Fantasy Poll: Bounce-Back Contenders
With the 2019-20 regular season all but over we can confidently identify fantasy goats, namely the players falling short of their expected level of production. But the big question is whether what we saw from them this season was just a blip in the radar or a downward trend?
And who better to weigh in on this debate than the finest fantasy hockey minds, DobberHockey readers! So this week's poll is asking you to vote for the player(s) you believe will bounce back from their disappointing 2019-20 in 2020-21 or any future season. For each player, I've listed below their projected 82 game scoring pace from the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide and then their current 82 game scoring pace. So in order to vote for players in the poll, you should feel confident that, whatever their expected level of fantasy production/performance was supposed to be this season, they will rise back to at least that level in 2020-21 or a future season.
Note that I excluded anyone from the list who is age 25 or younger or who has played three or fewer full NHL seasons, as in those cases what we're seeing could be growing pains. I omitted anyone age 35+ too, as for them a slowdown is more likely than not a sign of a new normal. And I didn't include players who changed teams during the season, as their subpar performance could be blamed on different circumstances than those that existed when expectations were set for them for this season. I also left out goalies, in order to allow for more "apples to apples" comparisons. And lastly, you won't see anyone among the voting choices who, despite higher expectations, is still scoring above a point per game level, as there were simply too many other players more deserving of inclusion.
In fact, there were enough players who underperformed during the 2019-20 campaign, I had to omit nearly a dozen who easily could've been on the list, namely Jamie Benn, Sean Couturier, Alex Galchenyuk, Yanni Gourde, Ryan Johansen, Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Alexander Radulov, P.K. Subban, and James van Riemsdyk. Why did these ten players not make the list, over the 20 that did? What it boiled down to is, in my opinion, each of these ten players is all but assured never to hit his 2019-20 projected points pace again, so I didn't want to "waste" a poll spot on them. Instead, the players listed in the poll are ones who, despite disappointing in 2019-20, are guys I felt readers were more likely to believe could hit their 2019-20 projected pace in at least one future season. This way voting is more meaningful and, hopefully, can provide better fantasy insight.
So with all that out of the way, here are the 20 voting choices – listed alphabetically – whom I felt were most deserving of inclusion. You can vote for as many or as few as you want provided each who gets your vote is someone whom, despite a down 2019-20, you nevertheless expect will reach or exceed his 2019-20 projected scoring pace in any future season. The link to take you to the voting area will be at the end of the column.
Viktor Arvidsson (Projected Points Pace: 74; Current Scoring Pace: 40)
After averaging 30 goals in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Arvy potted 34 in only 58 contests for the 2018-19 season. Between that, him entering what should be his prime, and PP scoring that had only one way to go – and that's up – much was expected from the Nashville winger. The result has been another season derailed by injury, but this time with poor play sandwiched around it. He's been unable to find chemistry with seemingly anyone and perhaps even at his best he might never be more than a 55-65 point player.
Cam Atkinson (Projected Points Pace: 67; Current Scoring Pace: 48)
It turns out it was correct to predict Atkinson's production would drop after putting up 69 points in 80 games last season. But instead of a small dip, it sunk like a stone. That having been said, Atkinson's great 2018-19 came after a lackluster 2017-18; however, he's now two years older and his scoring and SOG pace this season were both far worse than in 2017-18.
Drew Doughty (Projected Points Pace: 53; Current Scoring Pace: 43)
The veteran Doughty is amazingly only 30 years old; however, considering the early start to his career and all the playoff minutes he's logged, Doughty's hockey legs probably feel like they're more like those of a 35-year-old. Between that and the Kings seemingly being back to a team which struggles to score, Doughty topping 50 again might be a tall order, even though for sure he has the raw talent to do so.
Matt Duchene (Projected Points Pace: 66; Current Scoring Pace: 52)
After a near point per game 2018-19, and starting with 16 points in 18 games this season, It seemed like if anything the 66 point projection would be far too low. Fast forward to now, after barely point per every other game scoring from him since Q1, and Duchene looks a lot more like the middling player he was from 2014-18, except now he's 29 years old and has less motivation to play hard, what with this being his first season on a seven-year, $56M deal.
Johnny Gaudreau (Projected Points Pace: 94; Current Scoring Pace: 68)
After posting 99 points last season, poolies envisioned Gaudreau as already a top-five NHL scoring threat and perhaps someone who could even get better. But here we are a season later and he's on pace for his worst output since his rookie campaign. Perhaps with teams keying in more on the Calgary top line the success he achieved previously will be harder to come by? But with his talent and at his still young age of 26, chances are he has another huge season in him, or at least one would think so.
