Hello everybody and welcome in for the fifth installment in this new series. Over on my Twitter feed I’ve been spamming everyone with arbitrary lists, just quick hitting lists to get my thoughts on several fantasy hockey related topics (and several non-fantasy hockey related topics) out and on the record. In these posts I’ll dig a little deeper into those lists and give you a bit of the “why” behind them. Without further ado, let’s get into it:
Morgan Rielly is line to get his old PP1 job back and finally looks to have a D partner in TJ Brodie to play a stay at home role and allow Rielly to do what he does best: join the rush and create off the blueline in the offensive zone with his elite skating ability. I’d wager money that Rielly never drops 20 goals and 70 points again, but 15 and 65 isn’t out of the question playing with that dominant Maple Leaf offense and power play. Most people are starting to price that value in, but this is still the lowest possible buy window you’re going to have for Rielly in the next five years.
Thomas Chabot had a miserable season alongside most of his teammates, but he remains a very talented offensive defenseman who eats minutes. Ottawa can only get better from last year’s debacle, both at 5v5 and with the man advantage, and Chabot should be one of the main beneficiaries. If one of the rookies (Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, Tim Stuetzle) can step into a top 6 role and make a difference alongside locks Brady Tkachuk and Evgenii Dadonov, that would help Chabot’s ceiling tremendously. He won’t come cheaper than his current valuation for a long time.
Erik Karlsson had an injury plagued season but still paced for 58 points and represents a very nice value on most platforms right now. San Jose had a ton of injuries outside of Karlsson and will not be as bad as they were last season, at least offensively. Karlsson is an easy bet for a 50+ point pace and remains a threat for 60+ every year until further notice. He seems to co-exist with Brent Burns pretty well which is unusual for two offensively talented defensemen, raising each other’s games in their time together on the PP rather than detracting from each other.
Matt Grzelcyk has been my choice to command the coveted PP1 role in Boston all offseason. Boston has previously shown a penchant for keeping its minute munchers off the top powerplay, letting Torey Krug run PP1, Grzelcyk PP2 while Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy hog the 5v5 and shorthanded ice time. You can get Grzelcyk for very little in most leagues if you’re willing to take the shot, and the upside feeding Bergeron/Pastrnak/Marchand on the power play is certainly tantalizing. Outside of the power play, Grzelcyk should also see an uptick in 5v5 ice time with Chara not looking like he will return to the Bruins. The Bruins have made some nice scoring additions to their lineup with Ondrej Kase and Craig Smith in the past year and should once again be a high scoring outfit, so any additional ice time for Grzelcyk should result in more production.
I’ve been holding out a candle for Kevin Shattenkirk, who I think gets first dibs on running the Anaheim power play. Cam Fowler has been a below average PP quarterback for a few years now and Shattenkirk is well experienced in the role. Sure it’s Anaheim and they’re not an exciting offensive team, but if the Ducks get heathy seasons from Adam Henrique, Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, and incorporate the emergence of some of the young talent on the team (Troy Terry and Maxime Comtois especially), they could boost their scoring and power play unit. At the very least Shattenkirk should see 19+ minutes a night and PP2 deployment, so there is a decent floor to go with a potential opportunity for a higher ceiling.
Andre Burakovsky is not as good as you think he is. First off, he saw 231 minutes of 5v5 time with Nathan Mackinnon in 2019/20 (approximately 15 games’ worth), which is unlikely to repeat unless Mikko Rantanen gets injured once again. Let me hit you with some stats. 19.42 S%, 5th in the league among players who played at least 500 minutes. 12.52 iCF/60 – 183rd. 7.01 iSCF/60 – 206th. 2.11 iHDCF/60 – 339th. (all as per Natural Stat Trick). This is a player who doesn’t shoot a lot and does very little to generate scoring chances or get to the dirty areas required to sustain high shooting percentages. This same player then miraculously ran it back in the playoffs shooting almost 30% with little to no change in his shot generation numbers. Andre Burakovsky will disappoint you in 2020/21 if you draft him.
Pierre-Luc Dubois turned some heads with some solid performances in the playoffs. It was fair for everyone to wonder if he’d taken a step into a true #1 center in the league. But for fantasy purposes there’s nothing here to suggest that he has or will. Coach John Tortorella has only used three forwards at a pace of more than 19 minutes per game in his five years in Columbus; two of those were Artemi Panarin. There’s nothing in his shot generation profile to suggest that he has another goal scoring gear left in him, if anything he’s been very consistent over the past two years in terms of shot and scoring chance generation. Who knows what he could do in a more offensively-minded system after seeing Panarin go off on Broadway in his first year removed from the defense-first Blue Jackets. But he appears to be hard capped by his situation and would require a true breakout in his fourth NHL season to get to even a 65-70 point pace. I don’t see that as particularly likely.
