Sami Vatanen
Sami Vatanen
29-Year-Old DefensemanD
Dallas Stars
2020 Fantasy Outlook
Vatanen signed a one-year contract with the Devils one week before the season, bringing him back to the team with which he has played the majority of the past three campaigns. In that span, the Finn has dressed for 154 games with New Jersey, scoring 68 points, 26 of which came with the extra man. Vatanen should continue to feature on the power play, but New Jersey's poor play at even strength limits his upside and will likely lead to another poor performance in the plus-minus department -- he's a minus-29 over the past two seasons. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Devils in January of 2021. Claimed off waivers by the Stars in April of 2021.
Scooped off waivers
DDallas Stars
April 12, 2021
The Stars claimed Vatanen off waivers from the Devils on Monday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports.
ANALYSIS
Vatanen recorded six points through 30 games with the Devils this season, and he'll get a fresh start with the Stars. It's an interesting pickup by the Stars, as they're on the outside looking in at a playoff spot, though there's little risk because of Vatanen's reasonable one-year, $2 million contract. Vatanen could make his Stars debut as early as Tuesday versus the Panthers.
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2020 NHL Game Log
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2019 NHL Game Log
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2018 NHL Game Log
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2020–21 Time On Ice Stats
  • Average Time On Ice:
    16:50
  • Average Power Play TOI:
    1:20
  • Average Short-Handed TOI:
    0:06
  • Average Time On Ice:
    17:14
  • Average Power Play TOI:
    0:05
  • Average Short-Handed TOI:
    2:33
 
Ice Time
Power Play
Short-Handed
2018–19
21:44
2:15
1:55
2019–20
21:45
3:03
1:58
2020–21
16:50
1:20
0:06
2020–21
17:14
0:05
2:33
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
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2013
2012
Vatanen topped the 30-point mark in three of the previous four seasons before an injury-plagued 2018-19 campaign saw him record just 17 points in 50 appearances. Getting back over the 30-point hump won't be easy, as the Finn will be locked out of the top power-play unit by P. K. Subban and Will Butcher. That doesn't mean scooping Vatanen up on the cheap can't still pay dividends in deeper formats, though, as he's a well-rounded player who's much better than what he showed last year.
Vatanen was New Jersey's most important blueliner after being acquired in a trade with Anaheim, averaging a team-high 22:45 of ice time while chipping in 28 points -- 11 on the power play -- in 57 games with the Devils. While he lacks Will Butcher's offensive upside, Vatanen is still easily the best two-way blueliner on the team, meaning he should get heavy run in most situations. The Finnish defenseman's massive role gives him a high floor, and playing for a team that should be in playoff contention after last year's surprising postseason berth further minimizes his downside.
It was a down year from Vatanen in 2016-17, as the power-play quarterback dropped to just a single goal and nine assists at even strength while posting a career-low 0.5 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Vatanen salvaged some of his fantasy value with 14 points on the man advantage, however, despite once again missed time due to injury and suited up for just 71 games. Missed time is becoming commonplace for the 26-year-old defenseman, which is further concerning because of his small stature (5-foot-10, 183 pounds). He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and might not be recovered in time to start the season. Still, there is bounce-back potential for Vatanen. His power-play role, offensive acumen and excellent shot all position him to top last season's 24 points, barring additional injury woes, of course.
The most dangerous offensive weapon on the Ducks’ blue line, Vatanen set new career highs in points (38) and shots on goal (140), but his nine goals fell three short of the 12 he put up in 2014-15 in four less games. Vatanen is a smooth skater, a dynamic puck-mover and does well quarterbacking the league’s most potent power-play unit (23.1 percent last year), but he’s rather diminutive for a defenseman at 5-foot-10, 183-pounds. Not only is Vatanen more likely to get bumped off the puck by the opposition due to his stature, but injuries are a concern as well, as evidenced by the 26 games he’s missed over the last two campaigns. Still, his talent is undeniable and he’s just coming into his prime as a 25-year-old in his fourth full NHL season, so all signs point to Vatanen continuing to progress. Additionally, his average ice time was 21:19 in 2015-16, leaving him with plenty of room for additional scoring opportunities should new head coach Randy Carlyle decide to grant him more looks. The Finnish rearguard ended last season 29th in scoring among defensemen, but it’s probably best to expect that rank to improve as the Ducks’ core of players continues to improve.
Vatanen emerged as a lethal offensive blueliner in 2014-15, finishing third among all NHL defensemen with seven power-play goals. It's an accomplishment made all the more impressive considering Vatanen missed 15 games with a leg injury, with the 24-year-old finishing the campaign with totals of 12 goals and 37 points, establishing himself as one of the top young players at his position. Never afraid to join the rush, Vatanen built off his superb regular season during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he recorded three goals and 11 points in 16 games. While he’s only played 123 career NHL contests, Vatanen has tremendous offensive instincts and has made great progress in two NHL seasons. He’s the quarterback on a lethal power-play unit featuring Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Corey Perry, and led all Anaheim blueliners last season with 122 shots on goal. If he's able to avoid the health issues that plagued him a season ago, Vatanen could become a top-10 fantasy defenseman in both 2015-16 and the years to come.
Vatanen’s second NHL season saw him substantially increase both his playing time and his productivity. But he still saw a lot of healthy scratches, particularly late in the season. Stephane Robidas has departed to Toronto, so those healthy scratches for Vatanen should decline. And he should get a shot at the point on the first power-play unit. This could be the start of something beautiful for his fantasy owners -- 35 points are within reach.
Vatanen is a small, offensive dynamo who scored two goals in the eight games he played during the 2012-2013 regular season. He'd be considered a stud in the making if his parents had given him the gift of three more inches in height, but alas that didn't happen. Still, the Ducks have a serviceable defense corps that helps insulate players' shortcomings (see Souray, Sheldon), so Vatanen could be eased into NHL time nice and easy on the left coast. He has the tool belt to be an elite power-play QB, but like we said, those tools just hang a little closer to the ground than for most. Watch his development and don't be afraid to stash him on keeper rosters. Single-year leagues need to use more caution than that, so a waiver pick up might be in order.
Vatanen has elite offensive abilities, and if he were over six feet, he'd be on the short list of the best defense prospects in the world. Everyone would know his name and they'd be tossing around words like game-breaker and stud. But he's 5-9 and that seriously changes the adjectives used to describe him. Watch from afar -- if he can show that he can handle his own-zone duties on smaller ice, we might have a sleeper.
More Fantasy News
Pockets helper
DNew Jersey Devils
April 11, 2021
Vatanen recorded an assist in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Penguins.
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Hits waivers
DNew Jersey Devils
April 11, 2021
Vatanen was placed on waivers by the Devils on Sunday, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports.
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Goes plus-3 in defeat
DNew Jersey Devils
March 31, 2021
Vatanen had one shot, one block and a plus-3 rating in Tuesday's 5-4 shootout loss to Boston.
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Picks up first point
DNew Jersey Devils
March 5, 2021
Vatanen had an assist and a minus-2 rating in Thursday's 6-1 loss to the Rangers.
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Will debut Thursday
DNew Jersey Devils
February 18, 2021
Vatanen is expected to make his season debut Thursday against the Bruins, Corey Masisak of The Athletic reports.
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