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NHL: CULLEN – 20 FANTASY POINTS – Season Wrap – Players who exceeded expectations and what we learned from them

Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

Each week, I dive into the numbers to help make decisions when it comes time to make fantasy hockey decisions.

This week, reflecting on players that were much better or much worse than preseason expectations and what we might learn from those seasons. Sam Reinhart, Filip Forsberg, Brock Boeser, Vincent Trocheck, Robert Thomas and much, much more!

#1 Florida Panthers right winger Sam Reinhart was not some unknown commodity entering the 2023-2024 season. He was coming off back-to-back seasons with more than 30 goals and had a career-high 82 points in 2021-2022. He hit a new level this season, however, scoring his 54th goal on Thursday night. He is scoring on a league-leading (minimum 100 shots on goal) 24.0 percent of his shots. That percentage spike certainly helps, and Reinhart has scored a career-high 27 power play goals after scoring 16 in each of the previous two seasons. He has also scored the first five shorthanded goals of his career this season. Ultimately, this has been a career season for the 28-year-old but, given the power play production and high shooting percentage, it is not going to be easy for him to duplicate this season.

#2 It is no secret that Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg is a high-end offensive player, but he had some durability issues. Prior to this season, the last time that he had played even 70 games in a NHL season was in 2016-2017. A healthy Forsberg has played 18:59 per game, his highest average time on ice since 2015-2016 and is generating 4.19 shots on goal per game, more than an additional shot per game over his 2022-2023 season. The result has been career highs of 43 goals and 89 points in 79 games. He has thrived on a line with offseason additions Ryan O’Reilly and Gustav Nyquist. O’Reilly, coming off a season in which he had 30 points in 53 games, has 66 points (26 G, 40 A) in 79 games, the second highest point total of his career. Nyquist, who has 27 points (11 G, 16 A) in 51 games for Columbus and Minnesota last season, has a career-high 72 points (22 G, 50 A) in 79 games.

#3 A season ago, Vancouver Canucks right winger Brock Boeser scored 18 goals in 74 games, the lowest per-game goal rate of his NHL career. He had also gone through personal turmoil, following the death of his father in May of 2022, and was open to the idea of moving on from Vancouver. The Canucks stuck with Boeser and has been paired primarily with J.T. Miller and a rotating cast of other linemates, but the result has been career highs of 40 goals and 73 points while scoring on a career-high 19.6 percent of his shots.

#4 New York Rangers centre Vincent Trocheck has long been a valuable fantasy performer, in part because he is a centre who hits – this is the third straight season in which he recorded at least 170 hits. Trocheck has played more than 21 minutes per game this season and has recorded a career-high 76 points (25 G, 51 A) in 80 games.

#5 Prior to this season, St. Louis Blues centre Robert Thomas was known as a pass-first playmaker and while that still remained a big part of his game, Thomas started to shoot the puck more and that led him to career highs of 25 goals and 83 points. It’s the first season in which Thomas has recorded more than two shots on goal per game and he has played a career-high 21 minutes per game. This is the second season of the 24-year-old’s career in which he has topped a point per game and, in his prime, should be expected to continue scoring in the years to come.

#6 Ever since he scored 85 points (22 G, 63 A) in 82 games as a rookie in 2016-2017, New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal has been a dangerous offensive threat, though on a tight-checking Islanders team, that hasn’t always resulted in big point production. This season, Barzal shifted to right wing and the result has been a career-high 23 goals and 80 points in 78 games. He is generating 3.00 shots on goal per game for the first time in his career and has hit the 80-point mark despite scoring on just 9.8 percent of his shots. His on-ice shooting percentage of 8.4 percent is also below his career average, so there is still another level out there for Barzal if he can build on increased shot rates and then hit a season in which the percentages start to break in his direction.

#7 Montreal Canadiens centre Nick Suzuki has improved his production every season that he has been in the NHL, scoring 0.58 points per game as a rookie in 2019-2020, but steadily increasing that rate to hit 0.96 points per game this season, producing 76 points (33 G 43 A) in 79 games. The second half of the season has also offered a great growth opportunity for second-year winger Juraj Slafkovsky, who has joined Suzuki and Cole Caufield on Montreal’s top line. In 30 games since the All-Star break, Slafkovsky has tallied 28 points (12 G, 16 A) with 76 shots on goal.

#8 When Carolina Hurricanes right winger Seth Jarvis went from 40 points (17 G, 23 A) in 68 games as a rookie in 2021-2022 to 39 points (14 G, 25 A) in 82 games last season, it looked like he had stalled somewhat in his second NHL season. Not so fast. Jarvis had gone from scoring on 15.5 percent of his shots as a rookie to just 7.5 percent last season. This season, Jarvis is playing a career-high 18:47 per game and is scoring on a career best 17.3 percent of his shots, leading him to 63 points (30 G, 33 A). The 22-year-old spends a lot of time on Sebastian Aho’s wing and, given his breakthrough season, that should continue for many more years.

