At first glance, you might think there are a lot of high-end left-wingers but the bottom falls out pretty quickly.
There are some incredible goal-scorers at the position, with at least five players who could go for 40-plus goals this season—@Alex Ovechkin, @Leon Draisaitl, @Brad Marchand, @Jake Guentzel, and @Alex DeBrincat.
We only have eight left-wingers to go for a point-per-game versus 12 centres to do the same.
Fantasy Hockey Tiers:
- 1. Alex Ovechkin
- 2. Leon Draisaitl
- 3. Brad Marchand
These are the best of the at the position. All Ovechkin has done is lead the NHL in goals in six of the last seven seasons. Over that time, Ovechkin has averaged a ludicrous 49 goals and 33 assists (82 points) per 82-games while missing just nine games. When you have a player who has played in 97.3 percent of the games throughout his 14-year career and who consistently leads the NHL in goals, it’s hard to pass on him in the top-5.
Draisaitl is an uber-talented 23-year-old but his best attribute is playing over half of his ice-time with @Connor McDavid. Draisaitl exploded for 50 goals and 55 assists (105 points) in 82 games last season but his rates are unsustainable, even with McDavid. He shot a league-high 21.6 percent with a 12.4 on-ice SH%. Playing with Connor will allow him to maintain higher rates than normal, but those are a little too high. Draft him with the expectations of 35-to-40 goals and 45-to-50 assists.
Marchand has become an extremely reliable fantasy winger. Over the last three seasons, he is fifth in the NHL in points (270) and seventh in goals (109), posting at least 34 goals and at least 85 points in each season. Playing on one of, if not the best lines in hockey, Marchand can be relied on to continue that production in 2020.
- 4. @Johnny Gaudreau
- 5. @Artemi Panarin
- 6. @Taylor Hall
- 7. @Jonathan Huberdeau
This is the last of safe bets for point-per-game players at the position and all have cases for being selected in the first couple rounds of your fantasy draft.
Gaudreau posted personal-bests across the board in 2019, scoring 36 goals with 63 assists (99 points) in 82 games. The 26-year-old has maintained an on-ice SH% over 10.0 during the last two seasons, making it a little more likely that he can continue with higher rates than normal. Should the increased shot volume from last season continue, he should have no issues getting back to 30-plus goals this season.
It doesn’t seem to matter what team Panarin plays for, he has produced everywhere he’s been. He led St. Petersburg SKA in points in his last year in the KHL, was second on the team in his two years in Chicago and led the Blue Jackets in each of the last two seasons. Overall, the Russian winger has averaged 30 goals and 52 assists (82 points) per 82 games throughout his NHL career and there’s no reason to expect the move to New York to halt that production. He will land on a line with @Mika Zibanejad and should once again be among the top-20 in points like he has in all four of his NHL seasons.
After an MVP campaign in 2018, Hall had his 2019 season cut short by injury. He only appeared in 33 games but was on-pace for 27 goals and 65 assists (92 points). Over the last two seasons, Hall is fifth in the NHL in points-per-game (1.19) and the only concern heading into 2020 is durability.
Huberdeau built off of a 69-point season in 2018 with a 30-goal, 62-assist (92 points) season in 2019. He was able to break 30 goals by increasing his shot volume and the assist total can be largely attributed to a bump in power-play production. Entering 2020, the biggest obstacle for Huberdeau is how Joel Quenneville decides to dole out ice time. He often leans on all four lines more evenly than the Panthers have in the past, expecting 20-plus minutes out of their top two lines. Playing on a stout line with @Aleksander Barkov and @Evgeni Dadonov should allow Huberdeau to get back to a point-per-game without any issues.
- 8. Jake Guentzel
- 9. @Claude Giroux
- 10. Alex DeBrincat
Guentzel took full advantage of playing 85.3 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with @Sidney Crosby, ranking tied for third in the NHL in even-strength goals (33) behind just @John Tavares and @Patrick Kane. Guentzel rode a 17.6 SH% to do so but increased opportunity in 2020 should allow him to maintain that pace. With @Phil Kessel now in Arizona, Guentzel will move up to the top power-play unit to go along with 17 minutes per night with Crosby at even-strength.
