Hello all! I’m taking over the rest of the fantasy rankings from Polka. I would have some minor changes to his list, but his rankings are very solid so I will leave them alone and start at number 26. You can find the top 25 under the rankings tab here. While you are still targeting the best player available this early in the draft, you have some maneuverability if you’re looking to target certain categories or positions. From 26 to 35, there’s mostly a bunch of veterans who have proven their worth over the years. From 36 to 50, you’re predominantly looking at incredibly young players poised to break into the league’s elite this season. Let’s get to it!
26) Nicklas Backstrom – Centering the best winger on the planet, Backstrom tends to be overlooked when discussing the league’s best centers. He’s not going to score a ton of goals but expect him to be in the top 5 in assists at the end of the season. With Backstrom, you’re going to get amazing special teams points as well being a focal point on one of the best power plays in the league. He’s an ideal pick in the middle of the second round onward, especially if you get a big goal scorer like Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos in the first round.
27) Henrik Lundqvist – I tend not to take a goaltender in the very early rounds because the variance for goaltenders is incredibly high. Carey Price was incredible the last two seasons but he was dreadful in 2012-13. When you go through the list of goaltenders, there’s only one goalie who year in and year out is among the best in the league and that’s Lundqvist. Like D’Angelo Barksdale said, “The King stay The King.” Behind arguably the best defensive core in the NHL, Lundqvist should continue to remain in the elite group of goalies.
28) Braden Holtby – Holtby was finally given the full control of the starting job and he did not disappoint. The 25 year old posted a 2.22 GAA, .923 sv%, 41 wins and 9 shutouts in 73 starts as the Capitals workhorse. With the addition of great possession players T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to the roster, the Capitals as a team should be even better defensively than they were last year. Also, with Justin Peters remaining Holtby’s backup, expect Capitals coach Barry Trotz to ride Holtby again for 70 starts. With the safety and upside of Holtby, he justifies a pick in the third round if you’re looking to draft a goaltender early.
29) Rick Nash – Nash bounced back strongly after a poor 2013-14 scoring a career high 42 goals for the Blueshirts last year. He’s going to be poor in assists compared to the other players going in this area but Nash’s incredible shot total compensates for that. The potential for improvement is there with Nash as he only scored 12 power play points last year. With the addition of Keith Yandle for the entire season, the Rangers power play should improve from 21st in the NHL. Nash should be the biggest beneficiary.
30) Max Pacioretty – From a fantasy perspective, almost nothing separates Nash and Pacioretty. If you’re looking for goals and shots in the third round of a standard league, these are the guys you want to turn to. The only reason I have Nash ahead of Patches is that I expect Montreal to regress some this year; The Canadiens shouldn’t have a 110 point team with that roster. It’s nearly impossible to accurately predict plus-minus but it’s safe to say Pacioretty’s +38 from last season won’t be repeated.
31) Nikita Kucherov – Much like his linemate Tyler Johnson, Kucherov exploded onto the scene last season, posting 65 points (29+36) after only 18 points in 52 games in his rookie season. Everything that the 22 year old Russian did last season is repeatable with the upside for more. The defending Eastern Conference champions are the clear class of the Atlantic division and Kucherov’s line is one of the best possession lines in the league. Consequently, while you can’t predict Kucherov to be +38 again, he should be one of the few people guaranteed to have a strong plus-minus. Additionally, Tampa Bay’s first power play unit will now be Kucherov’s line with Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos on the point giving Kucherov the potential to increase his 15 STP from last season.
32) P.K. Subban – You can read my thoughts on Subban here. Subban is a great glue guy for your roster contributing in all categories across the board in a positive fashion.
33) Blake Wheeler – This ranking looks like it could put Wheeler on a lot of my teams this year and that’s perfectly fine with me. He’s missed only 5 games over the past 4 seasons, prorating the lockout shortened season he’s had 60+ points the last 4 seasons and his peripherals have consistently improved. Wheeler’s line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little became a dominant possession line last season increasing their offensive chances on the whole. As a result, Wheeler posted a career high in shots, shots on goal and his best +/- since his rookie season in 2008-09. He’s also a great source of penalty minutes in the early stages posting 73 last year. The U.S. Olympian is rarely mentioned in conversations about the league’s elite but he absolutely belongs with his contributions to the non-points categories.
34) Sergei Bobrovsky – Bobrovsky is primed to return to the league’s elite after his worst season as a Blue Jacket. The Blue Jackets lost more man games to injury last season than any other team in the league. It’s fair to expect that their health woes won’t be as dreadful this season. The addition of Brandon Saad (more on him soon, spoiler!) adds another top line talent and more importantly, it slides other players down a line who were forced into bigger roles last season. The Jackets also lean on Bob strongly meaning he has the inside track to playing 70 games this season. There will be some rough patches being in that division; it’s nearly unavoidable going against the Penguins, Rangers, Capitals and Islanders. However, by the end of the season, expect Bobrovsky’s GAA to get back into the low 2’s and his save percentage back into the 0.920’s.
