Every year there are players in the NHL who do not get the recognition they deserve. Whether their role is dedicated to killing off penalties, blocking shots, or grinding out against top tier opponents, these guys need their due. Why is this important in regard to fantasy? Well, these players get boat loads of ice-time and are bound to contribute in multiple categories purely based on their hustle. They are fun to watch and exhibit what it truly takes to be an effective and efficient NHL player. The following are players who can be added (or traded for) in the majority of fantasy leagues. Their Yahoo! Ownership rankings are in parentheses.
Ryan Callahan (76% owned) – The heart and soul of the New York Rangers headlines this list for numerous reasons. He is one of the top penalty-killers in the East, which gives him major minutes every game. With his boosted role of scoring winger he is bound to put in over 25 goals in 2011-12. He finished the 2010-11 season 15th in overall hits, despite playing just 60 games. If you need a grinding right winger who can score, hit, and gather some PIMs, Callahan would be perfect.
Kimmo Timonen (65% owned) – Timonen logs heavy minutes for one of the NHL’s top teams. He is a career plus player and loves to rocket his shot from the point. This puck mover is constantly battling in the corner and setting up plays for the high-scoring Philly offense. He will forever be underrated, especially in fantasy circles. You could do worse than having him as your third or fourth defenseman.
David Backes (97% owned)– While Backes is getting his due, he is by and large forgotten when in discussions of the NHL’s hardest
workers. Backes is a load on his skates, bruising opponents who dare to take him on n the open ice. In 2010-11 Backes finished 18th in hits, 21st in goals, and 35th overall in shooting percentage. He also added 93 PIMs to boost his resume. He is constantly on the prowl for a big hit or game-changing fight, which makes him perfect for this list.
Colby Armstrong (2% owned)– “Arm Dog” is slowly becoming the poster boy in Toronto for work ethic. He has played through numerous injuries, often with a smile on his face. Armstrong is a true grinder, always willing to crash the net or take one for the team. In fantasy he is solid for PIMs and short-handed points, however he is not much of a goal scorer. Still, his place on this list is cemented due to his hard-nosed playing style. Dan Girardi (19% owned) – Girardi is one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL, hands down. The New York Rangers gem led the league in blocked shots n 2010-11 while also finishing 24th overall in hits. Girardi loves to mix it up with opponents, which of course, leads to decent PIMs totals. As well, he is capable of a 40-point season. He epitomizes what a hard worker should be.
Duncan Keith(99% owned) – Keith is a rare player who can outskate everyone on the ice, whether it is even strength, on the penalty kill, or on the power play. He logs a ton of ice-time which translates into a solid point output every season. His work ethic on and off the ice is something to marvel at. Keith is one rearguard everyone should target in any draft, he is simply that talented. Just look to his trophy mantle to see how the NHL regards him in terms of work ethic and overall talent.
Dustin Brown (93% owned) – Brown is the prototypical hard worker in the NHL. As captain of the Kings he wears his heart on his sleeve. He gets a ton of ice time in all situations, making him valuable in power play/short-handed category leagues. In 2010-11 Brown finished third overall in total hits with an extremely high plus-minus total (+17). He is the ultimate team player who can score goals. Any GM would give up the farm for a player like this.