The boundaries between fantasy hockey and NHL actuality felt like they had been melting final season.
The 2021-22 common season had a per group, per sport common of three.14 objectives. That was the best offensive output because the 1995-96 season. The ultimate rating of some video games resembled that of a professional lacrosse league contest. There have been 51 gamers that scored at the least 30 objectives, and 17 of these gamers scored at the least 40 objectives.
Was that offensive spike an anomaly, fueled by lineup modifications and interruptions of routine attributable to COVID-19 variants? Or was it the continuation of a years-long offensive pattern within the NHL, fueled by every part from enlargement period roster dilution to a generational wave of scoring stars?
That is what each fantasy proprietor is contemplating on this 12 months’s drafts: Which gamers noticed their numbers lifted by the league’s rising offensive tide, risked a regression to normalcy within the 2022-23 season?
That, and people different time-honored debates about group high quality, ice time, outdated faces in new locations and which gamers are worthy of prime picks or late-round sleeper alternatives.
I’ve chosen to plant my flag on the next gamers for the 2022-23 season, for numerous causes defined under. Some you may have excessive in your draft board already, whereas I make the case for others to hitch them. Comfortable drafting, fantasy followers!
Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
There are three gamers on the prime of each draft board projection: Matthews and the Edmonton Oilers’ duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. It is arduous to argue in opposition to McDavid as the highest fantasy participant within the NHL. Have a look at least season: first in factors, first in power-play factors, second in assists, fifth in photographs and seventh in objectives. He is a star, each season, and now he’ll have Evander Kane on his flank for the season. But when there’s an argument to be made, that argument is Auston Matthews.
Objectives are tougher to return by than factors in fantasy hockey. Nobody scored extra of them than Matthews final season (60). He has 19 extra objectives than Draisaitl during the last three seasons mixed (148 to 129). He is essentially the most constant shot producing star we have had because the peak of Alex Ovechkin. Matthews led the league final season and hit the objective 33 extra occasions than Ovie himself during the last three seasons mixed.
Matthews had 106 factors in 73 video games final season. He hasn’t performed over 80 video games since his rookie marketing campaign. So preserve that in thoughts … in addition to the truth that if he does enhance his video games performed, he is prone to shatter that whole.
Jack Eichel, C, Vegas Golden Knights
There are facets of the Vegas Golden Knights that depart me baffled. Why have they slowly drained their locker room of its identification? Is their goaltending adequate to get them again into the playoffs, sans Robin Lehner? However Eichel’s offensive output is not a type of facets. He’ll roll.
Eichel had 14 factors in his closing 16 video games with Vegas final season, together with 9 objectives. When he performs, he is elite: Over his final 200 NHL video games, he is averaged 2.05 factors and three.62 photographs on objective per 60 minutes. However one of many causes I am planting my flag on Eichel is the hope that he will get greater than 33 minutes with winger Mark Stone this season. Stone has scored over 20 objectives in each season by which he is performed at the least 55 video games. Eichel’s not often had that form of offensive expertise on his wing throughout his profession.
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Kevin Fiala, RW, Los Angeles Kings
Fiala put up 33 objectives and 52 assists in 82 video games final season whereas enjoying the vast majority of his time with Frederick Gaudreau and Matt Boldy in Minnesota. After being traded to the Kings, his new linemates could possibly be Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar, who stays a reliable level producer regardless of hitting his thirty fifth birthday this summer season. Fiala was eighth within the NHL final season with 3.10 factors per 60 minutes. He obtained the fifth-highest common energy play ice time amongst Minnesota forwards. We have over 55 million explanation why he’ll see extra in Los Angeles.
Jesper Bratt, RW, New Jersey Devils
Bratt had his breakout season in 2021-22, leaping from 2.4 factors per 60 minutes to three.3 factors per 60. His common photographs per sport continued to rise for the third straight season. With higher general well being and a few younger gamers bettering, the Devils ought to end a lot better than No. 19 general in group offense. With he performs with Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier, we like Bratt to proceed to supply at an elite clip, particularly with one other restricted free agent negotiation set for subsequent summer season.
Matty Beniers, C, Seattle Kraken
Beniers tasks to be the No. 1 heart for the Kraken as a rookie. Given every part we have seen from him on the College of Michigan, worldwide play and his temporary NHL debut final season, there isn’t any cause to imagine Beniers will not have the ability to discover instant productiveness as a 20-year-old. (He additionally had 18 photographs in 10 video games final season for the Kraken. Extra please.) However given how a lot explosiveness Seattle can supply him on the wings – Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky amongst them, he is acquired an actual shot at breaking out and profitable the Calder Trophy this season.
