Cage Match Tournament 2018 – Breakout Players (Week 3)

by Rick Roos on July 18, 2018


Welcome to the third Summer Cage Match Tournaments on breakout skaters. By your votes last week, Bo Horvat was declared the player most likely to top his prior career best of 55-65 points (or a 55-65 point full season scoring pace) by at least ten points in 2018-19, narrowly beating William Nylander.

Cage Match Tournament #3 – Breakout Tier 3 Forwards

This week it’s time to focus on third tier forwards (i.e., those who have a career best of 40-53 points (or a 40-53 point scoring pace)), to vote on which one(s) will post 60+ points this coming season. The 16 choices are listed below along with their previous career high in single season scoring. As with last week, I’ll also include a “none of the above” choice in the actual poll in case you think none of the 16 players will accomplish the feat.

Voting Rules and Guidelines

Yet again you can vote for as many or as few players as you want – just be sure every player you’re voting for is someone you realistically see as someone who’ll finish with 60+ points. Band-Aid Boy status and injury history are negatives this time around, since we’re talking about 60+ points not a 60+ point scoring pace; so number of games played is a factor.

Beyond that, and as also was the case in both prior tournaments, make sure to vote with your head more so than your heart. That means you should mainly bear in mind objective factors affecting one’s scoring, like contract status, likelihood of being traded during the season, and individual/team situation. Of course you can still use instinct and hunches, but keep in mind your fellow Dobberites will look at the results for crowdsourced fantasy guidance, so don’t – for example – vote for someone for “good karma” simply because he’s on your team or not for someone else because he’s on the squad of your chief rival. The idea is to enjoy yourself, but also have the results be meaningful.

Once again voting will take place in the Dobberhockey forums. I’ll put a direct link at the bottom of the column. Now without further ado, here are your voting choices (in alphabetical order):

Anthony Beauvillier (Previous career high scoring pace = 41 points)

If we go by the last half of 2017-18, Beauvillier was right at a 60-point scoring pace, with 29 points in his last 39 games. Yet despite this points surge, he was seeing the ice for not even a third of the team’s available man advantage minutes. If you’re a glass half full proponent, that tells you he should be able to coast to 60 points since his situation could only improve with two seasons now under his belt and more power-play time available with John Tavares not returning. If instead you’re a glass half empty pessimist, you worry that if Beauvillier doesn’t emerge red hot in early 2018-19, he could once again find himself in the bottom six and be lucky to even finish with a 40+ point pace again this season.

Nick Bjugstad (Previous career high scoring pace = 49 points)

After an early career where he excelled in multi-cat but didn’t pile on points, Bjugstad found himself in quite the enviable spot in the last roughly 25 games of 2017-18 as the third member on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov; and he responded quite well to say the least with 18 points over his final 22 games. Yet despite seemingly being a perfect “mule” type for a PP1, Bjugstad has had to settle for PP2 scraps, and that likely places a ceiling on his production. Then again, with the addition of Mike Hoffman, chances are Florida will look to have two decent PP units. That can only help Bjugstad, provided of course he stays on the first line, which is not a lock by any means.

Pavel Buchnevich (Previous career high scoring pace = 47 points)

With 16 points in 21 games to start last season, many thought Buchnevich’s breakout was upon us. But it wasn’t to be, and Buchnevich ended the campaign with a mere nine points in his final 22 games. Still, looking at 2017-18 as a whole, Buchnevich took big strides, with average per game ice time above the 15-minute mark and staking out a spot on PP1, where he’ll probably stay after tallying 17 PPPts. With a new Ranger coach likely to unleash offensive dynamos like Buchnevich, and two seasons now under his belt, this could be the year he explodes.

