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The biggest 2021-22 fantasy hockey surprises and disappointments

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By Jan Levine, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

This week's article consists of surprises and disappointments from the 2021-22 fantasy hockey season!

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Surprises include players who have had career years in addition to ones who seemingly came out of the blue, earning well more than their projected fantasy draft value. On the flip side are those who failed to come close to their ADPs in most leagues.

Surprises

Matt Duchene, C, NAS

Duchene entered the season off three straight campaigns where his games played declined and consecutive seasons where his output fell, cratering to a career-low 13 points in 34 games. To say his 2021-22 production has been a surprise doesn't do justice to that word. Through 77 games, Duchene has career highs in goals (39) and points (77) as he completely flipped the switch, helping lead the Predators to the second wild card with six games remaining.

J.T. Miller, C, VAN

Miller posted a career-high 72 points in his first season as a Canuck in 2019-20 and 46 points in 53 games the following year after an early season absence due to virus protocols.

He has blown that production out of the water this season.

Miller started hot and has not slowed, as he is up to 29 tallies, 62 helpers, 188 shots on net, 162 hits and a plus-11 rating through 73 outings. He needs nine points in the last seven games for a 100-point season.

Chris Kreider, LW, NYR

Kreider teased a 30-plus goal season a few times in his career, but injuries or slumps resulted in his topping out at 28 goals twice. Not this season, as Kreider has put it all together, aided by hand-eye coordination in deflecting shots as a dominant force on the man-advantage, where he has potted 25 lamplighters. CK20 became the fourth Ranger to snipe 50 goals and is just four markers shy of tying Jaromir Jagr, who set a team record with 54 goals in 2005-06.

Valeri Nichushkin, LW, COL

A benefit of playing on a deep offensive team is the opportunities presented by skating in the lineup coupled with the chances that arise when moved up due to injury. Nichushkin has benefited from both situations, scoring while on the third line as well as in the top-six when teammates were sidelined. Nichushkin tallied his 22nd of the year Monday, adding to his career-high in the column, along with similar in assists (25) and points (47) in his well-rounded campaign.

Michael Bunting, LW, TOR

Yes, I know he is a 26-year-old rookie, but he may be the biggest bargain in the NHL. Signed to a two-year, $1.9 million deal this offseason, Bunting has been flat-out brilliant in his first season in Toronto. Bunting picked up his fifth multi-point effort in the last nine games Sunday and continues to pace the rookie scoring race with 63 points in 76 games this season, with just five of his points on the power play. The winger has added 80 hits, 68 PIM and a plus-30 rating, further evidencing his across-the-board production.

Michael Bunting #58 of the Toronto Maple Leafs has been a fantasy hockey star
Michael Bunting has been one of the biggest fantasy hockey surprises of the season. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Moritz Seider, D, DET

Seider, the potential Calder Trophy winner, looked like he belonged in the NHL from the first day of the season and never looked back. The sixth pick in the 2019 draft, Seider posted two assists on Opening Night and has six goals and 41 helpers in 76 games. His minus-12 rating is not unsightly, given the team he is on. Add 135 hits and 152 blocked shots and Seider has superstar written all over his portfolio. Seider looks to be the stud blueliner lacking in Motown since Nicklas Lidstrom retired.

Noah Hanifin D, CGY

Hanifin must be viewed as one of the major surprises from the blueline. From 2015-16 through 2019-20, he had posted 22 to 33 points. Last season, he fell to 15 points in 47 games, making it look like his offensive game was no longer a viable expectation.

How wrong we were. Hanifin has helped drive Calgary's attack from the backline, posting 43 points, 177 shots and a plus-28 rating while averaging more than 21 minutes in 75 games.

Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI

Early in the season, those who drafted Sorokin were likely crying in their beer. The Islanders were slumping, and Sorokin was splitting time with Semyon Varlamov. Fast forward a few months and the Islanders got hot, aided by the play between the pipes by Sorokin, who is the clear No. 1 goalie on the Island. Sorokin is 25-16-7 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in 48 appearances. In addition, he posted seven shutouts and had four games where he lost a possible whitewash late.

