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      10 bold fantasy hockey predictions for 2022-23

      Brady beats Matthew Tkachuk, Jack Hughes delivers first-round value, and more.

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      The NHL pre-season also brings with it prediction season. I always get a kick out of whipping up my hottest of takes and watching the frenzied replies trickle in on social media. Bring ’em on.

      So let’s dive into prediction season with a fantasy hockey twist. Here are my 10 boldest takes for the 2022-23 fantasy campaign.

      Cale Makar becomes the first defenseman in 31 years to score 100 points.

      Makar amassed 117 points in 97 games between the regular season and playoffs as part of an epic individual 2021-22 campaign that yielded a Norris Trophy, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. Among defensemen with at least 150 career games, he trails only Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey in points per game at 1.01. That stat partially reflects the fact that other all-time greats declined in their later years, but it gives you a sense of the company Makar keeps. He’s just 23. He’s the most dynamic offensive talent on ‘D’ this century, and he’s poised to be the first player at his position to crest 100 points since Brian Leetch in 1991-92.

      Jack Hughes is a first-round pick in fantasy drafts one year from now.

      Really, if Hughes had played a full season in 2021-22 and not gone down with freak shoulder and knee injuries, he’d be flirting with first-round status now. The breakout happened. He had 56 points in just 49 games last season, looking every bit like the dynamo he was supposed to become when the New Jersey Devils drafted him first overall in 2019. If Hughes can avoid getting hurt, he has a real chance to deliver the first 100-point campaign by a Devil. Patrik Elias’ single-season franchise record of 96 is in danger.

      Ilya Sorokin is this year’s Igor Shesterkin.

      The NHL’s general managers vote on the Vezina Trophy, and while the ballots don’t completely skew toward win totals every year, they at the very least tend to punish goalies with modest win totals. Hence Sorokin finishing sixth in the vote last season despite arguably playing as well as any puck-stopper not named Shesterkin. Sorokin actually led all goaltenders in goals saved above average per 60 and high-danger save percentage last season at 5-on-5 (min. 1,000 minutes).

      The New York Islanders won’t be slogging through a bizarre 13-game road trip to start their season this time, nor will they be playing 50 games in a 99-day stretch or opening the year without captain Anders Lee. They should be more competitive in 2022-23. Sorokin was already great last season, but he should improve on his 26 wins and contend for the Vezina.

      Moritz Seider finishes as a top-three fantasy defenseman in banger formats.

      Even the rookie version of Seider finished as the No. 11 fantasy blueliner in my scoring system. His Calder Trophy campaign included 50 points, 187 shots, 151 hits, 161 blocks and 0.0 missed games. He’s established himself as a horse at both ends of the ice, which will keep his workload in the 23-minute range at worst, and with the Red Wings adding more talent around him, he should rack up additional assists, particularly on the power play, where UFA signee David Perron is a wizard.

      Brady Tkachuk beats Matthew Tkachuk in fantasy value.

      Ah, the Matthew Tkachuk paradox. He’s extremely excited to join a powerhouse Florida Panthers team, but that team gave up so much to get Tkachuk that it might have weakened itself in the process. This is a much thinner lineup than last year’s, down Jonathan Huberdeau, Claude Giroux, Mason Marchment and the injured Anthony Duclair at forward, and that might necessitate having Tkachuk drive his own line rather than play with Aleksander Barkov at all times.

      We’re seeing the opposite situation unfold for Brady Tkachuk in Ottawa. The team around him got stronger, adding some major contributors in Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux, and opponents thus won’t be able to key entirely on the Tkachuk/Josh Norris/Drake Batherson line. Giroux and DeBrincat will also help the power play. Brady seems like a great bet to improve on last season’s career highs of 30 goals and 67 points and, with his monster shot and hit totals to boot, has the ceiling to return top-10 value in banger formats.

      Vincent Trocheck has a mid-career breakout similar to Nazem Kadri’s last season.

