The Eastern Edge looks at the top right wingers in the Eastern Conference and their fantasy outlooks for the 2016-17 season …
This week we will be covering the top 10 defensemen in the Eastern Conference for the 2016-17 season. The focus will be put on points-only leagues. Multi-category leagues will be ignored for rankings purposes because of the increasing availability of categories. Even for forwards, your scoring setup can have a tremendous impact on player value.
As we will see, this list lacks elite-level star power and instead consists of a number of players with similar value. For example, Jaromir Jagr is an honorable mention despite finishing with a whopping 66 points last year. Meanwhile, fellow honorable mention Cam Atkinson certainly has the potential to break out and leapfrog several players in front of him.
Previous lists for 2016-17:
Cam Atkinson (Columbus)
After years of teasing fantasy owners, Atkinson finally took the next step to finish with 53 points last season. Moving forward, some think he has yet another gear and could be in for another career year. This will be a difficult feat to accomplish in Columbus where there is a lack of good playmaking centers who can help raise the play of the wingers. Another minor concern is Atkinson’s 27 goals being achieved with an elevated shooting percentage (12 percent) while in recent years he has been hovering around 10 percent. He should be able to come close to last year’s point total but be careful about expecting too much.
Brendan Gallagher (Montreal)
Gallagher is a risk this season. While he produced at a 62-point pace last year, he was struck by the injury bug meaning he has never played at this level for a full season. Plus, his style of play is likely to lead to more injuries down the road. But the goal-starved Canadiens will continue to give Gallagher every opportunity to produce in the top-six and on the power play. Even if he goes to the sidelines again, he should be valuable in leagues with IR space and flexible rules with midseason additions. When he is in the lineup he should provide solid value.
Jaromir Jagr (Florida)
At 44 years of age, Jagr can still play at a very high level. In his first full season with the Panthers, he posted 66 points, a total eclipsed by just 20 NHL players last year. Looking at his player profile courtesy of Frozen Pool, there are all kinds of red flags in addition to his age making it unlikely he will reach this total again, though.
Essentially, Jagr benefited from a lot of puck luck. For example, if we adjust his goals based on his career shooting percentage of 12.4 percent he would score 18 goals on 143 shots, a drop of nine marks. He is still worth owning in one-year leagues, but he should be slotted correctly.
10) Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia)
If the last five years are any indication, Simmonds will finish somewhere between 50 and 60 points this year. With that said there are issues with goal-heavy players like him in points-only leagues. Although Simmonds has managed to maintain consistency, goal-scoring is prone to ups and downs and this type of player tends to show more inconsistency in terms of point totals. Working for him is lining up next to Claude Giroux frequently and historically being very potent on the power play.
9) Kyle Palmieri (New Jersey Devils)
Last year, Palmieri surprised many by reaching 30 goals and totaling 57 points in his first campaign with the Devils. The addition of Taylor Hall could help if the two are deployed on the same line, but either way, Palmieri’s numbers will be difficult to maintain. Not only was his shooting percentage a bit high which could cost him a handful of goals this year, but his career-high totals were also roughly 100 percent higher than anything we have seen from him in the past.
8) Mats Zuccarello (New York Rangers)
Zuccarello had a career-best 61 points last year primarily due to his 26 goals which marked the first time he has hit the 20-goal mark. Usually more of a playmaker, Zuccarello benefited from an elevated shooting percentage (16 percent) which is likely unsustainable. One factor working in his favor is his ice time as his average exceeded 18 minutes for the first time. Top-line minutes will be crucial if he is to push for 60 points again. However, given his unexpected outburst of goals last year look for him to slip back into the mid-50s.
7) Alexander Radulov (Montreal)
Combining high risk and potentially a high reward, Radulov will make his return to the NHL this fall playing for a team that desperately needs his offense. There is some uncertainty as to how well he will transition from the KHL back to the NHL. However, it is worth noting he was very productive during his brief time in the NHL including a 58-point campaign back in 2008. Plus, he has been a star in Russia for many years. There may be some issues throughout the year but in all likelihood Radulov will have a very good fantasy season.
6) Bobby Ryan (Ottawa)
Ryan had a strong year considering he spent a large portion of the campaign lined up next to Kyle Turris who was ineffective playing through an injury. Now with Turris back to full health and the arrival of Derrick Brassard improving the team down the middle, Ryan stands to benefit regardless of how the lines shape up. He has a chance to exceed 60 points but should be a lock for 55 which is his pattern from the last two years.
5) Kyle Okposo (Buffalo)
The last three years Okposo has a combined 184 points in 210 games which represents a pace of 72 points over 82 games. In Buffalo, he does not possess the same upside as he did with the Islanders when there was possibility of lining up next to John Tavares. Jack Eichel has immense potential but is not at that level yet, so Okposo’s numbers are unlikely to match his best years in New York. Still, the Sabres have a strong duo of centers in Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly who are not slouches and the team’s top power-play unit looks to be very strong this year.
4) Mark Stone (Ottawa)
Stone followed his outstanding rookie year with a second 60-point effort to establish himself as one of the top right wings in the Eastern Conference. His average ice time improved to more than 20 minutes per outing which is extremely high for a forward. This will help ensure he keeps his point totals up moving forward. Like Bobby Ryan, Stone will benefit from Kyle Turris’ return and the acquisition of Derick Brassard and could be in for a career year if he is on the team’s go-to line.
3) Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia)
Voracek followed up his 81-point performance in 2014-15 with just 55 points. He had been expected to decline but not that much. His lack of goal-scoring stood out most as he tallied just 11 goals despite shooting at a normal rate. He converted on just five percent of his shots which is incredibly low for him – his career average is just under 10 percent. He should be able to get back over the 20-goal mark and finish between 65 and 70 points this season.
2) Phil Kessel (Pittsburgh)
Kessel’s first regular season with the Penguins was a bit of an adventure as he struggled for long stretches. Ultimately, he fell short of the 61 points he posted in his final year in Toronto, which at the time was considered an abnormal result. Things improved in Pittsburgh once Kessel found chemistry with Nick Bonino instead of being paired with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeny Malkin. In a full season under these conditions, Kessel should be able to post better results. However, his upside will be more limited as the Penguins will be spreading out the scoring rather than featuring a single line. Players will be affected individually.
1) Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay)
It is amazing Kucherov was able to repeat his performance from 2014-15 despite his most frequent centerman Tyler Johnson having such a horrible year. In fact, most of the team was subpar offensively early in the season. Johnson should bounce back which will generate more offense for their line and could push Kucherov over 70 points for the first time. While he does not play with Steven Stamkos often at even strength, his retention is still very important for Kucherov as the two are on the team’s top power-play unit.
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