Hello all! I’m back with the next addition of my rankings getting us through the top 75 overall players. At this point in the draft, you should still be targeting best player available. While I’m a proponent of waiting on goalies, unless your entire league is reaching for goalies, you’re probably best off getting one goalie at some point in the top 75. At this part of the draft, we’re reaching the end of the goalies who could put up an elite season that can carry you to fantasy glory. If your league is reaching for goalies, don’t panic. Simply keep taking the top skaters available and take multiple goalies later on hoping someone takes the next step in their game. In this part of the draft, we are looking at a ton of young players with upside who could find themselves in the top 50 next season, especially the wunderkind leading off the list. Let’s get to it!
51) Jack Eichel – Just like Connor McDavid, it’s very difficult to figure out where to rank Eichel. A talent that would go first in any almost other draft year, Eichel should step into a major role immediately for the Sabres. Despite the Sabres being historically terrible the last two seasons, they have plenty of offensive talent for Eichel work in Evander Kane, Ryan, O’Reilly, Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and other young first round picks from the Sabres incredible prospect pool. He already has an NHL body as an 18 year old as he showed dominating the college ranks last season for Boston University. He’s not the safest pick at this point but the upside is tremendous. In dynasty leagues, Eichel should slot in the 10-15 range.
52) Jonathan Quick – While Quick has carried the Kings to the Cup twice in his career, he hasn’t been the dominant goaltender in the regular season he has been once the Kings made the playoffs. His save percentage generally keeps him away from the fantasy elite posting right around league average or even worse (.902 in 2012-13). Last year, Quick posted a an above average save percentage of .918, the highest that it’s been in three years. The addition of Christian Ehrhoff to the Kings blue-line should be a great addition for Quick’s benefit. Don’t reach too far for Quick based on name factor but he could justify a selection from the middle of the fourth round on if you want to get a goalie.
53) Mark Giordano – I wrote about Giordano here. Giordano was the front runner for the Norris Trophy last season until his biceps tear. Now that’s he fully recovered with a young and improving roster around him, he’s a great target to hit all categories at this point, especially if you don’t have a defenseman yet.
54) Corey Crawford – Despite not getting the credit other elite goaltenders receive, Crawford has been incredibly consistent the last three seasons. You know he’s going to give you an above average contribution across the board and be near the top of the league in wins. The only downside is that he doesn’t play as many games as other elite goaltenders. In the last 4 full NHL seasons, Crawford has started either 57 or 59 games. In a head to head league, it gets aggravating when your #1 goalie is missing a game every week on average. In a rotisserie league, I advise handcuffing Crawford with Scott Darling and simply playing the Blackhawks goaltender every game.
55) Radim Vrbata – Vrbata’s first season in Vancouver went better than expected posting a career high in points as a 33 year old (31+32) on a line with the Sedin twins. Vrbata also supplies an elite shot rate which should be maintained with Henrik Sedin the ultimate pass-first player and Daniel Sedin shooting the puck less as he gets over. The PIM are guaranteed to be bad (his career high is 26) but he’s the safest forward outside of the top 50.
56) Tuukka Rask – Rask has been one of the top fantasy goalies in the league the minute he became the full-time starter in place of Tim Thomas. Claude Julien also made Rask the workhorse for the first time in his career last season giving him a career high 67 starts and 70 appearances. So why the drop? Boston’s roster became much worse this offseason after some questionable moves by new GM Don Sweeney. The right side of the Bruins defense is a complete trainwreck which will lead to better opportunities against Rask. Rask’s talent alone keeps him this high and it’s possible he could carry the Bruins back into the playoffs. On the other hand, this is the first time Rask has some downside in his career.
57) Patrick Sharp – Sharp is coming off his worst season in over 5 years posting his lowest totals across the board. However, I believe the masses will overreact and punish Sharp for leaving Chicago when going to Dallas is the best thing that could have happened to him. Sharp will go on the Stars’ second line centered by Jason Spezza, one of the best playmakers in the game. More importantly, Sharp, one of the best power play players in the NHL, will be on the point of the first power play unit with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg. Sharp has the potential to be one of the best STP contributors in the whole league. Add in his elite shot rate and Sharp is primed to bounce back to his normal stat line with 30 goals, 250+ shots and 20+ STP.
