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!

  1. Modano says:

    So glad I rediscovered Razzball before my draft on Sunday! Using Dom’s projection spreadsheet coupled with your posts has me feeling pretty good about my auction prep. Definitely getting Fiala and Barrie on the squad.

    Based on your rankings, I think we also both see huge value in these guys as well who I am targetting: Malkin, Morgan Rielly, Krug, Lehner. I see lots of value in these undervalued mid-tier defensemen, so planning to splurge on a few of the top tier forwards and then save by filling out the back end with Barrie/Rielly/Krug.

    Lastly, I am a Stars fan, and it looks like the top line while Seguin is out will be Benn-Hintz-Gurianov. Which of those three do you like best? Hintz and Guri finally getting 20+ minutes could be huge!

    • Viz

      Viz says:

      Dom definitely does good work, just have to make sure you adjust his sheet to your settings. The work he does is great overall.

      I didn’t realize I would be that high on Rielly compared to consensus. I definitely like the other three a ton.

      I’m glad that they’re trying that line and not the usual Benn-Pavelski-Radulov. I don’t think they get 20+ minutes, but they’ll definitely get more minutes than in the past. I think I would roll the dice on Gurianov and hope he can score 20+ goals in this shortened season. I see the case for playing it safe with Benn, I expect some bounceback from him, and Hintz has some upside as well obviously, but I’d rather gamble on the potential big scorer

  2. Modano says:

    I know you are (rightfully) worried about the Stars offense, but looks like the top line is Benn-Hintz-Gurianov and they look great in camp. Which of that group do you like best? If Hint/Guri actually get 20 minutes, seems like big upside.

  3. Steve says:

    Hey Viz,

    How do you think my team stacks up?

    C: Matthews, Nuget-Hopkins, Kadri, D. Strome, Rob Thomas
    W: Marchand, Connor, Fiala, Rust, Bjorkstrand, Zucker
    D: Hamilton, Theodore, Barrie, Shattenkirk
    G: Lehner, Varlamov, Ullmark

    Anywhere I should look to upgrade?

    • Viz

      Viz says:

      Looks great! That is basically the dream team for me, amazing that you could get Matthews and Marchand both, it seems like Marchand is falling further than I expected to. When your weak spot is Dylan Strome who could play 20 minutes a night with Kane, things are looking good! I really don’t think you need to upgrade anything, I think Varlamov and Ullmark should supplement Lehner just fine.

      • Steve says:

        It’s funny too because my league has a handful of Bruins fans. I jumped all over Marchand in the second round. Thanks for the response man

        • Viz

          Viz says:

          Of course, any time!

  4. Itookdonscherry says:

    The other day you suggested I take Kaprisov and Letang in my keeper draft over Stuetzle and Seth Jones. But I did just notice that Sorokin is there as well. Since my only goalies are Kuemper and Demko, would picking Sorokin over Letang be a good move? I am pretty deep at defense as I am already keeping four of them.

    • Viz

      Viz says:

      I would still lean with Letang since Sorokin will probably play 20 games this season, give or take a few games either side. Your team is good enough to contend now so I’d rather go with Letang and Kaprisov. If you want to go with Sorokin, I don’t hate it though, because he’s the second or third best goaltending prospect in hockey behind Igor and possibly Knight

  5. Slimbo says:

    hey buddy saw you have fiala and thomas up here so i thought i would ask what you think in my dynasty league

    G A +/- PPP SOG HIT

    Fiala/Robert Thomas

    was just offered the fiala side


    • Viz

      Viz says:

      Hey Slimbo, hope you’re doing well. This trade is ridiculous, it’s so bad that I would veto it if it was in my league. Fiala is by far the most valuable piece in this trade. Getting Thomas on top of that is amazing as he’s not that far behind Vrana. Accept this before he changes his mind haha

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