Fantasy hockey's most consistent players: Midseason edition

Mikhail Sergachev of the Tampa Bay Lightning has five goals and 20 assists in 27 games. Tony Ding/Icon Sportswire

While you've missed a lot of fun in the first two months of the NHL season, there is still some time to get a league going. The vast majority of fantasy players choose head-to-head points leagues. And while you won't get to enjoy the nearly 30 games from most teams already on the books, you can learn from them before you draft.

The rest-of-season fantasy hockey rankings are available every Monday here on ESPN.com, but there is more you can glean from this season when digging a bit deeper -- especially for the most popular format of head-to-head points. We do an offseason piece here looking at consistency by comparing the weekly output of each player over the course of multiple seasons to see how much they stray from their average output. And we can do that during a current season by diving down another level in measurement.

Instead of weekly fantasy points per game, as we do in the offseason, let's look at the weekly fantasy points per 60 minutes during the current campaign. We have nine weeks of data to look at, so let's re-work the consistency numbers for the league over these nine weeks of action.

You can hop over to the preseason consistency piece for a primer, but I'll try to sum it here quickly. After taking each player's weekly fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60), we can find their standard deviation from the mean quite easily. Which is, succinctly, how much they stray up or down from their average output of fantasy scoring in any given week. But that total also needs to be compared back to their overall FPP60 for the season to find the coefficient of variation, which normalizes the data for every player so they can be compared apples to apples. A low coefficient of variation means a player strays only a little from their average and gives you close to consistent scoring each week. A high coefficient of variation means a player can have wild swings in production, winning you your matchup in one week and ghosting you the next.

It's not quite as simple as that, as some players build on their fantasy profile over time, which creates larger deviations, but is also a positive and growth can hardly be considered as equal to inconsistency. So you need to still take the coefficient of variation in context with what you know about the player. We'll touch on that when highlighting the individuals below.

Why does this matter? Well, quite simply, consistency in head-to-head leagues is better. I've used surreal examples in the past, such as a player scoring all of their points for the season in an absurd 82-point single-game effort that confounds and astounds the hockey world over. But for something a little more grounded, consider Tage Thompson. Would the Buffalo Sabres arguably wish they could take some of the tallies from his five-goal and three-goal games this season, which they won by margins of five goals each, and sprinkle them into any of the five games they lost by one goal? Sure they would. All of a sudden their record could jump to 17-11-0 and they rocket to fourth in the division. That same base logic can be applied to your head-to-head league. While rotisserie leagues or season-long points leagues don't necessarily care when their fantasy players get their points, so long as they get them, it matters a lot in head-to-head that players can consistently help you win that week's matchup.

I'm limiting the players to highlight here to the ones putting up 1.7 fantasy points per game (FPPG) or better. That goes for forwards and defensemen, as that ballpark keeps us to the top 150 forwards and the top 75 defensemen, which is about all that matters for most 10- to 12-team leagues.

Consistent forwards

Brock Nelson, C, New York Islanders (14.6% CV, 2.3 FPPG): It sure helps that he's played 52% of his even strength ice time with the same line. That may not sound like a high number, but even Jason Robertson only sits at 66 percent. Consistent linemates, consistent deployment and consistent results from Nelson.

Kevin Hayes, C/W, Philadelphia Flyers (15.6% CV, 2.1 FPPG): Uh, well. Interesting the top two players here have completely different stories to their deployment. Hayes, unlike Nelson, has peaked at 18 percent of his ice time with the same trio. That number goes higher (56%) if you consider him and Travis Konecny a duo, rather than a line. But still, Hayes is rising above organized chaos with the lines to be a consistent contributor with his minutes. Do tall top-line centers play a consistent game? Nelson is six-foot-four and Hayes is six-foot-five, putting them as the next tallest top-line centers after Tage Thompson.

Jake DeBrusk, W, Boston Bruins (18.0% CV, 1.8 FPPG): The fantasy totals are maybe not even relevant to shallower, 10-team leagues, but there is something to be said for the reliability in which DeBrusk has been putting them up. Steady on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, DeBrusk also features on the Bruins most-frequently deployed power-play unit. If he could find a way to push the totals up just a little bit, we'd be sitting on a goldmine of consistency here.

Alex Ovechkin, W, Washington Capitals (24.9% CV, 2.7 FPPG): Consider this a warning that Ovechkin could be heating up. While his output has certainly been consistent, his three highest weeks for FPP60 in this nine-week sample are, in order: Week 9, Week 8 and Week 7. Consider buying low now?

Chris Kreider, W, New York Rangers (25.9% CV, 2.1 FPPG): I think most of us could agree that, given his fantasy totals this season, we would rather see Kreider have more variation in his output. That is to say, his 2.1 FPPG is lagging behind the 2.6 FPPG we enjoyed last season and some hot streaks would be welcome at this stage.

Chris Kreider nets goal vs. Devils

Chris Kreider nets goal vs. Devils

Other forwards with consistent CVs:

Consistent defensemen

Noah Dobson, D, New York Islanders (18.0% CV, 2.2 FPPG): An Islander is the most consistent forward in coefficient of variation and a Islander is the most consistent defenseman by that same measure. Dobson is a bit on the milquetoast side when it comes to fantasy, as he isn't really a threat to lead the league in any one category, but he competes across the board.

Mikhail Sergachev, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (21.9% CV, 2.7 FPPG): Alas, this comes at the expense of Victor Hedman, but Sergachev really is showing he was ready for the responsibility of being the Lightning's top defenseman. He sits fifth among defenders in fantasy points and has done it consistently across all nine weeks of the season.

