Matt Niskanen
Matt Niskanen
32-Year-Old DefensemanD
Washington Capitals
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Niskanen has been a steady presence on Washington's blue line since signing a seven-year, $40.25 million contract in July of 2014. Now 31 years old, he had a respectable seven goals and 29 points in 68 games despite missing 14 contests due to various upper-body injuries. With a Stanley Cup under his belt, there's no arguing that Niskanen is a valuable player for the Capitals, but he failed to record any power-play points for the first time in 11 years and his usage on the man advantage (00:31 per game) was the lowest it's been since 2010-11. With John Carlson glued to the top power-play unit and younger blueliners in search of quality minutes, Niskanen's fantasy upside is capped as he shifts to more of a shutdown role. He's certainly worth owning in standard formats, but it'll be important to keep modest expectations for him. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a seven-year, $40.25 million contract with Washington in July 2014.
Makes defensive impact
DWashington Capitals
February 17, 2019
Niskanen played well with five hits, three blocked shots and two PIM in a 5-2 loss to the Ducks on Sunday.
Niskanen has three points, 15 hits and 10 blocks in his last six games. For the season, he has 22 points in 57 appearances, while adding 133 hits and 91 blocks. He can be valuable in formats that count peripheral categories, but his point production alone may not be enough to justify a roster spot in shallower competitions.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
After posting point totals in the low 30s in his first two seasons with Washington, Niskanen surprisingly came one point short of his second career 40-point campaign in 2016-17, and he provided an extra boost of fantasy value with a plus-20 rating as well. A lot of that productivity came at even strength, as Niskanen saw his power-play production decline to nine points after cracking double digits in each of the prior three seasons. However, with the Caps not retaining rental player Kevin Shattenkirk, the 30-year-old Minnesotan is primed to enjoy steady minutes with the man advantage -- perhaps more than last season’s 1:48 per game, although John Carlson will still see the biggest minutes among blueliners in those situations. Niskanen isn't an exciting fantasy draft choice, but he’s a reliable option for well-rounded productivity.
A physical defenseman who’s added an impressive shot-blocking component to his resume since signing with the Capitals, Niskanen comes back for a third season in D.C. with fairly little fantasy fanfare. A spike in power-play time last year made Niskanen’s production with the man advantage rise from 10 to 16 points, but his total offensive output went nearly unchanged, as he added one goal to 2014-15’s total of four goals and 27 assists. It seems like Niskanen’s 10-goal, 46-point campaign as a Penguin in 2013-14 may have written the proverbial check that he won’t cash again in his career; that season sticks out like a sore thumb in his career stats. The 30-ish-point version of Niskanen is closer to what we can expect moving forward as he continues to occupy a second-unit slot on the Caps’ blue line in the midst of his long-term contract.
Niskanen took a step backward in his first year with the Caps. After delivering 10 goals and 46 points in 2013-14, he fell back to just four goals and 31 points in 2014-15. It really wasn’t a surprise – Niskanen didn’t get nearly as many offensive opportunities as he did with the Pens. But this season will be different. Mike Green is gone, and the Caps expect someone from the existing roster will fill the void. We’re looking at you, Mr. Niskanen – carpe diem! Niskanen is the logical choice to fill Green’s boots, and that means he’ll deliver like he did in 2013-14. He’s not exactly a sleeper, but he’ll be a bit underrated on draft day. You’ll be happy you grabbed him.
The top defenseman on the free agent market, Niskanen capped off Washington’s offseason spending spree when he signed a seven-year, $40.25 million contract with the Caps in July. Niskanen performed admirably for the Penguins last season when the injury bug ravaged their blue line, and the 27-year-old Minnesotan was able to to take advantage of increased playing time with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to generate a banner year, tallying 10 goals and 46 points and averaging over 21 minutes of ice time. Many believe that the stars aligned for Niskanen last season, and as such, his point totals might regress due to the competition he faces for ice time on such a deep defense. Still, the disparity in talent between Crosby/Malkin and Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom isn’t significant, and Niskanen should get plenty of opportunities to be a productive fantasy blueliner.
