2023-2024 Central Division Fantasy Hockey Preview (Part 2) Feat. Jason Chen


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2023-2024 Central Division Fantasy Hockey Preview Pt.2 

Special guest Jason Chen – The Hockey News Fantasy Writer, Editor, and Site Manager. Contributor for @RotoWireNHL, Yahoo Sports (NHL), Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Winner – joins us for part 2 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. 

Minnesota Wild 

46-25-11 (3rd in Central) | GF/GM: 2.91 (23rd) | GA/GM: 2.67 (6th) | GF%: 52.18 (14th) | CF%: 49.87 (18th) | PP%: 21.43 (15th) | PK%: 82.03 (10th)

Schedule Notes: The Minnesota Wild have 15 back-to-back sets this season; tied for 2nd most with Washington. 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: Pat Maroon (UFA)

Key Departures: Gustav Nyquist, Sam Steel, Ryan Reeves, Matt Dumba

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Kirill Kaprizov, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: 5.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 47 Goals, 100 Points

Like the rest of the Minnesota Wild, Kirill Kaprizov’s numbers regressed last season after an abundance of puck luck in 2021-2022. Kaprizov produced 75 points (40 goals) in just 67 games played, which still projects to 92 points in a full season; but a significant drop from 108 points the year prior. 

The good news? Kaprizov appears to be in store for a bounce-back season when reviewing the underlying luck metrics. At 8.1%, Kaprizov’s team even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%) was a career-low; so too was his individual shooting percentage (iSH%) at 15.3%. Shot rate remains elite at 11.1 SOG/60. At 0.37 2A/60 last season, Kaprizov experienced a nearly 40% decline in secondary assists at even-strength, something we expect to regress positively in 2023-2024.  

🎯 Mats Zuccarello, RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 114.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 24 Goals, 76 Points

At age 35, age-related decline has to be on the minds of fantasy managers as they evaluate where (or if) they draft Mats Zuccarello. Similar to Kaprizov, Zuccarello did regress last season as the Wild’s even-strength shooting percentage (7.69% – 4th lowest) came down from the near (2nd) league-leading 10.17% they saw in 2021-2022. On an individual level, Zuccarello managed just 67 points in 78 games last year, after playing at a 93-point pace the season prior. There is potential for positive regression as the tEVSH% normalizes; and we could see a few more points as the secondary assists per sixty minutes played (2A/60) improves. One thing is for certain though – Zuccarello will maintain his deployment alongside Kaprizov at even-strength, and on the power play (76% PP Share in 2022-2023). 

🎯 Matt Boldy, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 125.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 33 Goals, 79 Points

Down luck everywhere except individual points percentage (IPP) for Matt Boldy, which makes a lot of sense as he’s often doing it on his own on the second line in Minnesota. Overall, Boldly had a great second season for the Wild, posting 63 points and 31 goals in 81 games. The shot volume improved significantly in his sophomore season, firing 3.1 SOG/GM, or 10.2 SOG/60 – just outside the top 50 league-wide; putting him ahead of players like Alex DeBrincat, Mikko Rantanen, Kyle Connor, and Jared McCann! 

With 128 games played, expect big things as he approaches the 200 games played threshold this season. It would not surprise me to see Boldy score at least another 5 power play goals in 2023-2024, as he was second on the Wild with 76 PP SOG, but 4th in power play goals (10.53 PP SH%) with 8. 

🎯 Joel Eriksson Ek, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 182.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 30 Goals, 63 Points


🎯 Ryan Hartman, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 160.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 23 Goals, 59 Points


🎯 Marco Rossi, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 158.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 14 Goals, 42 Points


🎯 Marcus Foligno, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 14 Goals, 40 Points

Marcus Foligno is another banger-league beauty, throwing 265 hits in 65 games played (3.65 Hits/GM) last season! In 2021-2022, Foligno shot 23.5% in 74 games, posting a career-high 23 goals and 42 points. In 2022-2023, the veteran forward’s individual shooting percentage (iSH%) cratered at just 8.4%. The shot volume still leaves much to be desired, but that conversion rate should improve next season.

