Checking In on Last Season’s Breakout Players

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Morgan Rielly 2018-19 Breakout Player

Happy New Year! And holy crap, we are already halfway through the 2019-20 NHL season. With fifty-percent of the schedule in the rear-view, I wanted to check in some on of the breakout fantasy players from last season and see how they are fairing so far this year.

It is important to first define the criteria of the data used. For the purposes of this exercise, a “breakout” player was someone who outperformed their previous season’s point production by ten or more points or if they missed games they at least outpaced their previous season’s total by that much. I limited my sample to skaters to keep it simple.

2018-19 Breakout Player 18-19 Points19-20 PaceDifference
Mark Giordano7437-37
Josh Anderson4713-34
Erik Gustafsson6035-25
Morgan Rielly7247-25
Jonathan Toews 8159-22
Dylan Larkin7351-22
Brayden Point9576-19
Alex Debrincat7657-19
Sean Monahan8263-19
Elias Lindholm7860-18
Kevin Labanc5639-17
Timo Meier6652-14
Sebastian Aho8372-11
Matthew Tkachuk7769-8
Alexander Barkov9688-8
Thomas Chabot5549-6
Tomas Hertl7468-6
Mitch Marner94995
Tyler Bertuzzi475912
Jake Guenztel769014
Leon Draisaitl10512015
Mika Zibanejad749117
Jonathan Huberdeau9211119
Elias Petterson668620


As you can see, most of the players who “broke out” last season are straight-up broke this year. Well, not fully, but 72% are on pace to fall below where they were last season. Some of them by a lot.

The players with the largest difference have regressed back to their career paces from the heights of their breakout for various reasons.

For example, some were very high on Morgan Rielly in the offseason and rightly so. Unfortunately, with the acquisition of Tyson Barrie, Rielly’s PP1 deployment was in jeopardy and he ended up losing it altogether.

Of the 25 players listed, only six are on pace to exceed their point totals from last season. Leon Draisaitl is a special case considering his high shooting percentage (21.6%) suggested an impending regression. All he has done this season though is shoot 19% and outpace his total from last season (105) by 15 points.

In Conclusion

Though a full deep-dive on each player would be necessary to figure out exactly what is going wrong, the table above does a good job showing the perils of banking on a breakout. I will do a follow-up at the end of the season as well as some kind of a similarity exercise comparing these guys to the 2019-20 breakouts. Let this post serve as a mid-season warning: when taking a player coming off of a breakout, there’s a very good chance they will disappoint you.

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