via Puck Prose
Fantasy hockey: Where you and your friends enter a league and try to show each-other who knows the most about the sport of hockey through a draft, signings, and trades on a virtual league. Some NHL teams have players who warrant getting chosen early in the draft, others have sleepers, a term meaning a player who constitutes such a quality is expected – or projected – to do well, though it’s not common knowledge. Say, everyone knows that Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews will do well. They’ll produce at a good pace; and this is expected. However, not everyone might expect Gabriel Vilardi or Andrei Kuzmenko to do well enough to get chosen early-on, or get chosen at all. Every team has sleepers, and we’ll be looking at the top fantasy picks for the Anaheim Ducks: the goaltenders, the defense, the offence, and yes, the sleepers.
Quick tip: for the stat-lines, GP=Games Played, G=Goals, A=Assists, PPP=Power-Play Points, SHP=Short-Handed Points, SOG=Shots on Goal, HIT=Hits, and BLK=Blocks.
Trevor Zegras, C: The league’s most tantalizing player happens to be the first line center of the Anaheim Ducks. Zegras, who has a knack for silky moves and who enjoys showing-off his skills repertoire, recorded 61 points in 75 games last season, which put him on-pace for 67. In the process, he scored 23 goals (tied for 2nd among rookies; Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot scored 24) and recorded 38 assists. Zegras was a -21 on the +/- scale, but we can expect that number to be (at least slightly) lower this season as Anaheim’s corps improves and looks to aim for a playoff spot in the NHL’s weakest division. According to dailyfaceoff.com, Zegras is slotted in the middle of the first line between Adam Henrique (LW) and Troy Terry (RW). As Zegras is only 21 and far from his peak, we expect him to become even more capable in the future, so his point totals will likely increase this season while coinciding with his improvement on-ice. Zegras is one of two players who could hold the spot of Anaheim’s best fantasy pick and is sure to please anyone who can draft him or claim him off waivers.
2021-2022 stat-line: 75GP-23G-38A-17PPP-0SHP-181SOG-56HIT-27BLK
Troy Terry, RW: The second player whose results could yield him as Anaheim’s best fantasy pick is Troy Terry, the 2015 draftee who exploded for 37 goals and 30 assists last season, totaling 67 points in only 75 contests, on-pace for 73. While -11 (which is a recurring theme on Anaheim and one we can expect again this season, though probably not as grave), Terry recorded a lot of shots, which proved beneficial for the user who drafted/claimed him as high-volume shooters can provide a spark to the week-to-week numbers. Terry, who is slotted in on the first power-play unit along with Trevor Zegras, will record power-play points in said slot, yet another important stat in the fantasy world.
2021-2022 stat-line: 75GP-37G-30A-15PPP-0SHP-192SOG-6HIT-27BLK
Ryan Strome, C: Another center makes the list in Ryan Strome, who’ll play his first season as an Anaheim Duck as he was signed by General Manager Pat Verbeek in free-agency from the New York Rangers. Strome was exposed to a wide range of talent in New York, so whether his point totals can match (or beat) last year’s is the main question, but even if they dip slightly, Strome is still work a look. The first power-play unit’s center (on Anaheim this season), Strome scored 20+ goals (21) for the first time in his career during the 2021-2022 season, amassing to 54 points in 74 games, eight less than the league maximum of 82. Another high-volume shooter, Strome is a gifted playmaker who sees the ice well. This quality can pay dividends while on the man-advantage with two sharp-shooters on his unit in Zegras and Terry.
2021-2022 stat-line: 75GP-21G-33A-14PPP-1SHP-161SOG-41HIT-19BLK
Adam Henrique, C: The veteran Henrique recorded his best season last year in terms of points-per-game average of .724, a number higher than any in his 12-year NHL career (He played one game in 2010-2011, and has only four games played this season as the year has just begun). While not the flashiest forward on Anaheim, Henrique is a smart player who understands the game and just happens to be at the right spot on the ice when playing. While his point-totals this season probably won’t surpass those of Zegras, Terry, and Strome, Henrique is still worth a look if your team needs and extra forward and Henrique is available in free agency.
2021-2022 stat-line: 58GP-19G-23A-11PPP-0SHP-141SOG-22HIT-47BLK
John Klingberg, RD: The NHL’s top free-agent defenseman during the summer of 2022 found a new home in Anaheim, though probably only temporarily. Klingberg signed a one-year contract with the Ducks and could become a hot commodity at the trade deadline. Klingberg, who is able to walk the line not unlike Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes and Sean Durzi, also makes a great first pass when exiting the zone. This is beneficial (especially this season) for fantasy team owners as Anaheim has a very capable and skilled forward corps. Coming over from Dallas, it’s hard to say how Klingberg’s point-totals will differentiate, but given his past totals and current projection, it’s conceivable that he can produce at least 50-55 points. It should be noted that Klingberg is the only defenseman on the first power-play unit.
