Every year, no matter how much we prepare for drafts, read all the experts’ opinions, and do up our own point projections, there are always plenty of players who put up jaw-dropping seasons that no one saw coming.
This year, those jaw-dropping seasons seem more extreme. With scoring on the rise, there are numerous players who outscored projections by 30 or more points. The top player on this list looks like he will finish by outscoring his projections by 50 points! That is insane.
I wanted to list both of these guys so I grouped them both together. Many projected Kopitar to finish with less than 70 points (I saw one guide last summer that marked him for less than 60), but he is currently sitting at a career-high 90 points. Although Brown not be in the same stratosphere as many others on this list, it’s tough to overlook the fantasy season he’s had. In Yahoo leagues that count goals, assists, plus/minus, power play points, shots and hits, he’s the 21st highest ranked player. His 23 goals and 56 points this year is the highest they’ve been since 2010-11.
9. Josh Bailey
Although he’s been in a bit of skid lately (seven points in his last 18 games), there’s no discounting the kind of season he had. He’s at 69 points, and even if he misses the Islanders final few games (he sat out Saturday’s tilt with an upper-body injury), that still has to be considered a successful year. For leagues that count power play points, Bailey has also been a shock there with 30 points (tied for 12th in the league). Unfortunately, points is the only thing that made Bailey fantasy relevant, as he’s been brutal in plus/minus, shots, PIM, hits, blocked shots and winning 11 of 50 faceoffs.
Even if you predicted a bounce-back season, there was no way you predicted this much of a renaissance. Giroux had four straight years of declining point totals (86 to 73 to 67 to 58). Even in the most idealistic of situations, you were hoping for 70 points. He’s now sitting at 94 points with three games left to play. A nice thing for Giroux owners is the fact he has points in 59 games so far this year, 75 per cent of all his games. He’s also been excellent since the start of February, with 37 points in his last 26 games.
When Brayden Schenn was traded to St. Louis last summer, there was much debate who on Philly would benefit from the extra ice time. Not many were talking about Couturier, but he turned in a pretty special season. Couturier, who many had pegged to finish in the low 40s for points, is now at 71 points. He’s the first Flyer outside of Giroux and Jakub Voracek to hit that mark since 2008-09.
It’s safe to say Rantanen outperformed all expectations this year. Many guides had him pegged to finish somewhere in the 40-point range. He demolished those projections, and is at 82 points before last night’s game, with three games left to go. His biggest issue, as covered by Scott Maran in the Geek of the Week column a couple of weeks ago, is Rantanen doesn’t produce enough in the peripheral categories. He’s taken 177 shots, and has a plus-five with 33 PIM and 30 hits.
It’s easy to look back now and say that going with Hellebuyck was obvious. But not only did he have a poor 2016-17 campaign, he came into the season as the backup. Steve Mason was expected to be the number goalie, and even started the first two games of the season. He was awful though, and that opened the door for Hellebuyck to steal the starter’s job and run with it. Hellebuyck’s 41 wins is just one off the league leader and he’s posted similar numbers to Pekka Rinne, who many are touting for the Vezina trophy.
Barzal needs just one more point to reach 80 as a rookie, which is a pretty rare feat. Only 14 players have ever reached that number, and only three active players are on that list: Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That’s pretty elite company. It’s even crazier when you consider he’s been doing this without playing at even strength without John Tavares.
Many of us knew Marchessault had plenty of talent and could be a 30-goal scorer, but we didn’t expect that he could be this good, especially on an expansion team. Most projections had the leading Golden Knight point-getter topping out at 50 points. While there has been much talk about Marchessault’s 75 points, he has quietly put up a productive fantasy season in peripherals as well, with a plus-37 (second highest in the league) and 265 shots (tied for 12th), to go along with 40 PIM, 16 power play points, 98 hits and 58 takeaways.
From now on, MacKinnon should be exhibit number one on why you don’t sour on young guys who may not perform up to expectations for a couple of years. How impressive has the soon-to-be Hart trophy winner been this season? Consider this. His points-per-game (1.33), goals (38), power play goals (12), power play points (30), plus-minus (14) and PIM (53) are at least double what he had last year in every single category. In many categories, it’s better than his previous two seasons combined.
Karlsson gets the slight nod as his season is the most shocking of anyone. Last summer, you probably could have talked yourself into 75 points from Marchessault or 90 points from MacKinnon if the cards fell the right way. There was no way you were convincing anyone that Karlsson would hit 75 points. Almost everyone had him pegged for fewer than 30 points. He came into this season with 18 career goals and a 7.7 career shooting percentage. This year, he’s third in goals at 42 and tops in plus-minus at 46. It’s just insane the production he’s had, and not one single person saw it coming.
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