Brent Burns, D, Carolina Hurricanes
I really like the Burns transfer for the Hurricanes. He’ll discover Jaccob Slavin subsequent to him, giving Burns his greatest defensive associate since Marc-Edouard Vlasic hit his Brent Seabrook part. Dougie Hamilton and Tony DeAngelo thrived in that function within the Canes’ system and there isn’t any cause to imagine Burns will not comply with in that custom this season.
They’re getting him after a resurgent fantasy marketing campaign with the San Jose Sharks: 54 factors in 82 video games with 203 photographs. DeAngelo averaged extra photographs on objective per sport than Burns did final season, so I anticipate that quantity to get nearer to these shot totals Burns used to place up in San Jose. I believe 60 factors could possibly be inside attain for him, too. He is additionally a greater than succesful power-play level man who joins a bunch that has particular groups upside, particularly when Max Pacioretty is able to return from damage.
Moritz Seider, D, Detroit Pink Wings
He is acquired identify recognition after that Calder Trophy win, however I would not be stunned if there aren’t some fantasy managers that do not fairly understand how nice Seider was throughout the board. His 50 factors tied him for nineteenth within the league amongst defensemen. Ditto his 187 photographs on objective. If hits are rewarded in your league, he was simply outdoors the highest 30 with 151 collisions. He additionally picked up two shorthanded factors. However the quantity we actually preferred: 21 power-play factors. That ranked him tenth amongst defensemen, and that is earlier than the Pink Wings added gamers like David Perron and Andrew Copp to the roster. No sophomore hunch right here.
Jeff Petry, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Whereas he should not be on the prime of your draft board for defensemen, preserve this new Penguin in thoughts for later rounds. Petry is likely one of the prime bounce-back candidates within the NHL this season. His 1.1 factors per 60 minutes common final season was his lowest because the 2016-17 marketing campaign, nevertheless it might have been a lot worse: Petry had 11 factors in his final 11 video games of the season to salvage a disastrous marketing campaign with the Montreal Canadiens. (Who, it needs to be stated, had been having their very own disastrous marketing campaign after making the Stanley Cup Ultimate in 2021.)
Now he is with the Penguins, who averaged 0.62 objectives per sport greater than the Canadiens final season. It could be a shock if Petry does not peak over 40 factors once more, particularly if he finally ends up because the group’s second power-play level choice. The one draw back is that we do not see Petry getting again to that 170-shot degree, contemplating his minutes and the quantity of shot technology sometimes seen from Penguins D-men.
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Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks
Discovering true work horses amongst fashionable NHL goaltenders has turn into more and more troublesome. There are round 6-to-8 goalies which have an opportunity to take action today, in comparison with a couple of dozen solely seven seasons in the past. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted begins during the last three seasons, however the reality stays that the NHL hasn’t seen a 70-game starter since Cam Talbot for the Minnesota Wild in 2016-17.
Demko could not hit 70 begins – though with Spencer Martin and Collin Delia behind him on the depth constitution, we’re not counting that out. The Canucks are going to run him into the bottom. He shall be among the many leaders in appearances this season for a Vancouver group that’ll be within the neighborhood of the playoff bubble. Demko had 33 wins in 61 begins final season. He confronted the third-most photographs on objective (1,967) final season as nicely.
Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, G, Boston Bruins
Each goalies appeared in 41 video games and began 39 occasions final season, with Ullmark getting just a few extra wins (26) and posting the higher save proportion (.917). There’s lots of hypothesis about whether or not the Bruins will see their six-season playoff streak finish as a consequence of early season accidents, roster attrition and an growing old core. What needs to be strong is the goaltending. The Bruins had been within the prime 10 in group save proportion final season (.907) and that would enhance with the arrival of latest head coach Jim Montgomery, who had Dallas close to the highest of the league in that class throughout his time with the Stars. I’ve no downside drafting each goalies in a tandem if I imagine the tandem is nice sufficient, and this one ought to qualify.
Oh, and as all the time, a bit of recommendation out of your fantasy hockey good friend: Be the one which begins the run on goalies, not the one which’s scrambling to catch up.
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