Dylan and I have already released our lists of 2018-19 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers and Busts.
Today we have compiled a list of our 2018-19 Fantasy Hockey Breakout candidates. A breakout is a player who is poised to set career-highs and will likely come with great value on Draft Day. We used FantasyPros Average Draft Positions (ADP), which combines the ADP’s from ESPN, Yahoo and CBS.
Last year Nathan MacKinnon and Vincent Trocheck enjoyed breakout seasons. Who will it be this year?
Vladimir Tarasenko — Blues — RW
ADP: 31.3 | DFO Rank: 19
Tarasenko is one of the NHL’s best wingers but it still hasn’t reached his peak. The 26-year-old forward fired a career-high 306 shots last season but shot a career-worst 10.8 percent en route to 33 goals. Tarasenko shot 14.0 percent in the previous four seasons. If you apply that shooting percentage to his 306 shots, he would have scored 43 goals.
The Blues have added some quality pieces to their lineup this offseason, most importantly Ryan O’Reilly, who is projected to start the year on the top-line with Tarasenko. The Russian winger has missed just four games in the last three seasons and should top 300 shots for the second straight year. If he does, there’s no reason not to expect him to score 40-plus goals and he carries obvious 40-assist upside, despite never getting there in his career. Tarasenko is one of the few players in the NHL that you can expect to hit 50 goals with any sort of confidence.
Jack Eichel — Sabres — C
ADP: 41.0 | DFO Rank: 28
Eichel has enjoyed a steady increase in production through his first three seasons, but durability has become a big concern. Eichel missed 15 games last year, but was on-pace for 31 goals and 48 assists (79 points).
The 21-year-old was on-pace for 300-plus shots in each of the last two years—317 to be exact—and that’s the kind of shot volume he will need to maintain to have his first 30-goal season. An improved surrounding cast, including his projected linemate Jeff Skinner, should allow Eichel to set a new career-high in assists as well.
If Eichel plays 82 games, there’s absolutely no reason not to expect him to get close to 35 goals and 50 assists.
Sebastian Aho — Hurricanes — C/LW
ADP: 70.3 | DFO Rank: 73
In his second NHL season, Aho had 29 goals and 36 assists (65 points) in 78 games. Aho has an impressive 54.3 CorsiFor% and +1.9 relative Corsi on one of the NHL’s best possession teams over his two seasons.
The 21-year-old has accumulated over 200 shots in back-to-back seasons, but he is mostly known for his playmaking ability. Aho is capable of maintaining a goal total of 25-to-30 but there is a ton of room for his assist totals to grow. With the addition of No.2 overall pick Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes should have a dominant top-line, giving Aho 30-goal, 45-to-50 assist upside if everything falls into place.
Ryan Ellis — Predators — D
ADP: 82.3 | DFO Rank: 99
Ellis missed the first 38 games of last season with a knee injury, but appeared in the remaining 44 games after his January return. Ellis finished the year with 32 points (9G / 32A), tying for ninth among defensemen in points-per-game (0.73)—ahead of his teammates P.K. Subban and Roman Josi.
Ellis was on-pace for 205 shots (per 82 games) which adds up to 16 goals with a career 7.6 shooting percentage. The 27-year-old has been an elite offensive-defenseman throughout his career and has 15-plus goal and 40-plus assist upside, playing 23-plus minutes a night on a pairing with Josi. Injuries are the only thing that can hold him back from a career-year in 2019.
Colton Parayko — Blues — D
ADP: 163.0 | DFO Rank: 127
Parayko, who has an absolute bomb from the point, has somehow scored just 10 goals over the last two seasons. He ranked 11th among blueliners in shots (212) but 64th in goals (6) last year.
In the last two seasons, Parayko’s 2.5% shooting percentage ranks dead last in the NHL among players with at least 400 shots. The 11 defensemen who fit into that category have shot a combined 5.5 percent. The 6-foot-6, 230 lbs. defenseman will almost certainly get back to 200-plus shots and there’s no way a player with his quality of shot will shoot under 3% again. Parayko should very easily score double-digit goals with 30-plus assists—making him an absolute steal in the 14th round.
Juuse Saros — Predators — G
ADP: 172.0 | DFO Rank: 172
This may finally be the season where Saros starts 30-plus games. With Pekka Rinne entering the final year of his contract, the Predators will likely get Saros a few more starts this year. Rinne is coming off of a career-year, but is getting up there in age and the Predators will try to keep him fresh.
Saros has posted a rock-solid 2.42 GAA and .923 SV% in 43 career starts. Playing behind one of the NHL’s best teams, Saros has the potential to be a top-10 netminder should Rinne miss time. A 10.09 goals saved above average in 2018 showcases Saros’ ability to be one of the league’s best when he gets the call. He is a must-target in keeper leagues because he will be the Predators’ starter next year.