#9 Anaheim Ducks left winger Frank Vatrano has always been able to generate shots and he did so even when playing a depth role earlier in his career. This season, Vatrano has logged more than 18 minutes per game for the Ducks, generating 3.37 shots on goal per game, the first time in his career than Vatrano has averaged more than three shots on goal per game. That has led Vatrano to career highs of 33 goals and 56 points.

#10 Dallas Stars centre Wyatt Johnston is just 20-year-old, in his second season after scoring 24 goals and 41 points as a rookie in 2022-2023. He followed that up with a significant step forward in his sophomore season. Johnston’s ice time is up nearly a minute-and-a-half per game, but he has generated more than 2.60 shots on goal per game after he had 1.95 per game as a rookie, and Johnston has vaulted to 32 goals and 65 points in his second NHL season.

#11 After starting his career with productive seasons in Calgary, veteran centre Sean Monahan endured a three-year stretch during which he produced 68 points (24 G, 44 A) in 140 games. He had been bothered by hip injuries and it was looking like a once promising career might be fading away before Monahan even hit 30 years of age. In good health this season, Monahan has become a productive scoring centre once again. He has 56 points (24 G, 32 A) in 80 games, his most points in a season since 2018-2019.

#12 In 2021-2022, Los Angeles Kings right winger Trevor Moore had career highs of 17 goals and 48 points. He was a reliable middle six winger with good speed but was not counted on to produce a ton offensively. Expectations were lowered when he scored 29 points (10 G, 19 A) in 59 games last season. This season, Moore has played nearly 18 minutes per game and is averaging more than three shots on goal per game for the first time in his career. As a result, the 29-year-old has delivered 55 points (30 G, 25 A) in 79 games.

#13 When the Calgary Flames acquired Yegor Sharangovich from the New Jersey Devils in the Tyler Toffoli trade, expectations were modest. After all, Sharangovich has managed 30 points (13 G, 17 A) in 75 games the previous season. The 25-year-old thrived in Calgary, playing more than 17 minutes per game, and putting up 57 points (30 G, 27 A) in 78 games. He has scored on 17.9 percent of his shots, which is a career high and probably unsustainable, making it easy enough to predict regression for Sharangovich next season.

#14 While there were expectations surrounding Jonathan Drouin following his move to Colorado, it was hard to know what would constitute a successful season from the enigmatic winger. Drouin had 87 points (17 G, 70 A) in 163 games over the previous four seasons but getting reunited with former junior teammate Nathan MacKinnon has had an amazing effect on Drouin, as he has hit a career high 56 points (19 G, 37 A) in 76 games.

#15 The first overall pick in the 2020 Draft, New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere had been modestly productive in his first three NHL seasons, hitting a career-high of 39 points (16 G, 23 A) in 2022-2023. This season, the 22-year-old has seen his ice time increase by nearly two minutes per game while his per-game shot rate has jumped by one per game. Playing most of the season with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck has paid off in a big way for Lafreniere, who has hit career highs with 27 goals and 56 points.

#16 Following a two-season stretch in which he had a .897 save percentage in 98 appearances, St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington came into the 2023-2024 season with few expectations placed upon him. Binnington responded by posting a .911 save percentage in 55 games this season and, with 28 wins, he was a big reason for the Blues to remain in the playoff hunt as long as they did.

#17 At 36-years-old, coming off a down season in Ottawa, Cam Talbot took the starting job with the Los Angeles Kings and ran with it. There have been some ups and downs along the way, but a .916 save percentage with 26 wins in 52 games has been a major boost for the Kings and has given Talbot far more fantasy value than anyone had a right to expect. The key to goaltenders is that there might be a handful of reliable options year after year, but among the rest, it will suddenly be guys like Binnington and Talbot who can unexpectedly alter the fate of your fantasy team.

#18 At the start of the season, the Buffalo Sabres gave rookie Devon Levi a good chance to take the starting job out of training camp and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had to bide his time, watching and waiting while Levi faltered. When the Sabres turned to Luukkonen, he delivered a .910 save percentage with 27 wins in 53 games. The 25-year-old has looked every bit like a starting goaltender, and now he is the one that will enter next season as the starter.

#19 The Arizona Coyotes entered the season with Karel Vejmelka in the starting goaltender role, but as Vejmelka struggled, Connor Ingram was delivering quality starts and he has taken over the starting job, posting a .909 save percentage with 22 wins in 48 games. The difficulty of getting wins for Arizona has put a limit on Ingram’s fantasy appeal, but he was barely relevant in fantasy terms before this season and is now much more interesting.

#20 Washington Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren played in 31 games last season, a new career high. As the Capitals have tried to remain in the playoff race, despite a terrible goal differential, Lindgren has taken the starting job in the Capitals’ crease. Lingren has a .908 save percentage with 22 wins in 47 games.