Fantasy Hockey Poll: If Only…
Fantasy hockey enthusiasts realize that opportunity often matters more than pure talent when it comes to being a successful NHL scorer. This begs the question – how many of today's players could shine if only they were given a true chance to do so? Sadly, in the majority of cases, we can never know. But we can imagine what could happen if they did get such an opportunity.
This is where today's poll comes in. I've listed 20 players whom I think could be very productive fantasy performers if only they were deployed in such a way as to help them succeed. In certain cases they've had tastes of favorable deployment and briefly shined, only to be relegated back to unfavorable playing situations, whereas in others they've never had even a chance. Still, other players are getting okay deployment, but have been saddled with poor linemates or are stuck on low scoring teams. It's up to you to vote for the ones you think would do well if only somehow they were given an extended opportunity. The key is you don't have to believe they necessarily will shine, only that they could if given a true chance to do so.
Which players should you vote for? For forwards, it's if you think they could produce 70+ points if given ample top six and PP Time with good linemates, and for d-men, it's if you believe they could hit the 50 point mark with favorable deployment. In other words, you want to pick guys who could hypothetically do the same thing the likes of Sean Couturier, Tony DeAngelo, Bryan Rust, Shea Theodore, Tomas Tatar, and Ryan Strome have done, namely go from mediocre producer to upper-tier scorer once they had a true, prolonged chance to strut their stuff.
How did I decide which 20 players to include as voting choices? None could have played fewer than 200 NHL games and I didn't include anyone who is over age 30, to limit the choices to those who fall into an ideal range of experience. Also, I didn't include any d-men who've produced at a 40+ point full season pace in this or any prior season, nor, for forwards, any who've produced at a 60+ point full season pace. Why? To focus on guys who are more under the radar. With all that out of the way, here are the 20 players, in alphabetical order.
Andreas Athanasiou – In 2018-29 AA had 59 point scoring pace, but this season he missed time due to injury and was a plus/minus laughingstock. Then a trade to Edmonton reopened the eyes of poolies, with the idea being they'd put him with Connor McDavid and the two would combine to ignite an explosive scoring line. That worked great………….for one game, after which AA went scoreless in the next eight contests. Still, with his 59 point pace prior season and the chance to skate with McDavid for a full campaign, AA might be able to climb to 70+ points.
Cody Ceci – Speaking of former top picks, Ceci was selected 15th overall following two-point per game campaigns in juniors. But after a decent first couple of NHL seasons, he's been thrust into a defensive role and, like Brodin, has sported an OZ% below 50% for five straight campaigns. At this stage of his career Ceci probably won't get to show if he could resurrect his offensive talent; however, then again couldn't the same thing have been said about Couturier at one time?
Jakob Chychrun – Still only 22, Chychrun has nevertheless played 200+ games and for 2019-20 his ice time was the highest of his career. He's also averaged over 2:00 of PP Time per contest this season and the prior two, albeit on the second unit with a bunch of – let's face it – nobodies. His OZ% also is down for the second season in a row, now to below 50%. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson signed through 2026-27, odds are Chychrun will have to keep waiting for a chance to get top billing, if it ever comes. But if it did, he might just be a scoring bomb ready to explode.
Vince Dunn – After a somewhat promising sophomore season, Dunn saw his ice time (overall and on the PP drop). Even still, he averaged nearly two SOG per game and hit double digits in PPPts. If somehow he could seize the PP time that will become available once Alex Pietrangelo presumably leaves town, rather than Colton Parayko (more on him below) or Justin Faulk, then we might see Dunn become the focal point for rearguard offense for the Blues.
Joel Eriksson Ek – Yet another former first-rounder, Ek has seen his scoring and ice time rise with each passing season. And with the Wild under a new coach who brings a fresh perspective, perhaps Ek finally might get a consistent top-six role and some meaningful PP Time, in which case he may explode and show the talent Minnesota hoped for when drafting him that early.
Erik Haula – In Vegas' inaugural season Haula scored at a 59 point pace even though he wasn't a top-line player. Since then he's maintained over 2:00 per game of PP Time on various teams but usually been stuck in the middle six. Still, from what we saw in Vegas, and at times this season with Carolina, he has the scoring ability – all he might need is a real shot to be able to bust out.
Calle Jarnkrok – One of the most unsung NHLers, Jarnkrok was actually on pace for his second season of the past three of more than a point per every other game, despite less than 16:00 per game of ice time, and never even two minutes of man-advantage minutes. He's signed with the Preds for two more seasons but perhaps after that might latch onto a team where he could be used in more of a scoring role.
Kasperi Kapanen – Another former first-rounder, and second-generation NHLer to boot, Kapanen showed he was capable of scoring last season when William Nylander was holding out. But fast forward to now, and Kapanen is on tap to again finish with a scoring pace in the 40s. Yes, his ice time and SOG rates are down, and there are only so many coveted spots in Toronto's top six to go around; but if there's an extended injury or the team retools their lines, Kapanen could find himself in a position to explode offensively.
Alex Kilorn – For a while, this season Killorn looked as if he was going to break out, what with 23 points in 22-second quarter games while enjoying a spot on the top PP unit and a scoring line. But as has happened to the likes of Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, and Tyler Johnson, things were seemingly not meant to last, as Killorn's scoring and deployment were both subpar thereafter. Still, in doing what he did, Killorn demonstrated he could be a top-six option if the Lightning sees fit to slotting him there long term, or if there's an injury to one of the team's big scorers.
