Another season has come and gone in the fantasy hockey realm. The fantasy game wraps up with a 15-game slate on Thursday and the NHL season finishes on Friday with two makeup games. If your itch is still scratching for fantasy NHL action, consider ESPN's Playoff Hockey Challenge. But the daily and/or weekly grind of the fantasy season is coming to a close.
That means it is time to hand out the fantasy hardware. These awards are fun, partly tongue-in-cheek, but also an important reminder of some of the perspectives that were widely held last fall and how they have changed through the 2022-23 season.
Fantasy Art Ross Trophy
Winner: Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
This is not subjective. Just like the NHL, the Fantasy Art Ross goes to the player with the most points -- and it's not close. McDavid eclipsed 300 fantasy points, a height not reached in the records I keep since 2015-16 (the closest was Sergei Bobrovsky with 281.4 in 2016-17). Draisaitl and Ullmark are close enough that they could flip-flop second and third in the final days, and they are only going to be caught if David Pastrnak continues to put up hat tricks in his last two games.
Fantasy Hart Trophy
Winner: Linus Ullmark, G, Boston Bruins
While Robertson's average draft position (ADP) was 63.5 and Thompson's was 73.6, this prize goes to Ullmark and his 142.2 ADP. Prior to the season, the outlook was sour for the Bruins netminders. Injuries to the forward crew and a subpar showing from both Ullmark and Swayman in 2021-22 had confidence quite low (Swayman's ADP was 190.1). But Ullmark turned in an incredible campaign easily topping all goaltenders in fantasy points despite being on track to finish with a crease share lower than 60%. Let's give a hat tip to coach Jim Montgomery for making this Bruins franchise a powerhouse for fantasy production in a season when many were picking them to finish fourth in the division.
Fantasy Calder Trophy
Winner: Stuart Skinner, G, Edmonton Oilers
It's all relative. Sure, Beniers is putting up more fantasy points, but he ranks 91st among forwards. Skinner is on track to finish 13th among all goaltenders for fantasy points. Jack Campbell crashed hard, but Skinner was there to pick up the pieces and provide the Oilers with a dependable presence in the crease.
Fantasy Norris Trophy
Winner: Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators
If not for an unfortunate injury down the stretch, this would be Josi's award walking away. Karlsson has the lead to finish as the top defenseman for fantasy points with Dahlin hot on his heels, but neither can touch the per-game production that Josi provided this season. His 2.9 fantasy points per game (FPPG) crushes Dahlin (2.7) and Karlsson (2.6), and is on par with some of the top 10 forwards in the game.
Fantasy Vezina Trophy
Winner: Alexandar Georgiev, G, Colorado Avalanche
Sure, Ullmark has more fantasy points, but he condensed them into fewer minutes, fewer games and, therefore, fewer week-to-week contributions. Ullmark is trending toward a 59% crease share in the Bruins net and sits at 2,812 minutes played as of Sunday. Georgiev, however, is sitting on a 75% crease share and 3,519 minutes played as of Sunday. He wasn't as efficient as Ullmark, but was there when you needed him in weekly formats.
Fantasy Masterton Trophy
Winner: Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks
In the fantasy realm, the Masterton isn't so much about "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game" as it is in the NHL. This award in fantasy represents a bounce-back campaign for a player, so perseverance in the fantasy sense. Hellebuyck came back from a campaign in which he finished 100th overall in 2021-22, 13th among goaltenders. Malkin hadn't finished among the top 200 in either of the past two seasons. But Karlsson, well, what can we say? Even when he was healthy in the past two seasons, he never eclipsed 1.9 FPPG with the Sharks. His healthy campaign and 2.5 FPPG this season has reset the clock on a fantasy player that had fallen from grace. In the 2015-16 and 2016-17 season, Karlsson and Brent Burns finished one-two among all skaters for fantasy points.
Fantasy 2012 Draft Trophy
Winner: Jonathan Huberdeau, W, Calgary Flames
This award, named for the 2012 draft in which we saw Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray and Alex Galchenyuk as the top-three picks, was a pretty easy decision. Though I did consider naming the award the "Calgary Flames Trophy" since all three nominees have associations. This was definitely a stinker campaign from Gaudreau, the offseason's free-agent prize, but he is closing strong. Markstrom definitely disappointed, but goaltenders are mercurial by nature. Huberdeau was healthy all season and went from 115 points last season to 54 as of Sunday. Coach Darryl Sutter has some explaining to do in the offseason -- especially now that the Flames didn't clutch out a playoff spot.
Fantasy Ruler Trophy
Rulers are good add drawing lines and that's what this trophy is for: the best NHL line. The Stars trio beats out the Sabres top line of Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch, as well as the Kraken trio of Jordan Eberle, Jared McCann and Matty Beniers. The Stars top line scored 49 goals together at five-on-five (per MoneyPuck), outpacing the Sabres group's 42 and the Kraken's 39. The other lines were more efficient, playing fewer than 600 minutes and 500 minutes, respectively, but there is something to be said for the Stars trio playing more than 700 minutes together this season.
Fantasy Orpik Trophy
Winner: Jacob Trouba, D, New York Rangers
Trouba will eventually inherit the namesake for this trophy as a fantasy contributor driving success via hits and blocked shots. Brooks Orpik was one of the best in his day (almost starting the club for 300 hits, 200 blocked shots twice in his career). Trouba earned 116.4 of his 177.6 fantasy points (through Sunday) via hits and blocked shots. Martinez had more from just the hits and blocked shots, but this award has to consider the overall contribution -- and Martinez only had 147.5 fantasy points through Sunday.
These all-star teams (or all-dud team in one case) are shown with their current rank in fantasy points as well as their preseason spot on the ESPN fantasy rankings for context.
First team all-stars
Jason Robertson, W, Dallas Stars (10, 76)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C/W, Edmonton Oilers (14, 132)
Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks (18, 156)
Linus Ullmark, G, Boston Bruins (3, not ranked)
These are the fantasy plays that helped drive success this season. All of them finished well inside the top 50, making huge leaps against their draft-day value.
Second team all-stars
Evgeni Malkin, W, Pittsburgh (53, 157)
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres (21, 73)
Alexandar Georgiev, G, Colorado Avalanche (12, not ranked)
There were so many significant climbers, why not have a second team. Pettersson jumping into the top five was a huge boon to those who drafted him. In fact, Pettersson, Dahlin and Sergachev were all on the age-identified breakout players in articles here on ESPN before the season. It's a great way to identify which players will have big leaps in future seasons.
"Where's the love?" all-stars
Brandon Hagel, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (87, 251)
Brayden McNabb, D, Vegas Golden Knights (111, 211)
This is one of my favorite awards as it identifies players we collectively didn't get on board with, but should have. All of these players were -- and still are -- available in at least one-third of ESPN leagues.
The bust all-duds
Jonathan Huberdeau, W, Calgary Flames (237, 26)
Johnny Gaudreau, W, Columbus Blue Jackets (141, 60)
Jacob Markstrom, G, Calgary Flames (593, 19)
And it goes without saying what unites this dubious group. Aho is a surprise; without looking I feel like I would have guessed he's still in the top 60. Ekblad was a major disappointment given his positioning coming into the season, but Brandon Montour stole his thunder this campaign. The showing from Jones is just evidence of how well the Hawks managed to dismantle in the hunt for Connor Bedard.