Cage Match Tournament: Most Sustainable Breakout Under Age 25

Rick Roos


Here is the first of the winter Cage Match Tournaments! Be sure to vote using the link at the bottom of this article. 

Santa is coming early for 2017, as we’re kicking off the first of three winter Cage Match Tournaments! I’m calling them the “new normal” tournaments, where you’re voting on the players whose current scoring pace – for better or worse – is most likely to represent their new normal, namely what they’ll produce not just for the rest of this season but at least the next few seasons to come. This week and next are for players exceeding expectations (this week for those under age 25, next week for those 25+). In week three, it’ll be time for the lumps of coal in fantasy stockings –players falling below expectations.

Players not included among voting choices, and why

First and foremost, in keeping with Cage Match tradition voting choices will include skaters only. Simply put, there aren’t enough netminders to form their own brackets, and, in my opinion at least, they don’t make for meaningful side-by-side comparison to skaters.

Also, I think these tournaments will provide the most meaningful results if we focus on established and non-superstar players who are departing from their norm, since that’s especially where poolies need to know whether what we’re seeing is just a very good or very bad aberrational season versus past campaigns or indeed a “new normal.” So what does that mean in terms of players not included among voting choice? No players who, prior to 2017-18, either (a) had played fewer than 50 NHL games, or (b) had previously scored – if a forward – 75+ points or – if a defenseman – 50+ points.

Lastly, I’ve not included players for whom their current scoring pace, though not necessarily predicted, is not a surprise. That’s why, for example, Auston Matthews is not a voting choice but Nathan MacKinnon is. Although both were former #1 overall picks, MacKinnon’s jump to his current scoring level was by no means presumed given how he’d fared in the past few seasons, whereas Matthews’, although perhaps a bit higher/sooner than expected, shouldn’t surprise many.

How to base your vote(s)

It all comes back to the “new normal” concept. These are all players drafted for 2017-18 fantasy leagues with an expected output, and who are either substantially surpassing that expectation or falling below it. You’re tasked with deciding which players are most likely to sustain – for better or worse – their current scoring pace throughout 2017-18 and beyond. So if you think what we’re seeing from a player in 2017-18 is just a temporary blip in the radar and he’ll return to his expected scoring levels this season or next, don’t vote for him. If instead you feel a player has turned a page in his career and what we’re seeing from him now &ndas