2023-2024 Central Division Fantasy Hockey Preview (Part 1) Feat. Steven Ellis

Jason-Robertson 2023-2024 Central Division Fantasy Preview

Table of Contents

2023-2024 Central Division Fantasy Hockey Preview Pt.1 

Special guest Steven Ellis – Associate Editor and Prospect Analyst for Daily Faceoff; and Co-Host of the Puck Poolies Podcast – joins us for part 1 of our Central Division Fantasy Hockey Preview!

As we do each off-season, we are going to assess each division (and team) based on results from the previous season; as well as any changes that were made as a result of the NHL Entry Draft and Free Agency. Which teams improved, declined, or remained largely the same? Team statistics, schedule notes, additions/departures, and projections for key fantasy-relevant players in 2023-2024. Our goal is to best prepare our readers and listeners for their fantasy drafts this Fall, and maybe improve their odds of winning a fantasy hockey championship. 

Arizona Coyotes 

28-40-14 (7th in Central) | GF/GM: 2.74 (27th) | GA/GM: 3.60 (24th) | GF%: 43.27 (27th) | CF%: 43.06 (32nd) | PP%: 18.91% (24th) | PK%: 74.61% (27th)

Schedule Notes: The Arizona Coyotes have 9 back-to-back sets this season; tied for 3rd fewest with Vancouver and Nashville. 32 of their games (39%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), tied for 5th most among all teams in 2023-2024.

Key Additions: Logan Cooley (C – Entry-Level), Jason Zucker (LW/RW – UFA), Nick Bjugstad (C – UFA), Alex Kerfoot (C – UFA), Sean Durzi (D – UFA), Troy Stetcher (D – UFA)

Key Departures: Zack Kassian (Buyout), Christian Fisher (RW), Shayne Gostisbehere (Trade to CAR, UFA to DET), Jakob Chychrun (Trade to OTT).

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Clayton Keller, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 137 | PTS. PREDICTION: 38 Goals, 85 Points

2022-2023 was a career-season for Clayton Keller, posting 86 points and 37 goals in 82 games played. To get there, Keller put up a career-best 2.7 SOG/GM (7.9 SOG/60) and 16.6 iSH%; but what really makes last season impressive is that he was able to achieve all of this with just 48.7% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone (and against good competition). I expect similar results for Keller in 2023-2024, but there is potential for more, should the power play improve with some of the new additions to the roster. 

🎯 Nick Schmaltz, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 29 Goals, 77 Points

Since November 1, 2021, Nick Schmaltz has essentially been a point per game player, posting 118 points (45 goals) in 122 games played. Assuming Schmaltz maintains his deployment on the top line and top power play unit alongside Clayton Keller, I don’t foresee a significant reduction in production. 

🎯 Barrett Hayton, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 24 Goals, 54 Points

Barrett Hayton averaged 19:17 TOI/GM, posting 34 points (17 goals) in 47 games played since January 1st – a 30-goal, 60-point season over 82 games. The team has improved this off-season, so it’s certainly possible Hayton’s deployment is more in the 17-18 minute range; especially if Logan Cooley really takes off. Despite potentially playing fewer minutes, my guess is that Hayton retains his spot between Keller and Schmaltz, which obviously bodes well for his fantasy value.   

🎯 Logan Cooley, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 21 Goals, 55 Points


🎯 Dylan Guenther, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 20 Goals, 51 Points


🎯 Mattias Maccelli, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 15 Goals, 48 Points

Mattias Maccelli played at a 63-point pace last season, but his IPP was SKY-HIGH at 87.5, and when paired with an 18.0 iSH% and lowly 3.6 SOG/60, this Coyote has to be due for some severe regression. The good news is that Maccelli may find himself playing alongside Logan Cooley and Dylan Guenther. 

