Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
August is always the roughest month for hockey content. There is always extremely little going on and even the tiniest bit of news throws the hockey world into a frenzy. August is the opposite of Everything Is Happening.
With that being said, I’ve always been fond of August because it marks the beginning of fantasy hockey season. Some of the big fantasy hockey guides go on sale around this time and reading them has always been something I look forward to every summer.
Mostly it’s “hmmm, that’s a lot of points for _________ (insert random overhyped player here)” or “I can’t believe they think _________ (insert second overhyped player here) is going to score more points than _________ (insert underrated player who I consider my son here).” But still I do genuinely enjoy the content and perspective towards what certain players will likely do next season.
With this being a Leafs blog, I figured we should take a look at what’s being projected of the Leafs going into next season. I’ve built my own projection model based on a player’s last three seasons that we’ll use alongside the three fantasy guides I’ve bought – The Hockey News, Dobber, and The Sports Forecaster – in order to get an average projection for each player going into 2016-17.
(Sidebar: the three guides like to project games played which is not a practice I agree with, so their projections have been changed to what each player would get in 82 games. THN’s guide didn’t include GP projections for anyone under 30 points, so those projections are not adjusted for games played and are in red).
So without further ado, here’s how many points each Leaf is expected to score next season.
Let’s start with what each guide agrees on. James van Riemsdyk will probably lead the Leafs in scoring (if he stays healthy). Nazem Kadri probably settles in around 50 points. Leo Komarov is a 35 point guy, which is on the border between a second and third liner. Zach Hyman could be a 30 point player if he plays, ditto to Kerby Rychel, Milan Michalek, Peter Holland and Nikita Soshnikov. The Leafs basically have a lot of dudes who can hit 30 points which is okay third line production. And then there’s Matt Martin and Brooks Laich who are both unanimously considered replacement level scorers.
Now the differences. The obvious one is Auston Matthews. I’ve got him at 43 purely because I used NHLe for rookies and the NLA isn’t a league where there’s been a lot of translations. I think 65 points is probably a stretch though as THN and Dobber proclaim, but a 55 point projection is a fair middle ground. It’s first line calibre and it’s in line with what recent top non-McDavid picks have done.
Mitch Marner is a bit different too because it all depends on playing time. I’ve got him at 40 because I don’t think he’s likely to get big minutes, while Dobber sees 60 points because of his huge offensive upside. The Forecaster doesn’t think he even makes the team, I guess, while THN is right in the middle at 50. I’m okay with that, but with him the variance in his production is likely very high.
As a whole, there could be as many as five 50 point players on the Leafs next season. That seems a bit high to me considering a grand total of zero players hit that last season, but in fairness one of them would’ve if he was healthy, another would’ve with better luck, and the other three are the team’s super rookies. The team also looks like it has pretty capable scoring depth depending on how it’s assembled.
Optimism is quite high for Morgan Rielly. He hit a career high last season with 36 points and that’s led the fantasy guides to project 40+ points next season. THN and Dobber are reaching a bit too high in my opinion, but I might be a little low at 36. Since my projections are based on past performance, it’s difficult for it to predict any big breakouts for young players like Rielly aside from age adjustments. Regardless, 43 points seems like an okay bet and that would put him in the top 25 for d-men.
Jake Gardiner at 34 seems like a safe bet too and there was very little variation from everyone. This might be the year he gets some decent powerplay time that could boost his totals to 2D levels. That PP ice time could be stymied however by Nikita Zaitsev, who is the only player my projections are highest on. He scored well in the KHL and should get top-four minutes. Connor Carrick is another guy who could get PP time and the four systems see him get somewhere between 21 and 27 points which is second pairing caliber.
The final four d-men are all terrible at scoring. The Forecaster didn’t even bother wasting their time with a projection which I respect wholeheartedly. Following their vision, I will not waste any more of my own time writing things about them.
The Leafs actually have some good players this year worth owning in fantasy hockey. It’s a very interesting change of pace from last season, to say the least. It’ll be interesting to see how close the projections are to what really happens so make sure you bookmark this page and save it for April to personally yell at me.