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Jacob Trouba, D, New York Rangers (23.0% CV, 2.1 FPPG): The Rangers captain doesn't get it done on the score sheet, as he has just eight assists and zero power-play points this season. But Trouba is third among all defensemen in blocked shots, second in hits and eighth in shots on goal.

Shea Theodore, D, Vegas Golden Knights (24.2% CV, 2.0 FPPG): He's actually third on his own team in fantasy scoring, but Theodore has been reliably contributing across the whole season.

Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota Wild (24.4% CV, 1.8 FPPG): Just making the cut for fantasy relevance, Spurgeon is a curious case. The speculator in me wants to get him on my bench and wait for better times -- to get ahead of the curve. Why? Calen Addison is being treated with the patience of a saint when it comes to his ice time and role with the Wild. The Wild are barely even using him at even strength some games. He has 100 minutes of power-play ice time but only 350 minutes at even strength. For comparison, Roman Josi has about the same amount of power-play time, but has played 530 minutes at even strength. If the Wild ever decide they can't afford to keep a specialist dressed, Spurgeon would be next in line to manage the blue line on the advantage.

Other defensemen with consistent CVs:

Inconsistent forwards

Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets (82.5% CV, 2.1 FPPG): He's not quite as inconsistent as this coefficient of variation would suggest, as the Jets started the season later than others and only had one game in Week 1; a game that Scheifele blew the doors off of with two goals and seven shots. But still, there is deviation in his output as you track across the weeks, with several dipping well below his 5.96 FPP60 on the season. But Scheifele is also a victim of circumstance, with key winger Nikolaj Ehlers missing the bulk of the campaign to date, the absence of whom gave the Jets some issues finding a top-six that worked. Scheifele is humming along now with Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti as his linemates, but it too until mid-November to find that combo.

Jamie Benn, C/W, Dallas Stars (78.7% CV, 2.1 FPPG): Generate most of your fantasy profile exclusively on the power play and this is to be expected. Benn has 14 points at five-on-five this season, which isn't nearly enough to make fantasy waves. But add in his 12 power-play points, which have come in waves themselves based on his weekly FPP60, and he starts drawing your eye. Trouble is, there will be ups and downs in head-to-head leagues as he ebbs and flows with the Stars advantage.

Sam Bennett, C/W, Florida Panthers (73.0%, 2.0 FPPG): While he is mostly stapled to Matthew Tkachuk's hip this season, you can look at his weekly FPP60 output and pinpoint the weeks when Bennett played separately from Tkachuk. So this could be a lesson that inconsistency is as much about the player on the ice as it is about the player on the coach's notepad. Whenever Tkachuk was moved to play with Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe, you can see Bennett's production bottom out.

Max Domi, C/W, Chicago Blackhawks (72.8% CV, 1.7 FPPG): He is fighting the good fight, doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing on a one-year contract for a tanking squad. Domi is going to garner some interest at the trade deadline and potentially become a true fantasy asset by earning an opportunity on a more consistent offense. But, in the meantime, it looks like he's going to remain a bubble player, disappearing some weeks simply because the Blackhawks can't get any offense going.

Matt Boldy, W, Minnesota Wild (71.2% CV, 1.8 FPPG): This might be another roller-coaster of scoring we can chalk up to deployment. The Wild have gone through several iterations to try to find a line combination that includes Boldy. They are clearly loathe to separate Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, while Joel Eriksson Ek continues to be locked into his buzz line with Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway. That leaves Boldy searching for the team's third-best centre to share the ice with. Not great. It's restricted most of his scoring to the power play, leaving Boldy with a combination of the problems that plague Sam Bennett and Jamie Benn. He has earned 32 minutes this season as the top-line center for Kaprizov and Zuccarello, which really feels like the ultimate solution here, but the team keeps recommitting to Boldy as a winger.

Other forwards with inconsistent CVs:

Inconsistent defensemen

Filip Hronek, D, Detroit Red Wings (58.2% CV, 2.1 FPPG): First and foremost, take notice of how much lower the coefficient of variation is for defensemen, if Hronek has the highest among fantasy-relevant defenders, it's notable that it's still lower than most of the forwards mentioned above. The other asterisk with Hronek here is that I would argue he is an example of a player building on their game, giving the false impression of inconsistency, when really it's just growth in performance over the weeks. Two of his first four weeks of the season were more than 2.00 FPP60 below his FPP60 for the season (5.54), while none of the past five weeks has dipped that much below his average (and three of the weeks have well surpassed it).

Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo, D, Philadelphia Flyers (52.5% CV, 2.2 FPPG and 52.3%CV, 1.8 FPPG): And while Hronek represents a growth in performance, these two represent the fall from grace of the red-hot Flyers start to the season. Things looked pretty rosy for the first two, maybe even three weeks of the season with coach John Tortorella squeezing the most he could from this roster. But the turn of the tides has left the Flyers out to dry most nights since then -- and the fantasy numbers for these two are the worse for it.

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Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Arizona Coyotes (48.9% CV, 2.1 FPPG): Mercurial in his own right, Gostisbehere has also been affected by the return of Jakob Chychrun. While he was sharing power-play time with J.J. Moser before Chychrun made his season debut on Nov. 21, he's now sharing it with the both of them. As a result, all three are getting the minutes and focus only shared between the two earlier this season. Before Chychrun's return, Gostisbehere averaged 3:57 on the advantage and fired 14 shots in 16 games; Since his return he's averaged 2:33 and fired three shots in 10 games.

Hampus Lindholm, D, Boston Bruins (48.7% CV, 2.0 FPPG): Like Gostisbehere, Lindholm suffered from returning player syndrome. The second Charlie McAvoy stepped back onto the ice for the Bruins, Lindholm's ride was over. He's been well below his season-long FPP60 mark for three consecutive weeks now.

Other defensemen with inconsistent CVs: