Hey guys! Sven here, and for all of you Lil Yachty fans out there it’s about to get cold like Minnesota! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.
Eric Staal – 82GP 42-34-76. A change of scenery two seasons ago helped the veteran centre revive his career, jumping to 65 points from 39, then besting that total with 76 points last season. It is likely that the 33-year-old will regress this year, however Minnesota will likely give him top-tier minutes and PP time until this occurs. It is unsure to me when this regression will happen, however I would still consider picking him up if he slips beyond the seventh round.
Mikael Granlund – 77GP 21-46-67. After breaking out for 69 points two seasons ago, the 26-year-old Granlund appears to be entering his prime, and I am very excited to see what he can do this season. With a locked up spot in the top-six and likely lots of PP time, Granlund is across-the-board sixth-round pick. PIMs leagues he may go later, however he offers plenty of other upside.
Jason Zucker – 82GP 33-31-64. I streamed then dropped Zucker maybe two weeks prior to his second-half explosion, making for one of my larger regrets on the 2017-18 fantasy season. Though I am still not sold on Zucker, if he continues to receive top-six minutes and PP#2 time he may be able to pick up where he left off. Ranked just below Granlund on ESPN, I would look to see if he falls beyond the seventh round, maybe even further than Staal (rounds 8-10).
Nino Niederreiter – 63GP 18-14-32. Injuries and only scoring in bunches made for a frustrating season for the former fifth-overall pick, resulting in a career-low point total with Minnesota. Niederreiter will likely have a top-six role to start the season, however the play of a few rookies below him in the lineup could bump him onto the third line. I have a feeling last season was a fluke he will be able to rebound; therefore, he is worth a look in the later rounds of your draft.
Zach Parise – 42GP 15-9-24. Parise missed nearly half of 2017-18’s games due to injury, and will look to rebound this season. What scares me about him is he had been trending down prior to last season, however the 2003 first-rounder has many more years ahead of him in Minnesota. Perhaps a rejuvenated Eric Staal can help Parise return to 30-goal form, though a 20-20-40 season sounds more likely. Unless he erases the past three seasons and jumps back up to the 60-point mark, I see Parise as a stream target, as he will likely see some PP time.
Charlie Coyle – 66GP 11-26-37. With 56 points in 2016-17, Coyle was one of my targets to have an offensive explosion last season. However, a crowded top-nine led to offensive struggles for the 6’3” centre/winger, and a 20-point regression. At the ripe age of 26, there is no question Coyle can bounce back – if he is given the ice time to do so. I see him, Parise, and Nino battling for top-six roles to start the season, and he could even slide past Koivu into a centre role. Just outside ESPN’s top 200, Coyle is a risky pick, but may be a game-changer for those of you in deeper leagues.
Joel Eriksson Ek – 75GP 6-10-16. Is it possible to have a sophomore slump after a disappointing rookie season? We will find out with Eriksson Ek. The 2015 first-rounder struggled with Minnesota to find consistency last season, but will hopefully be able to find his game now with 75 NHL games under his belt. He will likely be given a middle-six role, probably at centre but he can also play the wings. He is a guy that I would take a look at mid-season to monitor progress, but will almost 100% pass up on in a draft.
Mikko Koivu – 82GP 14-31-45. Since being drafted sixth overall in 2001, Koivu has been one of Minnesota’s franchise guys and an outstanding leader. At 35 there is no question he is starting to regress, and will likely slide into a middle-six depth role this season. With a little bit of PP time, the veteran may be able to catch fire at points during the season, so look for him as a stream target.
Ryan Suter – 78GP 6-45-51. The 33-year-old minute muncher tied a career high in points last season, and will likely continue to be Minnesota’s key blue liner this season. He will likely be available around rounds 7-9 and is a safe pick for a #2D.
Matt Dumba – 82GP 14-36-50. 24-year-old Dumba experienced quite the breakout season last year, and I expect more big things out of him this year. With many successful years likely ahead of him, the 2012 first-rounder could be on the cusp of a 60-point campaign. He is a lock on the top pair with Suter and will likely quarterback Minnesota’s #1PP, so see if you can snag him in rounds 6-8.
Jared Spurgeon – 61GP 9-28-37. At 28 years old and playing second-pair minutes, it is likely that Spurgeon has hit his ceiling at around 40 points. This makes him an attractive depth pick in leagues that require plenty of defencemen. With a little bit of PP#2 time, Spurgeon is a safe option and one of the better defencemen available after all of the top-pair guys are off the board.
Devan Dubnyk – 60GP 2.52GAA 918SV%. Dubnyk’s numbers saw a slight regression from the season prior, but he is still putting the Wild in a position to win games pretty much every night. I see Dubnyk as a prime #2G pick in 10-teamers, and could even be a #1G in 12-teamers.
Jordan Greenway – NCAA: 36GP 13-22-35. Greenway’s success in his rookie season will ultimately depend on where he fits in in this deep Minnesota lineup. With several question marks surrounding once key players like Parise and Koivu, Greenway may just find his way into a top-six role. For now, we will assume third line minutes centred by Koivu, Coyle, or Eriksson Ek. His big body and powerful finish would look good in Wild Green, but I can’t see him being a draft-able player until we know where he fits in the lineup.
Luke Kunin – AHL: 36GP 10-9-19. With a full season in the pros under his belt after a successful college career at Wisconsin, Kunin will likely compete with newcomers Eric Fehr and JT Brown for a bottom-six spot in the Wild’s lineup. Though Minnesota can afford to be patient with their 2016 first-rounder, it would be nice to see an offensively-gifted player like Kunin take off in the big leagues.
Mason Shaw – 2016-17 WHL: 71GP 27-67-94. Shaw missed the entirety of last season after reconstructive knee surgery, and was able to log just one game in the AHL for Iowa. Since the league does not need another heartbreaking scene like Robby Fabbri’s situation the past couple seasons, I am hopeful the 2017 fourth-rounder can return to his scoring-machine form from the WHL. Hopefully I can catch a couple Iowa Wild games this season to take more looks at the 5’9” centre.
Dmitri Sokolov – OHL: 64GP 50-46-96. One of the few prospects I have had the privilege of seeing play live, Sokolov possesses a next-level shooting ability and can bring the energy. Drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round of 2016, Sokolov will likely look to transition into the Pros and start the year with Iowa in the AHL. Though his style of play may not be sustainable at the next level, he should be able to adapt while continuing to put the puck in the net.