NHL.com examines the fantasy hockey value of the right edge Phil Kessel with Arizona Coyotes and Projects his statistics for 2019-20. It also analyzes the effects of trade on ahead Alex Galchenyuk and the Pittsburgh Penguins. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.
Arizona Coyotes has acquired the elite right wing Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh penguins, significantly enhances their top-six forward-looking group, power play and overall team fantasy outlook.
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Kessel was better than a poker player in the past two seasons (174 points in 164 games, T-13 in the NHL) with the second most power-play points (78) over Spain behind Tampa Bay Lightning's right wing Nikita Kucherov (84). With trade to Arizona, Kessel loses valuable exposure to elite riders Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on the first power game; Kessel also often played with Malkin on even strength during his time with the penguins.
Kessel may have a lower scoring rate than the NHL career high 92 he did with Pittsburgh 2017-18, but he is the highest caliber offensive player Arizona has had in the recent memory. The Coyotes have not had a 75-point scorer since Ray Whitney in 2011-12 (77) or an 80-point shooter since Keith Tkachuk in 1996-1997 (86). Kessel is a four times 80-point producer who reaches the mark twice with the penguins (2017-18, 2018-19) and twice with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2011-12, 2013-14).
Kessel will be the center of Coyote's first power-play unit with valuable defenders Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forwards Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan, which increases the imagination value of each of these skaters. Keller, who scored 65 points as a rookie in 2017-18 but regressed to 47 this season, and Schmaltz, who had 14 points in 17 matches after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks but missed the last months of the season with an injury, have withdrawal appeal after the acquisition of Kessel.
Video: Penguin trade Kessel to Coyotes for Galchenyuk
The best case for Kessel would be to play with left Keller and center Schmaltz on a stacked top line on even strength besides patrolling the first power play. Kessel is acquainted with Coyote's coach Rick Tocchet, who was assistant with the penguins when they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.
The Kessel trade also improves the outlook for Arizona painters; Antti Raanta was already a casualty candidate before the Kessel trade, and Darcy Kuemper had a .925 save percent in 55 matches this season as Raanta compensation. Whether one of the Coyotes goalkeepers emerges as a full-time starter or joins a timeshare tandem, they have realistic hopes for the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing out on four points this season.
Arian's crime has ample room for improvement after the addition of Kessel; it was ranked tied for 28th in goals per game (2.55) and was 26th in power-play percent (16.3) this season. With Kessel, two strong goalie options and a penalty death tied to NHL's best (85.0 percent), the Coyotes see their final drought in seven seasons, the second longest in NHL behind Buffalo Sabers (eight).
FANTASY CONSEQUENCES OF TRADING ON GALCHENYUK, MONEY GIFTS
The penguins have acquired ahead Alex Galchenyuk, which has combined for 45 PPP in the last two seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and Coyotes, in the Kessel trade. Galchenyuk, who has played the center and wing of the NHL, was already a fantasy sleeping candidate and now gets value with potential exposure to Crosby and / or Malkin depending on where he fits into Pittsburgh's top six and power-play mix.
Galchenyuk, a potentially 2020 unlimited free agent, is worth targeting the late rounds of a standard fantasy draft with a chance to help fill the secondary score left by Kessel. Galchenyuk, who made the match with the NHL careers in goal (30) and the score (56) with the Canadiens 2015-16, could match or exceed these totals if he gets position and setup stability with one of Pittsburgh's top centers.
Kessel's departure probably means left wing Jake Guentzel, which made a NHL career high 40 goals this season, will be promoted to the first power play, giving him a higher fantasy ceiling ahead. Guentzel thrived on a line with Crosby on steady strength but was not a regular member of the first power-play unit.
Guentzel still scored six power-play goals and 11 PPPs this season and is now likely to make 20-25 PPPs in a full-time role on one of the most potent specialty units in the NHL. Guentzel is the favorite to take Kessel's place on the first power game with Crosby, Malkin, Letang and the right edge Patric Hornqvist. Crosby, Malkin and Letang remain elite fantasy options in their places despite Kessel's departure. Guentzel ranked higher than Kessel before trading and will remain in the same order with a larger threshold.
With that said, Kessel should exceed 70 points if the Coyotes take the next step. While Kessel may lose any appeal in fantasy designs after moving from the known penguins to the upcoming coyotes, he has played 774 consecutive games (the third longest active strike in the NHL) and remains one of the 10-15 most valuable Fantasy Right Wings for next season.
Projection for Kessel with Coyotes in 2019-20: 82 matches, 29 goals, 43 assistances, 72 points, minus-9, 27 PPP, 240 SOG, 20 hits
Draft interval for Kessel in the 12-team fantasy league: Round 6 or 7 (picks 61-84)