Bold predictions for the 2020-21 fantasy hockey season
Quinn Hughes has impressed in his short career. (AP Photo / Michael Dwyer)
By Jason Chen, RotoWire
Especially for Yahoo Sports
The 2019-20 fantasy season was a bit of a downer because it ended so abruptly. In the end, there was no way to properly crown a winner, but hope remains forever with the thought of a new season. We don't know when the next season will start, but the league firmly believed there would be.
Whether you're defending your championship title with an asterisk or going on a tour of revenge, here are some far too early, brave predictions for the season ahead.
The Art Ross winner receives an average of at least 1.65 points per game
The rating is high across the league, but how efficient can the league's top scorer get? Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross 2019 with 128 points (1.56 P / GP) and Leon Draisaitl won the title with 110 points (1.55 P / GP) last season, but the record for the best P / GP in the Cap era (min 40 GP) actually belongs to Sidney Crosby, who scored 66 points in only 41 games (1.61) in the 2010/11 season. Only one player has managed to dwarf 1.61 P / GP in the last 20 seasons (Mario Lemieux 2000-01) and it's time we got another one. The top candidates right now are Leon Draisaitl, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, and Nathan MacKinnon, but I'm also going to consider the possibility of monster seasons from Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel, as well as dark horse candidates in Evgeni Malkin and Elias Pettersson.
No goalkeeper wins 30 games
Last season, I predicted no goalkeeper would play more than 60 games, and it actually happened - for the first time in the Cap era. But it didn't happen for the reason I had predicted, since four goalkeepers would hypothetically have played more than 60 games (Connor Hellebuyck, Carey Price, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Frederik Andersen) if there had been a full season even though only eight goalkeepers' I was on pace with 30 wins, the lowest number in five seasons. With the possibility of a shortened or shortened schedule over the next year, two capable goalkeepers will be a prerequisite for the success of teams that don't have a workhorse like Connor Hellebuyck or Andrei Vasilevskiy.
That means fewer starts to get started and more starts for backups (or 1Bs), but the same number of wins to go around. The game in the imagination will be to be patient with the goalkeepers during the draft, devaluing the starters who have a capable backup behind them or, if possible, simply grabbing both goalkeepers on that team.
Five defenders will lead their team in the ranking
It seems logical considering how defenders are supposed to play these days. In the past, we assumed that only terrible teams would have top scorers who were defenders (call out penguin legend Dick Tarnstrom) but that's no longer the case. The Capitals and Predators both had blueliner on their rating lists last season and apologize for their respective early playoff outcomes. Both are still considered to be very good teams. The appearance of Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar last season only confirmed the notion that the offensive doesn't always have to come from the front, although Hughes has a more realistic chance of leading his team to scoring next season. Other candidates include John Carlson, Roman Josi, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Zach Werenski and possibly an outside chance for Ryan Suter and Thomas Chabot.
Someone will score 60 goals
Even with 48 goals in 68 games, Alex Ovechkin would have managed 57 goals if he had played all 82 games last season. It's the best we've achieved since Steven Stamkos in the 2011/12 season, although Ovechkin was on pace at 66 in the following lockout-shortened season. As the power games get better and the talent level gets higher, it will eventually happen, and if I make this bold prediction every year, it will likely increase my profit share a little. Ovechkin is the obvious favorite with its unstoppable one-timer, but also sees Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, David Pastrnak and Nathan MacKinnon as strong contenders.
Alexis Lafreniere will reach the top 15 in the ranking
It's not as wild as you might think. Not only does Lafreniere have elite talent, but he also joins a reasonably decent team that already has elite talent in the striker (Artemi Panarin). In order to even have the chance to crack the top 15, Lafreniere would have to play at a point-per-game pace, which only five rookies did in the Cap era (at least 40 games played): Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby , Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid and most recently Mathew Barzal. The Rangers finished fifth in GF / GP and seventh in power play efficiency last season. So Lafreniere enters a good situation on a team that emphasizes speed and attack. The left side already has Panarin and Chris Kreider, but there's no doubt the Rangers have reserved a spot for Lafreniere and they're going to give him plenty of Ice Age. Philadelphia's Morgan Frost, Ottawa's Joshua Norris and Toronto's Nick Robertson are the other marquee newbies expected to make splashy debuts and compete for the Calder Trophy next season.
Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier will collectively score over 130 points
They only scored 21 goals last season, but it's time these two franchise centers took the next step for the Devils. For both of them, it's just a matter of when, not when. Hischier is already New Jersey's top center and a 60-point season is out of the question if he can stay healthy. Hughes was one of the league's most unlucky players last season. Among strikers who played at least 500 minutes, Hughes' 10.42 difference between expected goals (xG) and actual goals scored with equal strength was the fifth highest in the league, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both players also had shooting rates well below the league average, with Hughes shooting at 4.3 percent and Hischier at 8.1 percent. Given their level of talent, these percentages should increase, or at least decrease to the mean.
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