Claude Giroux – Giroux failed to score 20 goals and top 65 points for the first time since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign last year, and his 0.94 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five was the second-lowest mark in the league among all forwards with at least 1,000 minutes. His 31 power-play points salvaged his season but without a significant rebound in even-strength production. Still, Giroux registered a career-low 7.0 shooting percentage and he projects to remain the No. 1 offensive center. Modest statistical correction to his shooting percentage (especially his 5.3 five-on-five shooting percentage), so counting on a bounce-back campaign from the veteran is probably wise.
Giroux ranks fourth since 2010-11 in points (501) behind Alex Ovechkin (506), Sidney Crosby (521) and Patrick Kane (522). Giroux’s 14 goals last season were the lowest in a full season since he scored nine in 2008-09 and his 58 points were his lowest since he had 47 in 2009-10. Still, he scored 31 PPP (fourth in the League) and had 199 SOG. There’s a good chance Giroux, 29, surpasses those totals especially considering he was recovering from hip and abdominal surgery last season.
Jack Eichel – This isn’t exactly a hot take, as many people believe Eichel to be a budding superstar. That being said in certain scoring leagues, Eichel could be underrated, if not a fringe top 10 forward in the league. A high-ankle sprain to start the campaign limited Jack Eichel to just 61 games last year but he was a force as soon as he returned to action and never looked back. Eichel approached a point-per-game campaign with 24 goals and 57 points, which actually topped his rookie numbers during despite playing 20 fewer contests. Keep in mind, a high ankle sprain takes months to truly recover. Some players state that a high ankle sprain has written off seasons, as training capacity and travel prevent meaningful healing.
Of particular note was Eichel’s willingness to shot, as recorded an impressive 12.3 shots per 60 minutes, 249 total and 4.1 per game – all elite marks. Additionally, Eichel’s 24 power-play points with the man advantage were a huge boost to his fantasy value. The Sabres added reinforcements during the offseason and Eichel should continue to improve as he gets closer to his prime years. However, it might be difficult to show significant offensive growth considering how rare point-per-game seasons are in the modern NHL. Still, more of the same makes him an elite fantasy asset in all settings. If he fails to top 70 points this season I would be surprised. That being said it may be due to the fact that he is the coach, GM and enforcer of the Sabres.
Sebastian Aho – The 20-year-old has a high fantasy ceiling for the Carolina Hurricanes and should be available outside the top 50 overall in almost all drafts. He finished third in goals (24) and fifth in points (49) among rookies last season, and had strong peripherals (17 power-play points, 214 shots on goal). He was second among rookie forwards (minimum 75 games played) in Shot Attempts percentage (53.26) and could jump to 65+ points in a top-line, first power-play role. I am really excited to see the Canes play this season. Young talent in Teuvo Teravainen, Jeff Skinner, Jaccob Slavin, and a weapon in Justin Faulk make for an excellent supporting cast for Aho.