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NHL: DADOUN – MID-SEASON FANTASY AWARDS – Most pleasant surprise, biggest disappointment and top fantasy performer by position

The NHL All-Star Game will take place next Sunday and due to the festivities, there’s a total of just six games -- one Monday, two Tuesday and three Wednesday -- scheduled for the entirety of the week. With that few contests, highlighting teams for next week seems unproductive, so let’s take a break from the usual routine and instead reflect on how the campaign’s gone so far by issuing some midseason fantasy awards.

I’ll give out the awards for each position and use Yahoo’s fantasy leagues as the final authority for what positions a player is eligible to win the award in. For example, J.T. Miller can compete in both center and right-wing categories. I’ll only give a player the award for one category, though, so if Miller is the top choice to win the same award as both a C and a RW, then I’ll make a judgment call on which category to put him in. For each category, I’ll name who has been the overall top fantasy option thus far, who has been the most pleasant surprise while using their preseason average draft position (ADP) in Yahoo as a gauge and who’s the biggest disappointment. For the biggest disappointment category, I’m not going to be including players who have spent most of the campaign injured, though players who have been on the shelf for some of the first half are still fair game.


Sabres center Tage Thompson (72). (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire),

Most Pleasant Surprise: Blake Coleman (CAL) – Forget preseason ADP, Coleman wasn’t even selected in the average draft. Why would he be after scoring 18 goals and 38 points in 82 contests with the Flames in 2022-23? He was 31 years old going into the campaign too, so fantasy managers were understandably anticipating another campaign of 15-20 goals and 30-40 points. What’s interesting is that his dramatic increase in production comes without any meaningful jump in power-play contributions. In fact, Coleman has more shorthanded goals (four) than he does power-play points (two). Early in the season, Coleman simply wasn’t getting time with the man advantage, averaging just 0:03 through 29 contests, but that’s jumped to 2:05 per game across his last 19 appearances. If Coleman can start to take advantage of his new role on the power play, then his second half might be even bigger than his first.

Biggest Disappointment: Tage Thompson (BUF) – Although Thompson hasn’t been a disaster, his 14 goals, 28 points, minus-10 rating and 127 shots across 38 contests leave plenty to be desired relative to his preseason ADP of 12.3. That high draft position was understandable after he provided 47 goals and 94 points in 78 games last year. What’s even more disappointing is Thompson seems to be trending in the wrong direction, supplying just one assist over his past six contests. Still, the 26-year-old has a bright future and the 2022-23 campaign isn’t likely to go down as just a blip when his career is said and done. Thompson should rebound, and if that doesn’t happen in the second half of this campaign, then that will make him a great buy-low candidate going into the 2024-25 draft.

Top Fantasy Performer: Nathan MacKinnon (COL) – There are plenty of great centers out there, but none are close to matching MacKinnon’s level of production. Through 48 contests, he’s provided 30 goals, 82 points, a plus-16 rating and 221 shots. In addition to being a tremendous option in season-long leagues, MacKinnon is also an amazing option in daily leagues thanks to his consistency. He’s been held off the scoresheet just seven times all season and only once across his last 38 contests. An honorable mention goes to Auston Matthews, who leads the league in goals with 39 but doesn’t stack up to MacKinnon overall. Connor McDavid doesn’t compare to MacKinnon this season either, but McDavid is still having another great campaign in his own right with 19 goals, 63 points, a plus-15 rating and 139 shots across 42 outings.


Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (13) (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

Most Pleasant Surprise: Sam Reinhart (FLA) – If you selected Reinhart around his preseason ADP of 99.9, then you got a great bargain. The 28-year-old has already established a new career-high in goals with 35 while also contributing 25 assists, a plus-15 rating and 128 shots through 47 contests. Reinhart just can’t seem to stop scoring, supplying 18 goals in his last 17 games alone. His 27.3 shooting percentage is very high and a potential warning sign, but as I previously discussed, Reinhart has been selective with when he shoots the puck, which goes a long way toward explaining that high shooting percentage.

Biggest Disappointment: Alex Tuch (BUF) – Similar to Thompson, Tuch is having a respectable season with 13 goals, 32 points, a minus-3 rating, 32 PIM and 104 shots through 41 games. Still, it’s not quite what fantasy managers were hoping for when they selected him with a preseason ADP of 51.9. His 2023-24 showing is a substantial decline from 2022-23 when he finished with 36 goals and 79 points in 74 games. Tuch has been particularly disappointing recently, recording four goals and eight points over his last 14 contests. The 27-year-old isn’t as safe a long-term bet as Thompson, but Tuch is still being leaned on heavily by Buffalo on both even strength and the power play, so his position remains favorable, which might help him improve in the second half.

