Every season, we get a new bunch of 70-point scorers. Many are expected, but there are always surprises. Drafting those surprises can go a long way to winning your pool.
Generally speaking, one-third of all 70-point players in any given season will be hitting that mark for the first time. Last season, 55 players had at least 70 points. Twenty-five of them were first-timers, an astonishing 45 per cent. Those newbies covered the gamut, from elite players finally hitting their stride, to complete surprises, and from sophomores to 13-year veterans. In case anyone wants to play a bit of trivia, take a few minutes now to try and see how many names you can guess of the first-time 70-point players (I have listed the names at the bottom of this column).
To try to figure out who can join that list this year, you’re really looking for two things: Opportunity and power-play time. It’s not too often a third-line scrub with no power-play time can push 70 points. Imagine if that third-liner all of a sudden got the opportunity to play on the top line with some man-advantage minutes.
So, who are the best bets to be 70-point first-timers this year? I’ve included 10 names below. In the past, I’ve had some comments asking for some focus on the not-so-obvious players, so I’ve included a couple of longer shots as well.
10. Travis Konecny
This is one of the long shots I just mentioned, but keep in mind there’s always a player who comes out of nowhere to score 70 points (think of Nick Foligno, William Karlsson and Max Domi over the last few years). Konecny has seen his point production rise every year, and last season was a fixture on the top line with Claude Giroux. However, there are a few issues that would need to be rectified for him to have a shot at 70 points. To start, he needs to sign a contract, as he is still an unsigned RFA. He also needs to get more ice time and power-play time. There’s also a question of how he fits in with new coach Alain Vigneault’s system.
This is another one of those long-shot choices, but he could be a complete surprise if everything lines up perfectly. He was excellent with Carolina after the trade from Minnesota, netting 30 points in 36 regular-season games (a 68-point pace). With the Canes, Niederreiter is a top-six forward (playing frequently with Sebastian Aho), and averaged 18:17 minutes of ice time a night, about three minutes higher than his previous career high. He was also used on the top power-play unit frequently.
Assuming he stays healthy, the only thing that will keep Arvidsson from being a 70-point player will be if Nashville doesn’t improve on their horrific power-play. Arvidsson had 48 points in 58 games last year (a 68-point pace), but just four of those points came with the man advantage, despite spending time on the top unit. Nashville had an all-time bad power play last year, and maybe adding Matt Duchene this offseason will help.
7. P.K. Subban
Subban has always had the talent to reach 70 points, but this is the first time in his career that he truly has the opportunity. Subban should be the quarterback on the top power-play unit that boasts Jack Hughes, Taylor Hall and Nikita Gusev (more on him in a second), and the Devils power play is miles better than whatever Nashville was doing last year. The biggest thing holding Subban back is his injury history.
6. Nikita Gusev
The NHL’s recent history is littered with KHL players who couldn’t cut it in the NHL. Guys like Vadim Shipachyov, Anton Slepyshev, Sergei Plotnikov and even the second reiteration of Ilya Kovalchuk have all been underwhelming in the NHL. That’s enough to keep some fantasy general managers a little gun shy when it comes to selecting Russians, but keep in mind there are a couple of breakthroughs (Artemi Panarin and Evgenii Dadonov being the best two recent examples). You don’t need to worry about Gusev. Like Subban, he’s in a great situation in New Jersey entering his rookie (but not Calder-eligible) season. He has an opportunity to play on the top line and the top power-play unit. Last year, he had 82 points in 62 games in the KHL, and according to Frozen Pool’s NHL equivalent calculator, that’s comparable to 87 points in 82 NHL games.
5. Torey Krug
Despite his production the last few years, Krug is still a little undervalued in fantasy hockey. He’s had between 50 and 60 points in each of the last three seasons, but has a point pace of 68 and 64 in the last two. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to flirt with 70. There is a lot to like about Krug though. He is undeniably the only power-play quarterback in Boston, and he gets to feed the puck to a couple of 90-point threats in David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. He has the opportunity and the talent to get to 70 points, he just needs the health.
I’ve been one of those people who have been cautioning against Arizona players all of a sudden seeing a massive uptick in points, but Schmaltz does have the opportunity to get 70. Even though we’re taking small sample size, he had 14 points in 17 games with the Coyotes last year. He’s going to get the chance to play with Phil Kessel, and will be a staple on that top power-play unit. Arizona will give Schmaltz every opportunity to succeed to make it look like they didn’t make a mistake in trading away number three on this list to acquire Schmaltz.
3. Dylan Strome
This should be an easy choice for anyone making a list such as this. He scored at a 72-point pace once he was traded to Chicago, he got to play with Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane on the top line and he also was a regular on the top power-play unit. The former third overall draft pick always had the talent, but he just needed the opportunity with top-six minutes, something he never got in Arizona but is getting tons of in Chicago. If Schmaltz and Strome both reach 70 points, is it fair to call this deal a win-win?
2. Timo Meier
Meier is a beast in almost any fantasy hockey format you can think of. He’s a shoot-first, 22-year-old winger who had 66 points in 78 games last season. His ice time has gone up significantly each season, but he was still on the second power-play unit last season, when he had just 10 power-play points. Expect Meier to move up to the top unit this season, and even a small increase in power-play points will be enough to push him over the 70-point mark.
Truthfully, Pettersson should have reached 70 points last season, but injuries derailed his season. Despite missing 11 games, he still finished with 66 points in 71 games, which is a 76-point pace. There’s not much I can tell you about Pettersson that you don’t already know. The biggest concern is that he doesn’t shoot enough (144 shots), and it will be tough for him to continue scoring at a 19.4 per cent rate. However, a truly elite player will always find a way to be productive.
(Trivia answer: Mitch Marner, Jonathan Huberdeau, Brayden Point, Sebastian Aho, Jack Eichel, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Ryan O’Reilly, Matthew Tkachuk, Alex DeBrincat, Jake Guentzel, Teuvo Teravainen, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Giordano, Tomas Hertl, Mika Zibanejad, Dylan Larkin, Auston Matthews, Mark Stone, Max Domi, Morgan Rielly, John Carlson, Logan Couture, Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman)