fewer winners to date. Meanwhile Dave Perron leads the league with five. Speaks to the somewhat unpredictable nature of this category. Still, I like Kessel here to heat up and start scoring altogether, including in game-clinching situations. He's historically clutch, having led the league with 10 game-winners only a year ago. I also believe there are some frustrated fantasy managers out there who may feel willing to trade the prolific producer in exchange for less than he's probably worth.

Penalty minutes

Barclay Goodrow, LW/RW, San Jose Sharks: Making an exception here, since PIM technically falls under the 'standard' category banner, but bears repeating - after receiving attention in this week's Waiver Watch - that Goodrow ranks second league-wide in penalty minutes with 40. That works out to 1.82/game. And, skating on a Sharks' second line with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, the former OHL Battalion member has eight points, including three goals, in his most recent nine game. While these aren't Brad Marchand PIM/scoring numbers, Marchand also isn't available in 96% of ESPN.com leagues. Goodrow also blocks more shots than most forwards.