Top 10 potential surprises for this fantasy hockey season
Each season, there are guys who most poolies don’t believe have it in them to rebound, have a career year or to overachieve.
They’re better off left for dead in the fantasy heap, some stuck on the waiver wire until they have a hot streak.
After all, who would have guessed Jiri Tlusty would have had a point-per-game season a couple of years ago, Sergei Bobrovsky would become an elite goalie in Columbus or Kyle Okposo would have had a 69-point season last year?
Finding these gems are tough. Because f everyone knew about them, they wouldn’t be surprises.
Here are the top 10 potential surprises for the upcoming season.
10. Ryane Clowe
Clowe has a good chance of breaking the 50-point barrier for the first time in four seasons. Last year, he has 26 points in 43 games, just under a 50-point pace. This year, there are more offensive weapons around him in New Jersey, which should help him with the points. And let’s not forget, he’s usually a solid contributor in hits and penalty minutes, so there is some added value there.
Semin wasn’t given a $7 million a year contract for nothing. The guy can rack up points, and has three point-per-game seasons, including one with Carolina just two seasons ago. Last year, everything pretty much went wrong with the Hurricanes (both Staals, Semin, Tlusty and a host of others didn’t meet expectations). But many don’t believe Semin can rebound like the other Canes, maybe due to the Russian factor. But Semin scoring a point-per-game and getting to 70 points is completely doable, especially if Eric Staal has a bounce back season.
8. Nail Yakupov
Much like Semin, Yakupov doesn’t get as much respect as other guys in his situation (cough Jonathan Huberdeau), but the former number one overall pick finds himself in a good situation. Gone are guys like Ryan Smyth, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, who received more ice time than Yakupov, especially on the power play. If Yakupov can find himself on the second line and get some increased power play time, 55 points is a strong possibility.
With Mike Ribeiro out of the picture, Vermette has a good chance of finding himself in more offensive situations in Arizona. We already know he’s one of the top faceoff guys in the league, but with him seeing an increase in power play time, he’s got a good shot at 60 points, which is a mark he’s already attained once in his career.
6. Dmitri Kulikov
Remember when he was supposed to be the next great thing? Okay, maybe the hype never got that high, but there were a lot of people who were pretty high on this kid. And then he followed a 28-poinst-in-58-games season with 10 and 19 points. I still believe in him, and think he can be a 40-point defenceman someday. Maybe not this season, but I’m confident in 35 points this year. Having Aaron Ekblad competing for minutes will be offset by the higher scoring team the Panthers will be this season. Also not having Tom Gilbert, Mike Weaver or Ed Jovanovski on the team will bump Kulikov up the depth chart.
5. Linemate of Giroux
It doesn’t matter who it is, but someone will play on the wing next to Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. And that guy can be pencilled in for at least 60 points this season. Last season, it was Scott Hartnell. But now that he’s moved to Columbus, someone else will get that coveted role. My guess is it will be Wayne Simmonds if he recovers from his current injury. A big tough guy, Simmonds hit 60 points last year, and that’s with him playing just 16:46 a game. If he winds up on the top line, 70-75 is a good bet.
4. Steve Mason
In Yahoo pools, Mason is the 17th goalie taken overall, trailing behind guys such as Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller. Yet, Mason finds himself in a great situation. He’s undoubtedly the number one goalie in Philly, and will pile up the wins with the Flyers (last year, he was ninth in the league in wins). He’s certain to play at least 60 games (which is more than most goalies), and he finished 10th in saves last year. Sure his goals against could be lower and his save percentage higher, but he was still better than guys like Smith, Howard, Brayden Holtby and Craig Anderson in those categories, and better than Jonathan Quick, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Antti Niemi in save percentage. As scary as it sounds, Mason could be a top 10 goalie this season.
I’m calling it now. Schultz will be top-10 defenceman for points in the NHL this season (around the 50-point mark). The Oilers are poised for big strides (yeah, yeah, we hear this every season), but at the age of 24, Schultz is about to enter his offensive prime. As a plus, he’s still the top power play quarterback on the Oilers for at least this season. He should also see an improvement in plus-minus as well.
The Rodney Dangerfield of the goaltending world, Pavelec gets no respect. But I’m pencilling him in for at least 30 wins, with a solid chance at 35. He played much better once Paul Maurice became the head coach last year. Before Maurice, Pavelec was just 11-19-7, but with Maurice, he was 11-7-3, and two goals or less in 12 of those games. With him still entrenched as the number one goalie, Pavelec can still salvage his fantasy hockey career.
1. Tyler Bozak
I’m taking a bit of heat for this one in the Bodog bets thread, but I stand by my gut instinct that Bozak will be a 70-point player. That’s great for those in points-only pools, but for those in leagues with other categories, you’ll also see an improvement. Bozak has generally been a very good faceoff guy until last season (his last four years have seen him with winning percentages of 54.6, 52.7, 52.6 and 48.7). His plus-minus should be better this year, and he should also rebound in power play points (he had just eight last season). He’s also going to play the full year with Phil Kessel, so he also has that going for him.
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