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2017-18 fantasy hockey awards

From ESPN - April 16, 2018

The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing, and the fantasy hockey season is in the past. Some of you are basking in championship glory, while others are gearing up for next season. Either way, fantasy managers are left to reflect on what was. There's always next season.

But before we close the door on the 2017-18 campaign, let's acknowledge the on-ice difference makers who overwhelmed -- or, in one case, underwhelmed -- ESPN fantasy managers during the season. Fantasy hockey experts Sean Allen and Victoria Matiash weigh in with their selections of each award winner.

Fantasy hockey MVP

Allen: Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets

You could make a case for Evgeni Malkin here, but I am inclined to pick a goaltender when it comes to MVP discussions. They are, on the whole, personally responsible for a much larger percentage of your fantasy team's fate. Sure, Pekka Rinne had better ratios, but Hellebuyck appeared in eight more games than Rinne and was still starting consistently in crunch time, winning nine consecutive games while only resting three times in the final three weeks.

Matiash: Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

In a toss-up between Hellebuyck and Kucherov, I am intuitively disposed to side with the Lightning winger. Beyond the flash of hitting three digits in points, the 24-year-old effectively checked all boxes across the fantasy board in reliable fashion. Outside of one bizarre stretch in late January (during which he scored a hat trick in one game, earned three assists in another and then registered zilch over six other contests), Kucherov was endearingly consistent from October to April.

Sleeper of the year

Matiash: William Karlsson, C, Vegas Golden Knights

Karlsson scored six goals and 19 assists in 81 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last year. In Vegas' inaugural campaign, the 25-year-old steered his newly-cobbled squad with 43 goals and 35 helpers. He also comfortably led the league with a plus-49. If that does not qualify Karlsson as sleeper extraordinaire, I am not sure what does.

Allen: Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche

Among players drafted in fantasy leagues back in September, MacKinnon stands head and shoulders above everyone else for sleeper value. We knew the success of the Avs hinged on MacKinnon realizing his potential, but that has been true for several seasons, and MacKinnon failed to eclipse 53 points in the previous two campaigns. But with Mikko Rantanen as his sidekick and a rejuvenated Tyson Barrie aiding on the power play, MacKinnon barely trailed Malkin and Kucherov for overall fantasy value among forwards this season, despite playing four fewer games than Malkin and six fewer than Kucherov.

Biggest bust

Allen: Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Taken as the 17th defenseman off the board in drafts, it's almost unbelievable that Keith finished 82nd among defensemen on the ESPN Player Rater despite playing all 82 games. Keith will be 35 years old next season and will justifiably be a late-round flier with value completely dependent on the Blackhawks' power play and his role on it.

Matiash: Milan Lucic, LW, Edmonton Oilers

With the Oilers' collective dud of a 2017-18 barely in the books, Lucic is already pledging to do better next year. Once projected to skate on a top line with Connor McDavid, the veteran winger fell well short of productive expectations, earning only 34 points (minus-12) through all 82 games.

Fantasy rookie of the year

Matiash: Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders

Centering a scoring line with Jordan Eberle, the 2015 first-rounder easily exceeded our fantasy-fueled hopes and dreams with 22 goals and 63 assists. Barzal's better-than point-per-game numbers are too rich too ignore.

Allen: Yanni Gourde, C/LW/RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Fantasy defenseman of the year

Fantasy goalie of the year

Waiver-wire streamer of the year

Dynasty stash of the year

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