The 2022–23 fantasy season is officially winding down as most leagues have completed their playoffs or are currently in their championship weeks. With another year nearly in the books, it’s always fun to look to back on the year that was and the surprises, disappointments, and MVPs in fantasy.
Just like the NHL does at the end of each season, we’ll hand out our end of year fantasy awards. The awards we’ll cover off are Best Sleeper, Biggest Bust, Forward MVP, Defence MVP, Goalie MVP, Rookie MVP, and lastly best waiver addition of the year. It was a wild year in fantasy to say the least, with the NHL seeing its highest goal scoring rate in over 30 years and over 10 players on track to hit 100 points.
Let’s take a look at who made waves in the fantasy world in 2022–23.
Forward MVP – Connor McDavid
Honorable mentions: Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak
Both in fantasy and the real world, Connor McDavid is a cheat code. The Edmonton Oilers captain has done things this season that haven’t been seen in decades. The last time we saw a season like this you would’ve held your draft in person on a physical draft board. McDavid currently sits with 62 goals, 86 assists and 148 points and leads the NHL in all three stats.
To put these insane numbers into perspective, let’s see when the last time those totals were hit. The last player to hit 148 points in a season was Mario Lemieux all the way back in 1995–96. The last player to post 62 goals in a season was Alexander Ovechkin in 2007–08. The last player to post 86 assists was Nikita Kucherov in 2018–19. Back in the day, Wayne Gretzky’s goals and assists were broken up into two separate players in fantasy. We’re entering that territory with McDavid this season. There was never another choice here.
Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak are both having superb seasons of their own and earn the two runner up spots for this award. Draisaitl is second in the league in scoring with 123 points and fourth for goals with 51. He’s also second for power play points. Pastrnak meanwhile is second behind only McDavid for goals with 57 and ranks fifth for points with 104. He’s also first in the NHL for shots.
Defenceman MVP – Erik Karlsson
Honorable mentions: Dougie Hamilton, Brandon Montour
At the ripe age of 32 and playing for one of the worst teams in the NHL, Erik Karlsson is in the midst of the best season of his career and one of the best single seasons in NHL history by a defenceman. This is all after posting a combined 57 points across the last two seasons. Absolutely no on saw this coming, but he’s undoubtedly been the best defenceman in fantasy this season.
He leads all NHL defenceman in goals with 25, assists with 75 and of course points with 98. His 98 points are 25 more than the next highest defenceman. He also ranks 11th for power play points and sixth for shots among defencemen. His 98 points are already the 15th most in NHL history by a defenceman in one season. The last defenceman to hit that total was Brian Leetch in 1991–92.
No one was topping Karlsson for this award, however I’ve got Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Montour as the runners-up. Hamilton is currently sitting on a career-high 73 points which is good for third among defencemen. His 21 goals are second behind only Karlsson, while his 266 shots are behind only Roman Josi. Montour meanwhile has come out of nowhere to post 71 points, good for fifth among defenceman. He also ranks fourth for shots and second for power play points.
Goaltender MVP – Linus Ullmark
Honorable Mentions: Alexander Georgiev, Jake Oettinger
Linus Ullmark shattered all expectations this season behind a historic Boston Bruins team. Ullmark currently leads the NHL in wins with 38 and is tops among all starters for save percentage at .937, and GAA at 1.90. On top of that, he’s started 46 games this season and lost just seven times. He was essentially a guaranteed win every time you started him in fantasy.
The last goalie to lose just seven games in a season and also post at least 38 wins was Chris Osgood in 1995–96 and that’s when there were still ties in the NHL. Ullmark’s .937 save percentage is currently the second highest total in NHL history in one season among goalies with at least 45 games played.
Just like at forward and defence, there was no other option for this award, however both Alexander Georgiev and Jake Oettinger deserve recognition. In his first season in Colorado, Georgiev has posted 37 wins to rank second behind Ullmark. Among starters his .919 save percentage ranks third and his five shutouts ranks first. Oettinger meanwhile ranks fourth for wins with 34, fourth for save percentage, and third for GAA. His four shutouts rank fourth in the league.
Rookie MVP – Stuart Skinner
Honorable Mentions: Matthew Beniers, Matias Maccelli
This wasn’t a huge year for rookies in fantasy, but there were still a couple names that made an impact. Of the group, Stuart Skinner has had the most impact in fantasy and earns the rookie MVP title. Skinner currently leads all rookie goaltenders with 26 wins and has seemingly taken over as the Oilers starter.
