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What the NHL Playoffs showed us about key players for the 2020-21 fantasy hockey season

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Staff
·7-min read
Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos hoisted up the Stanley Cup in 2020. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Kyle Riley, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

This year's Stanley Cup playoffs were unlike any we've ever seen before, with 12 teams from each conference entering bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton for a tournament that would end up taking just under two months to complete, culminating in a five-game series win for the Lightning over the Stars, earning Tampa Bay its second Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Now that we've officially entered the offseason, it's time to examine which players helped and hurt their fantasy value during this year's playoffs.

Players On The Rise

Forwards

Joe Pavelski – Dallas: Pavelski had a somewhat disappointing regular season, totaling 14 goals and 17 helpers in 67 games during his first campaign as a Star, but he was reportedly never fully healthy during regular-season play and needed the long layoff between the stoppage in March and the beginning of the playoffs in August to get back to 100 percent. Pavelski looked like his old self when postseason play got underway, and it showed in his production, as the 36-year-old winger finished the playoffs with an impressive 13 goals and six assists in 27 contests. Assuming that's a sign of things to come, it won't be out of the realm of possibility for Pavelski to get back to the 30-goal, 60-point marks in 2020-21.

Bo Horvat – Vancouver: After another strong regular season in which he picked up 22 goals and 31 assists in 69 games, Horvat exploded as a goal-scorer during the postseason, racking up 10 goals and two helpers in just 17 contests. The 25-year-old pivot's 20.8 postseason shooting percentage is unsustainable, but his performance nonetheless hints he could be heading for a breakout of sorts in 2020-21. Don't be surprised to see Horvat surpass the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career next season.

Defenseman

Miro Heiskanen – Dallas: We already knew Heiskanen was special, but he took his game to a new level during the playoffs, particularly on offense, racking up an absurd six goals and 26 points in just 27 games. To put that into perspective, the 21-year-old blueliner only put up eight goals and 27 assists in 68 regular-season contests this year. It wouldn't be wise to expect Heiskanen to continue to produce at a near point-per-game pace during a full 82-game season in 2020-21, but if his playoff performance is any sort of indication, he could emerge as a high-scoring offensive defenseman, putting him in the conversation with the likes of Roman Josi and Victor Hedman in terms of fantasy value.

Shea Theodore – Vegas: Theodore's playoff performance was equally impressive as Heiskanen's. The 25-year-old blueliner racked up seven goals and 12 helpers in just 20 games and looked like a future Norris Trophy winner in the process. I don't think he has quite as much offensive upside as Heiskanen heading into 2020-21, if for no other reason than the fact that Heiskanen is four years younger with a significantly higher draft pedigree as the third overall pick from 2017, but Theodore nonetheless appears poised to take another step forward in his development next season, which should result in career-high marks in most major offensive categories.

Goaltender

Thatcher Demko – Vancouver: Jacob Markstrom started the vast majority of Vancouver's 17 playoff contests, but Demko was spectacular when called upon after Markstrom went down with a groin injury, posting a spectacular 0.67 GAA and .984 save percentage in three games against the Golden Knights' high-powered attack. Markstrom is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and although the Canucks would love to bring him back, it's going be tough for them to make it work given their cap situation. If Markstrom ends up departing in free agency, Demko will enter the 2020-21 campaign as Vancouver's unquestioned starter, which would obviously represent a major boon to his fantasy value. Obviously, Demko's performance in the playoffs is minuscule in terms of sample size, but it nonetheless gives fantasy players a reason to be excited about the 24-year-old backstop's potential heading into next season.

Players On The Decline

Forwards

Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay: Stamkos' talent is undeniable, and he's still in his prime at 30 years old, but his health issues have once again come to the forefront after he was limited to just one playoff appearance and just 2:47 of ice time due to a lower-body injury he suffered in the lead-up to the NHL's resumption of play. In true Stamkos fashion, he potted a goal almost immediately upon making his postseason debut in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Dallas, but he re-aggravated his injury shortly thereafter and ended up missing the rest of that contest as well as the final three games of the series. Coach Jon Cooper has already stated he expects Stamkos to be ready for the start of next season, but virtual managers should still consider the forward a somewhat high-risk, high-reward fantasy option due to his health concerns alone heading into 2020-21.

Kyle Turris – Nashville: After a second straight disappointing regular season in which he only totaled nine goals and 31 points in 62 games, Turris completely disappeared during Nashville's brief four-game playoff run, going scoreless while posting a minus-4 rating. Things have gotten so bad, general manager David Poile is reportedly considering buying out the remaining four years of Turris' six-year, $36 million contract this offseason. Regardless of what happens, Turris won't be a player worth targeting during next year's fantasy drafts.

Defenseman

Mark Giordano – Calgary: It appears, just a year removed from a 74-point regular-season performance and his first Norris Trophy win, Giordano's age may finally be starting to catch up with him. The 36-year-old blueliner failed to score double-digit goals for the first time in seven campaigns in 2019-20, totaling just five goals and 31 points in 60 regular-season games, and things didn't improve during the postseason, as Giordano only managed three assists in 10 contests, and struggled at times to match the speed of opposing forwards in his own end. He may bounce back to an extent in 2020-21, but if his performance in the playoffs is any indication, it wouldn't be surprising to see his production continue to decline.

Shayne Gostisbehere – Philadelphia: Gostisbehere has clearly fallen out of favor with the Flyers' coaching staff, which became especially evident during the postseason when he sat as a healthy scratch for 11 of Philadelphia's 16 playoff games. The 27-year-old blueliner will once again be the subject of trade rumors this offseason, and there's still potential there considering he put up 65 points in 78 games in 2017-18, but he won't be worth drafting as long as he remains a Flyer.

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury - Vegas: Fleury only started four of Vegas' 20 games this postseason, as the team instead turned to newcomer Robin Lehner as its No. 1 option in net. The Golden Knights appear to have every intention of re-signing Lehner this offseason. If that comes to fruition, unless Vegas is somehow able to trade Fleury and his $7 million per year salary to another club, it's safe to assume the former Penguin backstop will be playing second fiddle to Lehner in 2020-21. There are a lot of variables in play here, but regardless of what happens, Fleury's arrow appears to be pointing down heading into next season.

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