Joel Kiviranta became a darling in the playoffs with some extreme scoring luck. This is a player who registered the 292nd best individual chances for rate but the 23rd best shooting percentage in the playoffs. He was never regarded as top flight prospect and the odds that he morphed into one after a 23-point campaign in the AHL are slim to none. Kiviranta should not be on your radar in all but deep dynasty leagues. I believe there are some who have taken to hyping Kiviranta in fantasy hockey circles, but they are incorrect and their process is deeply flawed.
Joe Pavelski saw a nice bump with 18 points in 26 games in the playoffs after a mostly terrible debut season with the Dallas Stars. I actually named Pavelski in my playoffs post as a player who would more than likely be valuable to fantasy hockey managers in the playoffs as a vet who scores goals the way they are scored in the playoffs. As such Pavelski did pretty much what I expected him to do. And I expect him to have a nice little run to start the new season, especially with the news that Tyler Seguin will miss a large portion of the shortened campaign. I’m not saying Pavelski will return to the 20% shooter he was his last season in San Jose, but even a 13 or 14% rate along with a bounceback in the assist column should make him fantasy viable once again.
Andrei Svechnikov is a stud. He showed it in the playoffs, which unfortunately likely raised his draft day price significantly. We’re talking about a dude who ranked first in the entire league in on ice expected goals for/60, scoring chances for/60, and high danger chances for/60. And he turned 20 years old in March. I’ve said it many times before this offseason but Svechnikov is the most likely player in the league to take a David Pastrnak-type leap to superstardom this season.
Anthony Beauvillier was frankly not on my radar after the regular season concluded. He put together a rather nondescript 18 goal, 39 point campaign and didn’t have any particularly compelling underlying stats. Then the playoffs hit and suddenly Beauvillier was playing 18 and a half minutes a night, getting top power play deployment, and generating a metric ton of shots and scoring chances (Auston Matthews had a 0.01 higher individual chances for/60 rate). It looked and felt like a legitimate breakout for the 23-year-old. The best part? He shot under 10% in the playoffs despite the extra scoring opportunities, meaning there’s room to grow. Beauvillier could be a legitimate Oliver Bjorkstrand-type breakout candidate for 2020/21. The upside is likely still capped by his situation with the defensively minded Islanders, but this is a team desperate for scoring and Beauvillier looks to be at least part of that solution.
Denis Gurianov was on a lot of people’s minds before the playoffs, but he came out and did it all over again in the postseason, notching nine goals and seventeen points in 27 games. He ranked 15th among all skaters who played at least ten games in individual chances for per 60, and while his 18% shooting percentage was certainly high, it made his 15% regular season shooting percentage seem very likely to be at least close to a sustainable pace. All told, Gurianov looks like the real deal and it’s not unfeasible that he takes another step in 2020/21 and jumps up to a 30-35 goal pace. Dallas could certainly use his offense.
Max Pacioretty had one of the biggest jumps in individual shot and chance for rates I’ve ever seen last year, let alone for a well established veteran player. To me it was impressive but I also wondered if the stars just aligned for a perfect season and if it might be much harder to reproduce again. But Pacioretty came back in the playoffs and was the exact same player once again. It might be he’s just found a new level playing with Mark Stone. Now Vegas’ center situation is in flux so there could be some growing pains for Chandler Stephenson or Cody Glass or whoever ends up between Pacioretty and Stone, but it does look like Pacioretty can sustain this elite level of shot generation.
Alex Tuch has shown steady growth in his shot generation profile, ticking up year after year and nearly approaching that hallowed 10 shots per 60 mark. One had to wonder if Tuch was benefiting from playing down in the lineup against weaker competition. But Tuch averaged a full minute more of ice time per game in the playoffs and repeated his shot generation profile. He dropped a 15.7% shooting percentage in the playoffs, but honestly that might be closer to his real ability than the career 9.4% shooter he has been to this point. If he gets an opportunity to play up in the lineup for any reason, Tuch could be a huge breakout candidate.
Since this tweet was posted Nikita Kucherov has been declared out for the 2021 season, but I think it’s still worth going over why I had him on this list. He may feel like an odd inclusion here, but before the playoffs I was wondering if he was going to permanently be just below the absolute elite of the league, more like a late first round or early second round pick rather than a top 5 pick year after year. His usage decreased by over a minute per game in the regular season and there have been reports of him not meshing well with coach Jon Cooper. Then the playoffs hit and Kucherov was a man possessed, playing 21:40 a game and leading the league in points. He shot just 8.6% despite big increases in his individual chances for rates, meaning he could very easily have added another 5 or 6 goals in that span and distanced himself further from the competition as the best player in the tournament. To me it was a welcome sign that Kucherov still has that 120 point potential.
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