Tomas Tatar followed up a career year in 2018-19 by leading the Habs in scoring last season. What will he have in store for next season, one that will carry a lot of extra pressure on him?
There was some justifiable skepticism heading into last season when it came to Tatar. Yes, he had fit in quite well on the top line with Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault but his performance in Vegas was still somewhat fresh. Which version would the Habs get?
They got the Montreal version, but even better. Notwithstanding a tough start to the season where he ran into some early penalty trouble, he hovered near the point per game mark from November on. Even when they were playing out the stretch in the regular season, Tatar was a steady performer and a fixture on the top line.
Then came the playoffs in the summer. What the Canadiens received from Tatar in the postseason was not the same as his regular season production. Instead, he was the Vegas version. He was dropped down the lineup and was largely ineffective. Aside from a two-goal game, he was held off the scoresheet entirely which is never a good thing from your leading scorer. Understandably, that has led to some justifiable skepticism heading into next season as well.
Season Stats: 68 GP, 22 goals, 39 assists, 61 points, +5 rating, 36 PIMS, 8 PPG, 1 GWG, 162 shots, 16:18 ATOI, 60.7 CF%
Playoff Stats: 10 GP, 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points, -1 rating, 4 PIMS, 1 PPG, 1 GWG, 13 shots, 16:02 ATOI, 57.2 CF%
5 Year Averages
(2019-20’s stats were extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
During the playoffs, the top line from the regular season was split up towards the end. While many fans would like to see Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the top six which would have Tatar in a different situation next season, I’m not expecting that to happen. One, Claude Julien is back behind the bench and I don’t think he’d have broken up the line like Kirk Muller did. Two, it’s a shortened season with a limited training camp…assuming it actually gets off the ground. Existing chemistry is going to be that much more important and the margin for error is thinner; it’s clear that this isn’t a retooling year either.
With that in mind, I expect Tatar to reprise his role from last year, one that sees him with Danault and Gallagher on the top trio. Of course, that’s not an all-offence line as that group often goes head to head against the top lines from other teams and there are certainly some strong number one units among other Canadian teams. I also think more of an effort will be made to balance the playing time of each line with an expectation of more back-to-backs and shorter turnaround so I wouldn’t be shocked if Tatar’s playing time dipped. That includes the power play where one of their top three right wingers (Gallagher, Tyler Toffoli, and Josh Anderson) will likely shift to the left wing which could push Tatar down.
The way things seem to be looking, there aren’t going to be any runaway leaders in Montreal’s scoring race like there was last season when Tatar won by 14 points over Danault. There is better balance and with better balance comes less ice time with ideally a cluster of players all near the top of the leaderboard. Tatar should be in that mix but I do expect his per-game rates to be down a bit.
Having said that, he’s still a player I’d look at in most fantasy leagues. He was largely undervalued a year ago which made him a nice mid-round steal. I think you can get him a bit lower this season as a result of their offseason additions and that expectation of a by-committee approach. That makes him a bit riskier but he’s still someone I could see putting up 2LW production out of a 3LW spot in 12-team leagues or larger.
There’s a lot at stake for Tatar this coming season. His contract is up and as we’ve seen in free agency this offseason, it hasn’t been kind to wingers. That probably isn’t going to change so he is going to need to establish himself very close to the top of the market if he even wants a shot at matching his current price tag. The fact that the Habs haven’t had any meaningful substantive discussions with him about an extension suggests that they’re prepared to move on so the showcase will be a season-long one (however long the season will be).
Since we don’t know the season length at this time, we’re going to use two sets of numbers. The first will be based on a 60-game campaign which is the NHL’s target while the numbers in brackets will be those numbers pro-rated to a 48-game length which is speculated to be the minimum number of games they intend to play.
GP: 58 (47)
Goals: 16 (14)
Assists: 25 (20)
Points: 41 (34)
+/-: +4 (+3)
PIMS: 22 (18)
PPG: 3 (2)
GWG: 2 (2)
Shots: 128 (103)
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