For the last poll before the regular season, I want to focus on a stat I use when doing fantasy research, namely even-strength forward point pairs. These occur when two forwards share a point on the same goal at even strength, be it one scoring the goal and the other assisting or both receiving an assist. The key with even-strength point pairs is they give you a better idea of which players to target on productive lines, as in some cases two of the three players on the line are combining to receive points more often than either of those two is with the third member of the trio.
Data on even-strength point pair stats from 2018-19 (and previous seasons) can be found here. As can be seen, there were 17 forward pairs who shared points on 40+ even-strength goals in the 2018-19 campaign, up from just ten who did so in 2017-18. So for the poll this week, I’m asking you to choose which of the following 19 forward pairs who didn’t have 40+ even-strength point pairs last season (or who didn’t have a point per game rate that would have translated to 40+ even-strength point pairs had both forwards played in all 82 games) will reach the 40+ even-strength point pair milestone/threshold for 2019-20.
You can vote for as many or as few of the forward pairs as you want, provided that each forward pair for which you cast a vote is one you think will have 40+ even-strength point pairs for 2019-20. I’ve included a “none of the above” choice if you think not a single one of the 19 forward pairs will do so. The voting choices are listed below, in alphabetical order by team and with their point pairs from 2018-19 denoted. As always, although these polls are meant to be enjoyable, please be sure to vote objectively so fellow Dobberites can look to the results to shape decisions they’ll be making in terms of keepers, on draft day, or in trades for 2019-20.
BLACKHAWKS (Alex Debrincat and Patrick Kane – 26 point pairs in 2018-19)
With Debrincat experiencing so much success with Kane last season, and the two having 52 an 80 ES points respectively, I’d have expected them to surely be at or above the 40 mark. But looking deeper, the two only played about 30% of their ES shifts together last season, making the 26 point pairs they did compile all the more impressive. The only question is whether Chicago will opt to put Kane back on a line with Debrincat, as the two were separated as 2018-19 was winding down.
BLACKHAWKS (Alex Debrincat and Dylan Strome – 27 point pairs in 2018-19)
Here too I’d have thought Debrincat and Strome were stapled together last season, yet they fell just short of taking the ice together for 50% of Debrincat’s ES shifts. When Chicago separated the Kane, Strome, Debrincat trio, it opted to keep the two youngsters together, which bodes well for Debrincat sticking with Strome for 2019-20. That, in turn, would make it all the more likely for them to be able to amass 40+ ES point pairs for the upcoming season, assuming Strome doesn’t somehow turn out to be a one year wonder.
BLUE JACKETS (Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois – 24 point pairs in 2018-19)
These two scored 55 and 52 even-strength points, respectively, last season, yet only had 24 point pairs. Why? Because Artemi Panarin was the glue that held their line together, and he figured prominently in most of the goals scored by the trio, making it more difficult for these two to achieve point pairs. With offensive catalyst Panarin now in the Big Apple, either these two will see their point pair total skyrocket, as they’re now the offensive focal points for Columbus, or they’ll end up being stuck in neutral or even do worse than last season.
BRUINS (David Krejci and Jake Debrusk – 27 point pairs in 2018-19)
Here’s a case where I was surprised how high a total was, as Debrusk only had 31 ES points in total last season. But this shows how much chemistry the two had. And with Debrusk poised to have a breakout campaign, they could potentially reach the 40+ mark. Or perhaps the rumor of putting David Pastrnak on this line could derail things for the pair. Time will tell, as it always does.
CANUCKS (Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson – 32 point pairs in 2018-19)
When the dust settled on 2018-19, these two had shared the ice for about 60% of Boeser’s ES shifts, which is lower than one might have guessed except when you factor in the 11 games Pettersson missed due to injury. These two figure to be an inseparable tandem for 2019-20; and with both seemingly on the fast train to superstardom, the 40+ threshold seems well within reach.
CAPITALS (Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin – 34 point pairs in 2018-19)
For years these two were as good a bet for 40+ ES point pairs as any duo. But the emergence of Evgeni Kuznetsov changed things such that last season Ovi and Backstrom only shared the ice for only a small fraction more than Ovi did with Kuznetsov. As talented as these two are, their seasons of 40+ might just be done for thanks to Kuznetsov. Speaking of Kuznetsov and Ovi…
CAPITALS (Evgeni Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin – 26 point pairs in 2018-19)
By the second half, the trio of Ovi, Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson were inseparable, such that perhaps Ovi will take the ice enough with Kuznetsov for them to reach the 40+ point pair threshold despite the still looming presence of Backstrom and Kuz being suspended for the first three games of the season.
FLAMES (Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan – 33 point pairs in 2018-19)
If asked to name the best lines from last season, the trio of Lindholm, Monahan, plus Johnny Gaudreau likely would be near the top to the list. That’s why I was surprised these two hadn’t combined for 40+ point pairs. As in Columbus with Panarin, that likely has a lot to do with Gaudreau being such a points magnet; but there was also the fact that in the second half Matthew Tkachuk was seeing a bit more time with Monahan and Gaudreau, which, if it continues, would make it highly unlikely for these two to reach the 40+ mark, plus likely spell fantasy disappointment for Lindholm owners.
