Hello and welcome in the third installment in this series in which I break down my top 20 left wingers for fantasy hockey in 2020/21. 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 or Right Wingers list he will not be on my Top 20 Left Wingers list even if he is eligible in most leagues. Let’s kick it off with #10:
Taylor Hall gets us started at #10, a bit of an oddball after a season that saw him traded midway through. Hall ended up with 52 points in 65 games, not a bad total but certainly a far cry from his 93-point, Hart-Trophy-winning effort in 2017/18. While Hall is unlikely to repeat that outlier of a season any time soon, his level of play has not dropped off in any way, shape, or form and he is due for a rebound in 2020/21. While Hall has never shot for a particularly high percentage, his 6.9% S% in 2019/20 was incredibly low. As a UFA it will be of significant interest to the fantasy hockey community where Hall lands for the 2020/21 season – this is still a top line talent capable of PPG production in the right situation. I projected Hall for about 19 minutes of ice time since whoever signs him will undoubtedly do so expecting Hall to be their #1 LW and a primary power play weapon. Hall has previously demonstrated the ability to maintain his personal level of play across all three teams he has played for, and I expect him to be a very bankable fantasy option in 2020/21, and one that will likely be undervalued by other players.
Max Pacioretty is my #9 left winger for 2020/21 after a career season that was unfortunately cut short before he could set a new career high in points. Pacioretty has clearly settled in with the Golden Knights, establishing great chemistry with Mark Stone en route to leading the entire league in individual chances for/60. His underlying stats were beyond elite, ranking in the top 3 leaguewide in almost every chance for category. Pacioretty had been declining in those areas previously but clearly found the fountain of youth in his second season in Vegas. I have a hard time betting against a player whose underlying stats suggest he could have had an ever better season than the one he did, and therefore I’m projecting Pacioretty to finally break the 70-point barrier for the first time in his career in 2020/21. The bonus? If your league tracks shots and/or hits, Pacioretty provides great production in those categories as well.
At #8 we have the Calgary Flames’ mighty mite Johnny Gaudreau. Like many other Flames players, Gaudreau had a dreadful 2019/20 season offensively, scoring just 58 points in 70 games after putting up 183 across 162 games in the previous two seasons. Gaudreau is probably the most typical bounceback candidate out there; his IPP dropped about 4% off his career average while his S% cratered, going from 14.7% in 2018/19 to just 8.6% in 2019/20. Moreover his individual chances for rates held constant despite the reduced production while his on-ice chances for rates decreased significantly, evidence that his teammates were more responsible for the reduced production than he was personally. While his on-ice xGF/60 dropped by nearly 0.5, his actual GF/60 dropped off a cliff from 4.77 to 3.65, a clear sign of a lack of puck luck. Overall I expect Gaudreau to get back to the PPG range in 2020/21 with relative ease.
Teuvo Teravainen occupies the #7 spot in my rankings, and it may surprise some people to see him ranked above recognizable names like Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Hall, but I think Teravainen is severely underrated. He gets the Nicklas Backstrom treatment because he’s a pass-first player who will consistently put up extremely assist-heavy point totals. Teravainen only scored 15 goals in 2019/20 which will make him less attractive to some fantasy managers in 2020/21 drafts, but he shot just 8.2% after shooting 12.5% in the previous two seasons. His IPP also dropped significantly and he should get some 6-7% back next year. Despite the drop in goal scoring, Teravainen maintained his individual chances for rates and saw improvement in his on-ice rates. Another potential plus for Teravainen is the continued development of star-in-the-making Andrei Svechnikov. If Svechnikov sticks with Teravainen and Sebastian Aho on the top line for the Hurricanes in 2020/21, this trio could elevate each other to brand new heights.
Kyle Connor rounds out this group at #6 for me after a career season in which he elevated to PPG player status as a fixture on Winnipeg’s top line with Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine. Connor is the best left wing pure goal scorer not named Alexander Ovechkin, and I fully expect him to eclipse 40 goals in 2020/21. Connor gets scads of ice time (21:05/game last year) and improved his individual chances for rates even at that level of usage, a truly impressive feat. If you need goals from the LW position Connor is your man, a remarkably consistent career 15-16% shooter playing the vast majority of his minutes alongside the best talent the Jets have to offer. He even has some room to grow in terms of his PP contributions, a development that could push him as high as the 90-point mark in 2020/21.
Now that left wingers 6-10 have been revealed, let’s put them side by side and I’ll explain the rankings a little bit:
Hall, Pacioretty, and Gaudreau represent a cluster to me. I won’t fight you on how you order them, but for me Hall’s situational uncertainty holds him down at this point. Gaudreau has shown that 99-point potential which keeps him ahead of Pacioretty (still looking for his first 70-point season). Teravainen is a virtual lock for a PPG in my mind but Connor’s rarer goal-scoring ability and significant shot total contributions keep him above Teravainen despite 4 less projected total points. These two compare very similarly to my #3-5 players, but you’ll have to come back later to see who those guys are.
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!