With fantasy hockey league drafts in full swing, it’s time to talk breakouts – otherwise known as league winners.
Players you draft with mid-to-late-round picks can go on to make you look like a genius as you ride their coattails to another fantasy championship and bragging rights around the office.
They happen each and every year.
Let’s take a look at some league winners from last year’s shortened season (among many others):
Travis Konecny, C, Philadelphia Flyers - With an average draft position (ADP) over 200, Konecny might not have been drafted in your league last season, but he wasn’t a free agent for long. His 61 points in 66 games made him one of the best waiver adds in shallow leagues, and one of the best breakouts of 2019-2020.
Andrei Svechnikov, W, Carolina Hurricanes – His average draft position was right around 95. Svechnikov delivered more like a third or fourth rounder with 61 points in 68 games.
J.T. Miller, C, Vancouver Canucks – With an ADP at around 170 last year, Miller might have been the best investment in your draft. After averaging more than a point per game last season, Miller is now being drafted among the elite in 2021.
Mika Zibanejad, C, New York Rangers – Another league winner, Zibanejad actually broke out in the 2018-19 campaign, then took it to another level last season with 41 goals in just 57 games.
So which players have a shot at similar fantasy breakouts in 2021?
Here is a look at a handful of potential breakout candidates with their ADP in ESPN fantasy hockey leagues listed in brackets.
Kevin Fiala, W, Minnesota Wild (ADP: 216)
Kevin Fiala had one measly assist in his first eight games last season. Over his final 56 games he went for 23 goals and 53 points. Fiala was almost a point-per-game player down the stretch last season and nobody seems to be paying attention. He was scorching hot to end the year as well, with 14 goals and 26 points in his last 18 games. The breakout already happened, now it’s time to buy in while everyone looks elsewhere. The addition of KHL star Kirill Kaprizov will only help Fiala, especially on the power play. Look for the 24-year-old to contribute in big ways this season.
Victor Olofsson, W, Buffalo Sabres (ADP: 144)
Two words: Eichel, Hall. Those two will likely be Olofsson’s linemates to start the year. He should also continue to see time on the top power-play unit, a spot he excelled in during his rookie year. Olofsson was tied for second among rookies with 20 goals last year, despite only playing in 54 games. Eleven of those goals came on the power play. The true breakout is coming.
Nick Suzuki, C, Montreal Canadiens (ADP: 204)
Nick Suzuki was streaky in his rookie season with the Habs, but he showed flashes of brilliance. A 28-game stretch from mid-December to late February was the highlight of that potential. Suzuki put up 25 points in those 28 games, with 10 points coming on the power play. He also came up big in the playoffs with seven points in 10 games. The 13th-overall pick in 2017 will likely centre a line with Jonathan Drouin and newcomer Josh Anderson, and he should centre the top power-play unit. Suzuki could be an assist machine this season.
Dylan Strome, C, Chicago Blackhawks (ADP: 230)
Dylan Strome will take on a massive role with both Jonathan Toews (medical issue) and Kirby Dach (wrist) out indefinitely. Strome is coming off a down year with the Blackhawks, but a lot of that time was spent trying to transition from his natural centre position to the wing, which didn’t work. Now this season, Strome will centre the top line with superstar Patrick Kane and bounce-back candidate Alex DeBrincat. He’ll also centre the top power-play unit. With an ADP of 230th overall, I’m not sure you can find much higher upside in the draft. A potential breakout isn’t far from reality.
Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres (ADP: 77)
This is likely going to be the last year you can scoop up Rasmus Dahlin later than the fourth round of fantasy drafts. In fact, you might still be able to grab him in the middle to late rounds, depending on your league. Take advantage of that. Dahlin is entering his third year in the NHL, and he’s still just 20 years old (he’ll be 21 in April) – younger than Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar. Dahlin spent the off-season packing on 15 pounds of muscle, and his coach Ralph Krueger already stated he expects Dahlin to get more ice time than he had last year when he averaged more than 19 minutes per game. He’ll be the quarterback of an improved Sabres power play with the addition of Hall. Buy in now before it’s too late.
Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston Bruins (ADP: 102)
With Torey Krug out the door, McAvoy has a shot at being the quarterback of the Bruins lethal top power-play unit. He’ll battle with Matt Grzelcyk (also underrated) for this honour, but it’s a job McAvoy is likely to win. McAvoy struggled at times last season but finished incredibly strong with 15 points in his final 17 games. Remember, although it seems like McAvoy has been in the league forever, he turned 23 in December. The door is open for the 14th-overall pick in 2016 to have a monster year.