Hello and welcome in to my second positional series, in this one I will break down my top 20 right wingers for fantasy hockey in 2020/21. You can find my articles on the Top 20 Centers here. These projections and rankings may vary over time as the draft/free agency/coaching changes come down, but at least this should give everyone a place to start. Before we get started, I just want to clarify that I am not allowing any overlap, so if a player made my Top 20 Centers list he will not be on my Top 20 Right Wingers list even if he is eligible in most leagues. Let’s kick it off with #20:
Timo Meier comes in at #20 on this list after a disappointing 49-point season that mirrored the Sharks’ struggles as a team. I think Meier is a better player than some of the wingers I have ranked higher than him, but the lack of high-end talent in the Sharks’ top-six is a big problem. Kevin Labanc is the Sharks’ best playmaking forward but he also plays right wing which means he and Meier only see the ice together on the PP. These factors significantly limit Meier’s upside, which I see as a 70+ point level in the right situation with a playmaking center. His individual and team chances for rates declined significantly in 2019/20 from his 66-point 2018/19 campaign, which frankly is to be expected for a goal-scoring winger whose team play suffered. He did play well when paired with Tomas Hertl so that will be a line combo to watch for 2020/21. Meier does offer good shot volume and value in hits leagues, which solidified his spot inside the top 20 even given his subpar situation.
Jakub Voracek is my #19 right winger for 2020/21, a steep drop from just a couple years ago when he would have made a lot of top-5 and certainly top-10 lists. Voracek has never delivered many goals or shots for fantasy owners, but 2019/20 was chock-full of warning signs for Voracek. Perhaps most concerning was the 1:38 less ice time he saw per game, including 20 seconds of power play time. He also fired two less shots per 60 and saw corresponding drops in individual chances for rates. Perhaps most concerning for a playmaker like Voracek was the 7 fewer chances/60 and 4 fewer scoring chances/60 that Philadelphia generated with him on the ice in 2019/20. I haven’t given up on Voracek but he’s now on the wrong side of 30 with a lot of red flags, and therefore carries a higher than average amount of risk to underperform his projections.
Reilly Smith slots in at #18 for me after a second straight 50+ point season for the Vegas Golden Knights. Smith probably got a little lucky in 2019/20 with a 16% shooting percentage and a career high IPP of 70.1%, but this is a guy who is going to provide 50-60 points next year and you can pretty much bank it now. Smith was impressively consistent on a chances for basis between 2018/19 and 2019/20 and was deployed at the roughly the same rate. You can argue for a Timo Meier on the basis of upside and I wouldn’t fight that, but there is also value in knowing that for Smith, the absolute worst season imaginable is still probably a 48 point campaign. Unlike most of the other wingers on this list, Smith doesn’t often see time on the PP1 unit which does cap his upside. I’m projecting Smith to do pretty much what he’s done the past two years: score in the mid 50s point-wise with 20-25 goals.
Tyler Toffoli is a tough player to rank without knowing where he will be playing in 2020/21, but I made the assumption that whoever does sign him will be paying him a good salary to play a top-6 role and PP1. Toffoli has consistently posted very high individual and team chance for rates throughout his career, with a small understandable dip over his past two seasons with the sinking Los Angeles Kings. This season he was sixth among right wingers in both individual and team chance for rates, and put up 10 points in 10 games upon arrival in Vancouver after the trade deadline. It wouldn’t surprise me if Toffoli found a good situation and a playmaking center that awakened his 30-goal, 65+ point potential. Until then, I’ll bank on a mid 50s point range:
Bryan Rust gets my #16 ranking after a shocking breakout season in 2019/20 that saw him post over a PPG in 55 games of work. That he shot 5% higher than his previous career high is obviously suspicious, although his IPP did hold constant at 62%. It’s obvious to anyone who watched the Penguins or took a cursory look at the stats that Rust getting a shot to play with Evgeni Malkin was the story of Rust’s breakout. Rust performed much worse away from Malkin but was a mainstay on Malkin’s right side whenever the two were healthy. Health is a concern with Rust as he’s missed at least ten games every year of his career and needs to be accounted for when ranking and selecting Rust in 2020/21. One other stat that won’t be repeated in 2020/21: Rust shot 33% on the power play, where he saw 2:47 of ice/game in extended work on the Pens’ PP1 unit. Overall Rust saw nearly 4 more minutes of ice time per game which makes him one of the highest usage wingers on this list – opportunity will be there for him to make a fantasy impact. While Rust won’t get a PPG in 2020/21, there’s no reason to think the Pens will break up his successful partnership with Malkin which gives him 60 point potential for 2020/21:
Now that right wingers 16-20 have been revealed, let’s put them side by side and I’ll explain the rankings a little bit:
Meier gets the bottom slot here due to his situation and not much else. Plus/minus is a concern for those in leagues that still track this stat, but he makes up for it with shot and hit totals. Voracek is projected to score more points than Smith or Toffoli, but will shoot/score less, is a negative for bangers categories, and carries risk of falling off completely that I don’t see for the other two. Smith and Toffoli are very similar in many respects, but I think Toffoli has more upside depending on team fit and will generate more shots. Rust should outscore everyone else here as long as he’s attached to Malkin and seeing PP1 time, and provides significant bangers value as a bonus.
Honorable Mentions: T.J. Oshie, Kevin Lablanc, Pavel Buchnevich, Tom Wilson
I actually have Oshie and Lablanc projected to match Meier with 53 points, but neither will hit or shoot as much as Meier or have the same goal-scoring upside which gave Meier the edge. Oshie is 33 and his best days are certainly behind him so betting on the younger players is likely the play here. Lablanc actually drove the 5v5 play of every linemate to new levels and I would love his fantasy potential if he had 30+ goal scoring linemates to feed. Buchnevich to me is a play on how much you like his linemate Mika Zibanejad. I’ve been unequivocal in projecting Zibanejad well below where most people would take him, which caps Buchnevich’s ability to improve on this year’s point production. Tom Wilson gets a nod here because of his otherworldly hit totals and 40-50 point production, a fantastic play in bangers leagues.
Stay tuned for ranks 11-15!
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