35) Kris Letang – In-depth analysis on Letang here. To summarize, Letang is a risky pick but has the upside to be a top 10 fantasy player this season. He could put up close to a point per game (a ton of STP) with 3 shots per game and great penalty minutes
36) Patrik Hornqvist – Another Pen comes in next on the list. Last year’s shiny new toy in Pittsburgh came to the Steel City and put up top notch contributions across the board (25+26, +12, 38 PIM, 15 STP, 220 SOG) in only 64 games. With everyone’s attention focusing to Phil Kessel, Hornqvist will be just fine on Evgeni Malkin’s wing. The only worry is whether he occupies the fifth spot on the top power play unit of Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Letang. It should be Hornqvist to do the dirty work in front and behind the net but there has been talk that Chris Kunitz will retain his spot there. If that happens, Hornqvist will be fine but it caps his upside.
37) Connor McDavid – McDavid is the most difficult player to rank this season. The wunderkind comes into the league as the most hyped prospect since Sidney Crosby and deservedly so. Having seen him in person, I’ve never seen anybody at McDavid’s age with the playmaking abilities. Additionally, his skating abilities are world class; it looks like he’s being shot from a cannon when he starts accelerating. In dynasty leagues, he belongs in the top 10 picks without a doubt, probably top 5. For season long leagues, however, McDavid is your wild card. He’s as wild as this suit he’s wearing!
You can draft McDavid in the fourth round or even higher hoping he sets the league on fire right away. We’ve seen rookies come into the league recently and do well immediately, especially Nathan MacKinnon, who had 63 points two seasons ago. If McDavid only puts up 50 points, then he’s much too high up in these rankings. If you come away in the first three rounds with three safe players, then I’d take the risk on McDavid. If you have some risks or you took a goaltender (so you’d depend more on his offense), I would pass on McDavid here.
38) Zach Parise – Parise has turned into a poor man’s Rick Nash or Max Pacioretty in fantasy terms. You’re going to get around 30 goals, 30 assists and an elite shot rate. He’s missed some time the last two seasons which is a slight concern now that he’s 31 years old and plays a very heavy game. Additionally, while his shot rate remains elite, it did take a slight step back last season. For leagues that count power play goals as a separate category, Parise gets a slight boost being the main shooter on the Wild power play netting 25 goals the last two seasons.
39) Dustin Byfuglien – My detailed thoughts on Big Buff are here. If you want massive penalty minutes and shots from a defenseman, Byfuglien is your guy. Ideally, you pair him up with a huge assist guy in the early round to make up for his deficiencies. You could also pair him up with someone like Corey Perry and have a huge early edge in PIM. A Perry / xx / Backstrom / Byfuglien start would be pretty strong.
40) Filip Forsberg – With the exception of Evander Kane at 46th, all of the forwards left on this list have one deficiency: they don’t contribute at all in penalty minutes. You’ll be able to get penalty minutes later in the draft without issue but it does cap the upside of this group. In his first full season, Forsberg made the Capitals look silly for trading him putting up 63 points as a 20 year old. Nashville looks to be a team on the rise and Forsberg will remain their focal point offensively. I’d expect a slight uptick for Forsberg across the board this season as he settles into the league and probably gets more time on the ice this season. Peter Laviolette is known for riding his best players for big minutes and Forsberg has shown to be Nashville’s best forward.
41) Gustav Nyqvist – Nyqvist took a slight stop back last year scoring one less goal than in 2013-14 despite playing 25 more games. However, he has a few things going in his favor to achieve his first 30 goal season. First, Nyqvist should be firmly in the top 6 this season for Detroit while he bounced around last season between the third line and the first line. The Red Wings have added Brad Richards and Mike Green this offseason, two players who should directly help Nyqvist at even strength and the power play respectively. Lastly, Dave Blashill, the new Red Wings coach, has experience with the younger guys on Detroit in Grand Rapids in the AHL. Mike Babcock has a history of leaning on his veterans and not giving his young talented players enough ice time. Adding a few extra minutes per game to Nyqvist should boost his stats across the board.
42) Devan Dubnyk – Dubnyk seemingly came out of nowhere to dominate the league in Minnesota last year. After doing well in Arizona and ruining their tank, he was shipped to the Wild and led them to be the second best team in the NHL in the second half of the season. As a member of the Wild, Dubynk was 27-9-2 with a 1.78 GAA and a .936 save percentage. While those numbers are highly unlikely to be repeated, even a small regression will keep him in the league’s elite. The Wild are one of the best possession teams defensively and boast an excellent defensive core in front of Dubynk.
