Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel
32-Year-Old Right WingRW
Arizona Coyotes
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Over the course of his four seasons in Pittsburgh, Kessel racked up 110 goals and 193 assists, including 125 power-play points, in 328 games. The enigmatic winger picked up a pair of Stanley Cup championships while in the Steel City, but didn't always seem to see eye-to-eye with coach Mike Sullivan, especially toward the end of his tenure with the Penguins. The Madison, Wisconsin native will reunite with former Pens assistant coach Rick Tocchet in Arizona this season, which was the biggest reason he was willing to approve a move to the desert. The 31-year-old veteran will be the focal point of the 'Yotes offense both at even strength and with the man advantage this year. However, since he'll no longer be playing with the elite supporting cast he was surrounded with in Pittsburgh, it wouldn't be a shock to see Kessel's productivity dip a little this campaign, especially early on. Nonetheless, the 2006 first-round pick's raw talent should ultimately win out, so fantasy owners can count on him putting up 25-plus goals and 75-plus points for a third straight season in 2019-20, making him a high-end option in all formats. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed an eight-year, $64 million extension with the Maple Leafs in October of 2013. Traded to the Penguins in July 2015, with Maple Leafs retaining $1.5 million (15%) of Kessel's salary each season through 2021-22. Traded to the Coyotes in June of 2019.
Strikes twice on man advantage
RWArizona Coyotes
October 17, 2019
Kessel scored a pair of power-play goals in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Predators.
Kessel only had two shots in the game, but both of them found twine behind Juuse Saros. The 32-year-old goal scorer now has four points in six games. The Coyotes' offense was quiet to start the season, but it will likely live or die by Kessel's production.
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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Phil Kessel
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Shayne Gostisbehere has struggled to start the season, but Neil Parker points out the Stars are in the same situation and should allow the Flyers' defender to break out of his slump.
Yahoo DFS Hockey: Saturday Picks
Chris Morgan looks over Saturday's evening slate and expects Phil Kessel and the Coyotes to come up big as they host the Senators.
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Yahoo DFS Hockey: Tuesday Picks
5 days ago
Chris Morgan checks out Tuesday's slate and thinks William Nylander and the Leafs are poised for success at home against a Wild squad on the second night of a back-to-back.
Yahoo DFS Hockey: Saturday Picks
8 days ago
Jordan Mazzara looks over Saturday's slate and expects Sebastian Aho and the Hurricanes to keep flying against the struggling Blue Jackets.
Past Fantasy Outlooks
At this point, it's safe to assume Kessel will remain in Pittsburgh for the upcoming season. As perennial buyers at the trade deadline, shedding the elite-level winger midseason is unlikely to improve the squad. Coming off a 2017-18 campaign in which he set career highs in assists (58) and points (92), the price tag GM Jim Rutherford had on “Phil the Thrill” was thought to be too high for any team to seriously consider making a move. The Wisconsin native hasn't missed a regular-season game since the 2009-10 campaign, which speaks to his durability. Sure, detractors have their qualms about his conditioning, yet he's still averaged 18:17 of ice time in his career. Kessel can play with just about anyone, but he was at his best when paired with Evgeni Malkin, so he's likely to lobby for that spot in training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 campaign.
Kessel, who’s now a two-time Stanley Cup champion, amassed 23 goals, 47 helpers, and a career-high 30 power-play points during the 2016-17 regular season, and he also factored into 23 scoring plays during the playoffs. The sniper averaged 17:56 of ice time per contest -- third among Pens’ forwards, behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- which actually was a slight drop in rink-run compared to his previous seasons. Still, prospective fantasy owners concerned about Kessel’s minutes should consider that he hasn't missed a game since the 2009-10 season. Much maligned in Toronto, the 29-year-old continues to thrive in Pittsburgh, as the pressure of being the No. 1 guy falls on Crosby’s shoulders and not his own. Phil the Thrill, indeed.