58) David Backes – The next three players are all incredibly close in value and personal preference or positional need can break your decision. They all have 30 goal potential with 100 PIM, a rare combo that is a huge benefit to most team builds in the 5th or 6th round of drafts. Backes, one of the best defensive players in the game, does most of the heavy lifting defensively for the Blues letting Vladimir Tarasenko’s line feast on lesser competition. That said, Backes holds his own offensively by forcing his physical game on the opposition. The trade of T.J. Oshie hurts Backes’ value a bit but not enough to drastically drop his ranking. His upside isn’t as high as the next two players but he’s the safest bet for 100+ PIM and a good +/-.
59) Gabriel Landeskog – Like the rest of the Avalanche, Landeskog took a step back last season from their amazing performance in 2013-14. The Avs also traded away Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo for young players and prospects weakening the center position. However, from a fantasy perspective, this could be a blessing in disguise as Patrick Roy’s plan appears to be to make one super line with the three Avalanche top picks, Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene (more on him soon). The talent on that line is incredible and you can expect Roy to play that line massive minutes with question marks on the rest of the roster. Landeskog has 70 point and 100 PIM upside, something you won’t find outside of Corey Perry and possibly Evgeni Malkin.
60) Wayne Simmonds – If you want special teams points with your high dose of goals and PIM, Simmonds is your guy. Simmonds has posted 24 STP the last two seasons being the big body in front of the net of the Flyers PP. The goals have been consistent (28 or 29 his last three full years) and unfortunately, so has his plus-minus, always a slight minus. We’ve probably seen Simmonds’ best in 2013-14 but I’d expect him to settle in-between what he’s done the past two years.
61) Jaroslav Halak – Halak’s arrival on Long Island spawned the Islanders’ resurgence back into the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Isles should be very good in their debut season in Brooklyn with great depth and a superstar in John Tavares. There are a couple factors that keep Halak this low though. First, Halak played the most games in a season in his career last year, 59. Halak has never been a workhorse and I don’t expect that to change with the Isles signing Thomas Greiss, a competent backup. Also, the division is incredibly loaded with 5 teams who I expect to make the playoffs. It seems incredibly unlikely Halak can repeat 38 wins in only 59 games.
62) Jiri Hudler – The biggest shock of the entire NHL season might have been Jiri Hudler finishing 8th in the league in scoring. The 31 year old exploded last season setting career highs in goals and assists, leading him to 76 points in 78 games, 19 more than he had in any previous season. Hudler clicked immediately with young stars Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau leading the Flames to a shocking playoff appearance and first round series win. Is it realistic to expect Hudler to repeat those totals? No. Should a big regression be expected? No again. While Hudler shot an unsustainable 19.6% last year, Hudler has posted shooting percentages over 15% the last 4 years meaning he’s the luckily player ever (doubtful) or his shot selection is limited to prime areas (more likely). The biggest thing keeping him down is his shot rate; last season was a career high at just over 2 shots per game. Add in a low penalty minute total and you’re counting on Hudler for points and plus-minus only. However, that’s built into this ranking; at this point, 70+ point potential is too hard to pass up.
63) Kevin Shattenkirk – More on Shatt Deuces here . Shattenkirk repeated his 2013-14 season stats in 25 less games. For a player with no injury history previous to last year, a healthy Shattenkirk could put up 60 points with solid PIM and STP totals.
64) Kyle Okposo – Okposo had a season that looks a lot worse than two years ago on the surface. However, digging deeper, the underlying stats show some good signs for a revival. Okposo took the same amount of shots in 11 less games going from an above average shot rate to an elite one. His shooting percentage took a big dropoff from the previous year which is more fluky than anything. His penalty minutes amazingly fell off completely from 51 to 12. Two years ago, he had 38 PIM in the 48 game lockout season. There’s no reason to expect it to stay this low again. The addition of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk revitalized the Isles’ power play with Okposo being on the beneficiaries posting his highest STP total in 5 years despite the injury. Being on a line with John Tavares, the floor is incredibly high for Okposo.
65) Brent Burns – More on Burns here . There’s a lot to like about Burns, namely an elite shot rate (for all players, not just a defensemen) and lots of PIM. The injury risk keeps him down this low.
66) Matt Duchene – Duchene took a massive step back last season posting 55 points in 82 games one season after putting up 70 in 71 games. His shot rate took a step drop as well from elite to average. That said, as I mentioned above in Gabriel Landeskog’s blurb, the elite talent on Colorado are all being placed on one line that should be one of the league’s best. The raw speed of Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon combined with the power game of Landeskog should be a treat to watch. I expect MacKinnon and Landeskog to post career highs in points while Duchene gets back towards the 70 point total.
