We’re only two days away from the start of the season! I hope you’re as excited as I am. For today’s post, I’m going to give you ten bold predictions for this upcoming season and why I feel that way. Let me know your thoughts on them below. Let’s get to it!
1) Evgeni Malkin leads the league in points. He’s not in the top ten betting favorites for the Art Ross, but I think Malkin is primed for a huge season. One, he has less time to get injured which is obviously the biggest concern. Two, he had 74 points in 55 games last season. If he plays around that pace again, he’ll have a real chance. Three, he’ll have a full season of Zucker on his left wing. Four, he’ll continue to see second pairs because Crosby will see the tougher matchups. I have Malkin worthy of a pick at the end of the first round because of the injury risk, but the upside is undeniable. I suspect you’ll be able to get him in the second round where he can easily decide leagues.
2) The Chicago Blackhawks have the worst record in the NHL. Yes, they still have Patrick Kane. However, we have no idea when Jonathan Toews is going to return (if at all) and that leaves Carl Soderberg centering their second line. Their defensemen are a bottom five unit in the NHL, and they could have the worst goaltending duo in the league. Maybe Collin Delia surprises, but I have my doubts behind this team. I can see this team being a massive disaster where the top line ends up around break even, but the rest of their team gets caved in. I expect Detroit to just be bad instead of all-time bad leaving the door open for Chicago to fall all the way to the basement. I simply don’t see any upside here unless Pius Suter plays and surprises, but expecting him to be a Panarin or even a Kubalik is a stretch. I would only want Kane, DeBrincat, Kubalik, and Strome in fantasy, and I’m even a bit scared about Kubalik with his big drop off in linemates. I want nothing to do with their defensemen and absolutely nothing with their goaltending.
3) Tyson Barrie totals 50 points. I’ve talked extensively on Barrie in multiple posts, but I want to reaffirm that I’m all in on Barrie in Edmonton. He couldn’t go to a better spot and is primed for a massive season. Funny enough, I expect this to lead to him being significantly overpaid as a free agent in 2021.
4) Andrei Svechnikov finishes in the top three in goals. You can still get Svechnikov at 300-1 on some sports books for the Richard Trophy which I think is worth a flier. While I suspect he ultimately falls just short, I think we see a huge season from Svechnikov with him landing in the 30-35 goal range. He’s going to be a top DFS target for me early in the season.
5) Aaron Ekblad sets a new career high in points despite the shortened season. He’d need 42 points in 56 games which I think is in play. One, my Keith Yandle prediction as far as being one of the most overrated fantasy players this season is already shaping up to be a win, as Quenneville said today that he’s not even a lock to be in Florida’s starting lineup. Even if he is, it’s certain that Ekblad’s going to be on the first power play unit. While I’m down on the top unit in general, it’s still a big boost for Ekblad. I would move him up now towards the bottom of the top 20 defensemen.
6) The Dallas Stars miss the playoffs after making The Stanley Cup Final last season. I’m not in love with this prediction, but I think it’s a much bigger possibility than general consensus. Seguin is out until April and Bishop at least into mid-March. To go along with that, we haven’t seen Anton Khudobin receive a lot of volume during the regular season in years and I’m worried that he doesn’t hold up at his age. They’re an injury to one of their two stud defensemen or Khudobin from being in rough shape. A lot will depend when their early postponements are rescheduled and exactly when they get their studs back, but I think there’s a solid chance that two of Nashville, Florida, and Columbus end up ahead of the Stars, and I don’t see a path to finishing ahead of Tampa or Carolina without Seguin and Bishop.
7) The Calgary Flames win the North Division. While it might not make a fantasy impact, I see their young defensemen taking a step forward this season, especially Rasmus Andersson. He’s a player I’m monitoring closely early to see if he can get the power play necessary to be relevant. Jacob Markstrom is a huge upgrade, and I think we get somewhat of a bounceback from their top line. Toronto is listed as a heavy favorite with a big group of everyone but Ottawa behind them, but from a regular season perspective, I like Calgary’s chances to emerge after last season’s disappointment.
8) The Sabres have a top three power play. Homer time! The Sabres were 20th in power play percentage last season so this would take a huge step forward. That said, I think it’s well within play. The top unit of Reinhart, Hall, Eichel, Olofsson and Dahlin should be terrific, no doubt about it. In fact, the top unit was strong last season and now it adds Hall. However, the big improvement to me is on the second unit. The second unit was an absolute dumpster fire last season and now, it’s looking very competent with Skinner, Staal, Cozens, Tage Thompson and Colin Miller. Miller’s spot could end up Risto’s, but I’m hoping Miller gets first chance. Either way, Thompson is somebody that needs to be discussed. It now looks like he’s going to get first crack playing with Eichel and Hall. He’s got an incredible shot and while it hasn’t translated to NHL success yet, he was great in the AHL last season before suffering a season-ending injury in his first NHL game. He’s still only 23 years old and it’ll be hard to fail playing with Eichel. He’s worth drafting with your last pick right now for the Sabres back-to-back on Thursday and Friday and an even better DFS option.
9) The Arizona Coyotes, despite being in contention for a playoff spot up until the very end of the regular season, will have zero skaters worth holding. Darcy Kuemper should be solid and Antti Raanta could be a great streamer against the California teams, but their offense struggles mightily. That means Phil Kessel, Clayton Keller, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson all disappoint while Jakob Chychrun doesn’t have his breakout. This may be the boldest prediction of all since it’s extremely rate that a team, even a really bad one, doesn’t have one player worth holding. That said, Chabot, Patty Kane, Larkin, and Kopitar have the worst teams covered. Even streaming Coyotes or players against the Coyotes doesn’t sound appealing. Their defensive commitment could be enough to get into the playoffs, but Arizona will be a tough watch.
10) None of the three Calder favorites wins the trophy. That means it’s not any of Alexis Lafreniere, Igor Shesterkin, or Kirill Kaprizov. The implied probability of any of these three winning based on the betting market is somewhere around 75%, so while 25% isn’t exactly bold, these three are the overwhemling favorites. Lafreniere is starting on the third line and while that can change, I expect a good, but not great rookie season. I’m a big Igor fan, but the division could make his numbers look worse than his actual level of play. I still like Kaprizov as well, but he could disappoint being on the first line going against the top defensemen in his division. I don’t know who it is that ends up stealing the award but I suspect a season like Dominik Kubalik had last season would be good enough to win this year. Maybe Dylan Cozens carries his stellar play at the WJC right into the NHL. Same story could happen for Trevor Zegras. Tim Stutzle and Gabriel Vilardi should get plenty of opportunity on bad teams. Ilya Sorokin could thrive right away in the Islanders system. There’s enough upside in the second tier of Calder contenders that I say one of them emerge.
It’ll be fun to look back at these at the end of the season. I’ll be back on Wednesday with some late news on lines and a preview of opening night! In the words of Bart Scott, “Can’t wait!” As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!