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The Week in Fantasy: The Left Wing Problem

You can find quality players at center and right wing. But on the left? It’s a  relative wasteland

NHL: Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest news in Yahoo! fantasy this week was Florida forward Jonathan Marchessault gaining eligibility on the left wing. This should show you the state of the wing position depth in fantasy hockey. It is not good, nor anywhere near even decent.

In the official AATJ league, Marchessault bounced around from the waiver wire, but nobody was aching to grab him at center. I had him on my bench, but with the depth at center available on the waiver wire, with guys like Derek Stepan, Adam Henrique, Dylan Strome and Leon Draisaitl all available, there wasn't a huge rush to see if Marchessault could keep it going. But just a day or so into his left wing odyssey, he was gone.

The names available currently at the top of the left wing list don’t quite strike the same fear into the hearts of your opponents. J.T. Miller is fine but not great. Richard Panik is a mirage with his 54.5 shooting percentage and when Thomas Vanek can turn the clock back to 2007, I’ll add him despite the hot start for Detroit.

On the right side, it's a little better. Brendan Gallagher is somehow still a free agent in our league, but probably should be on a roster. After that, it’s not too great. Draisaitl is available to play at RW, but beyond him there isn’t much unless Reilly Smith or Cam Atkinson are your jams. Maybe you really believe in Brandon Pirri. I don’t, but hey what do I know.

The quality of the waiver wire is clearly a little better at center, as you can tell, but not hugely. Stepan and Strome have more potential than Miller and Vanek, but not by a wide margin. Where you can really see this difference is comparing mid-tier owned centers to mid-tier owned wingers.

The thirteenth ranked center, Ryan Getzlaf, has eight points. Zach Parise is the thirteenth ranked left winger, but is ranked 24 spots lower in the overall rankings. Right wing isn’t the same wasteland, with Charlie Coyle ranked just two spots overall behind Getzlaf as the thirteenth right winger.

If you go down a little farther in the rankings, Tyler Toffoli is the 20th ranked center and 59th overall. Tomas Hertl is 20th at LW and is ranked 77. At RW, it’s still Toffoli at number 20.

Just based on these numbers and who’s currently available as a free agent, you can see it’s a little harder to get a quality left winger than either of the other two positions. If you dig down even further, you can see that the balance kind of evens out around the 50th ranked left and right wingers, but the centers stay about 20 spots ahead at that position.

And it makes sense. The best players play center. Players have the most influence in the middle of the ice overall on the game. You put more limited players on the wing to hide their deficiencies and give the most responsibility to those in the middle.

So it just makes taking and keeping high ranking left wingers that much more valuable. Sidney Crosby may get the most points per game this season once he’s back and 100%, but Alex Ovechkin’s lower point total may be just as valuable because he’s playing at a more premium forward position.

The same goes for defenseman. Erik Karlsson probably won’t put up the same points per outing as Crosby, but because there’s such a dropoff behind him to the 25th ranked defenseman, much moreso than what’s behind Crosby at the 25th ranked center, he may be more valuable.

I took Karlsson with my first round pick just for this reason, and wish I would have taken a left winger more highly in the draft. Jonathan Huberdeau (when healthy) and Mike Hoffman are really good, but to have someone like Taylor Hall on my team could make a huge difference.

A solid fantasy strategy is to add as many good players as you can and figure out the roster glut once you see how their years are going. There’s less margin for error with wingers than centers here, but if you can get those highly ranked wingers like Hall or Ovechkin, through trades at this point, it makes it so much easier to manage a free agent class much more interchangeable at the center position.

AATJ Fantasy League Standings through week one:

Scorey Perry leads overall, with the Odelein conference putting up more of a fight than Lyle ever did. The bottom looks weak, but hey it’s only one week so who really knows. And that first week was an extended one due to the mid-week start of the season, so it’s probably not too representative. But I’m over .500 so I’ll take it.

Add of the week: Marchessault. If he’s available get him. He’s got ten points already and is playing with Barkov and Jagr. There’s no excuse since he now has LW eligibility.

Stay away of the week: Panik. He’s shooting over 50%! He’d have to be Mario Lemieux times ten to keep that up. He’s a lower six player shooting an obscenely high percentage. He’ll be lucky to break 15 goals this season.

Devils fantasy player of the week: Hall. C’mon. Nobody else on this team can really score right now and he’s better than sliced bread right now. Cory’s good as always but Taylor’s been transcendent lately.