Alex DeBrincat (Previous career high scoring pace = 52 points)

With Artemi Panarin gone and both Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp disappointing upon their returns, that left the door open for DeBrincat to step up, which is exactly what he did on his way to 52 points. What’s more – DeBrincat not only didn’t hit a rookie wall, but tallied exactly 13 points each quarter despite not even 15 minutes of ice time per game and taking the ice for barely a third of the team’s PP minutes. With Chicago in the midst of a retooling if not a soft rebuild, DeBrincat should see his role expand. That’s of course assuming he avoids a dreaded sophomore slump, which is something that has claimed victims of players at least as skilled as him.

Jake DeBrusk (Previous career high scoring pace = 52 points)

In 2017-18 DeBrusk saw his scoring output rise with each passing quarter of the season and totaled nine multi-point games, culminating in 14 points in his final 17 regular season contests. Also, he was dynamic in the playoffs, to the tune of eight points (six goals) in 12 contests while skating nearly a minute more per game than the regular season. Make no mistake – barring an injury DeBrusk is unlikely to get precious minutes on the explosive Boston PP1. However, his growth as a player should help turn PP2 into something more than the wasteland it was last season, and could be enough of a boost to put him into 60-point territory.

Max Domi (Previous career high scoring pace = 53 points)

Domi looked great posting 52 points as a rookie in 2015-16, had a similar scoring rate in an injury-shortened 2016-17, but dipped to 45 points last season despite essentially no changes to his ice time or usage, plus a similar SOG rate and 5×5 team shooting % as prior seasons. One key was his IPP was well lower than in his first two campaigns; and had it been at its previous levels, he’d have been back in the 50s for points. The question is whether he has another gear and, if so, whether he can see improvement while playing in Montreal, where there is pressure and second guessing every game.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (Previous career high scoring pace = 48 points)

Perhaps more than any other player on this list the season-long totals for Dubois don’t tell the real story, or at least the story as it bears upon 2018-19. For starters, he had 20 points in his final 23 games, during which he played on the team’s top line, centering Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin, plus saw more than his season-long average of 1:51 of power-play time per game in three-quarters of the 23 contests and more than double that average in a handful. Also, although his season-long average in total ice time per game was 16:38, he received upwards of 18:00 in more than half those 23 games and over 20:00 in a handful. And best of all, the team responded, mostly in the form of Artemi Panarin scoring 35 points in his last 22 contests. If Dubois can keep this coveted spot, the sky’s the limit, and now.

Kevin Fiala (Previous career high scoring pace = 49 points)

With 10-15 points in each quarter of the season, Fiala had among the quieter mini-breakouts in recent memory. Also, although Fiala was not a presence on PP1, he nevertheless managed to take the ice for over 40% of the team’s available PP minutes and tally 13 PPPts. Where concern lies is whether he can skate for more than the 15:09 he averaged last season, since each time it looked like he might be gaining on that average he’d have a game or two in the 10-12 minute range. Then again, if he sticks with Kyle Turris and continues to start 64% of his shifts in the offensive zone, he might not need more ice time to fully break out.

Nico Hischier (Previous career high scoring pace = 52 points)

On paper, it’s hard to argue against Hischier making a big leap in 2018-19. For one, we’re talking about the player picked first overall just a year ago and who happened to be slotted on the same line as Hart trophy winner Taylor Hall for over 90% of his even strength shifts in 2017-18. So should you just go and cast your vote for him now? Not so fast. Hischier didn’t score more than 15 points in any quarter last season and ended the campaign with a bit of a lull, tallying only 13 points in his final 23 contests. He also has yet to get more than a sniff of PP1 time and saw his lowest share of PP minutes (barely 33%) in the last quarter of 2017-18, so he still might need another season or two before a full-fledged breakout.

Ondrej Kase (Previous career high scoring pace = 47 points)

Kase managed to score at a 47-point pace despite not even taking the ice for 30% of Anaheim’s power-play time and skating under 14:00 per game. That raises the possibility of him having unsustainably overachieved, as does the fact that no other NHLer had 20+ goals without skating in 1000+ minutes last season. One key is he’s a rare example of youth on an aging Ducks team, so they might be looking to him to step up more, and now. What remains to be seen is which version of Kase will show up – the one who had 16 points in 18 third quarter games, or seven points in 21 contests to close out the season.

