In Philadelphia, hockey fans tend to use the phrase “Hartnell Down” to describe the numerous occasions where power forward Scott Hartnell would slip and fall down on the ice. It caught on, and Hartnell actually started a charity from it. In 2011, Hartnell was a stud, posting one of the best statistical seasons of his career.
However, during last year’s shortened season, he had quite the “Hartnell Down” year.
Hartnell missed 16 games last season, scoring just eight goals and three assists. He missed 4-8 weeks with a nagging foot injury, and once he returned, he really was never the same. Just one year removed from scoring a blistering 37 goals alongside budding superstar Claude Giroux and future hall-of-famer Jaromir Jagr, Hartnell didn’t have the same chemistry and dominance on the team’s first unit. He often took for suspect penalties and struggled to find open shooting lanes, resulting in very limited fantasy production. It was a lost year for the one they call “Hartsy”, but is this the player Flyer fans and fantasy owners should begin to be accustomed to seeing?
I wouldn’t bet on it.
Many have Hartnell pegged as a bounce back candidate for the upcoming season, myself included. With a ton of younger, more exciting talent continuing to enter the league, fantasy owners seem to be sleeping on the veteran this year. If you are someone that is targeting Hartnell, use this to your advantage. He’ll outperform his draft position, as long as he can stay on the ice.
While the Flyers have a handful of young talent at their disposal, I still believe Hartnell will lock up the left wing position on the first line. That’s terrific for fantasy owners, as he’ll continue to play alongside a heck of a player in Giroux. The Flyers captain is as good a threat as any to lead all of hockey in assists, and considering Giroux’s insane ability to thread the needle with his passes, Hartnell should see ample scoring opportunities. Over the last three seasons, Giroux has posted the third-most assists (100), only behind veteran guys Henrik Sedin and Niklas Lidstrom. During the season Hartnell scored 37 goals, Giroux had a career-high 65 assists, and if Hartnell can spend time on the man advantage with Giroux, the sky is the limit. Giroux is one of the most skilled players in hockey when on the powerplay, sporting an impressive 75 powerplay assists in his career so far. Considering Hartnell is an elite goal-scorer on the man advantage with 20 PP goals over the last three seasons (7th in NHL), he will greatly benefit. Meanwhile, Jakub Voracek emerged into a legitimate goal-scorer last year, scoring 22 goals last season. He has already cemented himself on the top line, and at 24-years old, he is only going to get better. Finally, defenseman Kimmo Timonen is showing no signs of slowing down, as the 38-year old looks nothing like his age. He will anchor the man advantage all year, and considering Giroux and Timonen were the second-best powerplay point pair (say that five times fast), Hartnell will reap the benefits if he lands a spot on the first unit. Last season, Giroux and Timonen posted a point on 13 of the Flyers 37 PP goals.
I’ve said it many times, but I look for versatile players when constructing my fantasy roster. Hartnell has proved to me over the years that he can fill the category sheets for fantasy owners. You want goals? Hartnell has lit the lamp over 20 times in half of his seasons in the league. What about shots on goal? Hartnell has posted triple-digit shot totals in eight seasons. And with his aggressive play, Hartnell is a strong candidate to give owners a ton of penalty minutes, posting over 1,300 throughout his career. He hits people, can get you 30 assists and isn’t too much of a liability in the plus/minus department. You don’t want a handful of one-dimensional players making up your roster, and Hartnell is anything but that.
At 31-years old, Hartnell still has a ton of upside in this offense. Playing alongside Giroux and company should present him with plenty of scoring chances. However, while I am vouching for Hartnell, fantasy owners shouldn’t reach for him because he has missed a fair share of time due to injury in his career. There is a little bit of injury risk, as well as a possibility that head coach Peter Laviolette bumps him down to the second line. Still, I think he’ll be a draft-day steal for fantasy owners.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.