🎯 Jared Spurgeon, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 152.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 12 Goals, 44 Points


🎯 Calen Addison, D
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 6 Goals, 40 Points

In 80 career NHL games, Calen Addison has taken just 24 shots on the power play, 23 which came in 2022-2023. This past year, Addison received 71.2% PP Share (3:29 PPTOI/GM), but still failed to convert with the man-advantage. Expect to see Addison’s PP SH% improve in 2023-2024, along with his team’s even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%) with him on the ice (7.3% last season).  

🎯 Filip Gustavsson, G
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PREDICTION: 45 Starts (55% Net Share), 26 Wins

Filip Gustavsson was brilliant last season for the Minnesota Wild, sporting a 22-9-7 record with a .931 SV% and 2.10 GAA! Only Linus Ullmark (.938 SV%, 1.89 GAA) was better in those categories this past season (min. 500 minutes played), and Ullmark played for a historic Bruins team. Gustavsson is sporting a .920 SV% in his career, but that includes a grand total of just 66 games, so fantasy managers would be wise to expect some regression next season. It’s also concerning that the 25-year old completed the season with a .919 PK SV% – the highest in the NHL among regular starters. For those of you unaware, the average PKSV% in the NHL is .860; so that could certainly drive Gustavsson’s numbers down next season. 

🎯 Marc-Andre Fleury, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 79.5 | PREDICTION: 37 Starts (45% Net Share), 20 Wins

With 554 wins, Marc-Andre Fleury is just 8 victories shy of Patrick Roy (551) for second place on the NHL’s all-time wins list. Given his age (39-years old), and the quality goaltending provided by Filip Gustavsson, it will be a challenge for Fleury to claim the number one spot on that list, held by Martin Brodeur (691 wins). 

📃Watchlist: Jesper Wallstedt (G)


Nashville Predators 

42-32-8 (5th in Central) | GF/GM: 2.72 (28th) | GA/GM: 2.88 (21st) | GF%: 48.58 (22nd) | CF%: 47.52 (24th) | PP%: 17.60 (27th) | PK%: 82.55 (6th)

Schedule Notes: The Nashville Predators have 9 back-to-back sets this season; tied for 3rd fewest with Arizona and Vancouver. 20 of their games (24%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), the third fewest among all NHL clubs this upcoming season.

Key Additions: Ryan O’Reilly (UFA), Gustav Nyquist, Luke Schenn

Key Departures: Matt Duchene (Buyout, UFA – DAL), Ryan Johansen (Trade w/ COL), Matthias Ekholm (Trade w/ EDM)

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Filip Forsberg, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: 55.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 37 Goals, 80 Points

Most savvy fantasy managers were well aware that 2021-2022 was an outlier season for Filip Forsberg, as he posted a career-best 84 points and 42 goals in 69 games (100-point pace). For those not paying attention, Forsberg was a real disappointment in 2022-2023, as he played at a 69-point pace through just 50 games played. The Preds winger was taken on average in the 4th or 5th round and failed to live up to expectations. 

With both Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen gone, Forsberg should see a jump in ice time in all situations. Perhaps the biggest improvement will be made on the power play, as the 28-year old managed just 4 PPGs last season on 40 shots (10% PP SH%), compared to his 3-year average of 9 PPGs with a 13.5 PP SH%. 

🎯 Ryan O’Reilly, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 147.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 24 Goals, 63 Points

We are bullish on Ryan O’Reilly for next season as he takes on a top line, top power play role with the Nashville Predators. Pushed down the depth chart in both St. Louis and Toronto last season, O’Reilly will have every opportunity to rebound in 2023-2024; and the underlying metrics suggest we should expect it. On the power play, O’Reilly had just 1 PPG on 9 SOG (11.11 PP SH%) last season, compared to 9 PPG on 36 SOG (25 PP SH%) he produced in 2021-2022. 

🎯 Tommy Novak, C
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 25 Goals, 64 Points

Tommy Novak should have every opportunity to improve on the 43 points and 17 goals (69-point pace) he produced in 2022-2023. Second-line center and PP1 deployment seems all but guaranteed with the off-season changes in Smashville.