Ryan Getzlaf (Projected Points Pace: 62; Current Scoring Pace: 49)
Following up seasons of scoring paces of 81 and 89 points with a 59 point pace in 2018-19, most thought Getz would bounce back, as after all his type of game seemed like one that could see him produce well even as he aged. Instead, this season he's headed for his worst scoring pace…….ever! The fact that the Ducks are a struggling team isn't doing him any favors, but he'll have to do more to convince poolies he can right his fantasy ship to taste 60+ points again.
Claude Giroux (Projected Points Pace: 89; Current Scoring Pace: 63)
Poolies will remember Giroux exploding for 101 points in 2017-18 after three straight seasons of declining point totals, and then following that up with 85 points last season. But this season he's on pace for barely over 60 points, so the question becomes whether Giroux has yet another rebound in him. It's tough to rule him out given his track record; however, at age 32 it might be a tall order to see him reach point per game levels again, let alone an 89 point pace.
Shayne Gostisbehere (Projected Points Pace: 58; Current Scoring Pace: 23)
The same defenseman who tallied 65 points in 79 games a mere two seasons ago won't hit that total when adding his combined output from 2018-19 and 2019-20! Yes, he's been bitten by the injury bug this season; but when he's played, he's looked like a shell of his former self. And if he can't score it's tough to justify giving him ice time, setting up a chicken and egg situation. Still, he's only 26 and ruling out even 58 points ever again might be a bit premature.
Mikael Granlund (Projected Points Pace: 63; Current Scoring Pace: 39)
Yet another Predator forward, it seems like a lot longer than last season that Granlund was coming off campaigns of 70 and 71 point scoring paces, in part due to the breakout success of the player – Kevin Fiala – for whom he was dealt in 2018. But there's also him seeing his production drop to a 56 point pace last season then not even tallying a point per every other game this season. Still 28 and has been talented enough to post a 70+ point scoring pace not once but twice, he might be able to claw back to a 63 point pace before all is said and done.
Erik Karlsson (Projected Points Pace: 77; Current Scoring Pace: 59)
Since Karlsson has come to San Jose, it's been injuries and scoring letdowns. The result is he simply seems like a different player, with less spring in his step and ratcheted down firepower. Even still, he managed a 59 point pace for 2019-20, and, at only 30 by the start of 2020-21, it might be premature to rule out a return to past glory for Karlsson, even on the struggling Sharks.
John Klingberg (Projected Points Pace: 63; Current Scoring Pace: 45)
Like Ghost, Klingberg looked like he was on a fast train to offensive dominance just two seasons ago. But Klingberg has yet to show he can put up big point totals when he's not the only top dog, which is an issue now that phenom Miro Heiskanen has arrived. Is there room in Dallas for two rearguards to put up big scoring totals? It's happened on other teams, so it can't be ruled out, although Klingberg turns 28 in August and looks far removed from his once-dominant self.
Jonathan Marchessault (Projected Points Pace: 72; Current Scoring Pace: 58)
Just two seasons ago Marchessault scored at an 80 point pace, so 72 should be a cakewalk for him, what with his still sky-high SOG totals and still being only 29, right? Not so fast. Since then although his SOG rate has stayed high, his points pace has settled in the 55-60 range, due mostly to lower ice times and Vegas' now more balanced offense. Under the circumstances, a return to 70+ might be a tall order.
Nino Niederreiter (Projected Points Pace: 59; Current Scoring Pace: 35)
Going into 2019-20, some might have thought that projecting El Nino to get only 59 points was low. After all, he ended 2018-19 with 33 points in his last 42 games and already had a 57 point season to his credit, plus he was entering his prime at only age 27. But whereas Niederreiter was able to capitalize on his top-six role last season, he failed to do so in 2019-20 and his ice time has taken a hit, such that a rise back to even 50 points might be difficult to envision.
Morgan Rielly (Projected Points Pace: 70; Current Scoring Pace: 47)
Just one season removed from a 72 point campaign, Rielly started off great for 2019-20 with 16 points in his first 17 games. But even before his injury, he was deemphasized by new coach Sheldon Keefe, and the effect on Rielly's scoring was pronounced, as he posted only 11 points in his next 30 games before getting hurt. Keefe likely will still be at the helm in 2020-21, but Tyson Barrie, on whom Keefe has leaned for offensive blueline production, will almost assuredly have left town as a UFA. And with the Leafs not having a lot of cap room nor anyone else of Barrie's caliber, a return to past glory for Rielly seems quite plausible.
