Hey guys! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2019-20 fantasy hockey season. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to streamers, deeper league holds, even to rookie-eligible 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.
Last year my previews went alphabetically, but this year we’re going to go division-by-division, starting with the top team. On our 14th stop on the 31 in 31 tour, we visit the Windy City – Chicago baby! There weren’t huge expectations for this Hawks squad heading into 2018-19, but their young offensive weapons helped them fight till the bitter end, ending up just six points out of the playoffs. With an interesting free agent pickup and some moves to stabilize their D core, what will the Hawks do this season?
SURE-FIRE STUDS: Patrick Kane (81GP 44-66-110), Alex Debrincat (82GP 41-35-76)
I can’t see any reason (other than injury) why Showtime wouldn’t hit triple digits again this season. Good news is he’ll likely STILL fall to the second round of some drafts despite being an absolute stud. Expect another electric season from Debrincat, who showed zero signs of a Sophomore Slump.
SVEN’S SLEEPER: Dylan Strome (78GP 20-37-57)
Not so much a sleeper as he is a guy whose name we know, but we’re not sure what he’s capable of just yet. If the Kane-Debrincat-Strome combo stays together and he gets a fair shake at PP#1, Strome is an amazing fantasy pickup this season. I’m hoping the ESPN rankings don’t give him any respect just so I can buy low.
HOLDS: Jonathan Toews (82GP 35-46-81), Erik Gustafsson (79GP 17-43-60), Duncan Keith (82GP 6-34-40)
Captain Serious came into last season with a massive chip on his shoulder, but managed to prove that he’s still elite. As one of the best buy-low players of last season, I expect a slight regression this year and likely wouldn’t take him higher than what he’s ranked. I’m super glad Gustafsson exploded like I thought he would, but also annoyed at how highly ranked he will be this season. Though he has established himself as the #1PP QB, I expect a slight regression. This may be the last season Keith is a hold, but he can still play and had a nice bounce-back season. His PIMs also saw a big boost.
???: Robin Lehner (46GP 25-13-5, .930SV%, 2.13GAA), Corey Crawford (39GP 14-18-5, .908SV%, 2.93GAA)
The fantasy fate of the Blackhawks back-bone (ok I’ll stop) entirely depends on how the work load will be split by Coach Jeremy Colliton. I imagine Lehner will be ranked very high among goalies given the season he had, but Crawford can still play, as he proved down the stretch last year. With both guys becoming UFAs next season, it’s sure going to be competitive in the crease. This team has so much potential to be sneaky-good, so I might own one or both of these guys in a league.
STREAMERS: Brandon Saad (80GP 23-24-47), Andrew Shaw (63GP 19-28-47)
Both of the above mentioned forwards will get a fair shake at playing with Toews on that “top” line, so look for hot streaks. Andrew “Hot Dog Water” Shaw is coming off a new career-high and will step back into his firecracker role in this Hawks lineup. Will also be checking up on where Dylan Sikura fits into this lineup, who could be worth a late look.
PROSPECT PIPELINE: Kirby Dach (WHL: 62GP 25-48-73)
I haven’t seen Dach play much, but 6’4 elite centremen don’t come up too often. I’d give him an outside chance at cracking the Blackhawks roster this year, but a big fish, small pond season may not be the worst thing for his development. Down the road I see Dach becoming an absolute force down the middle of the ice and providing Chicago with some unreal depth at the tail-end of Toews’ career. Whether he makes the team or not, I can’t see him having any fantasy value this season unless they play him on the wing.
Alex Nylander (AHL: 49GP 12-19-31)
A former top-ten pick that may just need a change of scenery. With 15 NHL games under his belt, Nylander has recorded points with the Sabres but they were ready to move on from him. Will this be the one that got away? Who knows, if he cracks Chicago’s roster he may be a candidate for a RW spot on Toews’ line. I’m really not sure what to think of him right now because I have seen how dominant he can be, he just hasn’t quite found it yet in his pro career. Only time will tell.
Dominik Kubalik (NLA: 50GP 25-32-57)
After two seasons as an OHL import with the Sudbury Wolves, Kubalik has been grinding it out in Europe. The 2013 seventh-rounder is supposedly on his way to North America, with a legitimate chance at cracking the Blackhawks roster. He’s put up points everywhere he has played in Europe, which is a great sign. However, I think he may need a buffer year in the AHL in order to get re-used to the North American play. His previous pro experience will bode well for him though.
Brandon Hagel (WHL: 66GP 41-61-102)
Hagel was a Sabres sixth-rounder in 2016, but went unsigned. The Blackhawks inked Hagel after a 102-point overage year with Red Deer (WHL). Seldom can junior stand-outs maintain their offensive play when they make the jump to the pros, and I’m a little worried about his wiry 175lb frame. We’ll see how he transitions in a full season with Rockford (AHL), who he played eight games with at the end of last season, tallying one assist. Hagel’s Red Deer teammate and captain Reese Johnson will also be joining Rockford this season, as well as 2017 third-rounder Mackenzie Entwhistle from the OHL.
Philipp Kurashev (QMJHL: 59GP 29-36-65)
Kurashev had an amazing showing at the WJC for team Switzerland, and I’m excited to see what he is able to do playing against men this season in Rockford (AHL). A 2018 fourth-rounder, he’s a centre that appears pass-first based on his point totals, but his scoring touch was on full display in international play.
Adam Boqvist (OHL: 54GP 20-40-60)
Despite moving Jokiharju and not drafting Byram, the Blackhawks do have an exciting defensive pipeline going on right now. Boqvist was Chicago’s eighth overall pick in 2018, and will likely make the move to Rockford this season. An absolute stud with London (OHL), the Blackhawks can be patient with Boqvist’s development given the moves they’ve made to improve their NHL back-end. That being said, if he is impressing in the AHL he will likely earn a call-up this season. Ditto for fellow prospect Nicolas Beaudin, however I would stick him just below Boqvist on the depth chart.