43) Fredrik Andersen – Going into last season, Andersen looks to be in a time share with John Gibson, the top goaltending prospect in hockey, only to wrestle the job away and be the main man between the pipes in Anaheim. Gibson is going to start in the AHL this season to get him ample playing time so Andersen looks to be Bruce Boudreau’s horse again this season. Andersen has a few risks that keep him down the list, mainly that if he struggles at all, the Ducks could call up Gibson, send down Anton Khudobin (their new backup) to the AHL and relegate Andersen to a backup role. Also, while he posted an excellent win total last year and the Ducks should be great again, his save percentage is slightly above average, not elite like the goalies in front of him.
44) Sean Monahan – Despite being quite possibly the most boring person on the planet (follow Boring Sean Monahan on twitter if you want a laugh), Monahan just goes about his business on the ice looking wise beyond his years. The 20 year old posted 31 goals and assists last season on a Calgary team who overachieved compared to expectations. Now, with the addition of Dougie Hamilton to an already deep defensive corps and an incredibly young roster, the Flames look primed to take another step forward. Monahan’s shot rate took a massive step forward last season last year as well taking 51 more shots in only 6 more games. He only had 8 PIM in his rookie season and 12 last year so it caps his ceiling in leagues that count PIM. If PIM isn’t a category in your league, pump Monahan up 5-10 spots.
45) Logan Couture – While the Sharks missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons, Couture did his part to keep his team in contention into the final weeks. He easily set a career high in assists last season and while his shot rate regressed, he still took over 3 shots per game. Also, Couture’s special teams points were his best in 4 seasons as the Sharks leaned on their top unit for big minutes. In this part of the draft, if you’re a bit behind on STP, Couture should be your guy.
46) Jaden Schwartz – Vladimir Tarasenko’s emergence last season helped Schwartz post career high in goals and assists despite playing 5 less games than in 2013-14. Schwartz’s shot rate and lack of PIM keep him in this range but the potential for 70 points is there this season. It’s uncertain who will center the second line between Jori Lehtera (who did last season) and Paul Stastny but regardless, both players are great playmakers who look to set up their teammates first and foremost. The Blues are also one of the most dominant regular season teams in the league so Schwartz can be counted on for a solid plus-minus.
47) Evander Kane – Kane’s arrival in Buffalo finally gives him the opportunity to play on a first line. The revamped Sabres will be counting on Kane to be their main goal scorer and he has the talent to deliver. He’s going to be the worst player in assists to this point in the draft and going forward a few rounds but if you can afford the hit there, Kane will absolutely be worth it. He has an elite shot rate (he could realistically be 2nd in the league in shots behind Ovechkin) and posts massive PIM totals for a player with 40 goal potential. He also should be on Buffalo’s PP1 while he barely played the PP in Atlanta and Winnipeg (his career high is 9 STP). With his role increase, I expect his 2nd 30 goal season and a career high in points.
48) Henrik Zetterberg – In a list dominated by young players going into or during their prime, Zetterberg keeps churning along posting productive seasons. The improvement on Detroit’s roster should help Zetterberg maintain his solid numbers across the board but a couple things that go hand in hand keep Zetterberg closer to 50 than his usual rankings in the 20s. Zetterberg has become more of a playmaker as he gets older. As a result, his goal totals are dropping because his shot rate, although still above average, is declining and at a rapid rate. Zetterberg remains a great option for assists and special teams points but the days of him posting 300+ shots are over.
49) Brandon Saad – Another player who is getting the opportunity to break into superstardom is Saad. Natural inclination would make you think leaving the Hawks powerhouse would be bad for Saad but it’s a big boost to his fantasy value. He’s finally going to get big minutes in Columbus and more importantly, Saad will get the power play time he couldn’t get in Chicago. His stats have been steadily increasing with a big jump in shot rate last season to be slightly above average there. The 22 year old is poised to set career highs in all categories besides plus-minus, pushing 30 goals and 35 assists.
50) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Even though RNH isn’t the number 1 center of the future for the Oilers anymore after winning the lottery AGAIN and getting Connor McDavid, the former #1 overall pick is still positioned to have a great season. Todd McLellan, the new Oilers coach, has been known to ride his best players for big minutes so Nugent-Hopkins’ minutes should be among the highest in the league for forwards. The addition of McDavid will prevent teams from putting all of their focus in shutting down RNH’s line as has been the case the last few seasons. With Andrej Sekera and Cam Talbot also going to Edmonton, the Oilers should finally have an average defensive core and goaltender which is much better than they’ve have since RNH was in the league. Edmonton players were among the few that you could expect getting a negative plus-minus from but that is no longer the case. Everything is set up for RNH to post career highs across the board.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be getting out 51-100 this week with a few more articles coming on other pre-draft topics. I also plan on getting Razzball Commenter Leagues set up at some point this week. As always, feel free to comment below with your thoughts and any questions. Take care Razzball Nation!