Penalty minutes are likely the most divisive category utilized in standard Fantasy leagues. While some find rewarding negative plays on the ice to be counterintuitive, others, such as me, delight in owning likeable enforcers who otherwise wouldn’t have a place on Fantasy rosters. I get more excited on any given night to see that one of my players imploded for a 10 minute misconduct penalty, than to see a hat trick in my goal column. Unfortunately, players that accumulate a lot of penalty minutes don’t tend to replicate that success across other scoring categories. Whereas a player who takes a ton of shots on goal will see that reflect in their goal, assist and power-play point totals, someone spending a lot of time in the sin bin won’t be on the ice long enough to make an impact in other areas. It is for this reason that some owners choose to ignore the PIM category when constructing their roster, instead focusing their efforts on players who will impact multiple facets of the score sheet.
Today’s NHL has seen a shift away from goons and enforcers that are on the ice just to start fights and take penalties. In the salary cap era, teams can no longer afford to waste money on players that aren’t skilled enough to contribute offensively. Notable penalty takers from the recent past such as Colton Orr, Kevin Westgarth, and George Parros currently find themselves without an NHL contract due to the changing landscape. Just as NHL teams can’t afford to waste valuable roster space for players that are a liability on the ice, neither can your Fantasy team. The good news is that there are a number of tough, gritty skaters in the league this season that can also make an impact in other areas of the game. Below, I have outlined four skaters that will be among the league leaders in penalty minutes this season and also contribute in additional Fantasy categories. All of these players are owned in fewer than 30 percent of standard Yahoo! Fantasy leagues and will provide you with a more balanced and dynamic roster.
Tom Wilson RW, Washington Capitals (Ownership – one percent): After finishing seventh in the NHL in his rookie season with 151 penalty minutes, Wilson has only played six games this season due to injury. However, the position he is set to occupy upon his return makes him an intriguing acquisition at the moment. Prior to suffering a minor lower body injury on Saturday, Wilson was last seen skating alongside Fantasy superstar forwards Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The experiment was producing results for the Capitals and boosting Wilson’s Fantasy value. The 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft, Wilson has the skill set to hang with the Capitals’ offensive studs. In addition, his willingness to throw his 6’, 4’’ frame at the opposition, and drop the gloves with anyone taking liberties with Ovechkin or Backstrom on the ice, allows the Capitals’ veterans more time and space to make plays in the offensive zone. After only posting 10 points in 82 games last season, Wilson has already put up three points in as many games since being given top line responsibilities. The likelihood of 150 PIMs, and 200 hits this season on their own make Wilson a valuable roster addition, and the potential for an offensive breakthrough as well makes him a can’t miss prospect.
Steve Downie LW/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins (Ownership – 27 percent): On pace for an incredible 328 penalty minutes this season, Steve Downie has been playing with an edge on par with the league’s top agitators. Currently leading the entire NHL with 56 PIMs, Downie is also turning heads with some unexpected offensive output. His three power-play points through 14 games already represent half of his total from last season, when he split time with the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers. With two goals and five assists on the season, Downie is on pace for his highest point total since the 2009-10 campaign. This level of production all comes while trying to gel with a new team and skating on the third line centered by Brandon Sutter. If Downie gets moved up in the lineup, either as a reward for his strong play or due to injuries, he could find himself skating with centers Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Pick him up now for immediate help in penalty minutes, with the potential for increased multi-category coverage in the future.
Antoine Roussel LW, Dallas Stars (Ownership – 22 percent): The rare NHL player hailing from France, Roussel burst onto the scene last season with 209 penalty minutes, a number he is on pace to eclipse this year. Roussel is no one-trick pony, though, as his 29 points last season were tops among all skaters that accumulated 150 or more PIMs. This season has seen Roussel’s point production increase in conjunction with his role on the Stars, as his four goals and five assists through 15 games puts him on pace for 49 points. His spot in front of the net on the Stars first power-play unit, which features elite forwards Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza, is enough reason to be optimistic about Roussel’s long term potential in the Fantasy arena. Roussel’s ownership is ridiculously low; pounce on him if he’s available on your waiver wire.
Matt Hendricks C/LW, Edmonton Oilers (Ownership – one percent): With the second most penalty minutes among skaters with 50 or more hits this season, Matt Hendricks is providing excellent dual category coverage. Filling a void on an inexperienced Oilers team, Hendricks has placed an emphasis on physical play this season and is on pace to surpass his career highs in both PIMs and hits. In addition, since the knee injury to LW Taylor Hall on November 1, Hendricks has seen an uptick in his offensive numbers as well. Lacking a true replacement for the former number one draft pick, the Oilers have attempted to replace his production by committee, with Hendricks being a part of the effort. The result has been two points, along with eight shots on goal in the last three games. While that level of production will only be temporary, acquiring Hendricks now would be a savvy move that could pay big dividends during Hall’s absence.