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5 players I’m optimistic about in 2021 fantasy hockey

Johnny Hockey is in for a rebound season.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

The NHL season is about three weeks away and that means fantasy hockey is about to start up again. Here are five players I will be looking to grab this season.

Taylor Hall, Buffalo Sabres

Yup, I’m going to be buying into the hype 100% here. Jack Eichel now has the most talented line mate of his career and I think these two are going to do magical things. I’m talking 90 point potential here with these two. Furthermore, the Sabres have built some solid depth with Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Sam Reinhart and Dylan Cozens behind that first line, meaning opposing teams will have a lot to worry about, opening plenty of opportunities for Hall to shine.

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina was eighth in power play percentage last year, in part because of how deep the unit is, including Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Dougie Hamilton. Svechnikov was 44th in the league in shots on goal last year and 44th in goals as well as a +9 rating. The added bonus is he has 116 hits which puts him among the top 65 hitters as well (or if your league has PIM he had 54 of those last year which is top 30). He’s just 20 and is clearly on the rise.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Last year’s 8.6% shooting percentage marked a low point in Gaudreau’s seven year career. At 27, he’s still very much in the peak of his career and I expect we see his percentage come back up to normal which should increase his 18 goals from last year up to the mid 20’s. A new Canadian division means Calgary will be facing Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal regularly, who are all below average in goals allowed.

Filip Hronek, Detroit Red Wings

As a somewhat point man on their top power play unit, Hronek was 47th in the league in shots (among defensemen) last season. I think Detroit is turning a corner and while they won’t make quantum leaps, I anticipate a better power play this year, meaning Hronek has a chance to get into the mid 40’s in points by getting double digit power play assists for the first time in his career. That point total would make him a top 20 defensemen. Plus/minus will hurt you but his 105 hits was good enough for 47th and 74 blocked shots puts him at 109th. Add all of this together and you have a solid fantasy asset.

Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins

Gone is Torey Krug which gives Grzelcyk a chance to sit on one of the best power play units in the league. If he gets time with Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, then his 21 points of last season could almost double. He will have a health plus/minus (he’s been above +8 each of the last three years) but his biggest hit comes from hits and blocked shots, both outside the top 100 defensemen.

Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes

At 31 years old, Raanta has really started to progress towards a great goalie. Long gone are the days in Chicago and he will be entering his fourth season in Arizona. For the record, he has posted a save percentage above .920 in two of his three seasons with a GAA (goals against average) below three in all three seasons. He has had Rick Tocchet with him the whole time and while the first few were rough, they made the playoffs last year beating the Predators three games to one before losing to the Avalanche. The defensive situation is solid ahead of Raanta with three above average lines and I think he has grown confident in his spot with this team.