The hockey season is just a week away, teams are slowly trimming down their rosters, and that means you and millions of others are prepping for their fantasy hockey drafts.
The Winnipeg Jets fantasy hockey world is full of interesting options, from players looking to bounce back from mediocrity last season, to players who will be chomping at the bit to capitalize on the absence of both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Blake Wheeler.
I’m going to check in on every fantasy relevant player on the Jets.
I use Yahoo for fantasy sports, so I’ll be referring to their rankings and Average Draft Positions (ADP).
Skater stats in consideration are G, A, PPP, SOG, Blocks, Hits.
Goalie stats in consideration are Wins, GAA, Sv%, and Shutouts.
Let’s get to it.
Connor Hellebuyck, G
Connor Hellebuyck is the sixth ranked goalie on Yahoo, making him a prime ‘tender to anchor your fantasy team. He’s shown great durability in his career, faces lots of shots from Winnipeg’s porous defence (helping him post single game save percentages of above .900 even if he lets in three goals), and has zero competition. Boston’s Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman are ranked right behind him, and I’d take Hellebuyck over one of them any day.
If you can get him around his rank/ADP, it’s good value. If he falls any further, it’s excellent value.
Kyle Connor, LW
Kyle Connor ranks as the 12th left wing by Yahoo, or the 8th “pure left wing” if you take out players who also have center eligibility. It’s Connor’s position that makes him valuable, as finding elite wingers are generally harder than centermen.
Though he failed to replicate the 47 goal output from two seasons ago, I still like him in the 40ish range, and even more if he slides in your draft at all. He’ll play PP1 all season, he’s 10th in goals over the past three seasons (and 6th in shots), and if he didn’t have such a slow start last season (2 goals in 14 games), he would have been closer to 35 goals.
Even in a down year, he still posted a career high in assists while posting the second highest point total of his career, with 80.
I think he finds 40 again this year.
Josh Morrissey, D
Josh Morrissey was one of fantasy hockey’s best picks last year, and he won’t be under the radar this time. He was 8th among defensemen in power play points with 28, while putting up decent shot volume with 75.
I don’t think he finds the 70 point mark again this season, as that more than doubled his previous career high. But a 60+ point season seems in the cards, and he’ll play PP1 the entire year.
Mark Scheifele, C
Mark Scheifele is the first big discrepancy the Jets see based on his rank and ADP. It’s clear that drafters don’t quite see him as the 77th ranked player, despite his 42 goal output and six season run as a point per game guy.
Scheifele’s disparity is largely from his position as a center. Center is the deepest position in fantasy, and he is ranked 32nd among them. Your choice with Scheifele depends on how your draft is going. If you were able to get elite centermen early on, you can use him as a late pick to slot as your 3C. If you went heavy on the other positions early, it appears that he’ll be available as a decent 2C option.
Picking him in the 70-100 range is reasonable; he’ll get 35 goals, 75 points, 20 PPP, and around 200 SOG. You can do worse.
If he slides past 100, as his ADP suggests, I’d keep him on your radar.
Nino Niederreiter, RW
Niederreiter isn’t a player you need to draft, but someone to keep an eye on on the waiver wire. He can go hot and cold, and given he’s a big 6’3 winger who doesn’t have the best mobility, he relies on quality linemates to cycle with him and get him the puck.
The big thing to watch for is if he gets time on PP1. Injuries or poor performance can he see him play there, as coaches like him as the guy down low and in front of the net.
As it stands, though, he is slated to start on the 2nd line alongside Nik Ehlers and Cole Perfetti, which could be a good trio. I like the mix of speed and playmaking there, with Niederreiter as the cycle/net front guy.
Keep an eye.
Gabriel Vilardi, RW
Gabe Vilardi is a player with a good chance of outperforming his rank and his undrafted status. He was last October’s favourite fantasy player, as he exploded out of the gate before cooling down in November.
I like his chances as a meaningful fantasy contributor for a few reasons: he had a mini breakout last year, scoring 23 goals and 41 points in 63 games, despite primarily playing on the third line (he did see a lot of PP1 time though). He had a strong year after battling injuries early in his career, and he’s young enough (24) that he still has room for growth as a hockey player.
Oh, and he’s starting on the top line alongside Scheifele and Connor and playing PP1.
I like him a lot as a late round flier, or someone to monitor closely on the waiver wire through October. There’s 30 goal possibility here.
Adam Lowry, C
Adam Lowry should not be drafted in your pool, unless it’s one that puts a premium on shorthanded points, faceoffs won, or hits.
So… with that being said, he can be a good player to stream when you need a boost in those categories (I’ll be monitoring the Jets schedule closely all year for weeks where they play four times). He did quietly put up career highs last season in assists (23) and points (36) while scoring 13 goals, and he could repeat that output this year, especially given the improved depth and supporting cast around him.
He also sees time on the top power play in front of the net, and, when he is, believe me, I’ll let you know.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW
Nikolaj Ehlers rank here is befuddling to me, and I was able to snag him quite late in a few drafts. But Ehlers is high upside, high risk when it comes to fantasy mainly because of his durability and usage.
When healthy, he is a roughly point per game player who shoots a lot and can score 30 goals. The main gripe with him in fantasy though (other than his health), is the fact he’s rarely gotten the top line assignment or time on PP1.
That limits his ceiling, but there’s still a 30 goal, 75 point player here, with the massive caveat coming with his health.
He should be on your shortlist for mid to late round picks, especially if your league has IR+ or IR slots. On a per game basis, he’ll outplay that ADP easily. The question is, how many games will he play?
Alex Iafallo, LW
Alex Iafallo is an excellent third line winger who is extremely consistent: he’s scored between 13-17 goals and 33-43 points for five years straight, which means you should not draft him.
He did miss time with injury last year though, meaning his 36 points in 59 games pro-rated was a 50 point pace. Regardless, he’s not someone you need to pay much attention to unless he finds his way into the top six or suddenly goes on a heater.
And if he does, I’ll let you know.
Neal Pionk, D
Oh, how Neal Pionk has fallen. For two years he was a fantasy menace, producing high volumes of hits and blocks on the back end while putting up back-to-back 40 point paced seasons.
That being said, he still has excellent fantasy value based on his category coverage.
Pionk finished 13th in hits among defensemen last year, and was the only player to reach 30 points out of defensemen who finished in the top 25 in hits. He also fired the most shots on goal out of that group too.
To boot, he also finished around the top 50 among defensemen in blocks last year.
Let’s just sum up his statistical coverage here, using last years stats:
If your league has both hits and blocks, Pionk is an excellent 4th or 5th defenseman.
Cole Perfetti, C
Cole Perfetti isn’t getting a sniff by Yahoo or their users, with a rank of 623 and a non-existent ADP.
While it’s fine he’s not being drafted in all leagues, his 623 ranking is preposterous, putting him directly behind Florida defenceman Josh Mahura and in front of Pittsburgh’s Pierre-Oliver Joseph.
I’m imagining he’ll be a better fantasy asset than those two.
At this point, Perfetti is only worthy of a late round flier at best, depending on how deep your league is. But there is upside in his fantasy world, as he was on pace to score 48 points before an injury shut his season down. Now that he’s no longer a rookie, he could improve on that pace this year.
There is tons of opportunity within the Jets top six, and he’s slated to start the season with Nik Ehlers and Nino Niederreiter on his wing. Perfetti’s problem from a fantasy perspective though, is he is a pass first player and doesn’t shoot a ton, tallying less than 2 shots per game last year.
If that volume increases, so too does his value.
But for now, he’s just a player to keep an eye on.