The pundits had Kessel shooting for a 50-goal campaign after he made the move to join Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh last year, but his season started painfully – the winger managed just nine goals and 18 points through 32 games. With the team struggling in December, the Pens fired coach Mike Johnston and replaced him with Mike Sullivan; soon after the regime change, Kessel (along with the rest of the Penguins) suddenly dialed up his game, notching 17 goals and 41 points over 50 contests. Of course, that total of 26 goals still fell well short of expectations, as did his 17 power-play points. Surprisingly, though, Kessel ended up forming a supercharged new unit with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino, becoming the ‘K’ in the HBK Line, arguably Pittsburgh’s best trio in the playoffs. For his part, Kessel piled up 10 goals and 22 points over 24 postseason games, narrowly losing out to Crosby for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Now, fantasy owners should look for him to carry that strong finish into the new season, regardless of which line he’s on.
Kessel saw a big downturn in production for a struggling Leafs team last year, with his goal total falling by a dozen, his point total by 19, and his plus/minus by a whopping 29 ticks from the season before. But he's since been shipped to Pittsburgh, where he's slated to make up one of the most explosive top lines in hockey alongside Sidney Crosby. That's quite a large upgrade over being fed by Tyler Bozak. Kessel thus stands to see a return to his old 80-point days, and with Crosby's expert puck distribution working in his favor, he could quite reasonably hit 40 goals for the first time. His tendency to stay on the ice -- Kessel hasn't missed a game in five years -- will also play well on a Penguins team that has been highly injury-prone for the last few years.
Kessel is a polarizing guy -- some fans love him while others say you can't build a team around him, either on the ice or in fantasy. We beg to differ, particularly in the fantasy arena. Phil the Thrill is one of the most consistent, elite players in the NHL. He has notched at least 20 goals in each of his last six seasons and would have had at least 30 in each if it weren’t for the lockout. He's also rung up at least 30 assists in each of his last four seasons and year-over-year, he's a model of consistency in shots on goal, shooting percentage, power-play production and more. Surprisingly, he does it the hard way -- advanced metrics will show you that he creates all of this offense despite starting 37.8 percent of his shifts (2013-14) in the defensive zone. That's unheard of; he only started 28.4 percent of his shifts last season in the offensive zone, but finished sixth overall in scoring and fifth in goals. Just compare those start zones to Patrick Kane, who scored fewer points despite starting 44.3 percent of his shifts in the opponent's zone (and just 19.4 percent in his own). Forty goals and 95 points will come either this season or next for Mr. Kessel, perhaps earning him some respect around the league along the way.
What's next for Phil the Thrill? He finished 2012-13 in seventh place in NHL scoring with 52 points in 42 games and he showed off a selfless playmaking ability (32 assists) that few ever thought possible. And he has picked up an impressive 134 points in 130 games over the last two seasons. He turns 26 at the start of the season and his best is yet to come. Expect at least 30 goals and a point per game in 2013-14 ... and maybe even a little bit more. He'll be motivated by the thought of a beefy new contract next offseason, so he might even crack the league's top-five scorers.
Another season, another center -- that's the life and times of Phil Kessel. But, honestly -- will that matter? Kessel finished sixth in NHL scoring last season with 82 points and his 37 goals tied for sixth while Tyler Bozak, a guy who's better suited to the third line, was dishing him the puck. Kessel demonstrated tremendous growth in his game last year -- he showed up on the backcheck (go figure) and shed the inconsistent label, as his longest point drought was a whopping three games. He's arguably the NHL's best right winger and that's without a top pivot. So who knows what might be possible with big (and talented) James van Riemsdyk setting him up. He'll be a top-five scorer regardless. Snap him up early.
