To appeal to more hockey fans who enjoy fantasy sports, Bleedin’ Blue will begin to cover fantasy hockey. In our first article we will be reviewing how we think our St. Louis Blues are going to stack up this season. I will be listing our players in order of what I think their fantasy relevance will be this upcoming fantasy hockey season.
David Backes will probably be the top performing Blue in fantasy hockey again. Although unlike last season, I am a little less confident in this fact now. This isn’t because I don’t think Backes will put up similarly rock solid statistics in pretty much every fantasy hockey statistic for forwards – goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. I actually think Backes will put up significantly bigger numbers this season, mainly in the offensive categories. This is because I think that there are other players on the Blues roster who could have huge seasons, statistically speaking. Backes does not post up huge offensive numbers, but as I said, his numbers all around are very balanced, and Backes can be the rock of a fantasy roster, just as he is the rock of the Blues roster. Last season Backes scored 54 points with 24 goals and 30 assists, had a +/- of 15, logged 101 penalty minutes, and on average was on ice for 19:01. As the facilitator, I see Backes’ production increasing due to the improvements in David Perron and TJ Oshie. Additionally, and hopefully, we see Andy McDonald stay healthy for most of the season, because his speed brings a new element to the offense that makes everyone around him better. Though I think it is likely that one or more St. Louis Blues have better a fantasy hockey season than Backes, I think that Backes is by far the safest bet to perform well. ESPN currently has Backes projected as the 15th best forward in fantasy hockey this season. The fact that Backes is so consistent is a good reason to feel confident taking him, even if you feel like you might be reaching a bit.
Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliot
ESPN has Halak as the 5th best fantasy goalie this season. Honestly I was a bit surprised at this high of a ranking, especially when looking at the difference between him and the 21st projected Brian Elliot. Halak (26-12) and Elliot (23-10-1) finished very similarly, and save for a couple wins, Elliot was surely the better fantasy goalie. Elliot finished with a league leading 1.56 goals against average, as well as a league leading .940 save percentage. Halak finished slightly worse with a 5th best 1.97 gaa and an 8th best .926 save %. The Blues’ unorthodox method of goalie usage made it difficult to tell who the “starter” was, because there really wasn’t one. It was really a matter of riding the hot hand, and if one goalie started to slack, the other would pick it up.
It seemed that towards the end of the season Jaroslav Halak became more of the “starter.” Though Elliot was an incredibly constant force between the posts, Halak put up more spectacular performances at the end of the season. Though I do not expect as huge of a difference between these two as ESPN has predicted, I do expect a bit more of a gap than last season. I can definitely see Halak riding his success at the end of last season and receiving the majority of starts. That being said, the Blues don’t really care which goaltender it is that steps up and I can really see it going either way. With another year of splendid defense, there is no reason not to expect both goaltenders to finish among the top ten goaltenders in goals against average and save percentage – two of the three top fantasy hockey statistics for goalies. The problem here, is obviously the other most important statistic: wins. If Halak and Elliot do split time evenly, their fantasy stocks will fall, though remain solid. If one goalie does take over the number one role (and if I had to predict this I would say Halak), then that goalie will be among the the most coveted in fantasy hockey. Both goalies should perform well, but I would give a higher draft choice to Halak because it seems like he is more likely to win more. I would, however, be cautious with this kind of choice. Elliot could be a mid-round draft gem given the chance that he could easily be the one to get more wins then Halak. If it were me I would rather spend my higher pick on a goalie who tallies more wins, and wait to pick Elliot since he is more likely to fall to a later round.
Pietrangelo is a rising defensive star in the NHL. He is slowly but surely becoming recognized. ESPN has him projected as the 8th best D-man in fantasy hockey this upcoming season. Pietrangelo spends a LOT of time on the ice; he averaged 24:44 per game. Aside from his uncanny prowess on the penalty kill, Pietrangelo is also quite productive. Last season he scored 12 goals as well as 39 assists. Additionally, he had a +/- of 16. The theme I have mentioned throughout is that I expect at small-yet-significant improvement on offense. Pietrangelo is a great quarterback and play maker, and the offense is at its best when he is on the floor. Expected improved performances from Perron and Oshie should benefit Pietrangelos statistics. Do not let Pietrangelo’s youth fool you, he is the real deal and should be treated as a top defenseman in the NHL and in fantasy hockey. I would have him anywhere between the 5th and 10th d-men drafted, though he really should not fall that far. Pick him with confidence in your fantasy hockey draft.
I would consider David Perron to be one of the best sleeper choices in fantasy hockey drafts this year. Though he is becoming somewhat more recognized, most people will have no idea of exactly how good Perron can be. Last season he surely provided quite a boost to fantasy rosters once he finally returned from his concussion. In only 57 games, Perron tallied a respectable 42 points. This was split evenly at 21 goals and 21 assists. This is extremely impressive not only considering the amount of time Perron played, but considering that he was returning from such a serious injury as a concussion. Perron wasn’t totally confident and consistent, but this is clearly to be expected coming from such an injury. Once he found his grove, Perron showed his true colors as an extremely talented goal scorer. With a full season at last years pace, it would seem that Perron could easily hit 60 points in a season. That being said, being more confident with his health and contract status, Perron could be capable of even more than that. He has elite goal scoring talent, especially when he is right up close to the net. A 70+ point season is not out of the question by any means. Though the Blues do not rely on scoring, there were plenty of times last season where they could have used a more consistent force on offense. Perron should fill this role and post scoring numbers higher than both David Backes and TJ Oshie this season. Seventy-plus point potential ain’t bad for a forward who ESPN has ranked at 97 out of all forwards. Be sure to grab David Perron before your opponents do in later rounds. He is definitely more valuable than other similarly rated forwards due to his potential.
For me, TJ is the hardest player on the Blues roster to predict this season. Statistically speaking, at least. We know that we are getting player who is ruthless, deceptive, and just outright nasty with the puck. We know that he is extremely physical and never gives up. Despite a career season for Oshie last year (19g, 35a, +15), Blues fans couldn’t help be a bit disappointed. We see the potential Oshie has, and we are eager to see him explode. The Blues have Oshie listed at Center now, which is where he played in his youth. His skill set favors playmaker more so than goal scorer. Center could be a good fit for Oshie, though I’m not sure exactly where Osh will be playing during the season. Perhaps fan expectations were too high last season for Oshie, though coming off a career season and a shiny new contract, I think the expectations for a true breakout are totally warranted. I expect, and would be happy with around 60 points from Oshie. I mostly expect this coming from the assist side, but that’s ok. I would not be surprised with numbers higher than that, but I don’t think that its likely this season. Perron has the higher likelihood for bigger scoring numbers, especially goals.
ESPN has Oshie ranked significantly higher than Perron at the 54th best forward spot. Oshie is the safer bet for consistent overall production, though Perron has more offensive potential. I still cannot describe the reasoning between such a disparity, and would gladly take Perron somewhere up near where Oshie is taken. Oshie probably has the more recognizable name nationally, but both players should be given significant consideration from every fantasy hockey owner.