🎯 Gustav Nyquist, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 19 Goals, 50 Points


🎯 Cody Glass, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 18 Goals, 46 Points

Over the final 24 games of the season, Cody Glass played 17:22 TOI/GM and received 68.1% PP Share (3:12 PPTOI/GM). With Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene gone, there should be plenty of opportunity for the 2017 first-rounder. Our projection is based on the assumption that Glass continues to see top 6 deployment and at least secondary power play time. 

🎯 Philip Tomasino, RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 15 Goals, 48 Points


🎯 Roman Josi, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 16.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 21 Goals, 79 Points


🎯 Tyson Barrie, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 169.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 9 Goals, 39 Points

In 24 games with Nashville last season, Tyson Barrie averaged 21:24 TOI and received a 60.2% PP Share (2:50 PPTOI/GM). With the Preds captain (Roman Josi) missing the final 15 games of the regular season, Barrie was able to take over the power play and assume more ice time at even-strength. Unfortunately for the former Oiler, that power play time is likely to diminish next season; and with Ryan McDonagh and Luke Schenn on the roster, Barrie will be limited to a third-pairing role. With both Josi and Barrie in the lineup, Barrie received a more modest 1:27 PPTOI/GM (37.5% PP Share).  

🎯 Luke Schenn, D
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 5 Goals, 27 Points

Luke Schenn led ALL NHL defenseman last season with 318 hits (4.54/GM), and was 6th in “BASH” with a combined total of 497 Blocked Shots, SOG, and Hits! Any offense from Schenn is a bonus, but with that kind of peripheral coverage and a top 4 role on a rebuilding team, we may see even higher totals in 2023-2024. 

🎯 Juuse Saros, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 30.5 | PREDICTION: 65 Starts (79% Net Share), 32 Wins


📃Watchlist: Luke Evangelista (RW), Yaroslav Askarov (G)


St. Louis Blues

37-38-7 (6th 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%: 72.35 (30th)

Schedule Notes: The St. Louis Blues have 11 back-to-back sets this season; tied for the fifth lowest among all NHL clubs in 2023-2024. 26 of their games (32%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), the seventh lowest for next season.

Key Additions: Kevin Hayes (Trade w/ PHI), Oskar Sundqvist (

Key Departures: N/A

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Pavel Buchnevich, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 78.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 30 Goals, 83 Points

Pavel Buchnevich looks primed for regression in 2023-2024, as his team’s even-strength shooting percentage (tEVSH%), individual shooting percentage (PP SH%), and power play shooting percentage (PPSH%) from last season are all inflated relative to his career average. A 12.3 tEVSH% was a career-high, as was his 21.1 iSH% – which was well above both 3-year and career averages of 17.2% and 15.0%, respectively. After scoring 8 goals on 36 shots (22.22 PP SH%) in 2021-2022; Buchnevich managed to score 8 goals on just 22 shots (36.36 PP SH%) this past season. Expect some level of regression in terms of the shooting percentage on the power play. 

The 28-year old has yet to play a full 82 games during the course of his 7-year NHL career; but he has played between a 73-point and 87-point pace over the last 3 seasons, making him a valuable option at the right price point. 

🎯 Jordan Kyrou, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 96.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 38 Goals, 80 Points

A career-high 37 goals last season for Jordan Kyrou, as the Blues forward reached an elite-level in terms of shot volume at 11.5 SOG/60 (3.4 SOG/GM). Secondary assists per 60 minutes played (2A/60) and power play shooting percentage (PP SH%) are both areas of concern for Kyrou next season; but with his current deployment and shot volume, he has a legitimate chance to improve on those career-highs in 2023-2024. 

🎯 Robert Thomas, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 118.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 20 Goals, 77 Points


🎯 Brayden Schenn, C/LW
2022 Avg. ADP: 106.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 22 Goals, 65 Points


🎯 Jakub Vrana, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: 187.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 30 Goals, 56 Points

Jakub Vrana’s most productive season came in 2019-2020 as a member of the Washington Capitals, posting 52 points and 25 goals in 69 games (62-point pace). The 27-year old has faced some personal challenges, but it’s worth noting that Vrana has ranked 19th league-wide the past three seasons with a 2.73 Pts/60 – just behind Matthew Tkachuk (2.75 Pts/60) and ahead of both Artemi Panarin (2.71 Pts/60) and Steven Stamkos (2.68 Pts/60). If Vrana can secure top 6 minutes, and a role on the second power play unit, career-highs in goals and points could be achievable. 

