The Vegas Golden Knights took the NHL by storm in their inaugural season, finishing in first place in the Pacific Division. The Ducks, Sharks and Kings all made the playoffs as well. The Coyotes and Canucks predictably struggled. The Oilers, who were a popular pick to win the division, didn’t have a good season at all. The Flames limped to the finish line after being in the playoff hunt for a lot of the second half of the season.
1st star: Connor McDavid, C, Oilers
McDavid, who won the Hart Trophy for league MVP in 2016-17, had an even better fantasy season in 2017-18. He increased his goal total by 11, and his assist total dropped by only three. He also shot the puck more. His rating slightly dropped, but he played on a lousy team. McDavid’s 20 power play points were a disappointment, but fantasy owners shouldn’t complain (The Oilers were dead last as a team on the power play.). The Oilers’ captain should be among the first players picked in one year leagues for 2018-19, and he’s the obvious number one pick in startup dynasty leagues.
2nd star: Anze Kopitar, C, Kings
After a really down 2016-17 season, Kopitar bounced back in a big way. He set career highs in goals (35), assists (57) and points (92). Kopitar was probably available later in drafts than usual because of his down season, but he really rewarded fantasy owners that thought that he’d find his game this year. He’s arguably the best 200 foot player in the league, so you know that he’ll get a lot of ice time (which obviously leads to more opportunities for production). He’s an elite faceoff man as well, which helps in leagues that count them.
3rd star: William Karlsson, C, Golden Knights
If you saw this season coming from Karlsson, go play the lottery. Karlsson had just 18 goals and 32 assists in 183 career games entering the 2017-18 season. The Swedish forward turned an inflated (and league high) 23.4 shooting percentage into 43 goals (good for third in the NHL) on just 184 shots. While that percentage isn’t sustainable, fantasy owners do not care. He wasn’t just a goal scorer, as he had 35 assists. Oh yeah, his ridiculous +49 rating led the league (teammate Jonathan Marchessault was second with a +36). Even though he is only 25 years old, owners in dynasty leagues might want to sell high.
Biggest surprise: Dustin Brown, RW, Kings
Brown played in almost every game during the four seasons before this one. He averaged just .365 points per game in those games, and many hockey fans were laughing at his contract. Well, Brown came out of nowhere to post a career high in points. His 28 goals were the most he scored since the 2010-11 season when he also scored 28 goals. His 33 assists were a career high, and he also shattered his career high in rating with a +31. Of course, fantasy owners got a lot of shots on goal and hits from the veteran winger. But it’s the unexpected scoring output that gives Brown the honor of being the biggest surprise.
Biggest breakout: Jonathan Marchessault, LW, Golden Knights
Okay, fine. Maybe this isn’t a breakout. Many people were stunned when Marchessault was left unprotected by the Panthers in the expansion draft. General Manager George McPhee pounced on the forward, and he was rewarded with a breakthrough season. Playing for his fourth different team in his somewhat brief career, Marchessault had 27 goals, which were just three fewer than the season before. His 48 assists more than doubled his total from 2016-17. His 75 points were obviously a career high. It wasn’t just points with Marchessault, as his +36 rating was second in the league, and his 268 shots in goal were good for 15th. Nobody saw this year coming from him (or the Golden Knights for that matter). Judge for yourself if you consider this a breakout.
Biggest bust: Cam Talbot, G, Oilers
Many people expected the Oilers to take the next step forward after winning a playoff series over San Jose and taking Anaheim to seven games last season. But they took a huge step backwards instead, finishing in sixth place in the Pacific Division. Talbot was a big reason why the Oilers didn’t make the playoffs. For the second straight season, Talbot led the NHL in games played (although he was tied for first with Connor Hellebuyck this year). The former Rangers goalie put up miserable numbers, which hurt fantasy owners even more given how much he played. He had a 3.02 goals against average (which is really bad) and a .908 save percentage (which isn’t that awful) while leading the NHL in losses. Talbot was one of the first goalies off the board in single year leagues, which makes him the biggest fantasy bust for the Pacific Division.
Top rookie: Clayton Keller, W, Coyotes
The former Boston University standout had a great first full season in the NHL on a not so good Coyotes team. He ranked in the top five among all rookies with 23 goals (5th), 42 assists (2nd), 65 points (2nd), 20 power play points (4th) and 212 shots on goal (1st). Keller will continue to be a big part of the youth movement down in the desert. As the team gets better, so will Keller’s numbers (duh). He was eligible at all three forward positions for Yahoo leagues, so that helped his value as well.