With training camp coming up in a couple weeks and preseason games starting soon after, the 2023–24 NHL season is on the horizon. With that comes the yearly slate of season predictions and projections. One of the first major projections to go public are from none other than ESPN, as they’ve projected point totals for the top fantasy players in the NHL.
To say their projections for the Calgary Flames were underwhelming would probably be an understatement. By all accounts ESPN is predicting another tough season for the Flames. Let’s take a look at their point total projections for the Flames and try to predict how accurate they’ll be.
For any pending UFA, we’ll ignore their current status and assume they play out the season in Calgary.
Assuming he remains with the team all season, ESPN has Elias Lindholm bouncing back after a down 2022–23 season and leading the Flames in goals and points. The 73 points would be the third highest total of Lindholm’s career, while the 32 projected goals would be just the second time he’s ever cracked 30 in a season after the 2021–22 season.
Overall I’d say these totals aren’t completely inaccurate but I’d wager he comes in under 73 points given the lack of elite wingers to play with. Until we see him produce away from Johnny Gaudreau and/or Matthew Tkachuk, I struggle to see him hitting 73 points.
ESPN clearly doesn’t have much faith in Jonathan Huberdeau bouncing back from his disastrous 2022–23 season where he posted just 55 points. They have him increasing that total by a measly four points to reach 59 points in 2023–24. That would be the third lowest total of his career in a full season and barely an improvement over last year.
Personally I think they’re incredibly low on Huberdeau. This is a player who was at a point-per-game pace for four seasons before last year. Given how just about everything went wrong for Huberdeau last season, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t see a considerable point jump with a fresh start and coaching staff in 2023–24. I’d say he’s a good bet for at least 80 points.
ESPN actually has Rasmus Andersson finishing as the third highest scorer on the team behind Lindholm and Huberdeau with a career-high 53 points. Given the Flames lack of firepower up front, I don’t think it’s completely out of the question.
Andersson is coming off 50 points in 2021–21 and 49 in 2022–23, so he’s started showing signs of being a consistent 50-point player. With a new and hopefully improved power play along with more freedom from the back-end I think Andersson is set for a big year. I’ll take a gamble and say he goes even higher than 53.
A testament to just how lowly ESPN thinks of the Flames forward group, they have Noah Hanifin finishing fourth on the team in scoring with 49 points. This total comes with an obvious asterisk as we still don’t know if Hanifin will even be a Flame come October, but let’s assume he finishes the year in Calgary.
49 points would be a career-high for Hanifin, narrowly passing his 48 points from 2021–22. He’s never been a big point producer outside of that one season, so I find it hard to believe he can hit 49 this year given the role he players. Upping his trade value with a career year certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing though.
After a career year in 2022–23, ESPN has Dillon Dube regressing a tad in 2023–24 instead of taking another step forward. I think this projection will all come down to where Dube plays in 2023–24. The Flames don’t have a ton of proven scoring talent on the wings so if he can earn a regular spot in the top-six I think there’s a good chance he can hit his 2023–23 total of 45 points again.
Overall I’d say this is one of the more accurate projections from ESPN. I don’t see Dube taking the big step some are predicting but I think he can remain a steady 40-point player in the Flames’ middle-six. I’ll say he comes in slightly lower.
Outside of Huberdeau, I’d say this is probably their most inaccurate projection. Even taking into account ESPN predicting Nazem Kadri missing 14 games, they still only have him at a 43-point pace in a full season. That would be his lowest full season total since the 2014–15 season. Even last year with everything going wrong around him he still managed 56 points and 24 goals.
I think it’s a fair bet to assume Kadri easily clears 36 points in 2023–24. Expecting a 20-point drop off from his 2022–23 season seems incredibly pessimistic. I’ll predict he passes this total by a wide margin and lands in the 60-point range.
After Andrew Mangiapane’s disappointing year in 2022–23, ESPN expects things to get even worse in 2023–24 as they have him posting the worst point pace of his career. Considering we now know he played large parts of last season hurt and still managed 43 points on a struggling Flames team, I find it incredibly harsh to predict a 10-point drop off in 2023–24.
After shooting at a career percentage of 17%, Mangiapane’s percentage plummeted to just 9% in 2022–23. There’s a good chance that evens out in 2023–24 and he starts to see the puck go in much more often. With plenty of opportunity on the wing in the Flames’ top-six, I think he passes 15 goals and 33 points with ease.
I get Mikael Backlund will be 34 years old entering the season, but this one’s a real head scratcher. Backlund is coming off the best season of his entire career in 2022–23 with 56 points so predicting a massive 31-point drop off out of nowhere seems frankly absurd.
Sure I think he’s in for some regression after a career year, but I’d be absolutely shocked if he sees his point total fall below 30 in a full season for the first time since his rookie year in 2010–11. This seems like an easy bet to predict over on this one. I’ll say he lands in the 35–40 point range.
ESPN just really doesn’t have faith in the Flames 2022 offseason additions bouncing back in 2023–24. None more so than MacKenzie Weegar who they have posting his lowest total in a full season since 2018–19. Weegar’s bread and butter is obviously his defence, but 22 points seems incredibly low for a player who posted 44 points just two years ago.
Now with a new coaching staff and potentially a bigger role on the power play, the most likely scenario is Weegar returning to his pre 2022–23 form, not hitting new lows. I think it’s a near lock he easily passes this total and comes closer to 40–45 points.
There isn’t much to say about Chris Tanev’s projection. He’s always been a purely shutdown defender so predicting his point total is a moot point. That said it is interesting that they have Tanev posting his lowest total in a full season of his entire career, likely due to the fact they have him missing 28 games due to injury.
If he can stay healthy I’d say he easily passes this total, but over the past year it’s been harder to predict how often he’ll be in the lineup.
A negative outlook
There’s no question ESPN expects the Flames to take another big step back next year. With only one Flame hitting the 60-point mark in their 2023–24 projections, it’s clear they don’t see the Flames improving after their awful 2022–23 season.
Personally I think they’re incredibly low on most of the Flames top players in these projections. Even if the Flames aren’t a top team, there’s still a very high chance a lot of these projections end up coming in way under by years end as it’ll be hard for things to get even worse than they were last year.
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