Fantasy Hockey Poll: Peaking In The Over-30 Club
When it comes to owning forwards in fantasy, most would agree that banking on them peaking after age 30 is usually a bad bet. But some defy the odds and produce their best season(s) once they've blown out 30 birthday candles. Let's use this poll to determine which current forwards you think are more likely to produce their best season at or beyond age 30.
You'll notice that some of the voting choices aren't 30 as yet, which is deliberate. For them, I decided their career trajectory is one where, despite not being 30 yet, they're more likely than not to produce their statistically best season on or after turning 30.
To make things easier, when I mean "best season" I'm talking about points, and, specifically, an 82 game scoring pace, not sheer point total. And for forwards who are already age 30+, they would need to do better than their current best campaign. Lastly, I didn't include anyone who's yet to score at a 50+ point full season scoring pace (including this season), to focus on more fantasy relevant players and since otherwise, it would be too easy to envision them doing better than what they've already done.
And now – drumroll please – here are the 20 voting choices, who are listed in alphabetical order. For each, I posted his current age as well as his best full-season scoring pace thus far, and the season in which it occurred.
Cam Atkinson (Age = 30; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 71 points in 2018-19)
Although his scoring pace for 2019-20 was his worst in five seasons and he's not getting any younger, he did miss time due to injury. And while the team won't have the same firepower in 2020-21 that it did when Atkinson marked his career-best two seasons ago, chances are they'll need to lean on him a lot and he has the skill to establish a late-career high watermark.
Mikael Backlund (Age = 31; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 53 points in 2019-20)
Not only was Backlund on his way to a career-best in 2019-20, but it was also his third season of the last four in which he had a 50+ point scoring pace, despite second-line ES and PP minutes. And while better deployment is unlikely to come his way, Calgary is improving as a squad, which could pad Backlund's scoring enough for him to surpass his pace from this season.
Logan Couture (Age = 31; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 71 points in 2018-19)
Sure, San Jose is poised to be a lousy team for the immediate future. But someone there has to score, and plenty of lousy teams have had decent producers over the years. Moreover, Couture set his career-best only a season ago, has scored at a 67 or 68 point pace three prior times, and was slowed by an injury this season; so it's within reason to peg him to post a career-high despite his age.
Evgeni Dadonov (Age = 31; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 72 points in 2017-18)
Yes, his scoring pace has dropped each season since his return to the NHL; however, he's a UFA this summer, which ensures whatever team signs him will let him log plenty of top-line minutes and keep his familiar spot on PP1. With that could come a new career-high.
Brendan Gallagher (Age = 28; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 62 points in 2015-16)
Given his size and the type of game he plays, Gallagher could easily continue to be a solid scorer into his 30s. That should hopefully be long enough to outlast the coaching tenure of Claude Julien, whose approach behind the bench is likely a big factor in holding back Gallagher from scoring a lot more points.
Nikita Gusev (Age = 27; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 55 points in 2019-20)
With 11 points in the ten games leading up to the season being put on hold, Gusev looked like he was morphing into the top tier talent he was pegged to be. Chances are he sees his scoring climb with each passing season as he further acclimates to the NHL and the Devils improve as a team, which together should have him peaking at or after age 30.
Adam Henrique (Age = 30; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 57 points in 2011-12)
After posting 57 points as a rookie, Henrique's fantasy stock fell, to the point where he was owned in only the deepest of leagues. But lo and behold he's found a nice home on the second line for the Ducks, who need all the offence they can get. With Henrique able to score at a 50 point pace this season, more than 57 is plausible if, as expected, he gets continued favorable deployment and, perhaps, Anaheim's offense improves even incrementally.
Evander Kane (Age = 28; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 63 points in 2011-12)
In each of his two seasons with San Jose, Kane has scored at a 60+ point pace and, just as importantly, put his attitude and off-ice issues apparently behind him. With San Jose needing all the offense it can get and Kane familiar with minute eating and still shooting the puck a ton, he should continue to score even after he turns 30, such that when all is said and done might be able to look back at his best season occurring after at age 30+.
Alex Killorn (Age = 30; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 59 points in 2019-20)
We saw glimpses of what Killorn could do if deployed optimally, as he was scoring at a point per game level for 20+ games while in the top six and on PP1. Yet as happened to Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Yanni Gourde in earlier seasons, the winds of change blew in Tampa and Killorn was back in the bottom six and removed from the top PP unit. Still, the impression he made on the Tampa brass could be enough to convince them to give him a full season playing with the best of the best, in which case he should coast to a career-high.
