Top 10 Breakout Players That…Haven’t

Tom Collins


Every fantasy hockey draft has them.

You know what I’m talking about. A fantasy GM starts going on about how his next pick is going to have a huge breakout season. He keeps hyping up the player, saying he’s guaranteed to be on the top power-play unit and is playing with the elite players. In fact, everyone else was stupid for not selecting this player a few rounds earlier.

And then the season begins, that player is buried on the fourth line and the GM quietly drops him from the roster. Obviously, lots of sleeper picks turn into hits (Thomas Chabot and Sam Reinhart being two obvious cases from this season), but it’s more fun to look at the ones that didn’t turn out that great.


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Here are 10 popular breakout players that didn’t break out.


10. Anthony Beauvillier

With John Tavares leaving New York last offseason, there was hope that some of the younger players would get more opportunity to step up. While Beauvillier’s ice time and power-play time has increased, his production is worse than last year. That’s surprising considering he’s played most of his five-on-five minutes with Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey. Beauvillier can still turn it around, but suffice to say, a 32-point pace is not what fantasy general managers were expecting.


9. Valeri Nichushkin

This was a deep sleeper pick, and although I didn’t get the appeal, there were a lot of people predicting how Nichushkin was going to surprise a lot of people. The only thing surprising has been just how low his production has actually been. His ice time and power-play ice time is the lowest of any NHL season he has played, and his 0.19 points-per-game has him in Jacob de La Rose territory. Nichushkin doesn’t shoot the puck enough and he doesn’t contribute in too many fantasy hockey categories.


8. Ivan Provorov

It’s kind of ironic that in a season where people were expecting a career year for Provorov is when he would have his worst statistical campaign. Goals, points, plus/minus, shots, hits, power-play points and blocked shots are all way lower what he did last year and what was expected of him this year. The only category where his on-pace numbers are higher is PIM, and many leagues eliminated that category this year.


7. J.T. Miller

This one stings a lot because not only was it based on Miller have a top-six role, but the fact he actually excelled in that position a year ago when he had 18 points in 19 games. Miller has been decent, but he is on pace for 49 points. That’s simply not good enough when many believed he could break 60 or even 70 points (Dobber's Note: ahem…*stares at shoes*) . However, of everyone on this list, he’s the most likely to live up to the preseason hype, but it will only happen if he gets back to playing with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.


6. Jake DeBrusk

While the goals have been there (14 goals in 36 games), the points have not. His 0.47 points-per-game is down from 0.61 in his rookie season a year ago. It seems a little strange that DeBrusk has declined considering his shot rate, ice time and power play time are all up, as is his shooting percentage. His unproductive season could be costing him ice time however, as his ice time has been shrinking.


5. Pavel Buchnevich

It hasn’t been a great year for the Rangers forward. He’s been a healthy scratch, dealt with an injury, is shooting the puck at a significant lower per-game rate than a year ago, has seen his ice time decrease from last season while getting way less power-play time. Unlike some others on this list, there’s nothing to suggest he can turn it around this season.


4. Ryan Pulock

Never believe a number one defenseman has lost his job until you actually see it happen over a good chunk of the season. Many believed that Pulock’s hot last month of the 2017-18 season was going to anoint him as the heir to Nick Leddy, but that hasn’t been the case. Leddy continues to dominate the power play ice time, and until that changes, don’t expect Pulock to break out.   


3. Shea Theodore

One of the most difficult aspects of projecting Vegas players is the fact the team plays most of them pretty equally. Case in point: Brad Hunt leads the team with an average power-play ice time at 2:58, but another 10 players average at least two minutes as well. You see the same thing when looking at overall ice time, where five defensemen average about 20 minutes a game or higher. Theodore is simply a victim of this usage, and part of the reason he is on pace for only 37 points. It’s not a good sign either that his ice time and power-time has been decreasing as the season wears on.


2. Philipp Grubauer

Grubauer was pegged to be the next great backup goaltender that was going to excel by switching to a new team, but that hasn’t worked out like anyone expected. Semyon Varlamov has simply been the better netminder of the two this season, and has more wins to go along with a better save percentage and GAA. Although both have been struggling recently, Grubauer hasn’t been doing enough to prove he should be getting more starts. If Colorado decides to re-sign Varlamov, that will hamper any value Grubauer has in keeper pools as well.


1. Ty Rattie

Another reason why you don’t draft potential breakout players simply because of an elite teammate. There were a lot of fantasy general managers who fell in love with Rattie after the Oilers forward led the preseason on both goals and points (seven goals and 11 points in four games) while playing on a line with Connor McDavid. Then the regular season started, and he lasted one game before seeing a demotion and then he missed a couple of weeks with an injury. He now has two goals and eight points in 28 games. Like the rest of the Oilers, he comes and goes on McDavid’s line, but hasn’t been able to prove he should stay there.



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