General manager Brian Burke finally has a top-line center in Tim Connolly to feed Kessel the puck. So does that mean this explosive sniper finally hits 40 goals? There are no guarantees in life but we like the odds if both he and Connolly can stay healthy. Cripes, Kessel proved he can often single-handedly carry his line and produce on his own. He even showed a maturity in his game with fewer droughts later in the season. He even amped things up in the last third of the season, potting 28 points in his last 26 games. Connolly will help Phil the Thrill improve his power-play production significantly so bid early -- right wing is a fantasy vacuum and this guy could easily be one of the top three goal scorers at his position.
Number 81 can flat-out fly. And unlike most other NHLers, he can snipe at top speed. Ahhhh, that wrist shot is one of the best of this generation. His skills are supreme but is he a point-per-game player? Probably not. He's not the kind of guy who can carry his NHL team -- he needs a strong supporting cast (and that's not something he has yet in Toronto). But he will bring your fantasy squad 35 to 40 goals and 65 points this year. Just be cautious in head-to-head leagues -- his production comes in fits and spurts.
Kessel, who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery that may keep him out of action until mid-November, remains an unsigned restricted free agent. With a trade or offer sheet from another team looking increasingly unlikely, the gifted sniper should be back in a Boston uniform this season. Just 21 years old, Kessel is blessed with electric speed, shiftiness, and a quick shooting release, traits that helped him notch a team-high 36 goals in 70 games last season. Critics say that he shies away from contact and can be smothered by tight checking, but young players with 50-goal potential don't grow on trees, so he’s a player the Bruins are going to try their best to bring him back, even though they are tight against the salary cap at press time.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Kessel is just 20 years old, but he already has 152 regular season games under his belt and the hope is that his strength and all-around game eventually catch up to his world-class upside on offense. One great sign is that in the playoffs, he showed some mental toughness when he bounced back from three straight scratches with a bang, netting three goals in his next two games, rather than getting down on himself. He's still a work in progress and consistency will be an issue, but those in keeper leagues should note that Kessel has 30- or 40-goal potential once he matures.
Kessel would have cracked the 30-point mark last year, his rookie season, if not for the 11 games he missed after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer in December. If he can stick on one of the Bruins' top two scoring lines, he should easily finish the year in the 50-60 point range.
Kessel is an 18 years old stud but really, how many kids that age can be fantasy frontliners in their first season? In a standard, 12-team league, you should really only carry guys who are guaranteed to score at least 60 points this coming year. Don't get us wrong -- Kessel is going to be a fantastic player. But to expect a ruddy-faced teenager to not only put up the points but also do so with consistency is just asking for trouble. But if you're in a keeper league, you need to take a different kind of look at Kessel who will be the cornerstone for any fantasy franchise in a few very short years.
Kessel is, in a word, electric. This kid hits top speed in just a couple of strides and can go end-to-end in seconds. His on-ice vision is superb, too good perhaps for his collegiate teammates who simply weren't ready for his rocket passes in 2006-07. Sure, his stock slipped a little in his draft year, but this kid will be an impact offensive player in the NHL in a couple short years. Think a combo of Brett Hull and Pat Lafontaine -- yes, he's that good.
More Fantasy News
Shows up on power play
RWArizona Coyotes
October 15, 2019
Kessel notched a power-play assist in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Winnipeg.
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First helper with 'Yotes
RWArizona Coyotes
October 3, 2019
Kessel registered an assist and two shots on goal in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Ducks.
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Heading to Arizona
RWArizona Coyotes
June 29, 2019
Kessel, Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth-round pick were acquired by the Coyotes from the Penguins for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Darren Dreger of TSN reports.
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Likely staying in Pittsburgh
RWPittsburgh Penguins
June 11, 2019
Kessel appears to be off the trade block after nixing a trade to Minnesota, Josh Yohe of The Athletic reports. According to general manager Jim Rutherford, "I expect Kessel will probably play for Pittsburgh next season"
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Subject of trade talks
RWPittsburgh Penguins
May 23, 2019
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, it's a matter matter of "when" not "if" Kessel will be traded by the Penguins.
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