Travis Konecny (Previous career high scoring pace = 47 points)

First the good news – Konecny had 33 points in the second half of 2017-18. Now the bad news – a mere one of those points came on the power play. Can he reach 60 points without power-play scoring? Yes, but that assumes he stays on the top line; and although he’d seem to have the inside track to hold down that gig, things can change in a flash, and Konecny could land all the way down at the third line. Or the signing of James van Riemsdyk could help his power-play cause by forcing one of JVR, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, or Sean Couturier down to PP2 and, in turn, making 60 points a near lock – at least on paper – for Konecny.

Elias Lindholm (Previous career high scoring pace = 51 points)

When it comes to players unable to capitalize on hot end-of-season trends, the poster boy might just be Lindholm, who two seasons in a row scored well in the second half (24 points in 41 games to culminate 2015-16; 31 points in 41 games over the last half of 2016-17) yet still is looking to best his career high (to date) 51-point full season pace. Now 23 years old and, perhaps more importantly, with 374 NHL games under his belt, it was concerning to poolies that he actually took a step back last season. It might just be Lindholm never makes the leap into 60-point territory; or maybe a fresh start with the Flames will be the ticket to his breakout, especially if he lands on the top line and/or unseats last week’s voting choice Mathew Tkachuk on PP1.

Anthony Mantha (Previous career high scoring pace = 49 points)

Yet again last season Mantha started out completely on fire (19 points in 21 games) before once more cooling as the campaign wore on. Will this be a pattern that continues, or can it be chalked up to youth and the fact that he’s still not even played three NHL seasons? One thing we can point to is his overall and power-play ice times being up; and they only stand to continue to improve on the Wings, who need Mantha to shine. One of these seasons Mantha is bound to figure to find a way to put it all together. Will it be this season, with added incentive in the form of a recently signed bridge deal?

Ty Rattie (Previous career high scoring pace = 52 points)

Yes, after being drafted 32nd overall Rattie had become a journeyman who to date has logged more than five times as many AHL contests as NHL appearances (49 NHL games, 268 AHL contests). But he didn’t look at all out of place when skating alongside Connor McDavid at the tail end of last season. And one need only look at the recently retired P.A. Parenteau to see that when talented AHL players get a chance to play with the best, magic can happen. And let’s not forget that Jonathan Marchessault played over 300 AHL games before finally shining in Las Vegas. Plus, this would free up the Oilers to be able to balance out their other lines. Definitely the most feast-or-famine choice on the list – it’s up to you to decide whether you believe Rattie will be the Parenteau to McDavid’s Tavares.

Sam Reinhart (Previous career high scoring pace = 50 points)

A 50-point output from a former second overall pick in his third season doesn’t sound so great, until you focus on the fact that 37 of the 50 points came in his final 42 games. Plus, he’s about to embark upon his “magical fourth season.” Put those factors together and it’s hard not to see him make his way to 60+ points this season, except for the lingering doubts that his scorching end to 2017-18 might not be a true representation of what he could do for an entire season, or at least not quite yet.

Jakob Silfverberg (Previous career high scoring pace = 51 points)

Perhaps no player in today’s NHL has shown a greater discrepancy in regular season scoring (where his career rate now sits below a point per every other game) versus in the playoffs, which has featured him exploding once for 18 points in 16 games and then again two seasons later for 14 in 17 contests. The aging Anaheim core might help Silfverberg get more opportunity and ice time; however, it’s not clear if he has what it takes – in the regular season at least – to put up 60 points.

. . . . . . . . . .

There are your 16 voting choices (17 if you count “none of the above,” which once again I’ll list as a choice as well). As a reminder, you can vote for as many or as few of them as you think will tally 60+ points this coming season. To vote, click here.

As with last week, when voting, be sure to also post in the thread about who you chose to vote for and why, as that way your fellow Dobberites can get better insight into your thought process and the Tournament can be as instructive as it is fun.

 

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