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There is a fun exercise trending on #hockeytwitter where fans, media, etc. quickly share their choices to key open-book questions about players on the team they watch or cover.
With not much else happening right now, I thought it'd be a good idea to go a little more in depth and provide some reasoning behind each of my answers.
For clarification purposes, here is an example of the survey going around.
Most overrated: Elias Lindholm
Let me preface this by saying Lindholm did have a strong season. For the most part, he played very well on the top line and produced more than even the overly optimistic could have predicted. With that said, I think his perceived value has gotten a little out of control.
Beyond steady ice time with one of the league's top offensive players in Johnny Gaudreau, Lindholm's totals were inflated by big-time percentage spikes. In three seasons prior to last, Lindholm shot 7.9%. He scored on nearly double that (14.8%) in 2018-19. Yes, it is supposed to increase when playing with a playmaker like Gaudreau. That number is very likely unsustainable, though. Lindholm's on-ice shooting percentage also jumped to 10.39% at 5v5. His previous high, albeit on the low-end, was 7.72%. More pucks going in = more opportunities for points, and some of Lindholm's points from that came as a result of that as opposed to actually generating more and better opportunities. In fact, Lindholm actually recorded fewer 5v5 scoring chances (112) than any of his five full seasons prior, although it's worth noting he generated 113-118 each year so it was in line with previous outputs. It just wasn't better.
Again, Lindholm is a good player and he had a strong year. Some of it was percentage driven, though, and I think it is important people realize that.
Most underrated: Derek Ryan
After a somewhat underwhelming start to the season, Ryan really found his game and never looked back. He averaged 1.82 points per 60 at 5v5, which is an excellent number and easily the highest of his career. His on-ice numbers were strong, too, and there was a stretch where he went *months* without being on the ice for a single 5v5 goal against. Ryan also played a key role on a very strong penalty-killing unit. He's not flashy, and he doesn't get much fanfare, but he was full value for his somewhat lucrative contract in Year 1.
Best player: Mark Giordano
It's hard not to give this to Johnny Gaudreau but there were *some* stretches where he went fairly quiet, whether it was his fault or not. Giordano was a consistent force all season long. He averaged nearly a point per game and posted absurdly good underlying numbers despite playing big minutes against opposing team's top players every single night. I hope, and think, he'll be rewarded for his efforts with a Norris Trophy.
Key new addition: Jason Zucker
This is the easy answer, but where there's smoke there is often fire. The Flames came close to acquiring Zucker at the deadline, and it sounds like they plan on revisiting those trade discussions this summer. Landing Zucker, one of the more efficient 5v5 scorers and producers over the last three years, would be huge for a Flames team that could use a little more consistent offense beyond the top line.
Could surprise: Dillon Dube
His work in Calgary earlier in the year was hit and miss but Dube went on to have a really successful season in Stockton. His 5v5 production, and overall, output was very encouraging for such a young player. The Flames have also talked about wanting to add more speed – and playing with even more pace – so that could put Dube right in the mix.
Takes a leap: Rasmus Andersson
I thought he was very good as a rookie. He slowly was given more and more opportunity by Bill Peters and the coaching staff, and I think he passed almost every test with relative ease. If they move on from T.J. Brodie, which seems very possible, Andersson stands out as the obvious choice to move up to the top pairing. The early returns suggest he might be ready to handle it.
Prove it year: James Neal
I'm sure the Flames will try and rid themselves of his contract this summer and, in all likelihood, they'll fail to do so. Neal will probably get one more kick at the can, and he really needs to make the most of it. Another season anywhere close to as disappointing as this will see him sent packing regardless of the method.
Feel free to share your selections for each category in the comment section!
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