Ramblings: Who’s Ready For A Breakout? (May 6)

Cam Robinson

2020-05-05

Since these are defined as Ramblings, allow me to ramble on for a bit. I'm constantly on the lookout for players who are in a position to see their ice time elevated and consequently their production. Often these come in the form of young players finding their groove in year three or four. But we also see it from established veterans who have bloomed late or find themselves in a new spot – ala J.T. Miller this past season.

We’ll have to wait for the offseason moves to peg the next Miller, but here are a few candidates and what you can hope to expect from them next year: 

 

Nico Hischier

It seems to me that many people have basically settled on Hischier being just an average fantasy asset despite being just 21 years old. However, the magical fourth-season is coming for the 2017 first-overall pick.

Through the first 209 games of his career, Hischier has been a solid even-strength producer. 107 EVP in 209 games equals 0.512 even-strength points per game. That's damn near the exact output that Nathan MacKinnon (0.518) produced during his first three campaigns at evens. 

Now, I'm not ready to say that Hischier will be one of the top three players in the world in the near future, but we'd be remiss to completely wash away high expectations for the Devils centre.

Hischier should see his PPTOI continue to increase. There's little reason that he, Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev shouldn't be pushing 3:30 per game while up a body. As each of those three improve, the Devils PP efficiency should climb as well. They were 21st in the league last year. That’s due for a bump.

I've been harping all 'offseason' on the value of finding undervalued talent and I think Hischier sits right near the top of that heap. He has the skill, pedigree, opportunity and surrounding talent. Now he just needs to put it all together. 

 

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Jesper Bratt 

We'll stick on the Turnpike for a minute and talk about another New Jersey forward. Bratt was a sexy sleeper pick heading into 2019-20 after posting 17 points in the final 21 games the year prior. However, he was unable to find a steady home in the top six – or really any semblance of consistent linemates, and saw his 5v5 ice time cut by a minute. 

The result was a 44-point pace. 

Now, we're heading into a scenario where he will have around 185 career games under his belt and will have a wide-open path to a top-six LW job beside either Hughes or Hischier. The top PP opportunity will likely have to wait until Kyle Palmieri leaves via trade or free agency (UFA next summer), but the EVPs should see gains with consistent mates and more minutes. 

I think a 55 point pace is doable even without that prime PPTOI. With it, and we could see a true breakout. 

 

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Filip Chytil

This one comes with a touch of situational determination, although we can probably put that clause on a lot of these potential breakout kids. The Rangers were supposed to bottom out this year, but instead found a lot of traction and insulation for their youngsters and turned out to be a lot better than expected. Now, they'll be looking to take the next step.

What remains to be seen is whether they bring back their second-line centre in Ryan Strome who is an RFA this summer. If they don't – and I'm going to imagine they'll think long and hard about it unless the price tag is quite favourable – something that is unlikely as Strome has built himself one heck of an arbitration case, than Chytil is due for a major upgrade.

This past season, Chytil was seeing just under 15 minutes of ice with a minute of that coming on the second power-play unit. His most common linemate was a green Kaapo Kakko. If he replaces Strome, his most common linemate could very well be Artemi Panarin. Now we’re pushing into a best-case scenario territory where Chytil could put up serious numbers.

But, let's say the Rangers retain Strome and keep him as the 2C with Breadman. That still leaves Chytil to ply his trade next to a more mature Kakko on L3. Finding that top PP deployment will be difficult, but working a unit with Kakko, one of Adam Fox or Anthony DeAngelo and Pavel Buchnevich could be worse.

The 20-year-old has been about a 30-point player through the first 140 games. I like that number to balloon into the 50-point realm next season. 

 

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This was a great piece by our DobberProspects’ Head of European Scouting, Jokke Nevalainen. He dives into the public lists versus the actual selections made from the 2013 draft. Some surprising (and not-so-surprising) results followed.

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William Nylander

Remember when people thought Nylander sucked after he scored just seven goals in 54 games in 2018-19 with a five percent conversion rate? Those were good times.

Well, the recently-turned 24-year-old tripled his conversion rate and posted 31 in 68 this past season and looks all the way ready to push that even further. He's finally locked down the top PP gig, bringing him up to 18 minutes a night. That number blossomed even further once Mike Babcock was shown the door. As Nylander was seeing four minutes on PP1 down the final set of games.

Now, I'm not certain the Swede is capable of consistently clicking at 15 percent, but even if he dips down into the 12ish range, another uptick in shots-per-game (expected) should help make up the difference. 

Gimme 30-plus goals and 70-plus points for next season. 80 is not out of the question. 

 

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Who do you pick?

 

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Adam Fox

I mentioned Fox earlier on as a possible mate for Chytil on the second power-play unit in New York next year. But I’m here to say that he should be on the top unit and I’m betting money that’s where he ends up. It may not happen to begin the season, but he’s going to get there in 2020-21.

Last season, we saw the rookie blossom before our very eyes. He began the season seeing 17 minutes a night from the third pair and worked his way up to nearly 21 a game  – almost entirely spent at 5v5. The production came along. 11 points in the final nine games set him on a 50-point pace for the year.

Fox will not get the same level of glamour that Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes or Rasmus Dahlin receive, but he has similar upside. One that can be achieved with all that talent bubbling in the Big Apple. The last hurdle to leap over is DeAngelo.

If he can do it, a 55-60 point pace next season is possible.

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Okay, one more. And only because I just mentioned him. Rasmus Dahlin.

Sometimes I feel like people have completely forgotten just how young Dahlin is. We just witnessed his age-19 season where he produced 41 points in 59 games (a 56-point pace). There were five other teenaged defensemen in the NHL last season. Adam Boqvist was next on that list with 13 points.

In fact, we haven’t had a U20 defender produce those types of numbers since Phil Housley 37 years ago. It basically unheard of in modern times.

Dahlin is primed to explode next year. He’s a stallion who has had the reins tightly held by his coach in an effort to bring him along slowly. The former first-overall pick was down to around 18 minutes a game in the third quarter last year. But by the final stretch, he was up to 22 minutes a night. He has a constantly improving superstar in Jack Eichel to anchor the offense with and some nice accessory pieces to go along for the ride.

We want to see his shot rates go up and his PPTOI jump into that elite territory of 3:30-plus. If Buffalo wants to succeed, they’ll take the reins off of Dahlin and let him run free. And when they do, you’ll be looking at a top-three fantasy asset on the backend.

I said it a 15 months ago, and I’ll stand by it:

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Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency WSH Players
28.4% EVGENY KUZNETSOV ALEX OVECHKIN TOM WILSON
19.6% NICKLAS BACKSTROM T.J. OSHIE JAKUB VRANA
16% NIC DOWD GARNET HATHAWAY RICHARD PANIK

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