Fantasy top 10 breakout candidates for 2020-21




Mock draft | Rookies | Sleepers



NOTES: Breakout candidates are young players (non-rookies) who have already had success in the NHL but have a chance to reach the upper echelon of their positions and far exceed their average draft position this season. … Exclusions from this list: last season’s Calder Trophy finalists (Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, Dominik Kubalik), No. 1 picks in the NHL Draft (e.g. Rasmus Dahlin, Nico Hischier), breakout players of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs who were top three picks in their NHL Draft (Miro Heiskanen, Pierre-Luc Dubois) and skaters who are 27 years old or older.


Ilya Samsonov, G, WSH (23 years old) rank: 58; mock draft: 56

The Washington Capitals goalie did not play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of injury but had an impressive rookie season (16 wins, .913 save percentage in 26 regular-season games). He should take on a heavier workload and gain fantasy value after former Capitals starter Braden Holtby signed with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency and should also benefit from the hiring of coach Peter Laviolette and signing of veteran backup Henrik Lundqvist.


Victor Olofsson, LW/RW, BUF (25) rank: 105; mock draft: 131

The Buffalo Sabres wing was tied with Denis Gurianov of the Dallas Stars for second in goals (20) among rookies last season and excelled on the first power play (11 power-play goals, tied for 11th in NHL). Olofsson may lose some fantasy value if he is moved off elite center Jack Eichel‘s line after valuable left wing Taylor Hall signed with the Sabres in free agency, but Olofsson could just as easily shift to right wing, bumping Sam Reinhart down in the lineup, and would have enormous upside if he plays with Eichel and Hall on the top line.

READ: Fantasy projection: Hall with BUF


Denis Gurianov, LW/RW, DAL (23) rank: 118; mock draft: 164

He led the Stars in goals as a rookie despite playing on mostly the second or third line in the regular season and then had a strong postseason with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 27 games, highlighted by a four-goal, five-point game against the Calgary Flames in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round. Gurianov, who finished second on the Stars in playoff goals behind veteran forward Joe Pavelski (13), could score 30-35 goals in an expanded role, especially if valuable forward Tyler Seguin (hip surgery) misses the start of the season.

READ: 10 players who gained fantasy value from postseason


Elvis Merzlikins, G, CBJ (26) rank: 124; mock draft: 107

The Columbus Blue Jackets goalie is part of an efficient timeshare with Joonas Korpisalo and should continue to benefit from coach John Tortorella’s defensive system and having two elite defenseman in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Although Korpisalo was impressive as the Blue Jackets starter in the postseason, Merzlikins was 13-9-8 with a .923 save percentage and five shutouts (T-2nd in NHL) in 33 regular-season games and 1-1 with a .946 SV% in two postseason appearances before sustaining an injury.


Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (22) rank: 125; mock draft: 115

The Boston Bruins defenseman should take the next step in fantasy after Torey Krug left them to sign with the St. Louis Blues in free agency. McAvoy, who already provides strong hits coverage (1.9 per game in NHL career), would join the upper echelon of fantasy defensemen if he takes the coveted first power-play spot with the elite forward line of center Patrice Bergeron, right wing David Pastrnak and left wing Brad Marchand. Although McAvoy is ranked behind Krug in fantasy entering this season, he could improve his points-per-game average (0.50) and score at least 50-55 points this season.

READ: Free agent signings fantasy roundup


Kailer Yamamoto, RW, EDM (22) rank: 131; mock draft: 125

The Edmonton Oilers wing was one of the best fantasy pickups last regular season, scoring 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 27 games after being recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Dec. 29, 2019. Yamamoto was also plus-17 (eighth in NHL) and had 24 even-strength points (16th) during that stretch. Yamamoto was held without a point in Edmonton’s four postseason games, but his regular-season success on a line with NHL scoring leader Leon Draisaitl (110 points) gives Yamamoto an even higher gear over a full season.


Adam Fox, D, NYR (22) rank: 155; mock draft: 129

The New York Rangers defenseman ranked third among rookies at his position in points per game (0.60) behind Cale Makar (0.88) and Quinn Hughes (0.78) and fifth among rookie skaters in the category. Fox was on an 82-game pace for 49 points despite not playing on the first unit of New York’s power play, which ranked seventh in the NHL (22.9 percent). If Fox wins the PP1 spot from Tony DeAngelo and gains exposure to elite forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and potentially rookie left wing Alexis Lafreniere, Fox could shatter his point and power-play point (13) totals and finish among the top 15-20 fantasy defensemen.


Nick Suzuki, C/RW, MTL (21) rank: 157; mock draft: 168

The Montreal Canadiens forward was tied for their lead in goals (four), points (seven) and ranked second in shots on goal (27; behind Brendan Gallagher‘s 37) in 10 postseason games. Only two rookies (Quinn Hughes: 10; Dominik Kubalik: eight) had more points than Suzuki through the end of the first round. Suzuki, who ranked sixth among NHL rookies in scoring (41 points) during the regular season, could become the Canadiens’ No. 1 center as early as this season and play on a line with one of their goal-scoring additions at right wing in Tyler Toffoli (24 goals last season) or Josh Anderson (27 in 2018-19).


Kirby Dach, C, CHI (19) rank: 161; mock draft: 182

The Chicago Blackhawks center, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft behind forwards Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils) and Kaapo Kakko (New York Rangers), had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) last season, outscoring Hughes (21 points) and had the same number of points as Kakko in two fewer games. Dach had a much better plus/minus (minus-1) than Hughes and Kakko (each was minus-26). Dach then emerged in the postseason for the Blackhawks, scoring six points (one goal, five assists), two on the power play, in nine games. Dach has late-round fantasy appeal with the best-case scenario of being Chicago’s No. 2 center on a line with elite right wing Patrick Kane.


Anthony Beauvillier, C/LW, NYI (23) rank: 169; mock draft: 188

The New York Islanders forward had nine goals (tied with Nelson for New York Islanders lead), 14 points and 67 SOG (second behind Anders Lee‘s 72) in 22 postseason games. Beauvillier has at least 18 goals in each of the past three regular seasons but should build on his NHL career high in goals (21) and points (39), especially given his strong performance on the second line with center Brock Nelson and wing Josh Bailey. Beauvillier would also have an even higher ceiling if he plays more often with valuable center Mathew Barzal, at least on the power play, where Beauvillier has only averaged 1:14 per game in his NHL career (18 PPP in 286 games).


Other young players who could have full-fledged breakouts: Andre Burakovsky, LW/RW, COL ( rank: 77); Tristan Jarry, G, PIT (111); Anthony Mantha, LW/RW, DET (136); Mikhail Sergachev, D, TBL (152); Juuse Saros, G, NSH (164)

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