Who is among the top-10 right wing options in the East next year?
After covering the top five fantasy goalies and defensemen of the Eastern Conference for the 2015-16 season, this week we shift our focus to the top 10 right wings in the East for the upcoming year. Due to this being a list for one-year leagues, age will not be a factor outside of predicting breakout young performers and declines among aging veterans. Offensive production will be the main focus although other scoring categories will be taken into consideration, mostly for tiebreakers. Of course, other factors will be taken into account such as projected power play opportunities, overall ice time and the quality of teammates.
In some cases deciding which position a player should be listed under is not clear. It varies in the NHL and it also varies from one fantasy league host site to another. For the purpose of this series each forward will be assigned one position.
Just missing the cut
In some multi-category formats, Ryan Callahan has been one of the better right wings over the last several years. In addition to solid point totals, he also shoots and hits very frequently and is also a threat on the power play.
Sadly, his all-out style of play has to be taken into account. Callahan is a notorious second-half slumper and also appears on the Band-Aid Boys list. More importantly, he recently turned 30 which is when some of these issues can become more severe in a hurry. Callahan remains a solid fantasy option but should be kept down unless you feel you can sell high in January before the expected drop in production begins.
10) Wayne Simmonds – Philadelphia
Simmonds has been a very consistent 50-point forward in recent years and offers additional value in multi-category leagues. He peaked at 60 points in 2013-14 but if his frequent line combinations from last year is any indication it will be very difficult to push that level again. Instead, look for Simmonds to continue his current pace while remaining a force on the power play with his presence around the net. He will be a safe option on draft day but has a limited offensive upside unless he can get on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek almost exclusively.
9) Ryan Strome – New York Islanders
One of last year’s top sophomores, Strome is in a great position to continue producing on a potent Islanders squad. While his 50 points were indeed impressive, his 17 goals were achieved on 179 total shots (9.5 percent) which is an indication there could be some additional goals this year. One issue here is the fact that Strome rarely plays with John Tavares will prevent him from really taking off in year three. The talent around him helps reduce the risk of a junior slump, but if there is an increase on his point totals, look for it to be just a marginal one.
8) Bobby Ryan – Ottawa
Ryan’s offensive output since arriving in Ottawa has been a bit disappointing, in large part, due to nagging injuries. There are reasons for optimism including the lowest shooting percentage of his career. However, now being the second option on right wing behind Mark Stone will limit his short-term potential as it will likely keep him away from Kyle Turris and also from the top power play unit. Look for a bounce-back year while getting back above the 20-goal mark barring yet another case of the wear and tear slowing him down.
7) T.J. Oshie – Washington
Oshie is going to be a player to follow this year as he makes his debut in Washington. The appeal is obviously the chance to play alongside a pair of stars in Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The combination of a potential uptick in production along with Oshie’s consistency (between 54 and 60 points in each of the last three full campaigns) should put him high on your list on draft day. He also provides a good combination of stats across the board for multi-category leagues which can go unnoticed because he is not a bruiser.
6) Patric Hornqvist – Pittsburgh
Hornqvist was taking full advantage of the move to Pittsburgh’s top-six and the obvious benefits of playing next to two superstar centers – then the Penguins had a terrible second half and everyone suffered from an offensive standpoint including Hornqvist who was also hit by the injury bug. To put it in perspective, Sidney Crosby’s 84-point campaign was the first time he failed to reach 100 points in a year where he played 77 or more games.
This time, expect a more normal performance from the team’s top stars which will help Hornqivst sustain his production all year. His ability to produce around the net will continue to be an asset on a team filled with skilled passers and shooters.
5) Kyle Okposo – New York Islanders
Riding shotgun on the Tavares line has helped Okposo post incredible numbers – his combined totals over the last two years put him on a 75-point pace over 82 games. In today’s NHL that would put him near the top of the league. Unfortunately, injuries have been a problem considering he has missed 33 games over those same two years.
Given the durability issues, projecting Okposo is no doubt going to be risky. He has only played close to a full schedule three times and one of them was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The good news is his points-per-game figure is outstanding so even if he misses a chunk of games you will still end up with a healthy amount of points.
4) Mark Stone – Ottawa
Stone had a superb rookie year with 64 points which helped him finish runner-up for the Calder trophy. As stated here, there are both positive and negative signs that have to be taken into account heading into his second year. On one hand, scoring on just under 17 percent of shots is very high and could see a regression this year. On the other hand, Stone’s ice time increased significantly towards the end of the year. His season average was just 17 minutes per game but increased to 21 minutes in games during the month of April. This year he will be treated like a top-line winger which will certainly help his production. Barring injury – which has been a problem at times in his career – do not be surprised if Stone repeats his rookie year or even manages a small increase.
3) Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay
It is simply amazing that Kucherov was able to get 65 points last year while averaging just 15 minutes a game on the ice. The good news is he saw 17 minutes during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup final and remained very productive with 22 points in 26 games. Of course, his shooting percentage (15 percent) is a bit high and should fall back to a normal rate but with an inevitable increase in utilization on the horizon and a pair of star centers in Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson on the roster he is in good hands. Do not be surprised if he clears 70 points this year.
2) Jakub Voracek – Philadelphia
Armed with a new eight-year contract extension and a permanent spot on Claude Giroux’s wing, Voracek is in a great position to be an elite point producer for the next several years. His output since the end of the lockout tells the story: 189 points in 212 games (73-point pace). More importantly, he has not missed a single game during that span and has been out of the lineup just nine times in his seven-year NHL career. He will probably fall short of last year’s 81 points but 70 should be achieved fairly easily.
1) Phil Kessel – Pittsburgh
Kessel hit the jackpot from a fantasy standpoint when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer. Not only does he get out of the drama that followed him in Toronto, he lands on a team that possesses two elite offensive centers. Kessel will be the main triggerman on the Penguins’ power play and given what the team paid to acquire him he will be given every opportunity to succeed. Amazingly, Kessel’s “disaster” campaign still resulted in 61 points, and where his 25 goals (shooting percentage of 8.9 percent) was very low but stands to improve significantly. Points-wise he should be on par with Voracek but his goal-scoring abilities make him more appealing in multi-category setups.
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