Fantasy Hockey Poll: Who can carry playoff momentum into 2020-21?
Despite unprecedented circumstances amid chaos and uncertainty since March, many players shined (or still are) during this season's playoffs. Of course that raises the magical question as to whether those players can carry their momentum into 2020-21, or instead will end up following in the footsteps of Justin Williams, Daniel Brière, and Derick Brassard as players known primarily for playoff success. And as avid readers of Roos Lets Loose are aware, when I've got a question that needs answering, I know just the folks to turn to….
With that in mind, I've assembled a list of NHLers whose 2020 playoff numbers are/were better than their best single season output in – for skaters – points and – for goalies – save percentage or GAA. In parentheses next to each player's name is a 2020-21 target number which is better than his previous regular season best in the given category but not as good as what we saw from him in the playoffs. If you think the player can reach his parenthetical number in 2020-21, then you should vote for him. In fact, you can – and should – vote for as many players you think will be able to seize upon their playoff momentum to reach this new career best in 2020-21.
Here are the voting choices, in alphabetical order. A link to the voting poll is at the end of the column. For Dallas/Tampa players, I factored in their stats through Sunday, September 20th.
Sebastian Aho (2020-21 points = 95)
Although he didn't take the step forward this season that many expected, I'd written that we should expect improvement from Aho in 2020-21 even before the playoffs started. Then he went out and averaged 1.5 points per game in eight playoff contests, failing to get a point in just one game. That might have just been a preview of the scoring jump we'll see in 2020-21.
Sam Bennett (2020-21 points = 55)
Although still only 24, many poolies had likely given up on the idea of Bennett amounting to a fantasy worthy player. Then he goes out and posts eight points in ten playoff games, firing 32 SOG in the process. The Flames might be looking to shake things up for 2020-21, in which case Bennett could get a fresh look and finally start to live up to expectations.
Andre Burakovsky (2020-21 points = 75)
Many saw Burakovsky's 64-point scoring pace for 2019-20 and thought that is his likely ceiling, especially as a second liner. Then he goes out and plays point per game hockey in the playoffs. The talent alongside Burakovsky on that second line, coupled with opposing teams having to focus defensive efforts on the top line for Colorado, could lead Burakovsky to replicate his playoffs come 2020-21. Either that or, if the team mixes its lines, he could be playing alongside Nathan MacKinnon. Sounds like a win-win situation for Burakovsky and his fantasy owners.
Thatcher Demko (2020-21 save percentage = .920)
Yes, we only saw brief glimpses of Demko's skill during the playoffs; but his performance under the spotlight might have Vancouver convinced it can make do letting Jacob Markstrom walk as a UFA. Or if not, Demko could become the Cory Schneider to the Roberto Luongo of Markstrom. Either way, it looks like Demko has the tools to be a very solid NHL netminder.
Pierre-Luc Dubois (2020-21 points = 75)
After Dubois saw his totals dip slightly in 2019-20, expectations weren't high for him in the playoffs. But he thrived to the tune of point-per-game scoring. And let's not forget that 2020-21 will be his magical fourth year, one in which he could really break out.
Samuel Girard (2020-21 points = 50)
Scoring at just below a point every other game pace during the regular season despite the emergence of Cale Makar, Girard stepped it up in the playoffs with ten points in 15 games. As recently as 2018-19 there were three teams with two 50+ point d-men, so maybe that's what will be in store for the Avs during 2020-21?
Denis Gurianov (2020-21 points = 55)
The former first rounder finally got a real shot in the NHL this season and capitalized with 20 goals. But with that he had a paltry nine assists, for 29 points in 64 games. Already in 22 playoff contests he's nearly equaled that assist total, while also scoring goals at a full season rate of 33. With most of the Dallas wingers on the wrong side of 30, Gurianov, who is still only 23, should get added minutes and be more of a focal point in 2020-21, especially after what he's shown in the playoffs.
Carter Hart (2020-21 save percentage = .920)
With the Flyers looking more and more like a less potent offensive team going forward and having Alain Vigneault as their coach, they are pinning a lot of their hopes on Hart to be "the guy" for the squad. And if what we saw in the playoffs in any indication, he's the real deal and then some.