Unsurprisingly, Giroux was unable to sustain a 17.6 SH% or 12.0 on-ice SH% from 2018 and his production dipped. Giroux was still able to produce over a point-per-game, scoring 22 goals with 63 assists (85 points) in 82 games. With the addition of @Kevin Hayes to centre the second-line, Giroux won’t have to worry about playing centre anymore. @Sean Couturier and Giroux carried a 57.9 CF%, 52.4 GF% and averaged 31 ScoringChances/60 last year, making them one of the most dominant duos in the league at 5v5.
@Patrik Laine is a cautionary tale for those investing too heavily in DeBrincat this season. He ranks 15th in the NHL in goals through his first two seasons but has relied on a 17.2 SH% to do so. Laine shot 18.0 percent through his first two years before that dropped to 12.2 in 2019 and his goal total plummeted. Maintaining a shooting percentage that high can be difficult for even the best shooters and that’s the difficulty that DeBrincat will face in 2020 and going forward. Let’s say his SH% dips to 12.2 percent this season, he’s now a 27 goal-scorer with modest assist totals.
- 11. @Jamie Benn
- 12. @Gabriel Landeskog
- 13. @Matthew Tkachuk
- 14. @Jeff Skinner
- 15. @Filip Forsberg
- 16. @Kyle Connor
- 17. @Nino Niederreiter
This is where it starts to get interesting. There are potential 60-point players, bounce-backs, breakouts and regression candidates through Tier 4. If it all shakes out as projected, they’ll be pretty similar players, but that’s rarely the case.
For whatever reason, head coach Jim Montgomery cut Benn’s playing time last year despite a lack of LW depth in Dallas. He was often replaced by @Roope Hintz, but Hintz figures to be a staple with new addition @Joe Pavelski in 2020. When push came to shove in the postseason, Montgomery went back to playing Benn 20 minutes per night with @Tyler Seguin and @ Alexander Radulov and that should be the case throughout this season. His shot volume dropped last season but should bounce-back with some more playing time and could enable him to return to 30 goals. He also has plenty of room to improve on the power-play, where he had just three assists a year ago. He isn’t the focal point of the unit but was able to muster 14, 13, 13, 14, and 13 PPA in the five previous seasons. All-in-all, Benn may no longer be an 80-point player, but he’s a low-end No1./high-end No.2 fantasy left-winger on a really good offensive team.
Landeskog plays his role perfectly and his gifted linemates allow him to be as productive as he is. Landeskog posted career-bests in goals (34) and points (75) last season and another year with @Nathan MacKinnon and @Mikko Rantanen should give him another 70-point campaign.
There are two reasons to be worried about Tkachuk as of writing this post. One, he remains without a contract but the Flames have plenty of room to sign him, so I wouldn’t expect it to drag on too long. More alarmingly, he shot 16.4 percent with a 10.2 on-ice SH% last season and those are likely to drop in 2020. Tkachuk is also stuck behind Gaudreau for top-line minutes, which caps his overall value.
Skinner also relied on high SH% in 2019 to score 40 goals with 23 assists (63 points) in 82 games. While he’s maintained that kind of percentage throughout a season before, he has shot 11.2 percent over his career. The new, durable Jeff Skinner is eighth in the NHL in shots (1084) over the last four seasons and that kind of shot volume will allow him to be at least a 30-goal scorer every season. He has not eclipsed 30 assists since his rookie campaign, tying for 149th in the league in that category over that same four-year span.
After not missing a game in his first three NHL seasons, Forsberg has missed 20.1 percent of the games in the last two seasons. Besides suddenly new durability concerns, Forsberg has averaged 33 goals and 33 assists per 82-games over the last four seasons. If Nashville’s power-play improves, Forsberg could become a 40-40 threat, but he hasn’t shown that upside through his first five seasons.
Connor is another RFA winger without a contract but is coming off of back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons. The 22-year-old has relied on a high SH% to yield those results, so there is a concern that he’s already reached his ceiling. However, until that happens, treat him like a 30-30 player.
This is the breakout year for Niederreiter. I had been calling for him to get more playing time in Minnesota for years but it took a trade to Carolina to make it happen. After the deal, he played a career-most 18:17 ATOI and turned in 30 points (14G / 16A) in 36 games. Playing almost exclusively with @Sebastian Aho, Niederreiter is an excellent winger as we head into 2020. If you extrapolate his numbers as a Hurricane over a full season, you get 32 goals and 36 assists (68 points).