🎯 Lawson Crouse, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 20 Goals, 42 Points

Lawson Crouse had a career-year in 2022-2023, posting 45 points and 24 goals in 77 games played. Crouse is particularly valuable in banger-league formats, as he contributes 2.52 hits per game, along with 0.75 blocks per game. Unfortunately for Crouse, the 35.4% PP Share and 17:45 TOI/GM he received last season is very likely to decline in 2023-2024, as players like Hayton, Cooley, Guenther, and Maccelli take on larger roles. Additionally, the advanced metrics suggest we should see some regression from Crouse next season. 0.42 secondary assists per 60 minutes played (2A/60) was a 5-year high and double his rate in 2021-2022 (0.21). The 26-year old also shot 40% on the power play (6 goals on 22 SOG), a career-high, and well-above the 14.2% (3 goals on 33 SOG) he shot the year prior.  

🎯 Sean Durzi, D
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 10 Goals, 44 Points

Initially, my take was that Valimaki would retain his role as the top power play option in Arizona, given how well he had played at times last season. I’ve had several conversations with smart fantasy folks, and my stance has changed a bit this off-season. I think it’s entirely possible that Durzi and Valimaki split time on the top power play unit, or Durzi claims it outright. Time will tell of course and I will be watching this situation closely in training camp. 

🎯 Jusso Valimaki, D
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 5 Goals, 37 Points


🎯 Matt Dumba, D
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 9 Goals, 28 Points

2022-2023 saw Matt Dumba play 79 games, the most since 2017-2018, when he posted a career-high 50 points and 14 goals. Health and production have been a concern for Dumba since that time though, struggling to post more than 27 points and playing a max of 69 games. There is some reason for optimism next season though, when you consider that the former Wild shot a near career-low 4% and received virtually no power play time (2.4% PP Share) in 2022-2023. 

🎯 Karel Vejmelka, G
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PREDICTION: 57 Starts (70% Net Share), 22 Wins
📃Watchlist: Jason Zucker


Chicago Blackhawks

26-49-7 (8th in Central) | GF/GM: 2.46 (32nd) | GA/GM: 3.65 (28th) | GF%: 40.32 (30th) | CF%: 44.57 (30th) | PP%: 16.38 (28th) | PK%: 76.19 (22nd)

Schedule Notes: The Chicago Blackhawks have 12 back-to-back sets this season; tied for 5th most with 7 other clubs. 36 of their games (44%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), the third most among all NHL clubs this upcoming season.

Key Additions: Connor Bedard (Draft), Taylor Hall (Trade w/ BOS), Nick Foligno (Trade w/ BOS), Corey Perry (UFA), Ryan Donato

Key Departures: Patrick Kane (Trade to NYR), Jonathan Toews (Retired?), Max Domi (Trade to DAL)

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Connor Bedard, RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 42 Goals, 74 Points

An absolutely lethal shooter, compared to the likes of Auston Matthews and David Pastrnak (Elite Prospects); Bedard is a generational talent that terrorized the WHL, and the rest of the hockey world in 2022-2023. Given the lack of talent around him in Chicago, what can we realistically expect to see in his rookie season? Auston Matthews (0.84 Pts/GM) had a great rookie season, posting 40 goals and 69 points; David Pastrnak didn’t pop until his 3rd year, when he finally averaged 17:58 TOI/GM and started shooting the puck more (3.0 SOG/GM – 70 points, 34 goals). Connor McDavid played over a point per game (1.07 Pts/GM) in his rookie year, but was limited to 48 games. Personally, I’m not convinced that Bedard is on the same level as McDavid, but time will tell.  

🎯 Taylor Hall, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 172 | PTS. PREDICTION: 23 Goals, 62 Points

Last season with the Bruins, Taylor Hall was 15th in even-strength time on ice (13:40/GM) and 9th in power play TOI (2:14/GM). Despite a limited role, the Boston winger was still 5th in iCF/60 (15.81), iSCF/60 (10.5) and 4th in iHDSCF/60 (5.0). On a very thin Chicago roster, my expectation is that the former Hart Trophy winner receives an additional two minutes at even strength and at least another minute on the man advantage. If Hall can maintain those levels of individual scoring chances with a significant increase in ice time next to Bedard, expect a bounce-back season. Things may not have worked out next to McDavid, Eichel, or Pastrnak, but the situation with the Blackhawks this coming season should be different due to the lack of options.     

