Hello and welcome in to my second positional series breaking down my top 20 right wingers for fantasy hockey in 2020/21. You can find my previous article on right wingers #6-10 here, and my articles on the top 20 centers here. These projections and rankings may vary over time as the draft/free agency/coaching changes come down, but at least this should give everyone a place to start. Before we get started, I just want to clarify that I am not allowing any overlap, so if a player made my Top 20 Centers list he will not be on my Top 20 Right Wingers list even if he is eligible in most leagues. Let’s kick it off with #5:
Mikko Rantanen starts off my top 5 as the man lucky enough to play with Nathan Mackinnon on a consistent basis. In all seriousness, Rantanen is a great player in his own right, averaging well over a PPG in his last three seasons. Injury concerns exist with Rantanen, who missed 8 games in 2018/19 and over a third of the shortened 2019/20 season. But the talent and opportunity is undeniable, and the potential for injury is the only negative one might be able to find with him. Rantanen actually improved both his individual and on-ice scoring chance for rates in his abbreviated 2019/20 campaign, but was also deployed about one minute less per game. He maintains a 16%+ shooting percentage so while the 17.8% mark he posted last year was high, it’s not an extreme outlier. All in all, there’s no warts to be found in Rantanen’s game; this is a bankable PPG player at a tough position to fill in fantasy hockey.
Mitch Marner clocks in at #4 on my rankings, scoring at a 93-point pace over the past two seasons. Marner did take a slight step backward in the shooting and goal-scoring departments in 2019/20 which can likely be attributed to the fact that he spent most of the season playing with Auston Matthews after spending 2018/19 tied exclusively to John Tavares. While Tavares is a goal scorer as well, Matthews demands the puck even more as an elite sniper and Marner was more than happy to provide him with opportunities to fill the net. Assuming that head coach Sheldon Keefe keeps the same deployment, it’s unlikely that Marner bests his 2018/19 career high in goals (26). Marner’s individual and on-ice chances for rates took serious hits in 2019/20, and while some of that was likely due to his extreme usage levels (he averaged 22 minutes/game under Keefe), it is concerning that Matthews maintained or improved his rates while Marner’s nosedived even as a linemate. That being said, Marner remains a special talent on a high-powered Leafs offense who is a lock for 85+ points, and the data suggests he may be even better suited to play with Tavares than Matthews which can only provide fantasy managers with even more confidence in his projected production.
Patrick Kane get my #3 billing after yet another top-10 scoring performance. However, the way he got there does give some cause for concern. Kane posted a career high 84.9% IPP mark in 2019/20, and his on-ice chances for/60 declined for a second straight season. Kane is still an elite player and his rates compare favorably with just about everyone despite the decline; however he will turn 32 early in the 2020/21 season and as the Blackhawks mature their younger forwards I’m sure they will look to ease Kane’s very heavy workload (21:20/game last season, down from 22:29 in 2018/19). Overall Kane is still a very safe option for 85+ points much like Marner, but that 100-point upside may already be in the past. Kane does provide a ton of shots and goal-scoring ability which keeps him near the top of this list. If you want to read more about Kane you can find my full article on him here.
Nikita Kucherov slots in at #2 for me, nearly unthinkable for a man who has scored at a 100-point pace or better in each of the last three seasons. Kucherov is a remarkable talent on a remarkably talented team, and I won’t quibble with anyone who makes him #1 on their list of right wingers. He managed to maintain a 102-point pace in 2019/20 despite seeing 1 minute less of ice time per game. In fact, while Kucherov was absurdly efficient during his 128-point 2018/19 campaign, he actually had better on-ice chances for rates in 2019/20, an absurd fact given how dominant he was the year prior. In short, this is a top-5 superstar who you can set and forget at a scarce position. Don’t overthink it; he’s an absolute stud. If you want to read more about Kucherov you can find my full article on him here.
David Pastrnak is my #1 right winger for 2020/21, and it’s not hard to see why. As I mentioned with Kucherov, it is a bit like splitting hairs between the two at this point in time and I don’t think picking either player above the other is going to materially hurt your fantasy hockey team in 2020/21. But Pastrnak does offer one thing Kucherov can’t: Rocket Richard Trophy potential for most goals scored. Pastrnak’s IPP and S% have climbed in each of the past two years, but his individual chances for rates have climbed along with them. This has all the earmarks of a player ascending to superstardom, and it’s not unbelievable that he’s only now understanding his full ability at the ripe age of 23. Pastrnak has the baseline of skating on one of the best lines and best power plays in the league alongside stars Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, and could very easily score 10 more goals than the next closest right winger next season; that’s why he’s my #1. If you want to read more about Pastrnak you can find my full article on him here.
Now that right wingers 1-5 have been revealed, let’s put them side by side and I’ll explain the rankings a little bit:
Rantanen gets the bottom rung due to the injury risk; if I could be assured of a full 82 games from him he would easily leapfrog Marner and possibly even Kane. Between Marner and Kane I would stick with Kane for the shot and goal production that you won’t find with Marner. Aside from that point, the two are very similar players. At the top I have Pastrnak inching ahead of Kucherov due to his goal-scoring prowess, but it’s easily the closest ranking between any two players in this top 5, and you could easily make the argument to stick with Kucherov at the top of your draft due to the aforementioned three straight 100-point paces.
That wraps another series, stay tuned for the next one coming soon in which I will drop my top 20 left wingers for 2020/21!
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