Mitch Marner — Maple Leafs — RW
ADP: 46.0 | DFO Rank: 27
Marner registered 61 and 69 points in his first two seasons, respectively. He’s seemingly a lock for his first 70-point season in 2018-19 and could push a point per game pace skating next to John Tavares. Mike Babcock has said all along he plans to play Marner on the second line with Tavares and Zach Hyman, and that’s exactly how the Leafs have been lining up in training camp. Babcock also hinted that Tavares and Auston Matthews will be playing together on the powerplay, which would be a change from their tendency to run two balanced units. If the Leafs do opt for one, top-heavy powerplay unit this season, it’s safe to assume Marner would be on it. At just 21-years old and with his production still on the rise, Marner would have been projected to break 70 points for the first time this year regardless. His 69 points last year came despite an ATOI of 16:29. A larger role combined with a new, elite playing partner should make for a career year for Marner.
Pierre-Luc Dubois — Blue Jackets — C/LW
ADP: 142.0 | DFO Rank: 114
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft put up 48 points last year as a 19-year-old, playing on Columbus’ top line with Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson for most of the season. His ATOI rose throughout the season, finishing at 16:38. That number should rise in 2018-19 as his role continues to grow. He spent 69.23% of his 5v5 ice time with Panarin last year. Another full season alongside the perennial point-per-game winger could easily elevate Dubois’ production to elite status. Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season and has expressed a desire to move on from Columbus. The Blue Jackets should be competitive this year making it doubtful that Panarin gets traded, but Dubois’ production would obviously take a big hit if he did.
Nico Hischier — Devils — C
ADP: 144.0 | DFO Rank: 103
Hischier is primed for a larger role this season after playing the support in Taylor Hall’s one-man show in 2017-18. The former first-overall pick put up 20 goals and 32 assists in his rookie season with an ATOI of 16:19. Hall and Hischier were attached at the hip at 5v5 last season; Hall played 70% of his 5v5 minutes with Hischier. Despite that, Hall played six less games and still saw over 60 minutes more in powerplay time than Hischier. The powerplay time played it’s part in the large gap in production between the two first-liners (93 points for Hall compared to 52 for Hischier). Entering his age-20 season, Hischier’s role should continue to grow along with his production. Head coach John Hynes can easily dip into the minutes of Travis Zajac to make it happen. With just 26 points in 63 games last season, the 33-year-old shouldn’t come anywhere near the 17:54 he averaged a year ago.
Travis Konecny — Flyers — LW/RW
ADP: 179.7 | DFO Rank: 131
Konecny was one of the more efficient players in the NHL last season. Despite an ATOI of only 14:54, Konecny registered 24 goals, 23 assists, and 177 shots on goal. His minutes went up dramatically after he was bumped up to the top line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He regularly played more than 17 minutes a night towards the end of the season. He should see similar usage in 2018-19 as he’s set to open up the year back on the top line. A full year alongside Giroux and Couturier makes him a near-lock for a 25-goal, 25-assist season. At just 21-years-old, you would expect his production rates to continue to improve as well, giving Konecny plenty of upside heading into the 2018-19 season.
Brandon Montour — Ducks — D
ADP: 156.3 | DFO Rank: 149
Montour registered nine goals, 32 assists, and 160 shots on goal in what was his first full season in 2017-18. His ATOI finished at 20:28, though that’s a little misleading as Montour’s role grew larger as the season progressed. His ATOI over the last 25 games of the season was 23:21; that should be considered a better indicator of his usage in 2018-19. He should have no problem breaking 40 points assuming he plays that much, and his ceiling could be pushed higher if he’s able to challenge Cam Fowler for his spot on the top powerplay unit. Fowler’s powerplay production has failed to justify his usage; he hasn’t registered more than 17 powerplay points in a season since he was a rookie. If last year was any indication, head coach Randy Carlyle won’t hesitate to give Montour the opportunity if Fowler struggles to produce.
John Gibson — Ducks — G
ADP: 57.0 | DFO Rank: 58
Gibson had the second-highest SV% among goalies last season but finished 10th in the NHL in wins, unfairly hurting his fantasy value. Gibson has been incredibly consistent in his young career. He is the only goalie in the NHL to post a SV% greater than .920 in each of the last three seasons. As his workload’s grown his numbers have only gotten better. The presence of Ryan Miller should still limit Gibson to about 60 starts, but he could be looking at a monster season if the Ducks can improve on their 2.82 goals per game from last season. He has everything he needs to be the No. 1 ranked fantasy netminder come season’s end and he’s currently being drafted on average as the 11th goalie off the board.
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