Niskanen has been the topic of trade rumors after a disappointing season in 2012-13. His $2.3 million AAV contract is also more than the Penguins can afford. Pittsburgh tried him as a No. 4 defender at times, but he's probably better suited as part of a bottom pairing. Niskanen compiled 14 points (4G, 10A) in 40 games despite seeing ample action with Kris Letang and Paul Martin missing significant time. He has the potential to go on a two-week run as a solid fantasy producer, but he's better as an in-season pickup than as a rostered player except in the deepest of fantasy leagues.
Pittsburgh thought enough of Niskanen to offer him a two-year, $4.6 million deal in the offseason, which he readily accepted. The defender rebounded from a weak 2010-11 showing with a consistent game nightly last season. His counting stats were nothing special -- four goals and 21 points in 75 games -- but he'll see plenty of playing time as a no. 4 or 5 defenseman. He scored 35 points in his sophomore season with Dallas in 2008-09, so the upside of a 35-40 point season is possible, especially with a couple years of experience in Pittsburgh's defensive system under his belt.
Niskanen was considered a throw-in as part of the Alex Goligoski-James Neal trade, and he played like one as the season went along. Niskanen, a former first-round pick, is scheduled to make $1.5 million in 2011-12. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Pens move him at some point, as his defensive shortcomings became apparent with each passing game in Pittsburgh. He compiled 35 points for the Stars in 2008-09, so the potential for offense is there. Still, his four-point (1,3) production in 18 games for the Pens might not be enough to warrant his pay in 2011-12.
Niskanen had a second straight disappointing season (3 G, 12 A, minus-15) after a promising rookie campaign back in 2007-08. The absence of Sergei Zubov the past two seasons seems to have impacted Niskanen the most, as there's virtually no confidence left in the youngster. A change of scenery may be required because he was just as invisible most nights under new coach Marc Crawford, as he was in Dave Tippet's system the year before.
Niskanen led the Dallas blue line in scoring, albeit with a pretty pedestrian 6-29-35 line. He'll continue to see time on one of the two power play units for the Stars, though Dallas may opt for a forward (Brad Richards or Mike Modano) on one of the two points at times. He's had two decent seasons in his young career, and this could be the year Niskanen steps up his play another notch and approaches 50 points.
Niskanen had a fine rookie season with 26 points in 78 games, being paired with Sergei Zubov while Zubov was healthy. His puck-moving skills could land him on the top power play unit if Dallas doesn't load up with Brad Richards or Mike Modano on the point alongside Zubov. He doesn't posses a heavy shot but could be a nice source of assists from the back end.
Niskanen jumped from 14 points in his freshman season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to 31 points in his sophomore season. Once his college season ended, Niskanen joined Iowa of the AHL. Dallas envisions him as a future PP quarterback, but it will likely be a year or two before he becomes an everyday NHL player.
Will play for the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2006-07.
Niskanen may very well be the best athlete in the 2005 NHL draft class. He is a two-sport star (quarterback) who also plays baseball (pitcher and infield) pretty darned well. He's smart and fast (think wide receiver kind of speed) and hockey is his game. He was a Mr. Hockey finalist (Minnesota high school honor) and on the All-State first team in 2004-2005. He's poised beyond his years, probably from taking so many snaps from behind center. Calm, cool, collected and headed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for 2005-2006.
More Fantasy News
Notches two points Thursday
DWashington Capitals
February 8, 2019
Niskanen registered a goal, an assist, two shots and four hits during Thursday's 4-3 overtime win against the Avalanche.
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Running cold
DWashington Capitals
January 16, 2019
Niskanen has managed just one assist, 11 shots and a minus-7 rating during his last eight games.
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Set to play against Blues
DWashington Capitals
January 3, 2019
Niskanen (undisclosed) will be in the lineup versus St. Louis on Thursday, Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post reports.
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Hoping to return Thursday
DWashington Capitals
January 2, 2019
Niskanen (undisclosed) is hopeful to return Thursday against the Blues, Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post reports.
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Remains on shelf
DWashington Capitals
December 30, 2018
Niskanen (undisclosed) won't play in Monday's game versus the Predators, Tom Gulitti of reports.
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