Hello and welcome in to my second positional series breaking down my top 20 right wingers for fantasy hockey in 2020/21. You can find my previous article on right wingers #16-20 here, and 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:
Oliver Bjorkstrand kicks us off at #15. Bjorkstrand broke out in a big way in 2019/20, registering 21 goals in just 49 games before a broken ankle curtailed his season. His ice time rose rapidly throughout the season as it became more and more apparent that he was the most dangerous offensive weapon available to the Blue Jackets. I have him maintaining the high usage levels he saw in particular over the last 10-12 games of his season, which I believe will translate to a big season for Bjorkstrand in 2020/21. This is a player approaching his prime who took a significant step forward in driving play and creating chances for even as his usage increased dramatically. In fact, among all right wingers Bjorkstrand ranked 4th in individual chances for/60 and 5th in individual scoring chances for/60. That’s Patrik Laine/Patrick Kane/David Pastrnak territory, and the fact that Bjorkstrand accomplished it on a Columbus team that ranked 26th in the league in goals per game makes the feat even more impressive. Bjorkstrand is a better version of Timo Meier for me; a great goal-scoring winger who is only held back by the lack of playmaking center. Bjorkstrand also seems likely to improve on the mere 6 power play points he posted last season, giving him exciting point growth potential. All in all, Bjorkstrand looks like a star on the rise and a potential draft-day steal if people overlook him due to his injury-shortened 2019/20 season.
Evgenii Dadonov comes in at #14 for me after a disappointing season that saw him register just 47 points in 65 games after two straight seasons producing at a 70-point pace. The good news is that Dadonov’s place on Florida’s top line alongside Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau seems secure, but the bad news is that Florida used that line significantly less often in 2019/20, resulting in a ice time drop of 1:16/game for Dadonov. I think he’ll get a small portion of that ice time back next year, especially after seeing how poorly the Panthers’ season went, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll see 18 and a half minutes per game again anytime soon. He also posted a career-low 52.8% IPP while his on-ice chances for stats actually improved over his 70-point 2019/20 campaign. Taking these factors into account I’m predicting a return to form for Dadonov in 2020/21, albeit at a slightly reduced point total due to the lack of ice time.
Travis Konecny at #13 is another player who enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2019/20, flirting with a PPG pace for much of the season and ultimately ending up with 61 points in 66 games. While he did see 1:33 of additional ice time per game in 2019/20, Konecny carries a couple of big warning signs, shooting 17% in after averaging 13.4% the previous two years, and rocking a Crosby-esque 80.2% IPP. I expect that number to come back down closer to his 72% 2018/19 mark for 2020/21. But there are definitely encouraging signs with Konecny as well. He saw first-unit PP usage in 2019/20 for the first time, and that resulted in an additional 15 points for him. His team chances for rates increased dramatically and I don’t see a reason why that should decrease next season as Konecny is entrusted with more responsibility at the ripe age of 23. While you shouldn’t expect 75 points from him, Konecny will be an excellent RW2 option for fantasy owners next year and beyond.
Brendan Gallagher fills in at #12 on this list, and I have to admit I was shocked by his chances for profile. Among all skaters, Gallagher ranked #2 in individual expected goals/60, #3 in individual chances for/60, and #1 in individual scoring chances for/60. Truly a terrific stat line, but perhaps most impressive is that none of those marks were career highs for Gallagher. In fact, Gallagher was overall pretty unlucky in 2019/20, posting his lowest S% and IPP of the past three seasons despite the great individual rates. Gallagher has an established line in Montreal with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault, and while you’d certainly like to see what Gallagher could do with A-list linemates, the trio had excellent chemistry in 2019/20, playing much better together than apart. Assuming they stay together next season, there’s no reason to think Gallagher couldn’t put together the best season of his career in 2020/21, particularly if the Canadiens’ moribund powerplay (22nd in the league in 2019/20) improves.
Brock Boeser sits just outside the top 10 for me, clocking in at #11. Boeser has had a tough time staying healthy in his young career, missing 12 games or more in each of his first 3 full seasons in the NHL. However there is a lot to like about Boeser: he sees a solid amount of ice time for a winger including top line work at 5v5 with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller, his IPP and S% were markedly down in 2019/20 suggesting a potential positive regression for next season, and at the ripe age of 23 he already has two 30+ goal pace seasons under his belt. If I could be assured for full health for Boeser he would certainly be in the top 10, but while I don’t like to project injuries the history here is such that I’m putting 10 missed games into his projection for 2020/21. Fingers crossed, fellow Boeser owners.
Now that right wingers 11-15 have been revealed, let’s put them side by side and I’ll explain the rankings a little bit:
Bjorkstrand occupies the last rung here simply due to his situation. Transplant him to Boeser’s situation on Pettersson’s wing and I might lose my mind projecting 80+ points, but for now Bjorkstrand looks like a 60-point player on a bad Columbus offense to me. Dadonov looks like a sure bet to rebound but that rebound should fall below Konecny’s value due to the decreased ice time. I’ve actually projected Konecny for the most points out of this group, but I have Gallagher above Konecny for his goal-scoring ability plus shot and hit total advantage. I have Boeser above both of those two just because I strongly believe in his upside should he ever manage to stay healthy over a full season, especially since I’m projecting linemate Elias Pettersson to take another step forward in his 3rd NHL season.
Stay tuned for ranks 6-10!
If you’ve enjoyed this content I hope that you’ll take a minute and fill out my five-question survey here as I explore the possibility of doing this full-time. Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.
Thanks for reading, you are much appreciated!