Chris Kreider (Age = 29; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 59 points in 2019-20)
What makes me think Kreider can top his 59 point pace from this season, considering he's only bested 50 once before and he's set to turn 30? Two words – Mika Zibanejad. When Kreider and Zibs were paired together, rather than Zibs and Artemi Panarin, eyebrows were raised and folks were concerned it would cool Zibanejad. But not only did it help ignite Zibs, it turned Kreider into a scorer, as he had 31 points in his last 36 games and 19 in his most recent 19, making it all but inevitable that he will set a career-high on or after turning 30.
Brad Marchand (Age = 31; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 104 points in 2018-19)
Yes, a 104 point pace would be difficult to beat; however, Marchand has been at or above 100 for the past three seasons and simply shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, if somehow he was able to play all 82 games with David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, which didn't occur in this season or the previous two, a higher scoring total might be a cakewalk.
Brock Nelson (Age = 28; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 65 points in 2019-20)
It could be a tall order for Nelson to do better than he is this season, with him, glued to the second line and with an OZ% of just 45%. But he's getting more PP time and has yet to record even ten PPPts. That and the possibility that the Islanders get better offensively in the normal course could be enough to lift the former first-rounder to a career-high after he turns 30.
T.J. Oshie (Age = 33; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 64 points in 2018-19)
The oldest player on this list, Oshie keeps chugging along, as although his scoring was down this season his career-best came in 2018-19 when he was already 32. Provided he stays on a top line and PP1, the dots could connect for him to set a career-high despite approaching his mid-30s.
Kyle Palmieri (Age = 29; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 59 points in 2017-18)
With a scoring pace of 54-59 points in this and the previous four seasons, Palmieri has been the model of production consistency. Between that and New Jersey is bound to improve in the coming seasons, a rise to 60 seems more likely than not.
Tanner Pearson (Age = 27; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 53 points in 2019-20)
After early success on "That 70s Line" with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli (more on him below), to say Pearson's career stalled would be a vast understatement. But this season not only was he on track for his best production, but he was also doing even better than it appears (31 points in his last 40 games). Now that he's shown he belongs in the top six he should be able to stay there and then, in 2022 when he's a UFA, go to a team where he can strut his stuff.
Brayden Schenn (Age = 28; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 70 points in 2017-18)
Since making a big impact in his first season as a Blue, Schenn hasn't been able to live up to that same level of success. But St Louis looks poised to be one of the NHL's strongest teams for the next few seasons and has the depth to run two potent lines. Between that and Schenn still, a fixture on its PP1, a higher points output down the road seems more likely than not.
Steven Stamkos (Age = 30; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 98 points in 2018-19)
After two early-career 97 point pace efforts, Stamkos slowed a bit. But the last four seasons have seen him score at a 90+ point pace, and 95+ in three of them. He's stapled to Nikita Kucherov, who likely hasn't even peaked, making Stamkos, whose skills seem as sharp as ever, a threat to set a career-high even though he's already 30.
Tomas Tatar (Age = 29; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 74 points in 2019-20)
It might be that what we saw this season is the best Tatar has to offer. But considering he did this without nearly as much ice time as most on this list, and in a Claude Julien system, he might be able to top it down the road.
Tyler Toffoli (Age = 28; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 58 points in 2015-16)
Even though we only saw a glimpse of Toffoli in Vancouver, he showed that what had been keeping him from scoring in LA was more his teammates and deployment than him. He should get a big UFA deal this offseason and with that star treatment, which, in turn, should help lead him to his best years after he turns 30.
Jason Zucker (Age = 28; Best Full Season Scoring Pace = 64 points in 2017-18)
With 12 points in 15 games since being traded to the Pens, Zucker might be able to do what few wingers have in the past, and that's score in droves for Pittsburgh. And with him signed through the 2023 season that will give him ample opportunity to set a career-high for them in his 30s.
Now that you've read the cases for/against the 20 choices, it's up to you to decide which meet the criteria to get your votes. Remember, for players to get your vote, you should believe they will set a career-high – in scoring pace – on or after turning 30 years old. Or for players who are already over 30, a new career-high.
Keep in mind too that I'm talking about scoring pace, rather than actual points. And remember that you can vote for as many or as few of the 20 players as you want. To cast your votes, click here. 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.
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