Around this time of year, most people are focused on their upcoming fantasy football drafts and not too much so with hockey. I am here to help.
Instead of previewing the entire league, I will be noting some Penguins who I believe should be on your roster regardless of your league size. I will also be noting a few players who could deserve a look in bigger and more deep leagues.
Sidney Crosby, C
Whether he is the top pick or the second pick, behind Connor McDavid of course, Crosby will be owned in every single (competitive) fantasy league because he just is the best.
After winning the Rocket Richard last year as the league’s leading scorer, it’s reasonable to believe he can do it again as he is playing at the level we have always known Crosby to be. Maybe even better. It’s reasonable to think that he doesn’t put up 44 goals again but with Crosby, anything is possible.
Couple about 40 goals with 60+ assists and Crosby will help pitch in to win your fantasy league.
Projected Stats: 38 G, 65 A, 103 PTS, +21 +/-, 25 PIMs
Evgeni Malkin, C
In a league where Malkin is very underrated, it’s likely he will be on your draft board, too. A top 5 talent in the league, Malkin could be a second round pick depending on the size of your league.
Malkin was a huge reason the Penguins won the Cup last season and nothing drives him more than winning championships. Malkin, along with a few other teammates, have a chance to three-peat. If that isn’t enough to keep him motivated, I don’t know what is.
The only problem will be his durability.
He has missed some games over the past few seasons for some nagging injuries. This shouldn’t hinder your choice to take him. If he is available, even as high as pick number three, and you have an inclination to take him, don’t hesitate. Malkin is going to have a big year. I’ll say even enough to compete for the scoring title.
Projected Stats: 31 G, 68 A, 99 PTS, +14 +/-, 49 PIMs
Kris Letang, D
Yet another underrated player in the league, Letang will be returning from a major neck operation. And, yet again, if you need a cornerstone defenseman in the first four or five rounds, Letang should be available.
Letang’s neck injury could scare some away. I’d even say he may struggle to really find his game in the first month after being off the ice for over half a year. But, fantasy league’s aren’t won in month number one. They are won with long term investments.
In Mike Johnston‘s final tenure as the head coach of the team, Letang wasn’t being used properly and ultimately was almost useless in any fantasy format. Even with the worst of start of his career, it didn’t stop Letang from almost winning the scoring race amongst defensemen. He also scored the game winning game in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals that season.
Letang’s injury last season may slow him early. But he’ll be very much worth the long term investment come fantasy playoff time.
Projected Stats: 10 G, 55 A, 60 PTS, +20 +/-, 68 PIMs
Matt Murray, G
This is the one that may surprise some fans but this is the NEW face of the “Core Four”.
With Marc-Andre Fleury gone to Vegas, the Penguins have their undoubted goalie of the future and the now.
Murray has won two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons. He will hunt a third. The only problem with Murray? His durability.
Murray has had a few freak and unlucky injuries over the past couple seasons. If a fantasy player values a franchise goaltender in the first few rounds then don’t overthink it and select Murray. He will win close to 40 games if he doesn’t miss time due to injury. He is the defined starter now and if those first two seasons are any indication of what’s to come, you’ll want Murray on your team.
Just make sure to draft a solid back option incase of another freak injury.
Projected Stats: 38 W, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO
Patric Hornqvist, RW
Hornqvist is one of those guys that won’t be anywhere near a point per game player. He can reasonably put up 40-50 points.
Where Hornqvist gets his true value is in the categories leagues.
Hornqvist will likely be towards the top of your team in the hitting category. He takes a fair amount of shots and he likely will begin the season on Malkin’s wing.
Even if you aren’t in a categories league, Hornqvist is worth the look if you’re looking for mid-to-late round depth.
Projected Stats: 17 G, 31 A, 48 PTS, +7 +/-, 60 PIMs
Jake Guentzel, RW
Here is your golden ticket.
A lot of people watched Guentzel light up the NHL world in the playoffs. How many people will take this into consideration during the draft?
Guentzel is 98th according to ESPN’s rankings. In a 10 man league, this would make him a ninth or tenth rounder. That is a serious steal if he goes and does what he did last season. He’ll at least begin the season with Crosby.
Don’t overdraft him, though. He is almost guaranteed to be there into the seventh round of a ten man league. If you get paranoid and want him then, go ahead and take him. The later you take him, the smarter you’ll look.
Projected Stats: 31 G, 31 A, 62 PTS, +24 +/-, 16 PIMs
Conor Sheary, LW
The other wing on Crosby’s line, Sheary will also excel if he stays with Crosby. Buyer beware, though.
Every player goes through slumps, but the one Sheary suffered in last year was atrocious in the playoffs. The playoffs don’t matter in fantasy, but it’s proof that if Sheary slumps, it could get very ugly.
He is a solid player with upside but I wouldn’t consider him before round ten. If someone takes him before then, you can find value elsewhere in some other players around the league.
He’ll play with Crosby but it remains to be seen how long. Don’t overdraft him but if he’s there and legitimately the best available, don’t hesitate.
Projected Stats: 18 G, 25 A, 43 PTS, 13 +/-, 31 PIMs
Phil Kessel, RW
I know it’s odd to see Kessel’s name as a sleeper to some. But, a lot of people are down on him lately.
So depending on how you classify Kessel’s talent, he is a sleeper.
Kessel has played on the third line for the majority of his Penguins career but has found some guys he meshes well with. He could finally end up back with Malkin on a permanent basis.
Kessel will still be anywhere from a third to fifth rounder depending on league size so it’s tough to title him a sleeper. But there is a solid chance he could contend for a Rocket Richard. He is THAT much of a scorer. He just has to do it for a season to get fans to fully buy in again.
Projected Stats: 31 G, 50 A, 81 PTS, -1 +/-, 6 PIMs
Justin Schultz, D
Maybe this lengthy, lucrative contract will finally give Schultz the respect he’s earned throughout the league.
Schultz’s offensive rejuvenation in Pittsburgh’s system is something that went unnoticed last year as he was only added by many fantasy teams in the middle of the year. This year, he is a mid-round pick with early-round pick potential.
Again, he isn’t someone you should draft early especially if some other guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Duncan Keith remain available. But Schultz is a guy you shouldn’t let slip if you think he is one of the top three players you’ve got to choose from.
There is a good chance Schultz could put up 50 points. While I think he will fall short, he is a solid option and you wont be able to find him on waivers so take him if you can.
Projected Stats: 9 G, 34 A, 43 PTS, +19 +/-, 20 PIMs
Just because a few guys were omitted from the list doesn’t mean they aren’t worth drafting. A lot of them could be waiver claims if you run into injuries. Or, even I it is late in the draft and you aren’t sure who to take, take them.
Regardless, just win the league. It’s all about bragging rights, correct?
P.S. The staff is going to have their own fantasy hockey league that we will keep you in touch with.
If you would like to be a part of the “LTP Community” league, DM me upon reading this and I will reserve your spot.