With the NHL officially coming back this winter, many fans are excited, not only to watch the greatest game on ice return, but also because fantasy hockey is back as well. And once again there are a number of Boston Bruins that you should be targeting for your team this season.
Before looking at who you should pick and when to draft them, there are a number of interesting caveats to consider this fantasy season that should be mentioned. Firstly, the upcoming season is going to be only 56 games, so star players getting injured or coming back from injuries could have a greater impact than usual.
Next, if the league intends the playoffs to begin on May 8th, we could be looking at a very compressed season, which could mean back-up goalies will get a lot of action and teams may employ load management to rest star players.
Lastly, Covid-19 could play havoc with your fantasy team in a big way. If your first round pick or top keeper, gets infected with the coronavirus (let’s pray they don’t), that player could be potentially missing a big portion of the shorten season, and your championship dreams could be over just like that.
With that being said, let’s look at the Bruins you should be drafting this year and when you should be picking them.
The No Brainers
Brad Marchand (Yahoo Ranking 29): Although Brad Marchand is coming off sports hernia surgery this off-season, he should be ready to go come opening night, which means he should be on your radar early in your fantasy draft. Over the past 3 seasons Marchand has the 3rd best points per 60 minutes (3.838) behind just Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov. He also 10th in power play points over that period, a +65 and is no stranger to the penalty box (averaging about 75 PIMs per season), which is helpful in leagues that include PIMs as a stat category.
While Marchand shouldn’t probably be taken first overall in any fantasy league, expect him to be selected late in the first round or early in round two.
Tuukka Rask (Yahoo Ranking 42): For leagues that include GAA and SV% as statistical categories that count, Rask is a must have. Rask’s career 2.26 GAA and .922 SV% are not just the some of the best numbers among current goalies, but of all goalies who have ever played in the NHL. If you fantasy league also includes shutouts, Rask can help you there as well as he’s had 49 over his past 10 seasons.
One area of concern for possible Rask owners, is that Halak will probably play 20 - 25 games for Boston next year, which would definitely eat into Rask’s win totals. Despite this, Rask is still a top 5 goalie in most leagues and should be drafted before the end of round 2.
Great Picks, But...
David Pastrnak (Yahoo Ranking 56): At the end of the 2019-20 season David Pastrnak was the #1 overall player in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey, and for good reason. Pastrnak’s league leading 48 goals, combined with 47 assists, 279 SOG, 38 PPP and him being a +21, made him an absolute force in the fantasy world last season.
However, the post-season saw Pasta get injured which ultimately required him to have off-season surgery on his right hip. While Pastrnak is expected to make a full recovery, this may not happen until mid-February, one month after the NHL season will have already begun.
For fantasy team owners this is certainly a red flag to consider before drafting Pastrnak. He is an incredibly gifted scorer, however players who miss training camp and the start of the year, often struggle to catch-up with the game for a little while. While Pastrnak certainly could come out all guns blazing when he returns, a slow start also wouldn’t be out of the question either.
Pastrnak would have easily been a first round pick this season, had he not needed surgery in the off-season, but will probably now go in the late 2nd round or early 3rd round in most leagues.
Patrice Bergeron (Yahoo Ranking 35): Before the 56 game season even starts you can probably pencil in Bergeron for 20+ goals and 20+assists, along with 15+ PPP. Since playing his sophomore season in the NHL, Patrice Bergeron has put up remarkably consistent offensive numbers to go along with arguably the best defensive game in NHL history. Fantasy-wise, Bergeron’s numbers make him a great 3rd center for any team.
One small red flag for fantasy owners about Bergeron, may be the potential for missing games due to injuries. In both the regular season and post-season, Bergeron has been an absolute beast over his career, playing through multiple injuries at times, however there has been fear that this physical punishment is starting to play a toll on Bergeron. This might account for the number of games he’s played over the last 3 seasons: 64, 65, and 61 (out of 70 played in 2019-20).
Even with this risk of injury, fantasy owners would still be wise to grab #37 if he’s still available early in the 4th round of your draft.