      Entering last season, Kadri was 30-year-old second-line center who blended offense with agitation and had never topped 32 goals or 61 points in a season. He exploded for 87 points in 71 games and scored a lucrative free agent deal with the Calgary Flames.

      Trocheck is a 29-year-old second-line center who blends offense with agitation and has never topped 31 goals or 75 points in a season. He’s now slated to play with superstar Artemi Panarin after joining the New York Rangers as a UFA this past summer. It would qualify as a mild upset if Trocheck didn’t deliver career-best fantasy value or, at the very least, his meatiest line since his breakout 2017-18 campaign.

      Ilya Samsonov is the Maple Leafs’ 1A starter by the 2023 fantasy playoffs.

      Set aside whether we believe Murray, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, can revive his career at 28 playing on his best team in years. It’s possible he regains his game and still doesn’t end up as Toronto’s No. 1 by the stretch run simply because his 6-foot-4, 178-pound frame isn’t built for starting duty. Injuries limited him to just 20 starts last season. He hasn’t started more than half his team’s games in a season since 2018-19.

      Samsonov, three years Murray’s junior, has a bit of an injury history, too, but not nearly the wear and tear Murray has. The physical tools are not in doubt with Samsonov, a 2015 first-round pick. New Leafs goaltending coach Curtis Sanford played a major role helping toolsy netminder Thatcher Demko reach his potential in the Vancouver Canucks system, so maybe Sanford can work similar magic with Samsonov, who is built a bit sturdier than Murray and perhaps more likely to hold up over a full season.

      Elias Pettersson has a career year.

      Bruce Boudreau unlocks players’ potential and helps them find a happy place, as cheesy as that sounds. Pettersson was a monster in the second half of the real-life NHL season and particularly during the fantasy season. He was likely a league winner for many poolies who bought low on him with a mid-season trade or shallow-league pickup, ripping off 21 goals and 44 points in 34 games after the all-star break and 14 goals and 23 points in his final 16 games. He’s still just 23. It’s not too late for him to be a fantasy hockey superstar. I won’t be remotely surprised if he reaches 40 goals and/or 90 points for the first time.

      Vince Dunn delivers the cheapest 50 points of any defenseman in the league.

      Dunn’s current Yahoo ADP: 156.8, making him the 45th blueliner off the board on average. It’s understandable for any casual drafter to overlook a guy who amassed a modest 35 points in 73 games on a Seattle Kraken team that was largely irrelevant in its inaugural season.

      But Dunn is quite clearly the top power-play quarterback for the Kraken, likely the lone defenseman who will be a fixture on the primary unit. He averaged 2:12 of power play time per game last season, and that number should climb with Mark Giordano no longer around. Post-Giordano trade, Dunn scored at a 49-point pace in 15 games. Now the team around him should be much more potent offensively to boot, with a full season of Matty Beniers plus new additions such as Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand joining the fray. Dunn should deliver a career year at a bargain price in pools.

      One NHL team yields no top-100 fantasy player in 2022-23.

      Will the Arizona Coyotes be a fantasy graveyard? Almost, but you can count on Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun. The Chicago Blackhawks still have Patrick Kane. The Montreal Canadiens have Cole Caufield. The San Jose Sharks have Timo Meier.

      The Philadelphia Flyers have…John Tortorella, a coach known for preaching a grinding, defense-first style and piling players in his dog house. Their top center, Sean Couturier, will miss at the first month of the season at best with a herniated disk; their top defenseman, Ryan Ellis, will miss all of 2022-23 and may never play again due to a pelvic injury; their top left winger, Joel Farabee, is returning from disc replacement surgery. Maybe Tortorella revives defenseman Ivan Provorov’s value, and maybe Cam Atkinson turns back the clock while reunited with his old Blue Jackets coach, but it’s tough to see any Flyer cracking the top 100 in fantasy this season. That includes goaltender Carter Hart, who should have a tough time winning games.

      The highest current Flyer in my Top 300: Tony DeAngelo at 154.

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