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Finding Value at the C Position

September 20, 2023   Left Wing Lock Staff   2 Comments


In part three of a five-part series on finding value in your fantasy hockey draft, today's article will focus on centers. Part I in this series discussed left wings while Part II discussed right wings. Specifically, we're interested in using the Yahoo average draft position (ADP) to not only determine the best players to target in your fantasy hockey draft, but also when to target them. The assumptions made in this article include the following: (1) you're in a Yahoo standard league, (2) your league has 12 managers, and (3) your league is not a keeper league.

Manager Behavior

Before we jump into the details of which centers are undervalued, it's important to get a handle on how managers are behaving in their fantasy hockey drafts so far. In the image below, you'll see exactly how many centers are drafted in each round of a standard draft (on average). At the center position, there are 15 players taken in the first three rounds combined; this is an increase of 25% over the number of centers taken in the first three rounds last Summer. Interestingly, centers make up half of all players drafted in the first round this year. The same thing happens again in the third round. Following these spikes, the demand for centers flattens for the remainder of the draft. We can use this information to better understand who and when to take when our name is called during the draft.

Finding Value at Center Position

Player Rankings and ADP

At leftwinglock.com, we create annual fantasy hockey draft kits which marry your scoring settings with our projections to generate customized player rankings. This exact type of draft kit was used by our team to defeat the fantasy experts at NHL.com, win the first-ever Zero Transaction Fantasy Championship, and go undefeated in the Battle of the Fantasy Hockey Podcasts. The draft kit includes sortable spreadsheets filled with projections in 25+ categories for over 600 NHL players. For the purpose of this article, we generated the customized player rankings for NHL players that can be drafted as right wings in the Yahoo fantasy hockey system. We then compared these player rankings to the player's ADP (average draft position) to determine which players are undervalued (it's never wise to draft on rank number alone). That is, we're looking for players who our draft system ranked highly and whom managers are overlooking.

Below, you'll find a table of 12 players who are eligible at center and are being undervalued by managers in fantasy drafts (there are many more listed in our draft kit). Detailed comments for some of these players can be found below the table.

Steven Stamkos TBL C,LW 17 33.8
J.T. Miller VAN C,RW 20 42.9
Pavel Buchnevich STL C,LW 47 146.1
Elias Lindholm CGY C 48 141.2
Sam Reinhart FLA C,RW 50 117.4
Joel Eriksson Ek MIN C 55 153.3
Evgeni Malkin PIT C 57 94.2
Jordan Kyrou STL C,RW 62 100.8
Mathew Barzal NYI C,RW 71 158.0
Josh Norris OTT C 89 173.4
Sean Couturier PHI C 115 N/A
Ryan O'Reilly NSH C 123 N/A

Steven Stamkos - For years, we've heard fantasy hockey pundits call Steven Stamkos "injury prone" or a "bandaid boy" -- and, if you took these words to heart, you missed out on one of the top fantasy hockey players of the last six years. Only 12 players have scored more points (474) than Stamkos over this time period; he ranks 5th in the NHL in power play points for this same period. And because managers have bought into the myth of the "injury prone" concept, Stamkos has been available at a huge discount every season. For the current draft season, managers have been waiting until late in the 3rd round to select Stamkos (his latest ADP in over a decade). The window of value is tight, but any selection of Stamkos at, or beyond, the middle of the 2nd round is a strong move here.

Joel Eriksson Ek - Joel Eriksson Ek has sneaky value in the Yahoo default scoring system (and in scoring formats that include face-off wins). The value mismatch stems from the fact that Eriksson Ek has cracked the 60-point threshold just once in his career. As a result of his modest point production, Eriksson Ek finds himself low on most player ranking lists. But in recent seasons, Eriksson Ek has shown strong production across three of the core Yahoo categories: shots, hits, and power play points. We're forecasting just eight players to simultaneously generate at least 240 shots, at least 120 hits, and at least 20 power play points in the coming season; Eriksson Ek is one of them. We value Eriksson Ek as a 5th round pick in Yahoo default formats; managers are selecting him in the 13th round on average. Taking Eriksson Ek at any point in the 10th round or later should make for a solid value addition to your fantasy roster this season.

Jordan Kyrou - How many NHL players will generate at least 250 shots on goal, at least 40 goals, and at least 20 power play points in the coming season? We've pegged that number at 14 and Jordan Kyrou of the St. Louis Blues is a member of that small club. So, just how does Kyrou land on this short list but get ignored until Round 9 of fantasy drafts? It's because Kyrou is near the bottom of this list of 14 players in both assists and hits (two components of the Yahoo default scoring system). You can score great value from drafting Kyrou in the 7th or 8th round this Summer, but be sure to use our Draft Assistant tool to make sure you're drafting a balanced roster.

Sean Couturier - Remember this guy? Most fantasy managers apparently don't; or, they view his back injury as so career changing that they won't draft him in fantasy leagues in advance of the 2023-2024 season (Couturier shows up as having no average draft position in the Yahoo system and a corresponding 0% ownership level). Couturier hasn't played a hockey game since December 18, 2021. As of yesterday, he was announced as healthy and will participate fully in training camp. Couturier has always been a better "real life" hockey player than "fantasy life" hockey player. He's never scored 40 goals; he's never scored 82 points; he's never produced 20 power player points. So, why even draft this guy? In the four seasons leading up to his back injury, Couturier averaged 2.74 shots per game and 0.91 points per game (~75 point pace). If Couturier approaches these rates in the coming season (and is good for 15 power play points), he'll be one of just 60 NHL players to do so. That's the upside. The downside is that Couturier's back injury renders him a very expensive third-line center. But at the cost of your final-round pick in the draft, the smart bet is to bet on Couturier.

Customized Player Rankings

If you're looking for a chance to draft players with great projections who are being ignored by the other fantasy hockey websites, then consider downloading one of our fantasy hockey draft kits this season. You won't be disappointed. While this article focused on the Yahoo standard scoring system, our customized draft kits can handle just about any scoring system you throw our way. You'll find plenty of draft day steals.

For 17 years, you've trusted Left Wing Lock as a reliable source to bring you accurate starting goalie information, line combinations, and player news alerts. That same passion and dedication fuels us as we create the best fantasy hockey draft kits available. We invite you to let us build your customized fantasy hockey draft kit for the 2023-2024 season. Order your kit today!


PLAYER: an NHL player involved in this analysis. Click player name to visit player profile page.

TEAM: the current NHL team for this player.

YPOS: the official position designation for this player in the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey system.

LWLRANK: the rank assigned by Left Wing Lock for this player in this specific scoring system only.

ADP: the average draft position for this player in the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey system.

Comments (2)

  • September 22, 2023 9:01 pm

    Almost all of those ADPs seem very optimistic for those guys. Especially Buch, Malkin, kyrou and Norris. Will have to see where they actually fall in real drafts closer to the season

  • September 23, 2023 11:22 am

    No doubt @justinscid -- Malkin has already moved 37 spots earlier from his Day 1 average draft position. There is zero chance he is available in the 8th round.

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