Are you ready? We’re back to the 82-game regular season format, which means more joy and also more pain. It’s a roller coaster of emotions every season because there are always surprises, and the good ones can make us feel like geniuses while the bad ones feel like belly flopping into an empty pool.
But we’re all gluttons for punishment, so we might as well stay as informed as we can to later rationalize why the fantasy hockey gods hate you. Yes, they specifically hate you.
2021-22 Fantasy Outlook: Dallas Stars
Last season: It’s hard to reach the Finals again when a COVID-19 outbreak delays the start of your season and when almost every key player misses significant time due to injury. Anton Khudobin started just 32 games and was merely average. Roope Hintz missed 15 games and basically played hurt all season. Alexander Radulov missed nearly the entire season, Joel Kiviranta missed over half and Tyler Seguin only made a brief appearance at the end of the season. They had poor luck with injuries and even poorer luck with a league-worst six shootout losses; Joe Pavelski was an uncharacteristic 1-for-8, and the Stars became the first team since the 2014-15 Kings to miss the playoffs after reaching the Finals in the previous season. They made a valiant effort to grind out games, but the margin for error was often too small, and a tiny slip due to a bad bounce or injury would usually end up costing them.
Best option: Roope Hintz, C.
Calder runner-up Jason Robertson is also a good option, and THN’s Pool Guide has Hintz and Robertson tied for 71 points. But there’s zero chance Robertson will fly under the radar now, and keep in mind his 13.4 S% is considered well above-average. Robertson may be just the 27th rookie in the cap era to average a goal every three games (min. 50 GP), but their shooting percentages tend to dip in their sophomore season. Hintz may likewise experience a dip, but only because he has improbably improved his shooting percentage for two straight seasons to an incredible 16.3 S%, and he was just one of 22 players to average over a point per game (min. 28 GP). His possession numbers took a huge step forward playing on a line with Pavelski and Robertson, registering a 57.47 CF% in 238 5v5 minutes compared to 50.70 5v5 CF% when none were on the ice, according to naturalstattrick.com. Hintz is poised to be one of the breakout stars for the 2021-22 season.
Hidden gem: Tyler Seguin, C.
Seguin will turn 30 in January and played just three games last season, snapping a streak of four seasons in which he didn’t miss a single game. It was apparent in the 2020 playoffs that he was nursing an injury, and scoring two goals upon his return was a very positive sign. He should be available in most leagues in the middle rounds because his lack of games played and recent injury history will push him down preseason lists, but prior to his injury, Seguin was a point-per-game player and the Stars’ best option on offense. Obviously, his fantasy value comes with risk, but the rewards could be potentially great. The Pool Guide projects Seguin to lead the Stars in scoring with 72 points.
Goalies: Nothing has been formally announced, but it’s expected the Stars will go with a tandem of Khudobin and Braden Holtby with Ben Bishop still recovering from injury and Jake Oettinger likely headed back to the American League because he’s exempt from waivers. The Stars are a tough defensive team, which is good news for their goalies, but if Holtby continues to struggle to regain his Cup-winning form, he will cede more starts to Khudobin. Most fantasy preseason ranks have Khudobin near the bottom, but he’s made a habit of proving his doubters wrong and for the three teams he’s played at least 50 games – Boston, Carolina and Dallas – his save percentage has never dipped below .914 and ranks 12th with a .917 Sv% (min. 200 GP) since entering the league. Khudobin should be a mid-round target for those bullish on the Stars and, at worst, a fantastic value pick in the later rounds.
Outlook: The Stars have an identity and doubled down on their defense by signing the boring-but-steady Ryan Suter and Jani Hakanpaa, one of the league’s most physical defenseman. Offense is more of a luxury with Radulov and Pavelski both over 35 years old, and Jamie Benn is 32 with declining offensive production. Even on defense, Miro Heiskanen doesn’t get enough power-play opportunities to really rack up the points, and top prospect Thomas Harley is definitely a threat to take whatever minutes are left behind by John Klingberg. The Stars win most of their games in low-scoring affairs – they finished 26th and 18th in GF/GP over the past two seasons – but Seguin, Hintz and Robertson certainly have first-line upside. They’re the only three Stars projected to score at least 70 points, according to THN’s Pool Guide.