Just like almost everyone else in fantasy hockey, I love reading projections.
It’s always fun to have a look to see who is predicting big things for players on your roster and I will sometimes use different projections in my pre-season trade talks. If one guide has a player you are coveting at a lower projection, that’s the one you quote in the trade talks. This year, I combined all of the projections into an excel document to see what players had the widest-ranging projections. I compared 273 players from 13 forecasters. Of those players, 78 have a projection range of at least 20 points, meaning some prognosticators who predict a player to have 50 points, other prognosticators say that same player will hit 70. That’s a huge difference.
For this list, I disqualified some ranges immediately. I eliminated any players that had a wide-ranging projection because of an outlier or two. For example, of 13 projections, 11 predicted Ilya Kovalchuk to finish between 55-62 points, but one had him at 48 and another at 72. While technically the range is 24 points, in all honesty, it’s actually more like seven. Also remember projections are not created equal. One guide only predicts based on every single player playing all 82 games, while the majority of projections still listed Erik Karlsson in Ottawa and Max Pacioretty in Montreal. That’s the great thing about the Dobber guide. The release of the guide in August is just the beginning. He continues to update it as the preseason goes along.
Another interesting note is that of the top eight wide-ranging projections, six of them were rookies, showing how tough it is to predict points for players who have never played professional hockey before. Below are the top 10 players with wide-ranging projections. The number after the name is the difference between the maximum and minimum projections of the 13 forecasts I looked at.
10. Conor Sheary: 27 points difference in projections
Much of Sheary’s fantasy success will depend on where he slots in the Sabres lineup. He’s shown that he can keep up with elite players and if he spends more than half a season with a healthy Jack Eichel, he should be a shoo-in for the 50ish points some of the guides project (including Dobber himself). If he spends it on the third line, he’ll struggle to get to the 25 points a couple of others envision.
9. Evgeni Malkin: 25
Malkin must be the toughest player to peg for any prognosticator due to Malkin’s penchant for injuries. Last year, he played 78 games, the first time he played at least 70 games since 2011-12. However, even if Malkin misses 20 games, you count on 70-plus points. Three predictions have him finishing in the 70-point range, but most must be expecting a semi-healthy season for Malkin as the majority has him at with least 80 points.
8. Morgan Rielly: 23
With all the love the Leafs have been getting this summer, I’m actually surprised some forecasters were able to withstand predicting Reilly to be the highest-point producing defensemen in the league. (I kid, I kid.) At least six projections have Rielly finishing with fewer than the 52 points he had last year, so it’s good to see some restraint being shown, at least for the Leafs defensemen.
7. J.T. Miller: 21
Both Dobber and Ramblings writer Steve Laidlaw project Miller to get to at least 70 points. Others are more skeptical. Just like Sheary, it will all depend on where Miller lines up. In 19 games with the Lightning last year, Miller had 18 points on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos games. He needs to remain on that line to come close to getting 70.
6. Anze Kopitar: 22
After years of slowly dropping point totals, was last year’s career-high 92 points a fluke? Prognosticators seem to think so, as not one of the 13 predictions I’ve looked at project Kopitar to reach 90 points. In fact, Dobber was one of only two guides that forecast Kopitar to even reach 85 points. On the flip side, Ramblings writer Cam Robinson was one of two to predict Kopitar wouldn’t reach 70. As a Kopitar owner, it goes without saying I’m hoping more for the 85 points than the 70. Sorry, Cam.
5. Jakub Voracek: 24
It’s interesting to note that the entire trio of the Flyers top line had a projection range of at least 21 points each. That tells me that it’s really hard to peg down exactly what the Flyers are going to be. Seven projections had Voracek in the low 70s, and two more in the 60s to go along with a couple in the 80s.
4. Nathan MacKinnon: 26
MacKinnon is getting a lot of love from forecasters, as Yahoo has him projected the lowest with 80 points and another guide has him second in the league in points (by the way, every single predictor had Connor McDavid leading the league in scoring). Most have MacKinnon as a top-10 player. That’s kind of amazing, considering this time a year ago, people were ready to give up on him after a 53-point season.
3. Sean Couturier: 24
Was last year’s 76-point season a fluke? It sure seems like it based on the experts’ predictions. Not a single prediction has him reaching that total this year and only two have him even reaching 70. I’m guessing much of this prediction is based on the fact many are predicting linemate Claude Giroux to come crashing back down as well.
2. Reilly Smith: 26
Smith will probably spend most of the season playing with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, but many are predicting setback seasons for all three of them. Smith had 60 points in 67 games last year, a 73-point pace over 82 games, but only one guide predicted Smith to reach the 70-point mark this year. Most have pegged as a high 50s/low 60s player, but both Yahoo and Scott Cullen predict Smith to finish with a lowly 48 points.
1. Aleksander Barkov: 23
Barkov is a perfect example of what a wide-ranging points prediction model is supposed to look like. There are many who believe Barkov is right on the cusp of becoming an elite centre, but the experts are split almost right down the middle on this. There are six projections that have him at 80 points or above, and the other seven have him at 78 points or less.