Trying to predict player’s point totals before a season has begun is a fool’s errand. It’s just educated guesswork that’s very rarely spot on.
Still, it’s a challenge ESPN takes on every summer to get hockey fans ready for fantasy hockey. While these projections mean very little, it’s still fun to see how they view certain players.
For the Los Angeles Kings, it was a mixed bag of results.
Similar to my article looking at Corey Pronman’s prospect rankings, I won’t go through each player, but will pick out some that interest me.
Player’s ESPN is High On:
Pierre-Luc Dubois & Kevin Fiala:
The first thing to jump out at you is Pierre-Luc Dubois’ career-high 33 goals and 77 points. ESPN seems convinced that things will click early in Los Angeles for Dubois and he’ll take the next step in becoming truly elite.
If Dubois meets this projection, the trade is a homer un for Rob Blake given the physicality Dubois brings up the middle. This projection doesn’t feel unrealistic either. I wouldn’t say he’s a lock for hitting a career-high, but those totals are definitely within reach for Dubois.
Which brings us to the player ESPN predicts leading the team in points, Kevin Fiala. Projected here to score 79 points in 75 games, ESPN expects Fiala to stay right around his 1.04 points per game pace from last season.
I have to imagine Dubois’ big season comes with the assumption he’s playing with Fiala. These two leading the team in points would be music to Blake’s ears, as his two biggest additions since becoming general manager.
I questioned Adrian Kempe’s ability to hit 40 goals again a few weeks ago, but ESPN doesn’t share those concerns.
They’re projecting Kempe to hit 40 on the mark, with 25 assists to match it. I don’t mind the projection either. I don’t expect Kempe to hit 40 again, but wouldn’t be shocked if he did.
Another 40-goal campaign would establish Kempe as one of the truly elite goal scorers in the league and an absolute steal in the 2014 draft.
Kings fans have been claiming that he is underrated for a while now, but ESPN is giving Kempe his flowers here.
Player’s ESPN is Low On:
Projecting Anze Kopitar to finish with 19 goals and 59 points in 81 games feels almost disrespectful at first glance. However, if they’re assuming Dubois takes more of the offensive assignments and power-play time, I can just about see why they’ve low-balled him.
However, even with that context, I’m not buying it. Kopitar’s coming off his best season in five years and boasts an 82-game average of 74 points. To guess he shoots under that by 15 points just feels wrong.
Time gets the better of all players eventually, but I don’t see anything that suggests Kopitar’s going to fall off that hard next season.
In fact, I think having a bit of pressure taken off of him next season will be a good thing moving forward. I’d assume he’s somewhere in the 65-70 point range at minimum next season.
Drew Doughty & Mikey Anderson:
ESPN is sending out bad vibes for Drew Doughty next season, projecting him to play in just 45 games. They do have him keeping his 0.64 point per game pace next season but are banking on some real injury problems.
It’s an odd projection when you factor in Doughty only having one season plagued by injury. He’s not a player with any history of consistently missing games, so, I’m not sure where this assumption comes from.
They’re similarly down on the health of Doughty’s partner, Mikey Anderson. Point totals don’t really matter for Anderson, but ESPN projects him to play in just 59 games.
If these games played projections come true, the Kings could be in some real trouble. Having your top pair miss a combined 60 games is less than ideal and the kind of thing that can kill a season.
Of course, the Kings managed to fight through this two seasons ago, but it’s not something they’ll want to test again.
ESPN projects Phil Danault putting up his lowest point totals since joining the Kings and I get why. If you assume he’s taking on a more defensive, third-line role with the addition of Dubois, 44 points is a reasonable prediction.
This would be Danault’s lowest full-season point total since 2016-17, but could be a catalyst for a big season from Dubois.
The one thing that might keep Danault’s point totals high is his power-play production. If has another big season on the man advantage, I’d expect him closer to the 50-point mark.
Projecting Quinton Byfield to finish with eight goals and 37 points isn’t egregious, but it does show little faith in a breakout season.
If ESPN is right about a big drop-off from Kopitar, I could see this, but with a full season on the top line 37 points seems a little low. They’re projecting almost no jump in his production, but good health, playing in 81 games.
If Byfield produces just 37 points, that’s a problem for the team. That seems very unlikely though. Byfield showed some flashes down the stretch and a healthy off-season should lead to increased point totals.
Maybe he’ll even find the goal-scoring touch that’s gone missing for him.