Top Fantasy Performer: Nikita Kucherov (TBL) – Kucherov is the only forward who has been able to keep pace with MacKinnon this year. The Lightning winger has 32 goals, 83 points, a plus-2 rating and 205 shots in 48 contests this season. He’s been especially effective with the man advantage where he’s produced a league-leading 37 power-play points. He hasn’t been quite as safe a bet in daily leagues as MacKinnon, but Kucherov’s 10 scoreless showings in 2023-24 are hardly anything to complain about, especially when measured against his 25 multi-point games. MacKinnon’s linemate, Mikko Rantanen, deserves an honorable mention after scoring 27 goals and 65 points in 48 contests. David Pastrnak is also having an amazing campaign with 31 goals and 69 points through 48 appearances.


New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) i(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Most Pleasant Surprise: Filip Forsberg (NAS) – With a preseason ADP of 147.8, Forsberg was easy to get, and if you had the foresight to select him, you’ve been rewarded with 23 goals, 50 points, 30 PIM, 186 shots and 79 hits through 48 contests in 2023-24. Those numbers are so strong, that I gave serious consideration to naming Forsberg as the Top Fantasy Performer among left wingers too, though I narrowly awarded it to a different winger. However, Forsberg might still be the best LW when the dust settles on the campaign. It helps that he’s been steady throughout the campaign, never enduring a point drought of more than two straight games. He has the potential to challenge his career highs of 42 goals and 84 points, which were set in 2021-22, provided he can stay healthy, although injuries have held him back before. The last time he logged more than 70 games in a single season was 2016-17, so he’s reasonable to be worried his good fortune won’t last.

Biggest Disappointment: Andrei Kuzmenko (VAN) – To be sure, there were warning signs that Kuzmenko’s 39-goal, 74-point 2022-23 campaign wouldn’t be repeated, especially given his sky-high 27.3 shooting percentage, which is why his preseason ADP was 110.1 -- awfully low for someone who put up those kinds of numbers. However, his drop-off was even more severe than anticipated, to the point where he’s arguably not even worth a roster spot in standard leagues. Even the Canucks have been unsure what to do with him, occasionally making him a healthy scratch and having him log under 13 minutes in another 12 contests. Kuzmenko is stuck in a 12-game goal-scoring drought in which he’s recorded just two assists and 19 shots, so I don’t expect him to rebound anytime soon.

Top Fantasy Performer: Artemi Panarin (NYR) – In contrast to Kuzmenko’s collapse, Panarin is an example of a former St. Petersburg SKA who was able to immediately establish himself in the NHL and then continue to play at a high level. Panarin broke into the NHL in 2015-16 and has gone on to record at least 70 points in each season except for 2020-21 when the league had a 56-game schedule because of the pandemic (even then, Panarin scored an impressive 17 goals and 58 points in 42 contests). However, Panarin’s 2023-24 campaign might end up being his best yet. Although he’s never recorded more than 32 goals in a single season, that’s in part because he traditionally hasn’t been a shoot-first forward. That’s changed this year with him averaging 4.00 shots per game (188 total), up from 2.49 in 2022-23. Panarin’s more aggressive play has paid off with him supplying 29 goals and 63 points in 47 appearances. As noted above, Forsberg was also a serious candidate to receive this title, along with Elias Pettersson (25 goals, 61 points). Matthew Tkachuk falls short with 18 goals and 48 points through 47 outings, but he’s caught fire, providing 10 goals and 26 points over his past 15 contests, so it’ll be interesting to see if Tkachuk carries this momentum past the All-Star break.


Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43)  (Photo by Ethan Cairns/Icon Sportswire)

Most Pleasant Surprise: Noah Dobson (NYI) – Dobson had 51 points in 2021-22 followed by 49 points last campaign, but given his preseason ADP of 112.0, fantasy managers didn’t foresee the leap in offensive production the 24-year-old blueliner would take this year. Across 48 games in 2023-24, he has six goals, 51 points, a plus-20 rating, 22 PIM, 109 shots, 36 hits and 110 blocks. That’s good for third in the blueliner scoring race behind just Quinn Hughes (55.1 ADP) and Cale Makar (13.2 ADP). Dobson is in the second season of a three-year, $12 million contract, which makes him eligible to sign an extension as early as July 1. Dobson is playing his way toward a massive payday.