FLYERS (Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux – 35 point pairs in 2018-19)
I was taken aback not to see these two have combined for 40+; but then again, Giroux’s bread and butter have always been the power play, so perhaps that explains it. Most likely they will remain on the same line even with Alain Vigneault now at the helm; but his tendency to divvy out ice time more evenly among all lines might make it difficult for these two to reach their scoring totals of last season, in turn standing in the way of their ES point pairs increasing or perhaps even staying as high as 2018-19.
JETS (Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor – 24 point pairs in 2018-19)
Surprisingly, Wheeler factored into only about half of Connor’s ES points last season given how much time they played together. If Connor can remain on this line and continue to break out, 40+ is within reach. Then again, the Jets might opt to give Patrik Laine time with Wheeler and Mark Scheifele in an attempt to awaken him from last year’s slump, in which case Connor’s scoring could take a big hit.
KNIGHTS (William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault – 25 point pairs in 2018-19)
Some might write off these two as having 40+ point pair potential, but they hit the mark in 2017-18, so clearly, chemistry exists between them. Yet with Vegas being one of four teams last season with no forward who played either 19:00+ per game or 3:00+ on the PP (the Wild, Islanders, and Canadiens were the others), the question becomes whether what we saw from them in 2018-19 is more likely to recur versus what they did in 2017-18, when everything seemed to click right for Vegas.
KINGS (Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar – 30 point pairs in 2018-19)
Like the Karlsson and Marchessault, these two also had 40+ even-strength point pairs in 2017-18, so they thrive when playing together, as expected given their long tenure as teammates. Yet with both having November birthdays – Brown turning 35 and Kopitar 33 – it’s not clear whether they’ll have the capability to score enough to even make 40+ ES point pairs possible, especially on the Kings, who last season were back to their offensively challenged ways of the past.
PANTHERS (Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgeni Dadonov – 31 point pairs in 2018-19)
Because Huberdeau had only 59 of his 92 points outside of the power play, 31 point pairs is a decent number. The question is whether there’s room for it to increase, as Dadonov might end up seeing time on the second line. Then again, with Dadonov’s deal expiring at the end of 2019-20 he’ll have plenty of motivation to succeed and that could translate directly into increased ES scoring, in which case his point pairs with the likes of Huberdeau could rise if they do remain together on the same line.
PANTHERS (Aleksander Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov – 35 point pairs in 2018-19)
Everything said immediately above applies to these two as well, albeit with Barkov having a handful of extra non-PP points as compared to Huberdeau.
SHARKS (Logan Couture and Timo Meier – 26 point pairs in 2018-19)
With Couture and Meier sharing the ice for 75% of Meier’s ES shifts, one would have expected their point pair number to be higher. Then again, the other frequent third members of their line were Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl (more on him below), so a lot of points these two could’ve shared went instead to others. But with Pavelski now gone and Meier seemingly on the fast track to even greater success, these two have a legitimate shot at hitting the 40+ threshold as soon as this season.
SHARKS (Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture – 21 point pairs in 2018-19)
When all was said and done on the 2018-19 campaign, the Hertl/Couture pairing was only on the ice together for a little over a third of Hertl’s ES time. Yet still, they made it more than halfway to the 40 threshold. If they are paired together on a more regular basis at even strength, their point pair tally should be poised to explode.
SABRES (Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner – 31 point pairs in 2018-19)
These two had their share of chemistry last season – that cannot be denied. The concern is they already played roughly 85% of their even-strength shifts together and Skinner, after a red hot start, cooled considerably to finish with only 63 points. Eichel still likely has room to improve; but will it be enough to bring him and Skinner into the 40+ club?
SABRES (Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart – 30 point pairs in 2018-19)
Although these two had just one less point pair than Eichel and Skinner, they did so while skating together at even strength for about two-thirds of Reinhart’s ES shifts, with the Sabres often trying Reinhart as a center on the second or third line. If Buffalo commits to having these two skate on the same line for as much as Eichel and Skinner did last season then they should easily reach the 40+ mark.
STARS (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin – 28 point pairs in 2018-19)
These two were nearly as inseparable as in past seasons, yet they failed to come close to the 40 mark, mainly due to Benn’s struggles. Does Benn still have gas left in the tank to rebound? If Benn’s supposed health and training regimen this summer is a reflection on his commitment to the game, he could be in for a rebound; but the question remains as to whether these two will remain paired, what with Dallas having added Pavelski and Corey Perry to the mix and Roope Hintz having seen shifts with Seguin and Alexander Radulov as the season was ending.
You can cast your votes by clicking here. As noted above, you can vote for as many or as few forward pairs as you think deserve to be chosen. Or you can pick “none of the above” if you think all 19 forward pairs will not have 40+ ES point pairs in 2019-20.
Questions for Mailbag column
The next mailbag column will be posted in a week, and I could still use a couple of additional questions. You can send them to me either by private messaging “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.