🎯 Lukas Reichel, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 21 Goals, 55 Points

Lukas Reichel put up 15 points (7 goals) in 23 games on an awful Chicago team last season – a 53-point, 25-goal pace. It’s probably worth noting that Reichel shot at nearly 17% last season, a number I would be skeptical about for next season, even with exposure to Bedard. The Chicago winger has yet to score on the power play (just 13 shots on goal in nearly 70 minutes on the PP), I would expect positive regression in that category as well in 2023-2024. Low secondary assist totals (0.20 2A/60), but high iSH% against high quality opponents. For me, Reichel’s value for next season will be dependent on whether he plays on the top line with Bedard and Hall; or is he forced to work with Tyler Johnson and Andreas Athanasiou? 

🎯 Taylor Raddysh, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 22 Goals, 49 Points


🎯 Andreas Athanasiou, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 21 Goals, 47 Points


🎯 Seth Jones, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 94 | PTS. PREDICTION: 10 Goals, 49 Points


🎯 Kevin Korchinski, D
2022 Avg. ADP: N/A | PTS. PREDICTION: 5 Goals, 33 Points

An elite offensive blueliner, posted 73 (11 goals) points in 54 WHL games last season. Korchinski should get a long look in training camp and may be worth a late/last-round flier in season-long redraft leagues.  

🎯 Petr Mrazek, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 200 | PREDICTION: 53 Starts (65% Net Share), 15 Wins
📃Watchlist: Frank Nazar (C), Oliver Moore (C)
  • Elite Prospects had this to say on Oliver MooreWe’ve never scouted a faster, more agile skater than Oliver Moore in our time covering the draft in an editorial capacity at Elite Prospects. Full stop.

Colorado Avalanche

51-24-7 (1st in Central) | GF/GM: 3.34 (10th) | GA/GM: 2.72 (9th) | GF%: 55.13 (8th) | CF%: 52.51 (5th) | PP%: 24.52 (6th) | PK%: 79.03 (17th)

Schedule Notes: The Colorado Avalanche have 8 back-to-back sets this season; tied for the second fewest among all NHL clubs in 2023-2024. 32 of their games (39%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), tied with Arizona, Minnesota, and New York (Rangers) for the fifth most next season.

Key Additions: Ryan Johansen (C – Trade w/ NSH), Ross Colton (C – UFA), Jonathan Drouin (LW – UFA), Miles Wood (LW – UFA), Keith Kinkaid (Trade w/ BOS)

Key Departures: Alex Galchenyuk (C – ARI), Alex Newhook (C – Trade w/ MTL), Erik Johnson (D – BUF,UFA), Evan Rodrigues (C – UFA,FLA), JT Compher (C – UFA,DET), Lars Eller (C – UFA,PIT)

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Nathan MacKinnon, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 5.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 42 Goals, 115 Points

Ask me how many players produced 5 shots on goal per game (or better) in 2022-2023, I’ll wait… The answer is two – Nathan MacKinnon at 5.2 SOG/GM, and David Pastrank at 5.0 SOG/GM! Shot volume is so critical to fantasy production, and when you consider that MacKinnon’s 3-year average individual shooting percentage (iSH%) is 10.8%, you can almost guarantee he will score 40 goals each season, given he plays enough games. 

🎯 Mikko Rantanen, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 10.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 45 Goals, 100 Points

Mikko Rantanen posted a career-best 105 points and 55 goals in 2022-2023; and despite a high iSH% (18.3%), it’s possible (though not likely) that he improves on those totals in 2023-2024. First let’s look at the power play, where Rantanen has averaged a power play shooting percentage of 17.3% over the past three seasons; he was down just slightly from that last year (17.1%). Looking at secondary assists, just 26% (a career-low) were secondary for Rantanen last season, so it’s possible he benefits from some puck luck and sees a few extra points. Lastly, the big Fin’s team even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%) with him on the ice last season was 9.1%, his lowest since 2019-2020. The point being, there are no concerns of luck-related regression for Mikko Rantanen next season – draft with confidence!   