Hampus Lindholm – After scoring 30 then 34 points in his first two seasons, the former sixth overall pick has only once bested 30 again. Were it not for him being mired on a bad team and getting less than two minutes of PP time per game, he might be able to put up some decent stats, as just this season he fired two SOG per game and still is only 26 years old.
Mike Matheson – The Panthers locked up Matheson for eight years at $4.87M per season after he'd played just one campaign, which caused poolies to figure bright things were ahead. But instead, Keith Yandle has been the offensive focal point and now Aaron Ekblad has become the team's true #1 defenseman, resulting in Matheson playing under 19:00 this season. But he's still only 26. The question is whether – and, if so, when – he'll get a chance to strut his stuff.
Josh Morrissey – After storming out of the gate with 14 points in his first 19 games, Morrissey looked like he was on the path to becoming an all-around #1 d-man. But then the team plugged in Neal Pionk on the PP, and since then Morrissey hasn't averaged even close to a point per every other game. But still, it might be a question of when not if, he will post big numbers.
Dmitry Orlov – If only Orlov was a right-handed shot, the trajectory of his entire career might have been different. Why? He has offensive skills and a good shot; however, with him being a left-handed shot he wasn't the ideal QB on a PP that is aiming to set up Alex Ovechkin for his patented one-timer. But you never know – John Carlson could suffer a major injury, in which case Orlov would be poised to step into his shoes, and the heaps of points that come with it.
Colton Parayko – After the Blues traded for and signed Justin Faulk long term, you could almost hear the shouts of frustration from Parayko owners, who had hoped it would be Parayko, not Faulk, who steps in once Alex Pietrangelo leaves as a UFA. But Parayko might just end up being the offensive beneficiary, or get the first shot at it. If so, then he should thrive. Or all this might be moot if the Blues look to the aforementioned Dunn instead for blueline offense.
Travis Sanheim – Last season he posted just under a point per every other game in the second half, and was heating up (nine points in 14 games) when the NHL pushed pause. Still only 24, and with Shayne Gostisbehere looking worse with each passing game and Ivan Provorov not cut from the cloth of providing major blueline offense, Sanheim could get a chance to produce.
Nick Schmaltz –The talent is there, as if you combine Schmaltz's 17 points in his last 20 games to end 2019-20 with his 35 in 44 to start 2020-21, that's 52 in 64 contests, for a 66 point full season pace, and on a team that struggles offensively. Plus, he posted those points this season despite not even averaging 16:00 per game. One has to think things will eventually align for Schmaltz, who is only 24 and on a team that can only get better offensively.
Jakob Silfverberg – Now 29, the thought has always been Silfverberg was a breakout waiting to happen. After all, we saw him post 18 points in 16 games and 14 points in 17 games during two separate playoff runs. Yet every year passes and he fails to show that same offensive firepower. It doesn't help that not only does he play for the woeful Ducks, although for the first time ever his OZ% is above 50%, so perhaps the Ducks, out of a combination of desperation and realizing his talent was being squandered, are finally going give him a true shot to score.
Jaccob Slavin – Much like Morrissey, Slavin has shined when allowed to do so. Look no further than his 14 points in 21 games after Dougie Hamilton went down with an injury, when the team turned to Slavin, not the ostensibly more offensively gifted Jake Gardiner, for blueline offense and being the QB of PP1. Alas, like Morrissey, Slavin's points scoring likely will be limited to instances like these, as his shutdown skills are too valuable to the team otherwise. But the day could come when he gets enough games as "the guy" to put up 50+ points.
Alex Tuch – Like Haula, Tuch shined in Vegas' inaugural season, to the tune of 52 points in just 74 contests. But unlike Haula, Tuch did so at age 21 and was a former first-rounder. He didn't do well last season and has missed all of 2020-21 so far; however, his total games played is right at 200 and Vegas almost assuredly has plans to install him in the top six once he returns, at which point he could explode offensively, even for a team like Vegas that doesn't lean on stars.
Pavel Zacha – It's been a disappointment to the Devils and poolies alike to see what Zacha has done since being picked sixth overall just five years ago. But with six points in eight games just before the NHL halted, and with him seeing a lot more ice time than usual in many of his second-half contests, plus the Devils in dire need of scoring, Zacha might finally get the long look that could propel him into a permanent top-six spot. And from there, who knows what he could do.
Now that you've read the cases for/against the 20 choices, it's up to you to decide which ones meet the criteria to get your votes. Remember, for players to get your vote, you don't have to believe they will necessarily get 70 points (if a forward) or 50 points (if a defensemen), only that they'd be capable of doing so if deployed more favorably. So basically, you want to vote for those you think to have the talent to hit the applicable point total under ideal circumstances in terms of team, linemates and ice time. Or to put it another way, your vote is not based on what will necessarily happen, but rather what could happen if things were aligned perfectly.
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, to give the best insight to your fellow DobberHockey readers.
Questions for Mailbag column
The mailbag is scheduled for next week, and it's full. But it's never too early to get in the queue for next month's edition. 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.
No data at this moment.