There just isn't anything quite like a big hit in a hockey game. It can completely change a game's momentum and really get the crowd going. It can even make a boring, scoreless hockey game a whole lot more exciting. I, personally, like a game with a lot of hitting over a game with a lot of scoring. As far back as 1994, I've always bought the EA NHL video games. This season's NHL '14 has implemented new "collision physics" making the hits as real as you've ever seen. Seriously, they really got it right with this new feature and it makes the game a lot of fun. Check out this video:
NHL 14 Collision Physics Gameplay Trailer (via EASPORTS)
We're a site dedicated to Fantasy Hockey and I've noticed a lot of leagues are implementing hits into their categories. I've run a non-keeper points league for the last nine years with the same group of guys. We haven't changed the skater categories in years but just this year, we all agreed that we needed to add hits. In head to head leagues, owning a player or two who throw over 200 hits can help you lock that category down in virtually any matchup. With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 of the top hitters (in no particular order) in the NHL who can also give us a bit more.
Note: I'm leaving out guys like Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown, David Backes, Milan Lucic, Evander Kane, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, etc. They're all big hitters but likely known more for their scoring abilities.
Steve Ott, Buffalo Sabres - Surely one of the best of this kind of player. Ott is the definition of an agitator. There are 29 teams and fan bases that absolutely hate this guy. But that doesn't change the fact that he's a hits machine. Over the last four years leading into the lockout shortened season last year, he had at least 220 hits. What's even better is that he's put up a double digit number in goals and assists in each of those seasons. He even produces with the mad advantage posting 41 PPP over that span. The Sabres have him sharing the Captain duties (he's wearing the C for home games while Vanek wears it on the road) so you know he isn't going anywhere.
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings - Might have the biggest fantasy impact of anyone on this list based solely on good fortunate. Abdelkader finds himself on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to open the season. But the real reason he's on this list is because he's accumulated 600 hits over the last four seasons. He was on pace for 200 hits if there were 82 games last year. He's already thrown an awesome 12 hits and cashed in a goal over the first two games. If he sticks on this line, he can be extremely valuable, but smart guys like you knew that and already own him.
Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators - In the last eight years, Neil has only failed to reach 200 hits once. He truly hits everything that moves and will likely fight anything that moves as a bonus. Of his 11 seasons in the NHL, his lowest PIM total has been 144, and that came in last year's short season. He's not your typical goon, either, as his name will sometimes show up in the scoring summary. He played at better than a 20 point pace last year and he's eclipsed that mark five times in his career. He's a no brainer to own in leagues that count Hits and PIM as he won't kill you in the scoring cats and was actually even for his plus/minus last year.
Cal Clutterbuck, New York Islanders - He is just an absolute animal on the ice, throwing his body around with reckless abandon. No one has thrown more hits than this guy in the last five seasons (1,453) and that's definitely all he knows how to do. He fancies himself a bit of a sniper as he's also got 711 shots and 62 goals over those five seasons. He plays close to 15 minutes per game on average and will get you close to 80 PIM's in a season. He's unfortunately on the shelf until the end of October with a leg injury, but make sure he's on your radar when he returns.
Brandon Prust, Montreal Canadiens - Prust has really improved his game since coming into the league in 2006-2007. He's now one of the more underrated all around players in the NHL. After throwing over 300 hits and notching over 300 PIM and 46 points over two full seasons with the Rangers, he didn't disappoint in Montreal. His 82 game pace looks pretty to your multi category league with 180 hits, over 200 PIM, and more than 30 points. Not to mention more than 50 blocks which is pretty darn good for a forward.
Brian Boyle, New York Rangers - Sure, he had a piss poor season last year, but a lot of guys did. He spent a lot of the season in John Tortorella's doghouse which lead to healthy scratches and unconfident play. The good news for BriBrows is, it's a new season and Torts is gone. In the two seasons prior to last, he had doled out 240 and 236 hits. What's even better is he combined for 32 goals, 29 assists, 383 shots, and 169 blocks over those two seasons. Translation: a multi-cat's dream. There's hope for him this season if he can only just play with some confidence and shoot the puck more (he had just 56 shots in 38 games last year). I own him in one deep league and I'd urge you to do the same thing.
Maxime Talbot, Philadelphia Flyers - Talbot is one of those players who doesn't quite excel at anything but his physicality and energy are what keep him successful in the league. Before last year's shortened season, he collected over 150 hits in two straight seasons. His 19 goals and 34 points in 2011-2012 were career highs and while they're a bit lofty to expect for this season, he could find himself in a plum assignment playing alongside some of the Flyers' scoring forwards. He generally plays about 15 minutes per game so expect him to contribute to the stat sheet in a lot of different spots.
Derek Dorsett, New York Rangers - He missed half of last season with a broken collarbone so he's definitely a bit under the radar for this season. In the two seasons prior to last he just missed the 200 plateau for hits with 195 and 199. The big bonus with Dorsett is the PIM as he put up a total of 400 over those two seasons. With two hits and a fight in the Rangers opener, he's well on his way to lofty totals if he can stay healthy. His offensive game seems to be coming around a bit as well as he had 9 points in 24 games last year, good for a 30 point pace over 82 games. Keep your eye out for this 26 year old.
Eric Nystrom, Nashville Predators - Since he threw 117 hits with Flames back in 2009-2010, Nystrom's hits have been on the uptick in each of the next three seasons. His 82 game pro-rated total for last year was a whopping 208 so he can seriously contribute to your hits category. But he's also a halfway decent goal scorer, notching 16 goals in 2011-2012. He has an assist, four hits, and four shots through the Preds' first two games and actually logged over 16 minutes in ice time last night. He's a good bet to reach the 200 hit mark for the first time in his career and turn in some decent scoring stats if he continues to play this many minutes.
Jared Cowen, Ottawa Senators - I had to throw a defenseman on the list. This 22 years old kid missed most of last year after hip surgery but lets not forget the 217 hits he threw in his rookie season at just 20 years of age. He's got a bit of a scoring touch as well, putting up 48 points in 58 games in the WHL in 2010-2011. His 17 points in his rookie year are not too shabby and he can easily turn in 20 points this season. That's the kind of production you want from your blue line in deep multi category leagues.
Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know who you think I left out.