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Fantasy breakout candidates for 2019-20

Hart, Strome have high ceilings over full season; Ekblad can lead defensemen in goals

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / Senior Fantasy Editor identifies fantasy hockey breakout candidates for the 2019-20 season. For more fantasy coverage, visit and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.


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NOTES: Breakout candidates are well-known young players who have been fantasy-relevant before but have higher ceilings in potential expanded roles. Attainable among the top 75 or later on average, each has room to significantly improve his rank and could reach the upper echelon at his position. Center Elias Pettersson (Vancouver Canucks), goalie Jordan Binnington (St. Louis Blues), defensemen Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres) and Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars) are expected to build upon their strong rookie seasons but have been excluded from this list because of their obvious breakout candidacy.


Carter Hart, G, PHI rank: 76

The Philadelphia Flyers goalie went 16-13-1 with a .917 save percentage, the best rate by a rookie in at least 30 games (31) since Carey Price (.920 in 2007-08). Hart is likely to be the Flyers' No. 1 goalie this season with his only competition being veteran Brian Elliott, whom they re-signed to a one-year contract. With new coach Alain Vigneault and a deep offense (10 skaters in's top 250 rankings), proper adjustments could help Philadelphia return to the playoffs and Hart return fantasy value if drafted outside the top 100. Trades for center Kevin Hayes, defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun have also improved Philadelphia's outlook.

Video: TOR@PHI: Hart shuts down Tavares at the doorstep


Philipp Grubauer, G, COL rank: 77

The Colorado Avalanche goalie went 9-2-2 with a .955 SV% and three shutouts over the final 15 regular-season games and 7-5 with a .925 SV% and one shutout in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Grubauer won the starting job outright from Semyon Varlamov, who signed with New York Islanders on July 1, and is ranked among the top 15 fantasy goalies. He looks to translate his NHL career-high 18 wins in 37 games and .921 career SV% to a workload of 55-60 starts for Colorado, which features one of the League's best young cores with elite center Nathan MacKinnon, right wing Mikko Rantanen and impact defenseman prospects Cale Makar and Bowen Byram (No. 4 pick in 2019 NHL Draft).


Tom Wilson, RW, WSH rank: 96

The Washington Capitals right wing had NHL career highs in goals (22) and points (40) despite being limited to 63 games because of a suspension. Wilson has had stretches of fantasy prowess over the past two regular seasons and playoffs but still has a higher offensive gear if he plays an entire season on a line with elite left wing Alex Ovechkin and valuable center Nicklas Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov. Wilson was also the only player with at least 20 goals and 3.0 hits per game (3.2; 200 total).


Shea Theodore, D, VGK rank: 121

The Vegas Golden Knights defenseman showcased his long-term fantasy upside with eight points (one goal, seven assists), four on the power play, in seven playoff games against the San Jose Sharks. He took advantage of power-play exposure to the valuable line of forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, which combined for 31 points in the first round. Theodore, who has produced in the postseason before, still has plenty of room to build upon his NHL career highs in points (37) and PPP (nine).

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm4: Theodore splits defenders and scores


Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA rank: 128

The Florida Panthers defenseman could finally reach his full fantasy potential after the hiring of new coach Joel Quenneville and signing of elite goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Ekblad has had at least 10 goals in each of his first five NHL seasons but has never reached 40 points in a single season. Ekblad has a chance to score at least 50 points, a ceiling of leading all defensemen in goals given his high shot volume (180 last season) and could put forth a strong plus/minus with Quenneville and Bobrovsky in the fold.


Dylan Strome, C, CHI rank: 130

The Chicago Blackhawks center was close to a point-per-game player (51 points in 58 games) after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 25. He found chemistry on the second line with breakout wing Alex DeBrincat (41 goals; T-6th in NHL). Strome helped the Blackhawks power play convert at 25.2 percent (T-3rd) from Jan. 1 to the end of the season. A full season in Chicago with exposure to DeBrincat at even strength and elite skaters Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Erik Gustafsson on the power play gives Strome 70-point potential.

Video: DAL@CHI: Strome outwaits Khudobin for 20th goal


Andrei Svechnikov, LW/RW, CAR rank: 143

The Carolina Hurricanes wing scratched the surface in his rookie season with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 82 regular-season games and five points (three goals, two assists) in nine playoff games. Svechnikov was limited by injury in Carolina's run to the Eastern Conference Final and played mostly on the second or third line when healthy. Fantasy owners should not underestimate Svechnikov, who will likely be available outside the top 120 overall, with a chance to play more often with Sebastian Aho and/or Teuvo Teravainen and score 30-35 goals.

Video: NYI@CAR, Gm4: Svechnikov tacks on insurance goal


Anthony Mantha, LW/RW, DET rank: 147

The Detroit Red Wings forward tied an NHL career high in points (48) in 13 fewer games and finished strong on a line with elite center Dylan Larkin and valuable wing Tyler Bertuzzi. Mantha had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) over his final eight games with those linemates and was better than a point per game (14 in nine games) at the 2019 IIHF World Championship for Canada. Mantha is due for his first season of at least 30 goals and 200 SOG and could skyrocket in the fantasy rankings if his PPP total (13) improves.


Brady Tkachuk, LW, OTT rank: 159

The Ottawa Senators left wing will have every opportunity to be their leading scorer in his second season after he had 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) in 71 games as a rookie. Tkachuk was one of five players with at least 170 hits (174) and 200 SOG (214); the others were Ovechkin, Josh Anderson, Evander Kane and Blake Coleman. Tkachuk should be a steal based on a likely low average draft position during Ottawa's rebuild on the top line with center Colin White and first power play with valuable defenseman Thomas Chabot.

Video: OTT@NYR: Tkachuk converts on a two-man advantage


Nico Hischier, C, NJD rank: 169

The New Jersey Devils center scored 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in 69 games, an 82-game pace of 56 points. Hischier improved his points-per-game average compared to his rookie season despite his frequent linemate, elite left wing Taylor Hall, being limited to 33 games because of injury. The Devils have acquired elite defenseman P.K. Subban (from Nashville Predators), selected center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and signed right wing Wayne Simmonds this offseason. If Hischier maintains top-line and first power-play exposure to Hall, who's entering a contract year (potential 2020 unrestricted free agent), the center could score 60-65 points.


Other breakout candidates for 2019-20 (with rank): Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (120); Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (125); David Rittich, G, CGY (151); Mikhail Sergachev, D, TBL (153); Jake DeBrusk, LW/RW, BOS (189); Gustav Nyquist, LW/RW, CBJ (190); Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, WSH (207), Travis Konecny, C/LW/RW, PHI (220)


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