Hello and welcome in for the fourth and final 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 #5:
Jonathan Huberdeau is my #5 left winger for 2020/21 and it’s not hard to see why: Huberdeau has produced at a 92-point pace in both of the past two seasons, providing extremely consistent production for fantasy owners. Huberdeau did see his individual chances for rates drop in 2019/20 while his shooting percentage actually rose, which is not a great combo when projecting goals for next season. However Huberdeau remains a terrific setup man and PP specialist whose ice time remained unchanged while linemates Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov both saw their usage decline. Clearly Huberdeau can be expected to be deployed exactly the same way in 2020/21, and that means a PPG floor with upside to 90+ points every year.
Jake Guentzel slots in at #4 for me after an injury-shortened 2019/20 campaign that saw him pace above a PPG for the first time in his career. Guentzel’s ice time climbed to a career high 20:37 per game, and impressively improved his shots/60 rate at the same time. Guentzel shot 15.75%, nearly a 2% decrease from 2018/19 – this is a player who will maintain a high shooting percentage, especially while he has the benefit of playing alongside one of Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby on virtually every shift. Guentzel’s IPP remained unchanged from the 2018/19 season but his on-ice CF and xGF rates improved significantly. In short, all arrows are pointing upward for the 25-year-old and he should flirt with 40 goals and become a PPG player of the course of a full season in 2020/21.
Brad Marchand comes in at #3 for me after yet another terrific season skating on Boston’s incredible top line with David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. Pastrnak’s ascension to Rocket Richard Trophy candidate and top-5 point producer was the storyline in Boston all year, but Marchand should certainly get his fair share of praise for his contributions to Pastrnak’s unbelievable season. Marchand did see a decrease in individual chances for which is concerning as he progresses further into his 30s. While I still expect Marchand to get close to if not exceed 90 points in 2020/21, we need to acknowledge the fact that this is his age-32 season and while some players keep their legs longer than others, Father Time comes for all eventually. If I had to put money on it I would say the best is already in the past for Marchand, but given that “not his best” is still a PPG pace, I’ll take it. If you want to read more about Marchand, you can find my full article on him here.
Alexander Ovechkin gets my runner up spot for 2020/21, coming off an odd season where he once again challenged for the Rocket Richard Trophy but only picked up 19 assists along the way. That particular statistic seems likely to bounce back closer to his career averages, given that his on-ice and individual chances for metrics actually improved across the board when compared to his 2018/19 rates. Ovechkin should produce very similarly to 2018/19, getting more PP points and assists in general to boost him back to PPG+ status while still scoring at a 50 goal pace. There is absolutely no sign of Ovechkin slowing down anytime soon, and if your league tracks both shots and hits he could easily be your #1 left winger, especially when given the fact that it’s not outlandish to think that he could outscore the next highest LW by 10 goals. Ovechkin will be 35 in 2020/21, but don’t tell him that; Russian machine never break you know? We have to anticipate an age-based decline for Ovechkin at some point but there is nothing in his game or underlying stats to suggest that he will do that this season.
Artemi Panarin is my top-ranked left winger for 2020/21 after a dominant 2019/20 campaign in which he actually delivered on the highest AAV unrestricted free agent deal in NHL history. I scoured his stat profiles looking for a reason to project a regression in 2020/21, and I couldn’t come up with a single one. I’m projecting a regression for teammate Mika Zibanejad, but Panarin rarely played with Zibanejad at even strength and actually scored points at a higher rate in the 13 games that Zibanejad missed than when he was in the lineup. Panarin’s IPP was actually a tad low compared to his career numbers and while his even strength point rates may regress slightly, this is a player who is clearly loving life in the Big Apple and ready to continue his mission to get the Rangers into the postseason. I would personally be shocked if Panarin scored less than 100 points in 2020/21, which puts him in a class of his own among the left wing options available to fantasy managers in their drafts come September. If you want to read more about Panarin, you can find my full article on him here.
Now that left wingers 1-5 have been revealed, let’s put them side by side and I’ll explain the rankings a little bit:
I put Huberdeau, Guentzel, and Marchand in a tier below the top 2 along with #6 & #7 Kyle Connor and Teuvo Teravainen. Huberdeau is unlikely to score 30 goals which limits his ranking, but his 92-point pace of the past two seasons keeps him above Connor and Teravainen. Guentzel has demonstrated that PPG pace over the past two seasons but carries monstrous upside skating with elite centers in Pittsburgh and should flirt with 40 goals. Marchand has scored 100 points and skates on what is likely the best line in the NHL which keeps him above the others in this tier even after a season in which his individual chance creation slipped a bit. Ovechkin and Panarin represent the top tier, Ovechkin for his unbelievable goal scoring along with shot and hit generation, and Panarin for the unparalleled point potential. I have Panarin projected to outscore the next closest LW by 21 points and that is an insane amount of extra production that cements his #1 status for me.
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