Good Picks for Deeper Leagues (lots of fantasy teams or 15+ rounds in a draft)
Jaroslav Halak (Yahoo Ranking 166): There’s lots of talk around the fantasy world that back-up goalies will see plenty of action this upcoming season due to a compressed regular season. If this is the case, there are few backups in the league better that Halak to draft.
In his 31 appearances last season, Halak put up phenomenal numbers: 18 wins, 2.39 GAA, a .919 save percentage and 3 shutouts. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see Halak put up similar numbers again this year for a Bruce Cassidy team that has been extremely stingy at giving up goals since Cassidy arrived as the head coach in Boston.
Don’t be surprised if back-up goalies get drafted this season in your fantasy league, with Halak being one of the first to go. If he’s still available in the later rounds of your draft, it may be wise to pick him up as he’s a great insurance option in net.
David Krejci (Yahoo Ranking 182): While Krejci is still capable of putting up 60 - 70 pts in a 82 game season (especially if Ondrej Kase can turn things around) unless you’re in a fantasy league that only counts total points, Krejci’s is not a great fantasy option. Krejci doesn’t see a lot of power play time anymore, he shoots very rarely, and averages just 23 PIMs per season.
If Krejci is still available near the end of your draft, you may want to select him just because of the potential of him, Ondrej Kase, and Jake DeBrusk developing into a good 2nd line next year.
Jake DeBrusk (Yahoo Ranking 229): After breaking out with 27 goals in 68 games in the 2018-2019 season, DeBrusk by and large had a pretty disappointing season in 2019-2020 recording just 19 goals to go along with 16 assists in 65 games. What DeBrusk’s 2018-2019 season shows though, is there is still a lot of potential for 24 year old DeBrusk to become a top winger in this league. DeBrusk has shown fantastic speed and great tenacity thus far in his NHL career. Fantasy team owners may be wise to use a later round draft pick to take a low risk / high return gamble on DeBrusk.
Matt Grzelcyk (Yahoo Ranking 286): If you’ve already started your fantasy hockey research, one name you may have already seen as a potential sleeper is Matt Grzelcyk. The reason: Torey Krug’s departure from the Boston Bruins.
There is a strong possibility that Grzelcyk will be given the opportunity to quarterback one of the best powerplays in the league this upcoming season. When Krug was injured last season, Grzelcyk did an admirable job filling in on the first powerplay unit, so he should be given this chance when the puck drops on January 13th as well.
As it’s no secret that Grzelcyk will be seeing an increased amount of ice time on the power play, and has shown up on various writers’ sleeper lists, Grzelcyk could very well be drafted in the first 10 rounds of many drafts this season. Whether he lives up to this early of a draft pick is uncertain, he certainly has more value in fantasy hockey than ever before.
Charlie McAvoy (Yahoo Ranking 119): While McAvoy has been developing into one of the better defensive defensemen in the league, his offensive game has offered little to fantasy owners so far in his career. This could all change for the same reason as stated for Matt Grzelcyk. If ‘Gryz’ is unable to successfully man the Bruins top PP, McAvoy would certainly be the second option to do so.
Even if McAvoy doesn’t see an increase in PP ice time, it would be reasonable to expect McAvoy’s offensive game to continue to improve, and for him to put up career high numbers next season. In addition, McAvoy’s hit totals and +/- make him a desirable d-man in leagues that count those stat categories.
McAvoy will be drafted in most hockey leagues, but probably after the 10th round. Throughout all mock drafts and real drafts on Yahoo Fantasy, McAvoy is being selected 110th overall on average.
Players to Avoid
Ondrej Kase (Yahoo Ranking 263): While Ondrej Kase is surely capable of scoring 20+ goals in the NHL, he’s just too much of a injury risk to draft. It would be better to keep a close eye on Kase early in the year for signs of breaking out, and pick him up on the waiver wire if your league uses one.
Jack Studnicka (Yahoo Ranking 358): Unless you’re playing the long game, with hopes of keeping Studnicka in future years, Studnicka should probably be avoided in fantasy drafts. The very talented Bruins prospect could one day become a great fantasy player, however the Bruins simply do not have a place for the young center in their lineup next season.
You can probably wait to pick up Studnicka on the waiver wire, when he’s called up to Boston this year from Providence, rather than using a draft pick on him.