The title says it all. Today, I’m going to hit on the ten guys that I like most to exceed expectations this season. With the season a week away, I won’t have to time to do a ton of sleeper posts, so I decided it would be best to highlight these players and then follow it up with players I expect to disappoint this season in tomorrow’s post. Let’s get to it!
Kevin Fiala – Yes, his breakout started to happen at the end of last season and into the bubble, but his ADP does not reflect it. In his 19 games after the All-Star break, here was his stat line: 19 GP, 14+12, 7 PPG, 79 SOG, 17:26 ATOI. That’s absolutely dominant, and while he won’t sustain a 17.7 shooting percentage, it’s not that big of an outlier to expect big regression. My assumption is that his minutes increase from that 17:26 as well, and he continues to be the focal points of the Wild offense. I think we see Fiala right around a point per game this season with 3.5+ shots per game. I have him ranked 40th overall, but you can easily get him in the 7th round or later in drafts.
Shea Theodore – The arrival of Alex Pietrangelo is leaving people worried about Theodore. If anything, it makes me even more excited about him. One, I don’t see Pietrangelo as a viable threat to Theodore in terms of taking his spot on the top power play. They brought Pietrangelo in for his all-around ability, not to be the main PPQB. Two, Pietrangelo is likely to play the most difficult minutes getting Theodore more time against weaker competition. Three, the bottom pair for Vegas looks like it could be a big weak spot which opens the opportunity for Theodore to play around 25 minutes, an increase from 22:14 last season. Four, his shot rate has jumped every season to the point where it is now, which is truly elite for a defenseman. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see Theodore having a top five season for defensemen.
Tyson Barrie – When I started writing at Razzball, Barrie was about to establish himself as a #2 fantasy defensemen. There was one rough season in Colorado, but he arguably had his worst last season in Toronto. Now, he moves to Edmonton where he’ll get to quarterback one of the best power plays of all-time. I’m not saying this is going to happen, but if somebody outside of the top tier is going to lead defensemen in points this year, my money would be on Barrie or Rasmus Dahlin (another breakout candidate but an obvious one). I feel strongly that he’ll be a #1 defenseman this season.
Victor Olofsson – My breakout candidate from last season makes the top 10 for undervalued. Krueger seems set on Olofsson playing with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall. It’s hard to get better than that. While I’m not sure the goal rate gets any better (he played at a 30 goal pace last season), I think he stumbles into a bump in assists. Given that the power play will still go through the slap shots of Eichel and Olofsson, you don’t have to stretch to see a top 50 season as a possibility. He’s ranked well outside of the top 100 in most places right now.
Robert Thomas – It’s 3 AM as I’m writing this. Coincidence? Actually, yes it is. Matchbox Twenty has been a long time favorite here as a prospect, but this should finally be the season that he gets a permanent top six spot. Thomas played only 14:34 last season and still put up 42 points in 66 games. Now, he’s slated to center Hoffman and Schwartz. Given Hoffman’s abilities, I can only expect this line to get heavy offensive zone starts. The shot rate needs to take a big jump up, but I see 50 point upside this season.
Andre Burakovsky – Bednar seems intent on playing Burakovsky on the top line this season to strengthen the second line with Landeskog. You know how Burakovsky can finally find consistency? Play with MacKinnon all year. Yes, he won’t play on the first power play unit, but Burakovsky scored 45 points last season in 58 games without it. He’s also getting some time there in practice so who knows, there could be that upside here. Those 45 points were also with only 15 minutes of average ice time. Even if Bednar changes course, the second line should be improved with Saad’s arrival as well. Great situation for Burakovsky to set career highs despite a shortened season.
Matt Grzelcyk – This one is pretty straight forward. Krug is gone and Grzelcyk is getting first crack at replacing him on the first power play. The bottom pair in Boston is the weakest it’s ever been making it extremely likely Grzelcyk gets a minutes boost. The plus-minus and penalty minutes are already good and should continue to be so. Therefore, assuming the points increase as expected, Grzelcyk should be able to be a hold for the whole season that you can get with one of your last picks.
Devon Toews – Toews has long been one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. I expect him to get the attention he deserves now that he is on the Cup favorite. Toews gets to play with Makar which is a potential gold mine. I mean, Ryan Graves was fantasy relevant last season playing with Makar and Toews has much more offensive ability. I don’t expect it to be exciting, but Toews should end up being a bottom end hold in all formats.
Anthony Duclair – The reason I’m not higher on Duclair is that I’m not convinced he’s going to be on the first line all year. However, he’s getting first opportunity and that’s extremely exciting. How can you not like a guy who had 23+17 last season on Ottawa getting to play with Huberdeau and Barkov? He’s also getting first chance to take Hoffman’s spot on the top power play to crank some slapshots. There’s a path to Duclair being a drop two weeks into the season, but Duclair could also score 20+ goals in this shortened season. He’s the perfect late draft pick.
Dominik Kahun – You should be able to get Kahun with the last pick in your draft without issues. It still pains me that the Sabres let him go for nothing. That’s Edmonton’s gain and Kahun’s as well with a one year deal to boost his value. He’s getting first chance to play with Draisaitl and Yamamoto and I don’t think he relinquishes it. Kahun scored 31 points in 56 games last season playing 13:17 per game. What is he gets to 17 minutes per game? He’s the perfect guy to take right at the end of your draft. You can easily cut bait if things don’t look well after the first few games, but Kahun could end up being a hold for the whole season.
That’s all for now guys. As mentioned in the opening, I’ll be back tomorrow highlighting the 10 players I expect to disappoint this upcoming season. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!