With the 2022 NHL All-Star break underway, it marks the unofficial halfway mark of the NHL season. Some teams are further along, some less so. It’s been a wild first couple months of the season in fantasy, with countless COVID postponements and rescheduled games. With fantasy playoffs approaching in a few weeks, playoff races are now in full force.
Every year there are surprise players who come out nowhere to greatly outperform their preseason ranks. Drafting these players almost always puts your team in contention for the fantasy crown. Let’s take a look at the three biggest surprises in fantasy in each division.
Detroit Red Wings – Tyler Bertuzzi – LW
Pre-season rank: 305 | Current Rank: 57
The Red Wings had a plethora of options to pick from, but I had to go with Tyler Bertuzzi who sits with 40 points in 39 games this year, good for second on the Red Wings. Just 39 games into the season, Bertuzzi has already set a career-high in goals with 22, and is just nine points from setting a career-high in points. He’s also shooting a lot more, sitting at 100 shots, just 31 off his highest total which he achieved in 73 games back in 2018–19.
Florida Panthers – Sergei Bobrovsky – G
Pre-season rank: 97 | Current Rank: 18
Perhaps the most up and down goalie season to season in the NHL, Sergei Bobrovsky has turned back the clock to his form that won him Vezina trophies in 2013 and 2017. After a dreadful 2020–21 season in which he posted a 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage, Bobrovsky was being drafted as the 24th goalie in fantasy, eight spots behind teammate and super rookie Spencer Knight. Halfway through the season, Knight has started just 15 games while Bobrovksy sits tied for third in the league for wins with 23.
Buffalo Sabres – Tage Thompson – RW
Pre-season rank: 521 | Current Rank: 96
Anytime a Buffalo Sabre ranks top 100 in fantasy it’s a big surprise. This is especially true for the case of Tage Thompson. Acquired in the Ryan O’Reilly trade back in 2018, Thompson had a career-high of just 14 points before this season. He’s already doubled that through 41 games as he sits with 30 points so far this season which leads the Sabres in scoring. He’s also put up 130 shots which ranks 34th in the NHL. It’s not all bad news for Sabres fans these days.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Evan Rodrigues – C
Pre-season rank: 382 | Current Rank: 79
The Mark Donk legacy lives on with Evan Rodrigues. The 28-year-old had never put up more than 29 points in a season coming into this year. Now at the halfway mark of the year he’s already put up a career-high 32 points and 15 goals in 46 games playing in the Penguins middle-six. His 15 goals rank second on the team. No one knows how they do it, but the Penguins continue to get great production out of players no one has ever heard of.
New Jersey Devils – Jesper Bratt – LW
Pre-season rank: 321 | Current Rank: 69
Even after a career year last season with 30 points in 46 games, not many people predicted Jesper Bratt would produce at the rate he has been in 2021–22. With 41 points in 42 games, Bratt has already surpassed his career-best point total by six points. He’s also just two off his career-best goal total of 16 as he has 14 on the year already. Leading the way on a young Devils team, Bratt has been a great find for managers who took a flyer on him late in their drafts.
New York Rangers – Chris Kreider – LW
Pre-season rank: 126 | Current Rank: 6
Chris Kreider as a top 10 player in fantasy? That’s the reality we live in now. The 30-year-old is playing the best hockey of his career this season as he’s posted a ridiculous 33 goals and 47 points in 47 games this season. Both totals lead the Rangers and his 33 goals are first in the entire NHL. Before this year, he’d never posted over 28 goals in a season. Kreider has always been a solid fantasy option due to his category coverage, but not one person would’ve picked him to be leading the NHL in goals at the All-Star break.
Colorado Avalanche – Nazem Kadri – C
Pre-season rank: 198 | Current Rank: 8
Probably the easiest pick on this list. Nazem Kadri is in the midst of perhaps the best contract years ever. A career second line centre, he’s exploded this year offensively on the high flying Avs. Coming into the season, Kadri’s career-high in points was 61 points in 82 games, set way back in 2016–17 with Toronto. This year he’s just one point point back of matching that total in half the games as he sits with 60 points in only 41 games. If you were lucky enough to draft him at his ADP of the 12th round, you got one of the best draft day steals ever.
Minnesota Wild – Ryan Hartman – C
Pre-season rank: 370 | Current Rank: 81
Before this season, Ryan Hartman’s career-best point total was just 31 points, achieved back in 2016–17 with Chicago in 76 games. Through 41 games this season, he’s already bested that total as he sits with 33 points. His 18 goals are just one off his career-best of 19, which he also achieved in 2016–17. He’s set to smash his previous career-bests for both points and goals. Hartman has come out of nowhere to play a key role for the Wild, and is rewarding fantasy managers in a big way.
St. Louis Blues – Ivan Barbashev – LW
Pre-season rank: 397 | Current rank 87
The St. Louis Blues have been one of the best offences in hockey this season, and a large part of that is due to the emergence of Ivan Barbashev. The 26-year-old sits with 15 goals and 34 points in 43 games so far this year. Both totals are career-highs already. A career bottom-six player, Barbashev has gone from sitting on the waiver wire to being a must-own player in fantasy this season.
Anaheim Ducks – Troy Terry – RW
Pre-season rank: 393 | Current Rank: 56
No forward in the NHL has come out of nowhere more than Troy Terry. A fifth-round pick in 2015, Terry had never posted more than seven goals and 20 points in the NHL before this year. Now halfway through the season he sits with 25 goals and 41 points in 43 games to lead the Ducks in scoring. His 25 goals also rank seventh in the NHL. If you drafted Terry before the season started, you’re lying.
Los Angeles Kings – Adrian Kempe – LW
Pre-season rank: 374 | Current Rank: 89
Adrian Kempe sits with a solid 19 goals as well as 28 points on the year in 44 games. His 19 goals are a career-best and leads the Kings, while his 28 points rank third on the team. Before this season his career-best point total was just 37 points in 81 games, achieved back in 2017–18. What’s also helped boost his value is the sheer volume he’s shooting right now. With 127 shots, he’s only 21 back of his career-best total which he achieved in 25 more games.
San Jose Sharks – Timo Meier – RW
Pre-season rank: 225 | Current Rank: 15
After his breakout 66 point season in 2018–19, many expected Timo Meier to continue has path to stardom. Instead, his production fell off and he failed to produce a 50-point pace in the two seasons after. This year however Meier is finally living up to his potential. He currently leads the Sharks with 21 goals and 47 points in 41 games. His 47 points are 17th in the NHL. Not many people predicted Meier turning things around this season as he was still being drafted in the 13th round.
Can they keep it up?
Almost no one expected any of the players above to be ranked where they are in fantasy at the halfway point of the season. Some were left undrafted, some were late-round flyers, while some went from solid options in fantasy to elite ones. It’ll be interesting to see which players with surprising first halves can keep it up for the rest of the season, but regardless you’ve got to be happy if you have any of these players on your fantasy team.