Top 10 Surprises of 2020-21

Tom Collins

2021-05-31

Your fantasy hockey team is the same as an NHL team. While you need your elite players to perform, it's your late-round draft picks that will win you the championship.

There are players you can draft in the later rounds that produce better than a third-round pick. Trading for a player because you have a hunch that he will finally break out and witness it happen. Nabbing someone off the waiver wire after a hot start in the hopes he can keep it up. All these will help lead to a successful season.

We've spent the last couple of weeks looking at disappointing players, but there were plenty of shocking players as well. Several players went undrafted in a majority of leagues but wound up in the top 10 in their positions.

Here are 10 of the top surprises of this past season.

10. Justin Faulk

Faulk may not seem like an obvious pick for this list, but hear me out. He doesn't produce like he once did, but he's a better all-around player for fantasy purposes. This season, he finished as the 15th-ranked defenseman in Yahoo leagues, despite being the 44th defenseman selected on average. Drafted in only six per cent of Yahoo leagues, he was rostered in 65 per cent by the end of the season. He finished with an 82-game pace of 37 points, the fourth-highest of his career. His plus-11 was a career-high. His 35 PIM comes out to 0.63 PIM per game, tied for the highest of his career. He averaged 2.27 hits per game, easily the highest mark he's ever reached. His 1.55 blocked shots per game were also a career high. Faulk has quietly become a 35-point player who is a threat for 175 shots, 200 hits and 150 blocked shots.

9. Mike Reilly

Every once in a while, a player comes out of nowhere as a complete surprise before going back to his usual production the following year. Reilly could be this year's version of that player. Although he had zero goals, his 27 assists were enough for a 40-point pace over 82 games. Averaging 1.8 shots per game to go along with 70 hits and 43 blocked shots were enough to make him fantasy relevant, although his four power-play points were less than half what he had a year ago. It will be interesting to see what role he has next year. An unrestricted free agent, will someone be willing to give him the opportunity as a top-four defenseman, or will he be a depth option who is often a healthy scratch like he was in every season before this year?

8. Joe Pavelski

Written off last offseason, Pavelski managed to get back to his regular production. From 2013-14 to 2018-19, he averaged an 82-game pace of 35 goals and 72 points. His first year in Dallas was awful, as he put up a 38-point pace. Pavelski proved last year was an anomaly, and his 25 goals and 51 points in 56 games equalled an 82-game pace of 37 goals and 75 points. His ice time was back up to 19 minutes a game and his shot per game rate was back up to 2.5. He's back to being the old Pavelski.

7. Jason Robertson

While Kirill Kaprizov was a pre-season candidate for the Calder trophy, not as many people expected Robertson to also contend. He didn't appear on some betting lines until the start of April and was excluded from many pre-season Calder lists. Robertson was one of the best rookies this past season with 17 goals and 45 points in 51 games. Pro-rated to 82 games, that's 27 goals and 72 points. I think one of the things that