Welcome back for the seventh installment of my series on the top NHL fantasy hockey players of 2019/20, where I dive deep into how they performed this year and try to project what their 2020/21 season might look like. You can go back and read my previous article on Brad Marchand here. Let’s get the basics out of the way:
Unofficial Attractiveness Score (as judged by my wife): 7/10
Kucherov was on pace for his third straight 100-point campaign when it was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kucherov is another player who enjoys playing with elite teammates on an elite team, giving him a very solid floor as a consistent top-10 point producer in the NHL. While he didn’t replicate his Art Ross-winning performance from 2018/19, Kucherov still provided solid return on investment for fantasy managers this year and should do so again in 2020/21. Let’s dig a little deeper:
Kucherov’s 77.98% IPP was somehow the worst mark he’s posted in the last four years, a pretty astounding stat overall. His S% regressed predictably from his 2018/19 career high 16.7% mark, but he balanced that by bumping his shots/60 back closer to the level established by the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons. Remarkably, his individual chances for stats in 2018/19 were below the the prior two seasons and 2019/20 marked a partial improvement back to those levels. Kucherov saw a significant IPP drop on the power play, which accounts for nearly all of the overall IPP decrease. Kucherov falling off the 128-point pace of that magical 2018/19 season was one of the most predictable regressions out there, but this is still a 100-point player more seasons than not. What was not predictable was Kucherov getting played significantly less by head coach Jon Cooper, dropping from 19:57 TOI/game in 2018/19 to 18:51/game in 2019/20. This difference was almost exclusively taken up in his even strength usage. Think of that difference like this: Kucherov scores about 3.5 points per 60 minutes at even strength. Take away 82 minutes in a season (1 minute per game) and you take 4.78 points from Kucherov’s end of season point total. While it’s not the end of the world, this potential usage decrease moving forward has to be factored in as a sort of “soft cap” on Kucherov’s ceiling. This being said, Kucherov played more than 20 minutes in 7 out of the Lightning’s last 8 games, so perhaps Cooper’s usage of Kucherov increased over the course of the season. Play the reigning Art Ross winner, bro.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Kucherov is (as expected) the driver of play for the Lightning. His effect on 5v5 shots for/60 rates is positive for every one of the teammates he spent more 100 minutes on the ice with over the course of the season. Overall, Kucherov is an elite player and will return great value on a first round pick in 2020/21 fantasy drafts. I put his floor at 94 points for next season, with a ceiling of 115 points (if Cooper starts playing him 20 minutes a game again).
2020/21 Projection: 80 GP, 39 G, 62 A, 101 PTS
- Kucherov’s regression to merely superstar levels in 2019/20 was predictable
- His production level this year is more or less where he should end up for 2020/21
- Cooper’s reduced usage of Kucherov limits his 110+ point upside
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