Ville Husso, G, STL

Where would St. Louis be without Husso?

Funny, the same sentiments were expressed a few years ago about Jordan Binnington.

Filling the role of coming directly out of central casting to save a season has been Husso. With Binnington scuffling, all Husso has done is go 24-6-5 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Signed to a two-year. $1.5 million deal by the Blues in January 2020, Husso is set up to receive a big raise this offseason.

Others include Tage Thompson, Nick Suzuki (aided by a late run of 38 points in 39 games), Nazem Kadri, Elias Lindholm, Adrian Kempe, Trevor Zegras, Auston Matthews (first 100-point campaign), Ryan Johansen, Nico Hischier, Robert Thomas, Johnny Gaudreau, Timo Meier, Kevin Fiala, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan Hartman, Vladimir Tarasenko, Joe Pavelski, Sam Reinhart, Alex DeBrincat (on pace for career year), Andre Burakovsky, Jeff Skinner, Troy Terry, Pavel Buchnevich, Jesper Bratt, Roman Josi, Jared Spurgeon, Oliver Kylington, Tony DeAngelo, Justin Faulk, Rasmus Andersson, Evan Bouchard, Cam Fowler, Spencer Knight, Darcy Kuemper, Jake Oettinger, Igor Shesterkin, Jeremy Swayman and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Disappointments

Anthony Beauvillier, RW, NYI

Beauvillier broke a nine-game drought Sunday with his goal — just his 12th of the season in 72 games after posting 18, 18 and 15 goals, the latter in 47 games last season. Beauvillier, drafted 28th overall in 2017, has only eclipsed 20 goals in a season once, and that was in 2017-18 when he had 21. His name was mentioned in trade rumors in the offseason, but the Isles decided to hold on to the winger. A parting of the ways might be beneficial for both sides.

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Kirby Dach, C, CHI

Dach, selected third overall in the 2019 draft, showed signs of living up to that draft billing his first season. Last year, a fractured wrist suffered in a World Junior exhibition game right before Christmas required surgery, resulting in Dach missing nearly three months. When he returned, he posted 10 points in 18 games, aided by 3:20 worth of ice time per game with the man advantage. The return of Jonathan Toews and the addition originally of Tyler Johnson pushed Dach down the depth chart, but he never challenged enough to force a change and finished with 26 points in 70 games.

Jeff Petry, D, MON

Petry looked to be the surest of sure bets from the blue line after posting 42, 46, 40 and 42 points the last four seasons. We learned that nothing can be taken for granted in fantasy hockey. Petry completely fell off the table this season, notching just 20 points in 62 games. Signed to a four-year, $25 million contract extension by the Canadiens in September 2020, Petry is under contract for three more seasons. The switch to Martin St. Louis as the coach has done little to jumpstart Petry's game, but maybe a full offseason and training camp will help him return to form.

John Gibson, G, ANA

Burdened by carrying the Ducks, Gibson finally broke this season. His win Sunday removed an albatross from around his neck, as he had gone 0-10-3 in his prior 13 games. The 28-year-old's brutal skid torpedoed his season numbers, and he's at 18-24-11 with a 3.18 GAA and a .905 save percentage in 53 appearances.

Anaheim has a bright future thanks to the youth on the roster and those in the pipeline. Signed to an eight-year, $51.2 million contract extension by the Ducks in August 2018, the 28-year-old Gibson has five years remaining on his deal and should be between the pipes to help the team get back to glory. Anthony Stolarz will also factor in the mix, but Gibson should be the primary option in net.

Others include Jonathan Toews, Sean Monahan, Dominik Kubalik, Brock Boeser, Kyle Palmieri (at least the first two-thirds of the season), Joel Kiviranta, Ryan Pulock, Connor Hellebuyck and Jordan Binnington.

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