Finally, October is nearing and that marks not only the beginning of another NHL season, but the start of fantasy hockey as well.
Coming off a historically successful season, mired by a crushing playoff defeat, the Calgary Flames are a team to keep your eye on in fantasy drafts this year. Several Flames broke out last season under a new coach and new system, and once again there are several Flames who can aid in steering your team to victory.
DFO’s draft kit released last week has comprehensive rankings for the top 300 fantasy players and nine Flames made the list. Here’s how their projections break down:
13th: Johnny Gaudreau, LW
Hot off his best season in the NHL with 34 goals and 99 points, Gaudreau is projected to hit 31 goals and 89 points this season. A bit of a decline from the last, but Gaudreau is still ranked the fourth best left winger and should be drafted in the mid-teens. He’s an elite offensive producer and though he won’t have high hit or block totals, he’s reliable for basically everything else on a nightly basis.
44th: Sean Monahan, C
Center is always one of the deepest positions in fantasy, but Monahan, his seat at the number-one-center table often under review, has been a solid fantasy center for several years now. The 2019-20 season is no different, with Monahan coming in at 44th overall and the 15th ranked center. With a projected 32 goals and 74 points, along with 10 powerplay goals and over 200 shots, Monahan is a great choice for a 2-3 center on your fantasy team. It’s unlikely Flames head coach Bill Peters will split Monahan and Gaudreau up, and having an elite playmaker on his wing adds to his reliability to produce consistently.
Read More: Daily Faceoff’s Flames lines and pairings
59th: Matthew Tkachuk, LW
Tkachuk had his best season last year, putting up 34 goals and 77 points. He’s projected to reach 28 goals and 68 points this season, a slight dip from last year but with over 200 shots, 20 powerplay points, and 100 hit potential, Tkachuk offers excellent category coverage with added value in banger leagues. If Tkachcuk plays a full season, I personally feel that the 68 potential is a tad low. With guaranteed top-six duties and top powerplay time, there isn’t any reason to suggest he won’t hit the 70 point mark again, and maybe even top last year’s totals. The big wild card with Tkachuk is his contract, in that he doesn’t have one. With Mitch Marner signing in Toronto, the hope is that the rest of the RFAs will sign in short order, but Marner isn’t a great comparable for Tkachuk in general and there aren’t signs he will sign before the season starts. This definitely hurts his draft stock, but if he’s available before the 70th pick he’s worth drafting.
61st: Mark Giordano, D
For two straight years, Giordano was the second fittest Flames player in training camp. This year, at 36 years old and fresh off a Norris Trophy win, Giordano finished first. He truly is a unicorn and until he starts to show signs of dropping off, it would be foolish to sleep on him in fantasy. Brent Burns got the edge as fantasy MVP on the blueline over Giordano last season, but it was a close call. So far this season in Yahoo leagues, Burns’ ADP is 15.9 whereas Giordano’s is 69.0. That’s way too low for a player of Giordano’s calibre, whose projected 17 goals, 53 points, and 16 powerplay points are all probably more conservative estimates than they should be. With an average of around one hit and two blocks per game as well, Giordano covers every category and can anchor your fantasy blueline. He’s the seventh ranked defender, but can easily finish in the top five or even top three. Don’t leave him on the board until 61.
103rd: Elias Lindholm, C/RW
Scarcity at the right wing position make Lindholm a valuable commodity on its own, but the potential to play the majority of the season with Gaudreau and Monahan makes Lindholm a must-own player. His ranking of 103rd and the 21st ranked right winger is probably a little low, but it’s not unexpected considering Lindholm just had his breakout year last season. However, being on a new team, at a new position, with much better linemates, and a coach who loves him are all reasons to believe Lindholm can replicate his success this season as well. There has been talk of Lindholm spending time at center this year, but with the Flames’ depth down the middle it doesn’t make sense to do that any time soon. For two straight days at training camp, Lindholm has skated on the right side of the top line with Gaudreau and Monahan, and that’s exactly where he’ll probably spend the majority of his time as a Flame. His projection of 20 goals and 62 points are significantly lower than his production last season, and if you can grab him before the 100th pick he could reward you with 30 goal and 70 point output this year.
Read Also: Daily Faceoff’s injury news page
149th: David Rittich, G
It’s tough to evaluate fantasy goalies nowadays with teams opting for the 1A/1B tandem. Calgary is no different in that regard, with the initial impression being that Rittich and Cam Talbot will shoulder similar workloads for the Flames this season. On the DFO top 300, Rittich is expected to start 45 games and Talbot 37. I’m not sure that will last, though. Rittich was legitimately one of the best goalies in the entire NHL last season up until the beginning of January when he suffered a lower body injury. Rittich could end up being an excellent second string goalie for your fantasy team, and with a ranking of 149 and the 25th ranked goalie, there is major sleeper potential here. Rittich should be taken as the 15-20th goalie and has the potential to exceed even that ranking this season. He should be able to beat both his projected .909 SV% and 2.70 GAA.
209th: Cam Talbot, G
Unfortunately, with all the praise for Rittich, his backup gets the opposite treatment. Talbot should be a serviceable backup goalie for the Flames this season, but Rittich could easily exceed 50 starts which would lower Talbot’s value significantly. 209th and the 31st ranked goalie is likely where Talbot will end up at the end of the season, and though I wouldn’t draft him to be my third string goalie, he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses. Goaltending is, as they say, voodoo and there’s no telling just how the battle for the Flames’ crease will end up.
222nd: Mikael Backlund, C
Not being a number one center hurts Backlund’s value as center depth is so good in fantasy, but there is a serious possibility he goes undrafted in a lot of leagues. He’s ranked as the 49th best center and projected to score 20 goals, 49 points, around 200 shots, and 10 powerplay points, which is probably right around where he’ll finish at the end of the year. Backlund’s offensive output largely depends on whether Tkachuk spends the majority of his time on his wing, and with that situation in flux, it’s tough to accurately predict how he’ll do; Sam Bennett is a massive downgrade on Tkachuk. Still, with 50 point potential, Backlund is someone to keep an eye out for in late rounds and on the waiver wire as he could provide sneaky value during hot streaks. The one knock on Backlund throughout the years has been his finishing ability, but if Tkachuk or even Lindholm spend good chunks of time on his wing, he could surpass the 50 point mark.
281st: Noah Hanifin, D
Once the highest touted prospect in his draft class, Hanifin has struggled to maintain fantasy relevancy throughout his NHL career so far. He did hit a career high 33 points last season, and with a 10 goal campaign under his belt from two seasons ago in Carolina, Hanifin might be a breakout candidate this season. With a consistent defense partner in Travis Hamonic, Hanifin may be able to jump into the rush with more frequency and pad his point totals. The only issue with Hanifin is that he doesn’t get any powerplay time, so all his offense will come at 5v5. He is projected to average one hit, one block, and just under two shots per game, so he is worth a flier as a 5-6 defender.