For the first time since 2007-08, the Chicago Blackhawks were quite mediocre. Yes, they finished with 103 points but they had a negative goal differential at even strength. That’s simply not going to get it done and at this point, the Blackhawks are out of the first tier of teams in the NHL. It sounds crazy to say with the stars they have but man, the roster is incredibly thin after the top few guys. For fantasy, there’s not much in terms of value plays but if you’re willing to spend a high pick, you’ll have your choice of some studs. Let’s take a look at what Chicago is working with:
For the fourth consecutive season, Corey Crawford was a #1 fantasy goalie. He posted an outstanding .924 sv% for the second straight year, his 2.37 GAA increased but is still fine and he won 35 games in 58 starts which is terrific on a per-game basis. The problem is the 58 starts; Crawford has missed time in every season and has never started 60 games. Don’t get me wrong, he’s clearly a #1 goalie, it just drops him a little bit in my ranks. I had Crawford at 28th overall and the #6 overall goaltender for this season and I still think that’s right. My only advice in head to head leagues is to avoid pairing him with another goalie who won’t start a ton of games e.g. Roberto Luongo.
In roto leagues, I’d probably take Scott Darling with my last pick if I took Crawford. He wasn’t great last season (2.58 GAA, .915 sv%) but his save percentage at even strength was above average which is a good indicator for future success. Even though I said in the opening that the Blackhawks aren’t a top tier team anymore, I still think the goaltending duo will be plenty good enough. Darling has also shown that he can play well in extended stretches, especially during the 2015 playoffs, if Crawford goes down again.
Duncan Keith is one of the poster boys of what Reid talked about in his first post. He may be great in real life but that doesn’t matter to us fantasy players. Keith finished as the #20 defenseman last season with 9 goals and 34 assists in 67 games. He was +13 which is his 5th straight year over +10, a big chunk of his value. The problem is his shot rate is slightly below average and the penalty minutes have dropped significantly compared to the earlier part of his career. Keith is a solid fantasy player but he doesn’t carry the offensive upside to be a #1 fantasy defenseman. He’s outside of my top 100 and will be ranked as a bottom end #2 for 12’ers.
2015-16 was a career year for Brent Seabrook scoring 14 goals and 35 assists. The main question is whether or not Seabrook gets a spot on the first power play unit. Seabrook scored over half of his points on the power play, a lot of which came when Keith was out injured. He’s the favorite at this point to get that role but there’s definitely a chance he doesn’t because they play 4 forwards. His shots and penalty minutes are also average so a large chunk of Seabrook’s value will come from his STP. I expect him to take a slight step back this year into the 10+33 range or so even if he keeps the PP role. Seabrook has avoided injury throughout his career so his safety will put him as a bottom end #3 in 12’ers.
If Seabrook doesn’t get that spot, it could also be because of Brian Campbell . The 37 year old is making his return to The Windy City after some strong years in Florida, especially in the possession department. Campbell finished last season with 6+25 and a whopping +31. The penalty minutes are extremely low and the shots are poor but if Campbell does get the spot on PP1, he should push 50 points. I’m not drafting him in 12’ers yet but it’s worth monitoring.
The other three guys aren’t worth rostering outside of the deepest of leagues. If you’re in a deep league that includes blocked shots, Niklas Hjalmarsson should provide plenty of value in that category along with plus-minus.
Patrick Kane‘s 2015-16 season was nothing short of amazing setting career highs in almost all categories. Kane scored a whopping 106 points (46+60), he was +17, had 37(!) power play points and 287 SOG, easily a career best. So why is he only ranked 6th overall? It comes down to a couple things. The most important thing is that the goals are a huge outlier. Kane’s previous career high was 30 goals and while he would have got there the previous 3 seasons if not for injuries and a lockout shortened year, Kane’s never been on a 40 goal pace. Add in that he shot a ridiculous 16% last season and his goal total should drop towards 35. He hadn’t topped 50 assists in 6 years so even if we give him 50 assists, that’s a 20 point fall from last year, most of which will come from the power play (you can’t count on someone getting over 30 PPP). 85-90 points from Kane would be nothing to sneeze at but I think the other guys are a safer bet or have even bigger upside than Kane (Connor McDavid). My expectation is that he’s Jamie Benn without the penalty minutes.
A big boost for Kane was playing with another great linemate in Artemi Panarin. The Calder Trophy winner was arguably the fantasy MVP seeing how he was drafted in the last couple rounds last season. Panarin scored 30 goals and added 47 assists with average or better contributions elsewhere. Panarin is one of the toughest players to rank this season since he doesn’t have a history beyond last year. I put Panarin 40th for a few reasons. One, the shot rate is merely average so consequently, if his 16% shooting was a fluke, the goals can go to the 20-25 range. Two, I expect Kane’s points to drop so in effect, Panarin’s totals will take a hit. Lastly, his stat line is fairly boring; outside of the big assists it’s not a game changer anywhere. There’s a chance that Panarin is a top 20 skater again but there’s also some significant risk here. I may end up moving him down a bit (not outside the top 50) as we get closer to the season starting.
Artem Anisimov is the third member of the first line but unlike his linemates, he’s far from a fantasy star. In fact, I wouldn’t even draft him in 12’ers. His shots are well below average, the penalty minutes are non-existent and while he’s slated to be on the first power play unit, it’s far from a guarantee. The 20 goals and 22 assists are decent but without the contribution in the other areas, it’s not enough. I’d love to stream him in the right matchups so that’s my target for Arty at this point.
The main focus of Reid’s article, Jonathan Toews is nothing special when it comes to fantasy. Sure, the plus-minus is always great and he should be around the 60 point mark but there are some downsides too. I don’t expect Toews to be on the first power play which puts a big cap on his value. The 62 PIM last season were a big outlier so that should drop back into the 30 range. The shots are merely average and most importantly, his quality of linemate is going to be quite poor. Marian Hossa is nowhere near the player he used to be and Richard Panik has never been in the top 6 before. Toews was 61st in my rankings and somebody I don’t expect to be on any of my teams.
Speaking of Hossa, he was quite a mess in 2015-16. He scored only 13 goals and 20 assists in 64 games after playing at a 60+ point pace for 15 straight years. Hossa’s shot rate was still at 3 per game so with a bounce back in his shooting percentage, he could get back into the mid 20’s in goals. He’s also been a plus player every season in Chicago (at least +9). On the other hand, he doesn’t help in penalty minutes anymore and will be on the second power play unit again. I just don’t see the upside here. I’m probably not drafting him in 12’ers in lieu of somebody with more upside but if I am, it’s with one of my last picks.
Panik should get a chance in the top 6 because quite frankly, the Blackhawks don’t have anybody else. He could be a decent streamer but I can’t expect anything more from the 25 year old.
It feels weird to write about only 6 forwards but the Blackhawks are extremely thin. Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd (plus Marko Dano who was traded for him) and Teuvo Teravainen are all gone eliminating virtually all of their depth. Perhaps someone (Tanner Kero? Nick Schmaltz?) steps up and becomes a fringe guy but I’m not looking at anyone in their bottom 6 to breakout.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Nick Schmaltz
2) Ville Pokka
3) Mark McNeill
4) Ryan Hartman
5) Tyler Motte
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the St. Louis Blues. As always, feel free to leave any comments or ask any questions below. Take care!