- 18. @Jonathan Marchessault
- 19. @Mike Hoffman
- 20. @James van Riemsdyk
- 21. @Rickard Rakell
- 22. @Chris Kreider
- 23. @Nikolaj Ehlers
- 24. @Evander Kane
- 25. @Anders Lee
- 26. @Nikita Gusev
- 27. @Mikael Granlund
- 28. @Max Pacioretty
Marchessault quietly goes about his business. He has averaged 273 shots during his two seasons in Vegas and that shot volume makes him a 30-goal threat. He’s shown great chemistry with @William Karlsson and @Reilly Smith on the Golden Knights’ new second-line, and their 5v5 dominance also makes him a 30-plus assist candidate.
Hoffman and Marchessault are nearly identical. Hoffman has averaged 255 shots in the last two seasons. With his shot, that makes him a consistent 30-goal threat and he’s registered 30, 35, 34 and 34 assists in the last four seasons, so he’s a safe 30-30 pick with the 70-point upside he showed in his first season with the Panthers.
Upon his return to the Flyers, van Riemsdyk missed 16 games but still managed to score 27 goals with 21 assists (48 points) thanks to a hot finish. He won’t provide much in the assist column, but he’s locked onto the second-line and top power-play, making him a 30-goal candidate for the third time in his career. His upside is limited but his floor is reliable.
The biggest concern for Rakell is the team he plays for. The Ducks don’t project to be very good in 2020 and that limits Rakell’s upside. There is room for improvement upon his 2019 stats though. He shot 9.3 percent, the lowest since his rookie campaign and an 8.5 on-ice SH% certainly has room for positive regression. Rakell’s shot volume will allow him to score 25-to-30 goals, but the lack of talent around him will likely limit his assist total for the second consecutive season.
Kreider tied his career-high of 28 goals with 52 points last season. After the offseason addition of Panarin, Kreider will be bumped to the second-line but still has his spot on the first power-play unit to fall back on. His upside has never been great but he’s a solid 25-25 bet.
A slow start and injuries led to a wasted 2019 season for Ehlers. Ice-time is going to be the key for Ehlers. He has averaged 214 shots per 82-games over the last three seasons despite playing just 16:05 and 15:46 ATOI in the last two years. At worst, he plays the same amount as last year and is a 25-goal, 20-assist bottom of your roster player. Best case scenario, he sees an uptick in ice-time (more likely) and has 30/30 upside.
In his first full season with the Sharks, Kane scored 30 goals for the second time in his career and was one-point off of his career-high with 56. His shot volume is elite and that will allow him to maintain that 30-goal, 50-point pace. Where he adds extra value is in leagues that count PIMS and hits—ranking fourth among forwards in PIMS (348) and 36th in hits (441) over the last three seasons.
Lee has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers in the NHL in recent years. In the last three seasons, Lee ranks 13th in goals (102) but tied for 200th in assists (63). Averaging just 21 assists per season limits his value but his consistent 30-goal production is worth the late-round investment.
Gusev has come over from the KHL, where he led SKA Petersburg SKA with 82 points (17G / 65A) last season. He was acquired from Vegas and signed with the Devils where he will line-up next to @Jack Hughes on their second-line. His playmaking ability and spot in a talented Devils top-6 makes him a great sleeper pick. There is always a risk/reward with KHL imports. He could be the next Panarin but then there was @Vadim Shipachyov.
Granlund struggled following a mid-season trade to Nashville last season, scoring just once with four assists in 16 games. One negative for Granlund coming into 2020 is he will be relegated to the second power-play unit. He had 20 and 19 PPP in his final two seasons in Minnesota. On a positive, training camp line combos are indicating that he will skate on the top-line with newcomer @Matt Duchene and Forsberg. He’s a solid bet for 15-plus goals and 35-plus assists with upside if that top-line clicks.
Pacioretty is expected to open the season on the Golden Knights’ top-line with @Paul Stastny and @Mark Stone. The trio dominated puck possession at the end of last season and could breakout in 2020. The problem for Pacioretty is his elite shot volume has evaporated. Without firing 300-plus shots, Pacioretty will have a difficult time hitting 30 goals ever again. After 37 and 40-point seasons, Pacioretty will come as a bargain on draft day and carries solid upside.
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