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 #11-15 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 #10:
Coming in at #10, the Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha is the best winger in the league that no one is talking about. He’s a dominant physical force at 6’5″ and 234 lbs and provides the kind of skill that among Red Wings players only linemate Dylan Larkin can match. I’ve spoken previously about how little regard I have for Tyler Bertuzzi, and I think that the Red Wings are a Bertuzzi replacement away from having a dynamic first line of 70+ point scorers. While Mantha’s IPP jumped 5% in 2019/20, his shooting percentage dropped by a point and of those additional assists he collected to boost his IPP, over two thirds were first assists (last to touch the puck before the goal scorer). Detroit’s abysmal power play (14.9% success rate in 2019/20, 29th in the league) has nowhere to go but up, and Mantha would be a key beneficiary there, particularly after seeing an additional 45 seconds/game of PP time last season. Overall, Mantha is a high usage winger on a top line, and as long as he can stay healthy he should return around 30 goals and 65 points.
William Nylander fills my #9 spot and is a tough player to project. On one hand, you have an IPP of 70.2% (7% above his average the previous two seasons) and a shooting percentage of 15.7% (more than 5% above his career average). On the other hand, Nylander was a noted whipping boy of former coach Mike Babcock and really began to shine once Sheldon Keefe took over. On one hand, Nylander’s on-ice CF/60 rate clocks in just below Auston Matthews, Sebastian Aho, and Evgeni Malkin, while his on-ice SCF/60 ranks higher than consensus top-5 right wingers David Pastrnak, Nikita Kucherov, and Patrick Kane. On the other hand, those rates actually represent a decrease from his 2018/19 levels – perhaps he’s just an elite chance generator without a lot of finish; or perhaps he finally started to put that piece of the puzzle together in 2019/20, resulting in the elevated IPP and S%. I do believe that there is more to the story with Nylander and his ranking/projection is the one I am least comfortable with. Given his newfound standing with Keefe, PP1 usage, and increased 5v5 ice time, Nylander’s floor to me is about 60 points. However there is a legitimate argument to be made that he has not yet reached his full potential and given his elite chances for rates he has 80-90 point potential if he can continue turning chances into points at an increased rate. It’s not unfathomable that he could be on a Pastrnak-lite curve and the next stop is PPG status. Time will tell…
Patrik Laine is my #8 right winger and represents a second straight tough projection. During his first two seasons, he looked the part of a perennial 40-goal scorer, shooting a tad below 18% with 80 goals in 155 games before his 20th birthday. The last two years have seen Laine regress to a mere 58 goals in 150 games with a shooting percentage of 12.3%. Laine did add a heretofore untapped playmaking element to his game in 2019/20, delivering a career high 35 assists in 68 games. Laine still generates individual chances for at a fantastic rate, but for whatever reason seems to be unable to convert those chances into goals the same way he was able to in his first two NHL seasons. It’s certainly not an issue of talent as anyone who has seen Laine’s heavy wrister with the lightning quick release or his one-time bomb from the left side can attest. But until the old Laine rears his head again, we can’t expect anything more than the new normal to continue. Laine did see over 2 minutes/game of extra ice time in 2019/20 which makes his point-scoring prospects even more appealing. Laine is another floor/ceiling kind of guy – the ceiling is similar to Nylander’s at 80-90 points (albeit Laine has real 50-goal ability), but Laine’s floor was demonstrated in his abysmal 50-point 2017/18 season. I don’t anticipate that low level of production to be within the range of outcomes for Laine in 2020/21 due to his elevated usage and newfound playmaking ability, but Laine is certainly capable of tanking for 10-20 games at a time which is a worrying prospect for fantasy owners.
Mark Stone slots in at #7 for me, not nearly as volatile a projection as the previous two players but not without his warts. Foremost is Stone’s injury history, which is extensive: prior to last season he had missed at least 23 games in three of his previous four campaigns. Last season was much more encouraging and Stone finished with 63 points in 65 games. Stone shot more often than his career average in 2019/20 but with less success, with an IPP above his career average but not exceedingly so. If Stone can stay healthy he should be in the 70-80 point range due to year-over-year slowly increasing individual and team chances for rates and extensive usage (19:23/game in 2019/20). If you’re amenable to his injury history, Stone represents a very safe bet to produce points while on the ice.
Andrei Svechnikov rounds out this group for me with the #6 billing. I have to confess up front to a having a bit of a man-crush on Svechnikov, and it’s not due to his lacrosse-goal highlight reels. This is a player who just turned 20 and ranked first in the entire NHL in expected goals for/60, scoring chances for/60, and high danger chances for/60. He spent half the year toiling alongside Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele, so these aren’t Aho-inflated numbers. In fact, Aho generated less chances for away from Svechnikov than Svechnikov did away from Aho. The biggest thing holding down Svechnikov is a lack of ice time (16:44 last season) I expect him to get up into the 17:30-18:00 range in year 3 (because you’d have to be an idiot not play the single most efficient player in the league more often next year), and at that level of usage I expect him to sit right around the PPG mark. If Carolina suddenly decided to ride Svechnikov at a 19:30/game rate he would have 90+ point potential – make no mistake, Svechnikov is a superstar in the making. Oh yeah, and he hits, too.
Now that right wingers 6-10 have been revealed, let’s put them side by side and I’ll explain the rankings a little bit:
Mantha is held down by his situation as I mentioned but I strongly believe in the talent and think he’ll find a way to get to the 65 point range (the Red Wings can’t be worse, right?). Nylander and Laine definitely have more upside for next season, but as I mentioned they are tough to project definitively and I may need to dive deeper on both players. That could affect these rankings as we get closer to the start of next season. I rank Stone above both due to his consistency and rising level of play over the last three years or so. In his second full season with the Knights he should be comfortable and produce accordingly. Svechnikov is closer to the tier of players above him than those below him in my opinion, with huge upside as a player I believe will score 90+ points multiple times in his career.
NOTE: It came to my attention partway through this series that I had somehow neglected Vladimir Tarasenko in these rankings. He would rank just below Patrik Laine for me in the #9 slot; here is his projection:
Stay tuned for ranks 1-5 as we finish up the series!
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