What if it didn't matter if the puck went into the net or not?
What if all we cared about were the concrete actions taken by players on the ice -- regardless of the outcome of that action -- and we somehow tried to play fantasy hockey around that idea?
Stay with me. This is a thought exercise to determine some players that might be more value than they appear on the surface. We're quickly coming to the point.
What if we took away the fantasy scoring metrics that others can influence the outcome of -- whether it's a teammate or the opposing goaltender?
What if we just counted shots, hits and blocked shots?
That's it. No goals. No assists. Special teams are right out.
Just taking shots, getting in front of them and slamming into others.
As you may guess, this is the defenseman's time to shine. When it comes to collecting fantasy points that don't rely on others, the blueliners flip the script on forwards. Last season, 63 defensemen scored more fantasy points from these three categories than the top forward did.
Jacob Trouba, D, New York Rangers: Led all players last season by scoring 129.6 fantasy points from just his hits, blocked shots and shots. He came within shouting distance of the triple-200 club, notching 204 shots, 207 hits and 177 blocked shots. His minimal scoring is almost irrelevant thanks to so many points from the periphery. His average draft position (ADP) of 12th among all defensemen is indicative of that.
MacKenzie Weegar, D, Calgary Flames: Finishing second to Trouba in this metric, Weegar collected 116.2 fantasy points from just blocking, hitting and shooting last season. Now changing uniforms, the question is whether he can continue to be a reliable fantasy source. It's a fair concern, as he goes from being behind only Aaron Ekblad on the pecking order to definitely behind Rasmus Andersson, but also maybe behind Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin. In other words, the Flames have a very strong top four on defense now thanks to the addition of Weegar. But, as evidenced by his totals last season, Weegar only needs ice time to succeed through hits, blocks and shots. He'll continue to get plenty of opportunity to do so -- even on a more crowded Flames blue line.
Moritz Seider, D, Detroit Red Wings: Wait a second? Did the 20-year-old rookie -- with an offensive game likely to grow even better in coming seasons -- really finish third to Trouba and Weegar in this world without scoring? You bet he did. Seider joins them as the only other player in the league with at least 150 of each stat on his way to collect 114.3 fantasy points from only blocked shots, hits and shots. Seider's offense was solid last season, with 50 total points and 21 of them on the power play. But the Red Wings are an up-and-coming team and Seider was only a rookie running the advantage. You can't help but ask yourself, "Does this mean his upside is potentially becoming the top fantasy defenseman in a few years?" You said it, not me.
Calvin de Haan, D, Carolina Hurricanes (on a tryout): You have to wonder how much the NHL values contributions in these categories if someone like de Haan can't get a proper contract. On a per-minute basis, no one in the NHL collected more fantasy points from hits, blocked shots and shots than de Haan last season. He was fifth in raw points from those stats and ranks 10th overall if you include both of the past two years. Yet, de Haan is still trying to earn a contract on a tryout with the Hurricanes at training camp. The minus-21 rating is ugly, sure, but he was on the Blackhawks and we've all tried to leave plus/minus behind us as a thing of the past. If de Haan can secure work with the Hurricanes -- or with any other team -- keep him in mind toward the end of your draft.
Garnet Hathaway, F, Washington Capitals: Combining hits, blocked shots and shots for the past two seasons, the top three forwards (who all sit well down on the overall list compared to defensemen) are Brady Tkachuk, Auston Matthews and Timo Meier. But they are all top-tier fantasy assets when we also include scoring, so let's look at the player sitting fourth. I don't immediately consider Hathaway to be a fantasy asset and this exercise has me reconsidering that. In only 13:23 of average ice time, Hathaway managed to finish inside the top 250 skaters last season with 108.9 fantasy points -- 68.4 of which came strictly from shots, blocked shots and hits. Don't get me wrong -- he's not a draftable player at this stage. But if the injury bug starts hitting the Capitals (moreso than it already has), Hathaway is getting a second look.
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To give a bigger picture of which players have this safety net of points built into their profile, let's take the last two seasons combined and see who has the most fantasy points from just hits, blocked shots and shots. Here's your top 25:
Jacob Trouba, D, New York Rangers: 189.7
MacKenzie Weegar, D, Calgary Flames: 179.6
Connor Murphy, D, Chicago Blackhawks: 174.6
Calvin de Haan, D, Carolina Hurricanes: 169.5
Brayden McNabb, D, Vegas Golden Knights: 165.1
Brent Burns, D, Carolina Hurricanes: 164.7
Chris Tanev, D, Calgary Flames: 156.4
Alexander Romanov, D, New York Islanders: 156.3
Jani Hakanpaa, D, Dallas Stars: 156
Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Philadelphia Flyers: 155.8
A lot of the list is not surprising, as you find many of the top fantasy defenders sprinkled among it. But there are some gems in here that it's nice to note as deployment-proof. As in, they don't need to be the power-play quarterback to sneak into fantasy relevancy.
Ferraro could be in for a larger role this coming season with Burns having moved on. Savard is on a shallow blue line in Montreal and could push for some light power-play work to supplement his established base for points. If Provorov can rediscover his offensive touch that has faded in recent seasons, he could challenge the top defenders.
There are also some freebies on this list that essentially go undrafted in most leagues and could be used to suppplement your scoring at the tail end of drafts. Murphy, Gudas, Hakanpaa, Ristolainen and Myers, can be included in that with ADPs below 220.
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