🎯 Valeri Nichushkin, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 159.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 20 Goals, 51 Points


🎯 Ross Colton, C/LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 22 Goals, 47 Points

Our projection for Ross Colton is based on a third-line center role, and little time on the second power play unit. Should the former Bolt get an opportunity in the top 6 (likely on the wing), there is definitely potential for more. At 8.49 SOG/60 in even-strength situations, Colton offers shot volume inside the top 100, making him a very intriguing late-round option in drafts this Fall. With tri-eligibility, and potential exposure to Colorado’s top 6, the 26-year old could be an impactful sleeper pick in 2023-2024.  

🎯 Ryan Johansen, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 178.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 14 Goals, 46 Points


🎯 Jonathan Drouin, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 12 Goals, 44 Points


🎯 Artturi Lehkonen, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 17 Goals, 39 Points


🎯 Cale Makar, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 7.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 23 Goals, 87 Points

Cale Makar is the most dynamic, offensively gifted defenceman that the NHL has seen in quite some time (or ever?); but health continues to be a concern with the Avs stud Dman. Makar has yet to play a full 82 games in 4 seasons, and was limited to just 60 games in 2022-2023. The good news? Aside from a career-high 57.3 IPP, Makar’s secondary assist rate per 60 (2A/60), individual shooting percentage (iSH% – 9.7% versus 3-year avg of 10.2%), team’s even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH% – 8.5% is a career low), and power play shooting percentage (PP SH% – 12.5% versus 3-year average of 14.5%) suggest positive regression for next season.  

🎯 Devon Toews, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 83.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 11 Goals, 52 Points


🎯 Bowen Byram, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 113.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 14 Goals, 42 Points

Is this the year that Bowen Byram finally breaks through? Last season the 22-year old played at a 47-point pace through 42 games, while averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice time per game. Like a number of key personnel on this Avs roster though, health has been a major concern for Byram. The lack of power play deployment (just 26.2% PP Share, 1:19 PPTOI/GM) and shot volume (1.5 SOG/GM, 4.2 SOG/60), along with a career-high 15.4 iSH% will surely hamper his totals for next season; but if healthy, Byram is an interesting depth option. 

🎯 Alexandre Georgiev, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 99.5 | PREDICTION: 62 Starts (75% Net Share), 38 Wins


🎯 Pavel Francouz, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 158.0 | PREDICTION: 20 Starts (25% Net Share), 12 Wins
📃Watchlist: Samuel Girard (D), Miles Wood (LW)


Dallas Stars

47-21-4 (2nd in Central) | GF/GM: 3.43 (7th) | GA/GM: 2.62 (3rd) | GF%: 56.65 (2nd) | CF%: 52.02 (8th) | PP%: 25.0 (5th) | PK%: 83.47 (3rd)

Schedule Notes: The Dallas Stars have 11 back-to-back sets this season; tied for 5th fewest with Anaheim, Vegas, and St. Louis. 24 of their games (29%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), tied for 5th fewest with New York (Islanders).

Key Additions: Matt Duchene (C – NSH Buyout, UFA), Craig Smith (C – UFA), Sam Steel (C – UFA), Derrick Pouliot (D – UFA) 

Key Departures: Max Domi (C – UFA,TOR), Collin Miller (D – Trade w/ NJD)

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Jason Robertson, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: 57.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 50 Goals, 105 Points

Jason Robertson absolutely exploded last year for 109 points and 46 goals in 82 games played – cruising past his previous career high of 79 points and 41 goals (74 GP). Robertson posted a career-high 76.3 IPP, but beyond that, there are no luck metrics to be concerned about for next season. It is worth noting though, Robertson’s 12.2 SOG/60 was well-above his career average of 8.36 SOG/60; and so too was his 4.2 Pts/60, compared to a career-average of 2.73 Pts/60. Robertson ranked THIRD LEAGUE-WIDE in terms of points per 60 last year, just behind Connor McDavid (5 Pts/60) and Leon Draisaitl (4.42 Pts/60) – will that continue next season?