🎯 Kevin Hayes, C/LW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 16 Goals, 46 Points

Kevin Hayes had 30 points and 9 goals in 33 games (75-point, 24-goal pace over 82 games) before being benched by head coach John Tortorella on December 15th against the New Jersey Devils. Whatever message Tortorella was trying to send was certainly missed (ignored?) by the 31-year old. Hayes produced just 25 points and 9 goals over the next 50 games (82-game pace of 41 points and 15 goals), finishing the season with 54 points (18 goals). A move to St. Louis offers a fresh start for Hayes, but also less opportunity, as he very likely plays third-line minutes behind long-time Blue, Brayden Schenn.   

🎯 Brandon Saad, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 20 Goals, 44 Points


🎯 Justin Faulk, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 114.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 11 Goals, 46 Points

Justin Faulk is an underrated fantasy defenceman. Over the past 3 seasons, Faulk is SIXTH in total points 5v5 by defenceman! Adam Fox, Devon Toews, Cale Makar, Roman Josi, and Erik Karlsson are the only Dmen with more 5v5 points the past three years. If we turn our attention to goals at 5v5, Faulk moves up to THIRD among defencemen; behind only Karlsson and Makar! Additionally, Faulk has averaged 1.8 Hits/GM, 1.5 Blocks/GM, and even sees secondary power play time.

🎯 Torey Krug, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 137.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 9 Goals, 44 Points


🎯 Colton Parayko, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 133.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 5 Goals, 31 Points


🎯 Jordan Binnington, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 120.5 | PREDICTION: 53 Starts (65% Net Share), 24 Wins

Jordan Binnington’s save percentage has been on the decline since he entered the league in 2018-2019, finishing the regular season with a .927 SV% in 32 games played, and ultimately leading St. Louis to a Stanley Cup. For leagues that include save percentage and goals against average, I have very little interest in Binnington. However, if your league prioritizes goalie wins, a case could be made (maybe?) to roster the 30-year old. 

The good news for Binnington? St. Louis’ new assistant coach Mike Weber has been tasked with improving the defense and penalty kill, which was ranked 30th last season at 72.35%. Binnington’s .825 PKSV% was well-below the league average of .860, and the first time in his career that he had been below .857 on the penalty kill. Significant regression should occur next season, bringing up his overall totals.

📃Watchlist: Jake Neighbours (LW), Joel Hofer (G)


Winnipeg Jets

46-33-3 (4th 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 Winnipeg Jets have 8 back-to-back sets this season; tied for 3rd fewest with Calgary, Colorado, and Florida – Connor Hellebuyck will continue to be an absolute workhorse next season. 29 of their games (35%) are played on “light days” (days where fewer than 50% of teams are in action), tied for 8th most with Seattle and Vancouver.

Key Additions:  Alex IaFallo (Trade w/ WPG), Gabriel Vilardi (Trade w/ WPG), Laurent Brossoit (G)

Key Departures: Blake Wheeler (Buyout), Pierre-Luc Dubois (Trade w/ LAK)

Top Fantasy Targets

🎯 Kyle Connor, LW
2022 Avg. ADP: 25.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 44 Goals, 85 Points

Kyle Connor had his worst individual shooting percentage (11.7 iSH%) since his rookie season in 2016-2017 (8.3%). Assuming that Connor can get his iSH% closer to his career-average of 14.6%, a 50-goal season could be within reach. It’s also worth noting that Connor produced 53 points and 21 goals in 44 games during the first half of the season (99-point, 39-goal pace over 82 games); but dropped to just 28 points and 11 goals in 38 games in the second half of the season (60-point, 24-goal pace over 82 games). I expect a more consistent effort from the Jets forward next season, along with additional ice time as he absorbs some of the 5v5 minutes left behind by Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Another season averaging 21+ minutes per game would not shock me.   

