So you have the first overall pick in your NHL fantasy draft? Who should you take?
Well, the answer is as simple as it’s complex: Sidney Crosby, but...
There is little doubt that Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player on the planet.
Over the last three seasons, he has average 1.61 points/game, which is 0.41 points/game more than Evgeni Malkin. He has been the second most productive goal scorer behind Steven Stamkos (0.56 goals/game vs. Stamkos’ 0.63), he is tops in assists per game (1.05/game), power play points (0.47 points/game) and plus-minus per game (+0.62 per game) and falls into the top 10 of shots on goal per game (3.64 shots per game) - which are the key fantasy statistics.
On an efficiency basis, there is no question that Sidney Crosby is your only choice when it comes to the first overall pick. And because we are talking about fantasy, if he plays a full 82 game season you are looking at him producing the following stats:
|Sidney Crosby||Goals||Assists||Points||Power Play Pts.||+/-||PIMs||SOG|
|Proj. 82 Games||46||86||132||39||51||51||298|
However, the number behind the “but...” is 46.7%. Over the last three seasons, Crosby has only played in 46.7% of 212 possible regular season games. For the last three seasons, Crosby has played in 41, 22 and 36 games.
Based on history, it’s unlikely that he will play a full 82 game schedule but he is on the better side of the injury having significant time since his concussion with a track record of production and durability last season.
If we use the last three seasons of his production rates, he realistically only needs to play 65 games to still be the top player in the league (Crosby would get around 105 points in this scenario).
The question then becomes, is it worth the risk of injury to take the most efficient player in the NHL?
Can’t Handle The Risk?
If you just don’t want the risk of Crosby then you should be looking at the following players:
As mentioned previously, Stamkos has been the most prolific goal scorer over the last three season with 134 total goals or 0.63 goals per game. More importantly, he hasn’t missed a single game - he is just one of 15 NHL players to play in all 212 regular season games. While he isn’t Crosby, he is a very safe and productive pick. If you do pick up Stamkos number one, make sure to look for better +/- players later in the draft as Stamkos is just +6 over the last three seasons.
Prior to last season, Ovechkin wasn’t much in the conversation for first overall in fantasy drafts after he scored just 65 points in 78 games, which ranked him 37th overall. But with a change in coaching, Ovechkin showed why he is one of the best players in the game scoring 56 points in 48 games (projects out to 95 points over 82 games). The bet with Ovechkin is that the second year with coach Adam Oates and even more familiarity will boost his production even further.
In the last full NHL season (’11-’12), Evgeni Malkin won the scoring title with 109 points in 75 games, which was in the midst of Crosby’s concussion injury and as a result caused some to suggest that Malkin was now the best player in the game. However, Malkin has dealt with injuries in his own right playing in 70% of games over the last 3 seasons. In my mind, unless you have a crystal ball on Crosby both of these players have injury risk and while Crosby’s might be higher he also has a much higher production upside.
If I'm lucky enough to get the number one draft pick in my fantasy hockey draft, I'm taking Sidney Crosby. Worth the risk.
Who are you taking #1? Let us know in the comments!