🎯 Roope Hintz, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 95.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 34 Goals, 80 Points

Roope Hintz may be one of the most underrated players in the NHL, both in terms of fantasy hockey and in reality. Over the past 3 seasons, Hintz is ranked 23rd in the league at 3.28 Pts/60 – ahead of players like Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Tage Thompson, and Jack Hughes…

🎯 Joe Pavelski, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 89.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 29 Goals, 72 Points

Will the ageless Joe Pavelski continue to impress in Dallas? The luck metrics suggest we should expect a step back… Pavelski’s 11.5 tEVSH% last year was a career-high, nearly a full two percent higher than the previous two seasons; and the former Shark’s individual shooting percentage (iSH%) was above his career (12.8%) and 3-year averageS (14.8%). Pavelski is going to get prime deployment on the top line and power play next to Robertson and Hintz; but at 39-years old, age-related decline has to be a concern at some point, right? 

🎯 Matt Duchene, RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 26 Goals, 64 Points

My expectation, and projection above, are based on the assumption that Matt Duchene will receive top 6 deployment and a spot on the second power play unit. As expected, Duchene came back down to earth last season (65-point pace) after posting a career-high 86 points and 43 goals in 2021-2022. 

🎯 Tyler Seguin, RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 166.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 24 Goals, 53 Points


🎯 Wyatt Johnston, C
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 27 Goals, 51 Points

Wyatt Johnston had a productive rookie season in Dallas, posting 41 points and 24 goals in a full 82-game campaign. The time on ice was a modest 15:29, playing secondary power play minutes (33.1% PP Share, 1:39 PPTOI/GM); and unfortunately for Johnston, that deployment likely does not change much next season. If given a top 6 role with veterans Jamie Benn and Matt Duchene, I think it’s entirely possible the 20-year old improves on last seasons totals – it just won’t occur on the power play (barring any significant injuries). 

🎯 Jamie Benn, C/LW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 23 Goals, 56 Points

Jamie Benn surprised us all this past season, posting 78 points and 33 goals after four consecutive seasons of playing at a 46 to 56 point pace over 82 games. As a 33-year old, it’s probably safe to assume that last year was an outlier for Benn, and fantasy managers should move forward with extreme caution concerning this player. For more information, be sure to check out our “5 Potential Fantasy Hockey Busts In 2023-2024” article. 

🎯 Mason Marchment, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 15 Goals, 42 Points


🎯 Miro Heiskanen, D
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 12 Goals, 72 Points

Miro Heiskanen received all the power play time (64.2% PP Share) last season, and finally broke out for 73 points (11 goals) in 79 games. My expectation is that we see more of the same in 2023-2024. Heiskanen’s 9.1 tEVSH% was a bit inflated relative to his career average of 7.26% and his 2A/60 was also elevated last season; but his PP SH% (4.4%) was down from his 3-year average of 7.0%, so it could be a wash in the end.  

🎯 Jake Oettinger, G
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PREDICTION: 62 Starts (75% Net Share), 39 Wins
📃Watchlist: Logan Stankoven (C/RW), Mavrik Bourque (C)


2023-2024 Way-Too-Early Predictions

Steven Ellis’ Picks:
  • Who wins the Central Division next season? Dallas Stars 
  • Who wins the Stanley Cup? New Jersey
  • Who wins the Rocket Richard Trophy? Connor McDavid
  • Who wins the Art Ross Trophy? Connor McDavid
  • Who wins the Norris Trophy? Cale Makar
  • Who wins the Vezina Trophy? Ilya Sorokin
  • Who wins the Calder Trophy? Connor Bedard

Share this post