🎯 Mark Scheifele, C
2022 Avg. ADP: 101.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 33 Goals, 82 Points

Last season was the first time Mark Scheifele had fallen below the point per game mark (0.84 Pts/GM) since 2015-2016; despite shooting a career-high 20.4 iSH%. It appears that luck played a part in that decline, as both Scheifele’s secondary assists per 60 minutes (2A/60) and team even-strength shooting percentage were down compared to career averages. Again, with Wheeler and Dubois moving on, Scheifele will be tasked with shouldering the offensive load; so at the very least, I would expect a return to a point per game output from the lifelong Jet. 

🎯 Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: 89.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 37 Goals, 79 Points

Is this finally the season that we see Nikolaj Ehlers deployed in a manner fitting of his offensive capabilities? At even-strength over the past three seasons (min. 1,500 minutes played), Ehlers ranked 7th league-wide with a 11.19 SOG/60, 3rd in iCF/60 (21.32), and 8th in iSCF/60 (11.43). It should also be noted that Ehlers ranked 1st in Winnipeg  with a 2.78 Pts/60 over the same time frame. Yet, despite those impressive rate stats, Ehlers ranked just 9th in PPTOI per game (2:14/GM) and 12th in even-strength TOI per game (14:41/GM)! With Blake Wheeler (buyout) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (trade) removed from the lineup, there are some substantial minutes to be had, and our projection for next season is based on 19 minutes per game for Ehlers (a new career-high). 

🎯 Gabriel Vilardi, LW/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 26 Goals, 67 Points

Gabriel Vilardi played a career-high 15:36 for the Los Angeles Kings in 2022-2023, enroute to a career-best 41 points and 23 goals (53-point pace over 82 games). We are anticipating a big year for Vilardi in Winnipeg, including top 6 minutes and a role on the second power play unit. 

🎯 Cole Perfetti, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 16 Goals, 52 Points


🎯 Nino Niederreiter, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 24 Goals, 45 Points


🎯 Alex IaFallo, C/RW
2022 Avg. ADP: – | PTS. PREDICTION: 17 Goals, 40 Points


🎯 Josh Morrissey, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 120.0 | PTS. PREDICTION: 12 Goals, 57 Points

Josh Morrissey seemingly came out of nowhere last season, crushing his previous career-high of 37 points (12 goals) enroute to a 76-point, 16-goal campaign in 2022-2023. If not for a historic performance from Erik Karlsson, Morrissey would have been the most talked about defenceman in the NHL last year. Looking at the underlying luck metrics, Morrissey appears due for major regression everywhere except for power play shooting percentage. 

Where is the appropriate place to draft him in 2023-2024? 

🎯 Neal Pionk, D
2022 Avg. ADP: 169.5 | PTS. PREDICTION: 6 Goals, 40 Points

Neal Pionk is a nice low-end option if you’re looking for consistent category coverage. Pionk has averaged 6 goals and 38 points over 82 games the past 3 seasons, and can routinely be relied upon for close to 200 hits (2.3/GM), over 100 blocks (1.37/GM), 50 PIMS, and secondary power play time. That is good value for a player taken on average in the 14th round of fantasy drafts last season. If Morrissey goes down with injury, this man could be a significant contributor. 

🎯 Connor Hellebuyck, G
2022 Avg. ADP: 55.0 | PREDICTION: 65 Starts (79% Net Share), 35 Wins

Connor Hellebuyck leads ALL NHL goaltenders the past three seasons in games played (175) and saves (4,992)! Almost as impressive is the fact that Hellebuyck has been able to maintain a .915 SV% (all situations) over that time frame, good enough for 12th league-wide. Last season, Hellebuyck ranked 4th with a goals saved above expected (GSAx) of 30.8 (MoneyPuck.com). An absolute workhorse in goal, and entering the final season of his six-year contract, Hellebuyck will certainly be a priority for me in drafts this Fall.  

2023-2024 Way-Too-Early Predictions

Jason Chen’s Picks: 
  • Who wins the Central Division next season? Colorado Avalanche 
  • Who wins the Stanley Cup? Colorado Avalanche
  • Who wins the Rocket Richard Trophy? Connor McDavid 
  • Who wins the Art Ross Trophy? Connor McDavid
  • Who wins the Norris Trophy? Miro Heiskanen
  • Who wins the Vezina Trophy? Ilya Sorokin
  • Who wins the Calder Trophy? Connor Bedard

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