By Ryan Dadoun, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
With the fantasy hockey season about to begin, there is nothing but possibilities ahead. Let's have some fun by examining a handful of predictions that might age as well as milk, but are at least worthy of consideration.
Patrik Laine will score 50 goals for the first time
Remember when Laine looked like he might be the next Alexander Ovechkin in terms of raw goal-scoring ability? Laine netted 36 goals as a rookie in 2016-17 and ranked second in the goal-scoring race as a sophomore with 44 markers in 2017-18. However, he has dealt with huge consistency problems along with injury issues since and consequently hasn't recorded more than 30 goals in any of his last four seasons.
He did seem to find his way with Columbus and coach Brad Larsen in 2021-22, scoring 26 goals and 56 points in 56 contests. Just as important, the Blue Jackets signed Johnny Gaudreau over the summer, and on paper, he looks like the ideal linemate for Laine. For all the ups-and-downs Laine has had, he's only 24 years old and now that he has Gaudreau feeding him the puck, Laine could live up to the promise of his first two NHL campaigns in 2022-23.
Two defensemen will finish the season with over 100 points
In the history of the league, there have only been 14 instances in which a defenseman has recorded at least 100 points in a season, with the most recent example being Brian Leetch in 1991-92. To suggest that any blueliner will hit the century mark is no small claim, but when I look at the state of defensemen in the league, having two of them achieve that feat in 2022-23 doesn't seem completely farfetched.
Roman Josi fell just short of that mark last season with 96 points in 80 contests and could perform similarly this year. Then you have a pair of amazing offensive defensemen in Cale Makar and Adam Fox, who finished with 86 and 74 points respectively in 2021-22 and who should continue to grow as players. You can't discount Quinn Hughes, either, who is turning just 23 on Oct. 14 — he isn't far off from the level of Makar and Fox in terms of raw ability with the puck. Then there are a few veteran blueliners who are still at the top of their game in Victor Hedman and John Carlson.
Even if this prediction proves to be woefully optimistic, the blueliner scoring race should be among the most engaging storylines this season.
Brady Tkachuk will score more goals and points than Matthew Tkachuk
In 2021-22, Brady Tkachuk set career highs with 30 goals and 67 points in 79 games, but it still paled in comparison to his older brother Matthew's production, who finished with 42 goals and 104 points through 82 contests. So far, Matthew has gotten more points than Brady in every season the two have both played in, but this might be the campaign where those roles are reversed.
First off, Matthew's amazing numbers with Calgary last season can at least partially be attributed to him playing on a line with Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau for a staggering 79.2 percent of his total even-strength ice time. Matthew was undoubtedly part of what made that unit so good, but there's no question he had amazing linemates to work with. Now he's in Florida, and while he'll still be surrounded by great talent, it's not clear if he'll play on the first line with Aleksander Barkov or the second with Sam Bennett. The difference between those two opportunities is substantial and if he even bounces between those two lines throughout the season instead of being a mainstay with Barkov, it'd represent a step down from his previous situation with the Flames.
Meanwhile, Brady's Senators are looking to move past the rebuilding phase and, to that end, added forwards Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux to compliment their developing young core this summer. In addition to what should be substantially improved linemates, Brady's also been maturing as a player and would have been primed to set new career highs for a second straight year even without an improved supporting cast in 2022-23.
The gap between the brothers going into the season isn't as big as it might initially seem.
Evander Kane will end up with more goals and points than Patrick Kane
First, let me state the obvious: Unlike Brady and Matthew, Evander and Patrick Kane aren't brothers. That said, they happen to share a surname and throughout their careers, Patrick has consistently been the better offensive player.
In fact, it usually hasn't been close, so why do I think this season will be any different?
Half of the answer is Evander Kane will be in the best situation of his career. He's set to play with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in every game and it wouldn't be surprising to see stretches where the trio is on the ice together. That arrangement worked out perfectly for Evander in 2021-22 with him scoring 22 goals and 39 points in 43 games followed by another 13 goals and 17 points in 15 playoff contests. It's not hard to see how this could be the best season of Evander's career.
Meanwhile, if there was ever a time for Patrick Kane to play below his capabilities, it's this season. Following the Blackhawks' fire sale, he's not going to have a ton to work with in terms of surrounding talent this year.
It goes beyond that though.
Chicago clearly has an eye on the future and, at least at the front office level, it's clear this team was constructed with the hope of winning the draft lottery. Patrick has played for bad versions of the Blackhawks before, but this one may be the worst yet. Heading into the 2021-22 campaign, Kane likely thought he had paid his dues during the Blackhawks' previous rebuild and would finally be getting back to playoff hockey. Instead, Chicago imploded and then dealt away Alex DeBrincat, who not only was Patrick's linemate, but also just 24 years old. If a player as young as DeBrincat doesn't fit the Blackhawks' timetable, then where does that leave the soon-to-be 34-year-old Patrick Kane?
With one year left on his contract, a lot of attention has been given to the possibility of Patty being traded. It wouldn't be surprising to see that happen, but Kane's $10.5 million cap hit will likely keep him stuck in Chicago until close to the trade deadline. Most of the teams that have interest in Kane have very little cap space, so even if Chicago were to retain 50% of his salary, those teams would have difficulty affording a full season of Patrick, making a deadline deal more likely.
In the meantime, he's left to flounder on a team far removed from the one he remembers from his championship runs.
Erik Karlsson will surpass the 60-point mark for the first time since joining San Jose
It's fair to say Karlsson's eight-year, $92 million contract has worked out terribly for the Sharks. In the first half of his career, he was one of, if not the league's best defenseman. He even surpassed the 60-point milestone in five consecutive campaigns. He hasn't come close to that mark since joining the Sharks in 2018-19, but that doesn't mean he's completely done.
Injuries have been an ongoing problem during his time with San Jose, but Karlsson's had some good stretches when he's been healthy. His 10 goals and 35 points in 50 contests last season aren't anything to sneeze at. Now Brent Burns is gone and consequently, Karlsson's role with the Sharks has never been more important. On top of that, Karlsson will enter the season healthy.
Whether or not he'll stay that way remains to be seen. If he does manage to have a healthy season in 2022-23, the 60-point mark will be within reach for Karlsson.