Fantasy: 5 breakout candidates to target
Icon Sportswire / Getty

Every season we see a crop of talented players take their production to the next level.

If you missed out on emerging playmakers like Elias Lindholm, Alex DeBrincat, or Mitch Marner last campaign, you won't want to overlook these potential breakout candidates in 2019-20.

Nico Hischier, C, Devils

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Although Hischier was mired by injuries in 2018-19, he was on pace for a higher point total than his rookie campaign. The Swiss talent is in the final year of his entry-level contract, giving him more incentive to put together his finest season yet.

Over the last 20 years, there's a steady track record of highly touted talents taking off during their third NHL season, and we expect Hischier to do the same - especially with Taylor Hall healthy.

The duo of Hischier and Hall appeared in only 29 games together last season. With Hall in the lineup, Hischier mustered 0.75 points per game compared to 0.63 without him. The latter mark is still commendable for a second-year center tasked with catalyzing an offensively weak roster while also fulfilling his defensive duties.

The Devils got stronger at both ends of the ice this offseason with the additions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Jack Hughes, and Nikita Gusev. The improved depth should give Hischier more opportunity to capitalize, particularly on the power play. Assuming he stays healthy, Hischier can certainly break the 70-point mark and muster 25-to-30 goals.

Ondrej Kase, RW, Ducks

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Kase has shown he's got all the tools to produce at a high level - he just needs more opportunities to contribute. With Corey Perry out of the mix, Kase is a strong option to pair alongside perennial playmaker Ryan Getzlaf on the Ducks' top line.

The 5-foot-11 winger tallied 38 points in 66 games in 2017-18 and was on pace for a 54-point breakout campaign in 2018-19 before injuries derailed his season. When healthy, The 23-year-old has proven to be a consistent offensive threat, ranking second in the league in shots per 60 minutes and 13th in high-danger scoring chances (per 60) last season.

Kase is extremely skilled with the puck. He's among the top players in the league in terms of zone entries and exits, and is far better in this department when compared to Perry. The talented Czech also led the league in rush attempts per 60 minutes, and if he's penciled in on the top unit, he should help Ducks sniper Rickard Rakell return to form.

Philipp Grubauer, G, Avalanche

Michael Martin / National Hockey League / Getty

With longtime starter Semyon Varlamov signing in Long Island this offseason, Grubauer has finally landed the No. 1 role he's earned. The German has quietly been one of the best backup goalies in the league, posting a career 2.39 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage over 138 career games.

When the Avalanche leaned on him during a critical late-season stretch in 2018-19, his play never wavered. Grubauer went 9-2-2 with a .955 save percentage over his last 15 starts to help the club capture the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. He then went on to stifle the top-seeded Calgary Flames in Round 1, allowing just 10 goals in the team's five-game series victory.

Grubauer will likely start 50-plus games for an Avalanche team poised to take another step, which should translate to a high number of wins. A full year of Cale Makar on the back end will help, and the acquisition of two-way center Nazem Kadri also benefits the club defensively.

Andreas Johnsson, LW, Maple Leafs

Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty

The argument could be made Johnsson announced his arrival with a 43-point rookie season in 2018-19, but we'll consider him a breakout candidate because we believe he can take his production up another level.

The 24-year-old is likely to start the season on a line with Auston Matthews and William Nylander. That trio spent limited time together last season, but when aligned, posted a Corsi-For of 57.53 and owned a 61.5 share percentage of high-danger scoring chances. With the Tavares line drawing a ton of difficult matchups, expect those three to run wild once again.

Johnsson found the majority of his success (16 goals, 36 points) at even strength, which is a strong indication he doesn't need to rely on the man advantage to be effective. In fact, the electric winger ranked ninth among Leafs forwards in power-play ice time last season, and with the absence of Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, and Tyler Ennis, he should become a staple on the second unit.

With his incredible speed and skill, Johnsson could certainly reach the 30-goal mark and land between 55-to-60 points.

Miro Heiskanen, D, Stars

Glenn James / National Hockey League / Getty

Heiskanen had a sensational rookie season that landed him in a unique class. Only 12 first-year defensemen have hit the 33-point mark since 2009-10, and none of them scored more goals than the smooth-skating Finn, who tallied 12 last season.

What's more impressive about the then-19-year-old's early production is that he did it for an offensively thin team that finished 29th in scoring. However, the Stars bolstered their attack this offseason with the acquisitions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, and expect more production out of developing talents Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov.

The rookie logged an impressive 23:07 of ice time per game last season, including 1:39 on the power play. His minutes may not increase dramatically in Year 2, but he should receive an uptick in usage and see more opportunities with the man advantage.

All advanced stats courtesy of NaturalStatTrick / A3Z comparison by CJ Turtoro

Comments
Fantasy: 5 breakout candidates to target
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox