A fun game to play before the fantasy season: figuring out who this year’s biggest breakouts and busts are. Who is this year’s Varlamov, Johansen, Clarkson, and more?
You can set your watch to certain events every fantasy season. One free agent bust gives way to the next, and one breakout rookie passes the torch to another. The “Who is This Year’s…” game helps poolies because it provides a ton of information by comparing two names. “Jake Allen is good” says a little. “Jake Allen is this year’s Semyon Varlamov” says a lot. Time to play.
WHO IS THIS YEAR’S…
Johansen, the fourth-overall pick in 2010, scored 14 goals in his first 107 games. In 2013-14, he exploded for 33 goals. A young gun set to go off this season is Alex Galchenyuk. He hasn’t been bad, tallying 58 points over his first two seasons, but he’s just scratching the surface of his ability, and he missed 17 games in 2013-14. He’s a future star, and a leap into the 60-point stratosphere is within reach.
Out-of-nowhere goalie sensation
Varlamov wasn’t a nobody entering 2013-14, but he was struggling. Then Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy arrived to coach Colorado. ‘Varly’ was a changed man and a profitable late-round grab in pools. This year, Jake Allen will pay off similarly. He’s guaranteed an NHL job and will post outstanding numbers with the stellar Blues defense in front of him. He’ll earn at least a split of the starts with Brian Elliott, with potential for a lot more.
Return to grace
Boston was silly to give up on Tyler Seguin. He was too talented to stay down after a poor year, and he was just 21. Dallas jumped at the chance to get him, and he finished fourth in league scoring. Watch for a bounce-back from Eric Staal. A 61-point campaign after eight straight seasons at a pace of 70 or more? Toss it out. He’s still just 29.
From star to superstar
Subban’s Norris Trophy in 2012-13 was no fluke. He was a dominant force in 2013-14 and will be among the league’s top D-men for years to come. In just his second season, watch for Nathan MacKinnon to make a leap into the elite. Hyperbole? Not if you watched him in the 2014 playoffs. He gains steam with the puck like a young Pavel Bure. In addition, MacKinnon has a great supporting cast in Colorado and could be a top-10 scorer as soon as this year.
Free agent boom
It’s a night-and-day change for Christian Ehrhoff going from Buffalo to Pittsburgh. He’ll inherit the departed Matt Niskanen’s power play minutes and should post his best numbers in years on a potent offensive club.
Free agent bust
The Panthers will pay Dave Bolland like a star at $5.5 million per, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s a viable fantasy commodity. He’s injury-prone and a better player in real life than in fantasy pools.
Major goalie regression
Anderson’s regression was primarily because of health, and Ben Scrivens is a red flag because the Oilers are terrible defensively. He dazzled after they acquired him from the Kings, but his save percentage fell each month after his arrival: .940, .918, .904, .903.
Cagey vet who finally shows his age
There was nowhere for Whitney to go but down after he stayed around a point per game entering 2013-14, and his production was cut almost in half. Jaromir Jagr won’t regress that much, but a 67-point season was absurd at 42. Pay for that production and you’ll get burned.
THE DROUIN (Overhyped rookie): Nick Ritchie
THE SEKERA (Bargain on ‘D’): Tyson Barrie
THE PALAT (Surprise rookie): Calle Jarnkrok
THE HALL (Great offense on bad team): Erik Karlsson
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
This is an extended version of a feature that appears in the Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide edition of The Hockey News magazine. Learn how to get your hands on it here.