League-wide he ranks 11th for wins, 10th for save percentage, and 13th for GAA among all starters. Considering he started the season as the backup in Edmonton, he’s had quite the run to rank where he does in all three major categories and has become a must-own goalie in fantasy.
Matthew Beniers meanwhile leads all rookies with 56 points, while also leading for goals with 23. Lastly Matias Maccelli has quietly had a very strong season, ranking second among rookies with 46 points and first with 36 assists. He’s also only played 61 games, and leads rookies with a 0.75 points per game.
Biggest bust – Jonathan Huberdeau
Dishonorable mentions: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko
Jonathan Huberdeau was the runaway winner for this one, although his teammate in Calgary gave him a good run for his money. Coming off an 115-point season, Huberdeau came into the season being drafted as a late first-rounder with an ADP of 12, but currently ranks 163rd in Yahoo! leagues.
As it stands, Huberdeau has 54 points in 76 games, and is currently on pace for just 56 points which represents a massive 59-point drop off from 2021–22. In fact it would be the largest season to season point drop off in NHL history. He’s improved down the stretch with 12 points in his last 13 games, but it’s too little too late.
As mentioned, Jacob Markstrom had a disastrous season in his own right. After finishing as a top–three goalie in fantasy in 2021–22, Markstrom was being drafted with an ADP of 30 and as the third goalie off the board. Currently he sits 19th in the NHL for wins with a record of 23–21–10. Among 25 goalies with at least 40 games played he ranks 18th for save percentage and 16th for GAA.
Thatcher Demko meanwhile was being drafted at an ADP of 55 and as the eighth goalie in drafts. Big things were expected of Demko this year but he’s dealt with injuries and currently sits with an ugly 12–14–4 record and .898 save percentage. His 12 wins rank 43rd among all goalies.
Best sleeper – Alex Tuch
Honorable Mentions: Artturi Lehkonen, Tyler Toffoli
For this award, I considered players who were discussed as potential sleepers at the beginning of the season. I only looked at players drafted with and ADP of 160 or later who vastly outperformed that ADP.
There were plenty of great options this season, but Alex Tuch takes the cake for me. After being dealt to Buffalo early last season, Tuch posted 38 points in 50 games for the Sabres. Before this season, his career-high was 52 points in 2018–19. With a larger role on a budding Sabres roster, there was hope Tuch could reach another level. He’s done just that.
Tuch currently sits with 73 points and 35 goals in 69 games, shattering his previous career-highs. After being drafted with an ADP of 161, Tuch currently ranks 53rd in Yahoo! leagues despite missing five games due to injury. Tuch has rewarded fantasy managers who took a bet on him in a huge way.
Artturi Lehkonen and Tyler Toffoli have also had massive seasons after being drafted late in drafts. Lehkonen came into the year with a career-high 38 points and an ADP of 165 however in his first full season in Colorado Lehkonen was on pace for 26 goals and 65 points before going down with an injury. Toffoli meanwhile posted 49 points in 74 games last season, but in a larger role in Calgary he currently sits with a career-high 34 goals and 72 points in 79 games.
Best waiver addition – Brandon Montour
Honorable Mentions: Stuart Skinner, Dylan Cozens
For this award, I only considered players drafted in less than 10% of Yahoo! leagues. There were plenty of great options here, but I landed on the above three.
Montour has come out of nowhere this season as one of fantasy’s best defencemen. Before the season he had eclipsed 35 points just once in his eight-year career. As such he was only drafted in 8% of Yahoo! leagues at an ADP of 157. As we close out the season Montour ranks fifth among defenceman for points, fourth for shots, and second for power play points. If you added him at the beginning of the season, you got a top-five fantasy defencemen for free.
Next up, I have Skinner. Skinner was drafted in only 5% of leagues at an ADP of 170 and was regarded as the clear backup in Edmonton behind Jack Campbell coming into the season. He’s now the locked in starter for Edmonton and is the 10th ranked goalie in Yahoo! leagues. Adding a starting goalie for a top 10 team through waivers is certainly not a common occurrence in fantasy.
Finally I have Dylan Cozens, who was pretty much undrafted in every league. Despite this he now sits with 31 goals and 66 points in 76 games and ranks 87th in Yahoo! leagues.
Sights set on the real playoffs
Now that bragging rights are claimed and victors are celebrated, it’s time to turn the attention to the NHL playoffs. Congratulations to the fantasy managers who won and good luck next year to those who didn’t! Thanks for tuning in to TWC’s fantasy hockey coverage this season!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire