2023-24 Fantasy Hockey: 7 NHL players who will outperform their projections

Here are seven players poised for big seasons, regardless of what the projections say.

Troy Terry could be in store for a big fantasy hockey season. (Photo by Nicole Vasquez/NHLI via Getty Images)
Troy Terry could be in store for a big fantasy hockey season. (Photo by Nicole Vasquez/NHLI via Getty Images) (Nicole Vasquez via Getty Images)

If you’re anything like me, at some point you’ve definitely scrolled through your fantasy draft room with your pick coming up, looking for gaudy numbers in the Yahoo projected stats. But should we trust the projected numbers we see?

I took a deep dive on the Yahoo player projections and I found a few players I’m significantly more bullish on through my work on the Apples & Ginos projections. You may agree or disagree with my opinion, but at the very least I think every fantasy manager owes it to themselves to critically evaluate any projection they look at and think through the potential ways each player could both outperform and underperform that projection.

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7. Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks

Troy Terry’s current projection on Yahoo has him down for 28 goals and 64 points. I’m far more bullish on Terry, projecting him for 33 goals and 81 points.

Terry has scored at a 72-point pace across the past two seasons despite a complete dearth of talent around him. The Ducks added Alex Killorn this offseason and Mason McTavish flashed his potential as a rookie, two players that could help Terry build on that 72-point pace.

I’m also building in some positive regression for Terry on the power play, where the Ducks have been truly abysmal over the past couple of seasons. With the improved supporting cast and new coaching, I see Terry taking a step and providing a massive value at his current ADP in the early 11th round.

6. Matt Boldy, Minnesota Wild

Boldy had a massive breakout in the back half of 2022-23, scoring 23 points in his last 19 games. I’m not projecting him to maintain that pace, but I do think a 37-goal, 80-point season is well within the range of outcomes for a player on the rise just entering his third season in the league.

Boldy’s breakout season was accompanied by a corresponding jump in shot rate and individual scoring chance rate, giving me confidence that this breakout is more than just a late-season flash in the pan. Either way, I do think that Boldy is a good bet to eclipse his current Yahoo projection of 33 goals and 69 points.

5. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Barkov’s current projection is a puzzle for me at 31 goals and 79 points. I’ve got Barkov at 37 goals and 102 points, so even if you’re projecting for some injury time it’s pretty clear I’m higher on Barkov than this base projection.

Barkov’s injury history doesn’t bother me; Erik Karlsson and Evgeni Malkin’s injury histories didn’t prevent me from drafting them at a massive value last year and predicting injury is a bit of a fool’s errand in my opinion. Barkov represents a massive boon to your lineup whenever he is available, and his current ADP has you paying an early sixth round pick for 100+ point potential. Count me in.

4. Kevin Fiala, Los Angeles Kings

Fiala didn’t necessarily smash in his new role in Los Angeles, but he still posted an 86-point pace in 69 games. Now Fiala sports a 28-goal, 76-point projection on Yahoo for 2023-24, but I’m right back in line with his 2022-23 pace at 31 goals and 86 points.

Fiala is a borderline elite-level shot producer, and players who shoot this much always give themselves a little more floor to their projection since all it takes is a couple more pucks to squeak through a goaltender for them to outperform expectation.

I expect Fiala to at least equal last year’s production this season, with upside for 90+ points if he catches fire at any point. He’s going at the end of the sixth round in Yahoo drafts right now, making him a pretty easy click in that range.

3. Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators

Batherson didn’t have the breakout season many were hoping for last year, scoring 22 goals and 62 points in 82 games. However I can’t get behind his current 22-goal, 58-point projection on Yahoo for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Batherson’s underlying shot and chance generation numbers both took a significant step forward last season both from an individual and team-wide perspective, giving him an absolute floor at around 60 points according to my calculation.

Batherson failed to convert on a significant number of those chances, shooting just 8.8% after registering 15.3% marks in each of the previous two seasons. I don’t think it’s crazy to think Batherson could eclipse 30 goals by a comfortable margin this year and flirt with a point-per-game levels.

2. Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins

I was a little surprised with how much my projections liked Jake DeBrusk this year, but remarkably he was the Bruins’ most efficient player in terms of on-ice team-wide shot generation in 2022-23. That means that on a per-minute basis, the Bruins were putting more shots on goal with DeBrusk on the ice than they were with Bergeron, Marchand, or Pastrnak.

Even if last season was a high-water mark for DeBrusk in that respect, it’s an impressive feather in his cap and one I am not taking lightly. That’s why I have DeBrusk projected for a 31-goal, 60-point season while Yahoo’s base projection has him down for just 27 and 50. Even with Bergeron and Krejci retiring, I see DeBrusk as a player to watch in 2023-24.

1. Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets

Laine quietly registered 52 points in 55 games last season after scoring 56 in 56 the year before. I have him down for a 31-goal, 80-point season while his Yahoo projection stands at 31 goals and 69 points.

With Kent Johnson another year into his NHL career and third overall pick Adam Fantilli looking ready to step straight into the Blue Jacket lineup, I actually see more upside for Laine beyond this number than I do downside below it.

I’m betting that Laine will be on a lot of sharp managers’ teams this year, and currently you can add him to yours on Yahoo for the ridiculously low price of a 14th round pick. At that cost, I don’t know how you can fade Laine for the upcoming season.

Nate Groot Nibbelink is the creator of Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey and the originator of the #ZeroG draft strategy. You can find him pontificating about obscure fantasy hockey strategy topics in the Apples & Ginos Discord Server or on Twitter/X @applesginos.