Tyler Seguin (Projected Points Pace: 80; Current Scoring Pace: 59)
Prior to this season, Seguin had seen his scoring rate increase for two straight campaigns; and he also had three straight seasons of 83+ point scoring pace before that stretch. But here he is on pace for what will be by far his worst season as a Star. And with an ageing core of supporting players within the Dallas top six, plus Seguin himself set to turn 29 years old during next season, Seguin's days as an 80+ point player – at least on this team, with whom he signed an eight-year extension in September 2018 – may be over.
Jeff Skinner (Projected Points Pace: 61; Current Scoring Pace: 32)
His tenure in Buffalo may have started with a bang (41 points in 42 games), but since then he's cumulatively not even tallied a point per every other game. What's more, he has a big fat UFA deal signed in the offseason, so he's perhaps lacking the same motivation that was present at the outset in Buffalo. Yes, he's not playing with Jack Eichel as much this season; however, when he has the two no longer seem to gel, in which case it might be a while – if ever – before we see Skinner taste 60+ points again.
John Tavares (Projected Points Pace: 91; Current Scoring Pace: 78)
Even when everything went right for Tavares last season, he still only posted 88 points and in fact only once in his career bested a 91 point pace, and that was back in 2013-14. So far this season Tavares has been at or just below the point per game mark, and that's despite him seeing more ice time, including on the PP than last season. But with a markedly lower SOG rate and Tavares set to turn 30 this far, the numbers we're seeing from him this season might be all we can expect on a team where there is a lot of scoring but only so many points to go around, and other younger, at least as talented players perhaps more likely to hit the score sheet.
Jacob Trouba (Projected Points Pace: 55; Current Scoring Pace: 32)
With a big contract in his pocket and coming off a 50 point campaign with the Jets, poolies had visions of Trouba being a true #1 defenseman in every sense of the word. Instead, with the emergence of Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox, plus other young Ranger rearguards, Trouba has been relegated to an almost purely defensive role, taking the ice for half his team's PK minutes but barely a third of its PP time. Although his scoring could rise in the normal course as New York continues to do better as a team, it seems like Trouba's role will be one where heaps of points are not in the cards.
Blake Wheeler (Projected Points Pace: 88; Current Scoring Pace: 75)
After two 90+ point seasons despite being age 30+, the thought was Wheeler was the ageless wonder. Then the first quarter of this season happened when he had just 12 points in his first 22 games. Since then, however, his scoring rate has been right at that 88 pace. The question is whether he's back on track after a rare stretch of poor play, or, instead, future seasons might see him produce that poorly longer or more often.
Mats Zuccarello (Projected Points Pace: 63; Current Scoring Pace: 47)
The radar of most poolies was up after the diminutive Norwegian had the best scoring rate of his career just as he was set to be a UFA. Then when he inked a deal with the Wild, there were concerns that he'd be an anchor on that team rather than the spark plug he had been. Sure enough, he has looked haggard and the team has had little choice but to give more ice time to other players. But before we declare Zuccarello to be no longer a scoring threat, look no further than his near point per game numbers since the trade of Jason Zucker. Perhaps Zuccarello has regained the spring in his step just as the Wild to have started to turn things around? The big question is what will happen next season and beyond. Your guess is as good as mine, although it is worth noting that counting 2018-19 MZA has scored at a 63 point pace only twice in what has now been a ten-year career.
There you have it – 20 players who had poor 2019-20 campaigns versus expectations but whom I believe could potentially bounce back in 2020-21 or a future season and hit their predicted 2019-20 scoring pace. I toyed with the idea of having only 19 choices, plus a "none of the above" option, but instead decided that I wanted everyone to have to vote for at least one player. Now it's up to you to choose the one(s) you believe can rebound.
To cast your votes, click here. Remember, you can vote for as many or as few of the 20 players as you want. Have fun, but please vote with your head and not your heart, so as to give the best insight to your fellow DobberHockey readers.
Questions for Mailbag column
The mailbag is scheduled for next week and I need a few more questions. With the season on pause, now is a great time to ask about keepers or player rankings, or, of course, anything fantasy-related. To get questions to me, you can either private message “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or, instead, send an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.
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