2021-2022 stat-line: 74GP-6G-41A-20PPP-OSHP-139SOG-57HIT-77BLK
Kevin Shattenkirk, RD: Shattdeuces, a terrific offensive-defenseman in his prime, plays on the third defense-pairing with 2011 first-rounder Nathan Beaulieu, but is given power-play exposure on the second unit alongside Cam Fowler. A high-volume shooter and blocker, Shattenkirk found a new home in Anaheim in 2020 and has been a mentor for Jamie Drysdale, Anaheim’s number-one defenseman of the future. Shattenkirk, who is in his contract year, may get moved at the trade deadline to a contending team, which could coincide with a spike in his point totals.
2021-2022 stat-line: 82GP-8G-27A-14PPP-0SHP-163SOG-73HIT-135BLK
Cam Fowler, LD: Half of Anaheim’s top defense-pairing is Cam Fowler, the 2010 draftee who has played all of his 12 NHL seasons and 815 games with the Ducks. A steady two-way defenseman, Fowler suits-up for the second units on both the power-play and penalty kill. A poised member of Anaheim’s blue line, Fowler has recorded 20+ points in every campaign since 2013-2014. Now without Hampus Lindholm, Fowler is given as much responsibility as possible among left-shot defensemen; which means more shots, hits, blocks and, ultimately, points.
2021-2022 stat-line: 76GP-9G-33A-18PPP-0SHP-137SOG-40HIT-72BLK
Jamie Drysdale, RD: The other half of Anaheim’s top defense-pairing is Jamie Drysdale. The 2020 NHL draft’s 6th selection, Drysdale has proven very early in his career that he can play big minutes and do so effectively. Another high-volume shooter, Drysdale recorded 32 points in 81 games last season; not bad for your rookie campaign.
2021-2022 stat-line: 81GP-4G-28A-12PPP-0SHP-137SOG-40HIT-72BLK
Other notable defensemen: Dmitry Kulikov, Olli Juolevi (should he find his footing as he’s a former 5th overall selection), Olen Zellweger (should his junior team, the Everett Silvertips, either get eliminated from or fail to qualify for the WHL playoffs; meaning Zellweger could play in the NHL as early as late-March or early-April 2022).
John Gibson: A goaltender who many believe to be elite, Gibson’s numbers at the NHL level have been below-average since 2018-2019, which is reflective of the team in front of him. Anaheim has failed to qualify for the playoffs every season since the 2017-2018 campaign, so many goals conceded and a low rate of them being scored is indicative of below-average numbers for the coinciding goaltender. However, Gibson is the starting goaltender, so he’ll play the bulk of Anaheim’s games; which is good for fantasy purposes as many leagues have a goaltending-match up requirement per week, meaning that a user’s goaltenders must start x number of games per week in order for their stats to count.
Gibson isn’t a sure-fire selection for any league, but if your team needs a back-up goaltender, Gibson has proved in the past that he can produce some very good numbers (see 2013-2018 at both the NHL and AHL levels). Gibson started in 56 games last season, won 18, and posted a 3.19GAA and .904SV% along with one shutout. Anthony Stolarz is Anaheim’s back-up, and is good to suit-up for 20-25 games this season.
Bonus: Anaheim’s best sleeper pick (and maybe in all of fantasy):
Mason McTavish, FWD: The most dominant player of the 2022 World Juniors, Mason McTavish played on six different professional teams in the span of four years, including four during the 2021-2022 season. He’s now on the Anaheim Ducks, his more-than-likely permanent home. Playing on the second line alongside Ryan Strome (C) and Frank Vatrano (RW), McTavish is a very capable player who seems to think the game on a different level.
What makes a good hockey player a good hockey player is smarts and high IQ. A smart player executes dekes and does little moves relative to the pace of the play; relative to where his opponents are on the ice. When you think about it, the game of hockey is simply ten players, five aside, constantly adapting to broken plays. The best players are the one who can adapt and reset the quickest. Those players are the Mason McTavish-like talents of the NHL.
Recording three points in a brief nine-game stint last season, McTavish then returned to the OHL where he was later traded to the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs. It was with Hamilton where McTavish posted 29 points in only 19 games on-route to the Memorial Cup finals. A member of the top power-play unit in Anaheim, McTavish could be considered the ultimate fantasy sleeper, being rostered in less than 20% of ESPN leagues.
2021-2022 stat-line: 9GP-2G-1A-1PPP-0SHP-12SOG-8HIT-6BLK