Miro Heiskanen (2020-21 points = 70)
There's not much that needs to be said about Heiskanen, who was arguably the breakout star of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. The only question left is how much of what we saw can he carry into 2020-21.
Quinn Hughes (2020-21 points = 75)
Finishing with 16 points in 17 playoff games, Hughes looked nothing like someone who'd logged only a mere 75 career NHL games. And with Vancouver poised to be a team on the rise, plus Hughes bound to get offensively -favored deployment, close to point-per-game scoring does not seem out of reach.
Mike Hoffman (2020-21 points = 80)
Yes, he only played four games, but he had five points and looked very strong. Granted, he was out there as much auditioning for his UFA deal as trying to win, but perhaps he'll be like Roman Josi and thrive after he gets his payday?
Nazem Kadri (2020-21 points = 75)
Kadri had an eye-opening 18 points in 15 playoffs contests. We know he has talent; and unlike Burakovsky, he's guaranteed to be on the second line and he still could be a PP1 player, which would likely help him continue his scoring momentum into 2020-21.
Joonas Korpisalo (2020-21 GAA = 2.40)
Not too long ago the chatter was about how Elvis Merzlikins had signed a larger RFA deal than Korpisalo, positioning Elvis as the favorite to be the 1A to Korpisalo's 1B in 2020-21. Then Korpisalo stood on his head for much of the playoffs, making the Columbus goalie picture a lot murkier. Either way, Korpisalo is a good bet to see his stats improve, especially under a very goalie-friendly coach like John Tortorella.
Dominik Kubalik (2020-21 points = 70)
Yes, if you omit his five-point game Kubalik had only three points in Chicago's other eight playoff contests. But the fact he had those five points underscores that Kubalik is an explosive sniper who should be a key part of Chicago's top six next season, and could pot 40+ goals based on what we've seen from him in his rookie campaign.
Nathan MacKinnon (2020-21 points = 120)
Just when we thought MacKinnon had reached his pinnacle, he goes out and puts up monster numbers during the playoffs. It's easy to forget he just turned 25 and probably still has yet to peak. If he can channel what he did in the playoffs, perhaps he'll have an Art Ross trophy on his mantle by this time next year.
Brayden Point (2020-21 points = 105)
Steven who? The absence of Stamkos from the Tampa line-up had many predicting the team wouldn't advance far in the playoffs. But Point has emerged as a truly elite talent – in fact elite enough as to ignite whispers about the bolts perhaps dealing Stamkos to help solve their salary cap crunch. Either way, expectations are rightfully sky high for Point for next season.
Mikko Rantanen (2020-21 points = 105)
Sure – he benefits a lot from playing alongside MacKinnon, and indeed only two of Rantanen's 21 playoff points came without Mac on the ice. But no doubt Rantanen is a talent in his own right, making Mac even better. If they stay a one two punch both should ascend to new heights in 2020-21.
Andrei Svechnikov (2020-21 points = 85)
After nearly doubling his scoring rookie scoring rate this season, and not even turning 21 until March, It's no longer a question of whether Svechnikov will be great, but only how great and how soon.
Nick Suzuki (2020-21 points = 55)
Fast becoming a favorite of Claude Julien, Suzuki said 'what rookie wall' by scoring seven points in 10 playoff contests. Yes, the Habs likely will continue to struggle to score goals; but that still might not be able to hold back the talented Suzuki.
Shea Theodore (2020-21 points = 65)
Were it not for the play of Heiskanen, the playoff chatter about defensemen would have been centered on Theodore, who furthered his emergence and now looks like he's primed to be one of the best offensive rearguards in the league. And unlike the stinginess that Vegas has shown when it comes to the ice time of some of its forwards, they seem to realize what they have in Theodore, whom they're content to let run loose to generate all the offense he can.
Now it's voting time. Remember, the key here is you should vote for any and all players whom, in 2020-21, you think can achieve – or do even better than – the number shown in parentheses next to their name, with that number being higher than their previous career best but below their 2020 playoff stat. Of course, this assumes there will be a full 82-game season for 2020-21; however, even if that does not end up being the case, it should be the basis of your voting. To cast your votes, click here.
Questions for Mailbag column
I have room to squeeze in another question or two for next week's mailbag column. To get a question 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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