With most of the country getting less than 10 inches of snow this year, it was hard for most to get into hockey mode. However, that does not mean that us fantasy junkies did not get our fix of mock drafts, free agents pickups, and trash talk. The 2011 fantasy hockey season was a little more unpredictable then most with the top of every offensive category being riddled with youth. As another fantasy year is in the books and your precious trophy is being sent across town to the one guy in the league you cannot stand, let’s take a final look at the 2011 season:
Fantasy MVP: C Evengi Malkin, PIT – Malkin led the NHL with a staggering 109 points in 2011, which was 11 more points than center, Steven Stamkos, who finished in second with 97 points. Malkin racked up a very balanced 50 goals and 59 assists in 75 games and was the Penguins saving grace without Sydney Crosby.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, EDM – The “Nuge” had an unbelievable fantasy season, as the 2011 first overall pick racked up an unheard of 52 points in his first year. Nugent-Hopkins is an electric skater and the center knows how to put the puck on his teammates sticks with 34 assists. Nugent-Hopkins will be the center of a very strong, young Oilers’ squad and will be a fantasy star for the next several years.
Fantasy Goalie of the Year: G J Jonathan Quick , LA – Quick was a favorite of mine heading into the season and he played exactly as I expected. He posted 35 saves and an NHL leading 10 shutouts throughout the year. Quick was drafted well after the first five goalies got picked, but out-produced them all down the stretch. His Goals Against average is 1.95, which is actually better than Rangers’ “super-goalie” Henrik Lundqvist’s 1.97, and they both had a similar .930 save percentage. Quick provided MVP numbers, but came in the sixth round or later.
Where Did They Come From?
Every fantasy season always has an array of stars that seem to come out of nowhere to put up MVP-type numbers, and this season was no different. These are the types of picks that win championships and are always worth taking another look at.
RW Claude Giroux , PHI – Average Draft Position 39.4 – 93 points (3rd in NHL)
RW Marian Hossa, CHI – Average Draft Position 53.7 – 77 points (tied for 12th in NHL)
C John Tavares, NYI – Average Draft Position 70.5 – 81 points (tied for 7th in NHL)
G Jonathan Quick, LA – Average Draft Position 88.2 (See above)
RW James Neal , PIT – Average Draft Position 94.1 – 81 points (tied for 7th in NHL)
Some players had a comeback this year worthy of a Mr. Kotter cameo. Ottawa goalie, Craig Anderson, had an amazing season after making only 31 starts in 2010 due to a rather hilarious cooking injury. He was completely healthy heading into the 2011 season, and as a result went a respectable 33-22-6 with a 2.83 GAA. He looked very crisp moving from side to side, but more impressive was the fact that he led the Sens to the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The league also finally saw the return of Russian superstar, Alexander Radulov , as he finally returned to the Nashville Predators after a brief four-year hiatus. He totaled 7 points (3 goals and 4 assists) in only 9 regular season games back and it is good to see him skating state-side again. He will be a major contributor to the offense and will exciting to watch in the rest of the playoffs.
The Rise and Fall, then Rise, then Fall, then Rise again of Sydney Crosby:
Crosby went from being the scariest player in fantasy hockey, to the scariest player to draft in fantasy. He finished the year with 37 points in 22 games (a far cry from his 95.7-point season average throughout his career) but certainly did not live up to his fantasy draft value. However, he was still taken in the first three rounds of every league around the nation and “Sid the Kid” burned many fantasy owners. It will be even more devastating for Crosby owners if he were to comeback to have a stellar playoff performance, but regardless the damage had already been done.
Just Missed Award:
Buffalo Sabres – The Sabs were on fire during the last couple months of the season and just missed the playoffs by 3 points to the Washington Capitals . They were out-hustling every player to get a solid fore-check and were finally able to start putting the puck in the net, as they surprised the league by going 14-5-4 in their last 23 games. New owner Terry Pegula has quickly turned the franchise around and it will be exciting to see what he can do with Ryan “Captain America” Miller and the rest of the Avengers in 2012.