Biggest Disappointment: John Carlson (WAS) – This was a tough one to pick because there are plenty of blueliners who have disappointed this year, but most of them are due to injuries. As noted above, I’m willing to include players who have spent some time hurt, but this category is meant to highlight players who have underperformed on the ice, not those who have had bad luck in the health department. In that regard, Carlson seems best suited to be mentioned. Despite a solid preseason ADP of 90.6, the 34-year-old has not been among the league’s best offensive defensemen, instead recording three goals, 27 points, a minus-1 rating, 18 PIM, 101 shots, 23 hits and 102 blocks. That’s a far cry from 2021-22 when he had 17 goals and 54 assists -- his third campaign in four years in which he reached or surpassed the 70-point mark. Washington collectively has been underwhelming offensively in 2023-24 and given the Capitals’ aging core and the absence of Nicklas Backstrom (hip), that’s unlikely to change in the second half of the campaign.

Top Fantasy Performer: Quinn Hughes (VAN) – Hughes just keeps finding ways to get better. He set a career high in 2021-22 with 68 points in 76 contests before topping that by providing 76 points in 78 games last season. At this rate, he might comfortably best even that mark. Hughes has 12 goals, 59 points, a plus-35 rating, 24 PIM, 116 shots, 35 blocks and 16 hits in 58 appearances. If your league counts plus/minus, that sets him apart from Makar, who nearly matches him in points (57) but is well behind him in plus/minus (plus-11). With the Canucks excelling at both ends of the ice, Hughes is likely to remain an asset in that category while also likely finishing with 90-100 points. Other than Makar and Dobson, no defenseman is close to Hughes in the scoring race. Evan Bouchard (11 goals, 42 points) deserves an honorable mention, though, as another standout member of the next generation of offensive defensemen.


Most Pleasant Surprise: Thatcher Demko (VAN) – After posting a 14-14-4 record, 3.16 GAA and .901 save percentage in 32 contests last year, fantasy managers were understandably weary about the Canucks goaltender as evidenced by his preseason ADP of 98.5. Those who bet on him rebounding were handsomely rewarded, though. Demko has been one of the league’s best goaltenders this year with a 25-8-1 record, 2.40 GAA and .922 save percentage through 34 appearances. Demko’s resurgence is what’s transformed Vancouver from being an amazing offensive powerhouse to a serious Cup contender. Demko should continue to get leaned on heavily and that offensive support makes it likely he’ll surpass the 40-win mark if he stays healthy.

Biggest Disappointment: Ilya Sorokin (NYI) – Goaltending can be tough to predict and never has that been more evident than this season. Several seemingly safe bets like Linus Ullmark (31.5 ADP), Igor Shesterkin (15.2 ADP) and Jake Oettinger (20.2) have struggled mightily, but Sorokin (17.6) is the most disappointing among them. Not only has he gone from being the Vezina Trophy runner-up in 2022-23 to posting a lukewarm 3.17 GAA and .909 save percentage in 35 contests this season, but unlike the other goaltenders mentioned in this category, his team has declined substantially too, resulting in him posting a 14-12-9 record. The silver lining is Patrick Roy was recently appointed as the Islanders’ new bench boss, so perhaps that change will help the Islanders in general, and the Hall of Fame goaltender might be able to aid Sorokin in particular.

Top Fantasy Performer: Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) – Hellebuyck actually had a rough start to the campaign, posting a 7-4-1 record, 2.99 GAA and .894 save percentage over his first 12 appearances. However, he’s been unreal since then, posting a 16-4-2 record, 1.73 GAA and .941 save percentage across his past 22 games, which puts him at 23-8-3 with a 2.17 GAA and a .925 save percentage in 34 contests overall. Demko and Alexandar Georgiev are ahead of him in victories with 25 and 26, respectively, but neither matches Hellebuyck when it comes to GAA or save percentage -- Georgiev isn’t even close at 2.95 and .897, respectively. Adin Hill deserves an honorable mention. He’s 11-2-2 with a 1.93 GAA and a .935 save percentage. If he hadn’t missed so much time over the first half of the campaign due to injury, he might have been right up there with Hellebuyck.