67) Jordan Eberle – Eberle has been one of the most consistent players in the league the last few years missing 7 games in 4 seasons and consistently posting 60+ point seasons. While I don’t a return to 34 goals (shooting 19% was an outlier compared to other years), Eberle does have the upside to push back to 70 points instead of the low 60s. With Connor McDavid joining the Oilers, that will force teams to put less focus on Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and should also improve the Oilers’ power play. His average shot rate and poor PIM keep him this low but you could easily swap Eberle with Hudler on these rankings.
68) Alex Steen – If Steen could stay healthy, he’d be in the top 50 rankings. Sadly he’s missed at least 8 games for 6 straight seasons and 14+ 3 times. He’s on the point of an elite power play, on the wing of a great center (David Backes) at even strength, has an elite shot rate and respectable PIM. If he could repeat last season’s line (24+40, +8, 33 PIM, 24 STP, 223 shots), he’s absolutely worth the selection in this slot; the injury history is built into this ranking.
69) Marian Hossa – One of the most underrated players of his generation, Hossa has quietly had a Hall of Fame career. While his days of being a point per game player or better are in the past, Hossa should still be a 60 point player with a quality shot rate and the potential for elite special teams points. With the departure of Patrick Sharp, it looks like Hossa will take the vacated point on the Blackhawks’ first power play unit. If that happens, expect Hossa to get closer to 70 points than 60.
70) Mark Stone – Just like the rest of his team, Stone ended the season on an absolute tear with 24 points in the final 20 games to propel the Senators into the playoffs and finish runner up for the Calder Trophy. Now that he’s established, expect Stone to be on the first power play unit for the full season giving him the upside to improve on last year’s 64 point campaign. He also ended up averaging 17 minutes per game at the end of the season; that should be closer to 20 as it was the last couple months of the season. While it’s a stretch to think Stone can play this entire season at the level he did to end last year, on the whole, Stone’s stats should see a slight bump.
71) Johnny Gaudreau – Johnny Hockey stepped right in from winning the Hobey Baker award at Boston College as the best player in college hockey to the first line in Calgary. Along with Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler, they took the league by storm. Gaudreau posted a strong 64 points (24+40) and 21 STP. Just like Hudler, his lack of PIM (14) and SOG (167, just over 2 per game) keep him lower on the rankings. I would expect a repeat of last season give or take a few points either way.
72) John Carlson – More on Carlson here . Carlson is positioned to build on the career season he had last season to enter the top tier of defensemen. I expect to be higher than most on Carlson and would love to get him from this point forward.
73) Daniel Sedin – Two years ago, it looked like the Sedins were on the decline especially Daniel, dropping to 47 points in 73 games, his worst year in 10 years. The addition of Radim Vrbata revived his career posting 76 points (20+56) in a full 82 games. At this point in the draft, you aren’t going to find assist upside with 20+ goal potential outside of Daniel Sedin. That said, the Canucks roster got worse this offseason, the Sedins are going to be 35 when the season starts and Sedin’s shot rate declined with Vrbata being the main trigger man on their line. I expect this ranking to price me out.
74) Tomas Tatar – Tatar was finally given the opportunity to play in a top 6 role and the Slovak delivered, posting 56 points (29+27) for the Red Wings last season. Former coach Mike Babcock still only played Tatar 16:13 on average giving Tatar the opportunity for an increase across the board if new coach Jeff Blashill rewards Tatar with more ice time. Brad Richards appears to be the front runner to center Tatar and Gustav Nyqvist giving both a proven playmaker to set up the snipers. Also, the addition of Mike Green to the Red Wings should see all of the Red Wings player see a boost in special teams points.
75) Semyon Varlamov – While the Avalanche took a step back last year, Varlamov’s totals were not far out of line with his breakthrough performance in 2013-14 outside of wins, a stat driven by team play. His save percentage was still .921, a very strong total. Varlamov is another goalie who doesn’t get a ton of run (his career high is 63 games) and he had some injury issues last season. He’s established himself as one of the best goalies but it will take a big step from the young defensemen on the Avalanche for Varlamov to return into the top tier of fantasy goalies.
That’ll wrap up the top-75. The top 100 will be out right around the corner and we should have some contributing articles posted really soon about draft targets and players to avoid. Also, Razzball commenter leagues will be up at some point in the near future so look out for that. As always, please comment below with your thoughts or any fantasy hockey related questions you have. Don’t forget to follow Razzball on twitter @Razzball and if you’d like to follow me, you can find me @RazzballViz. You can expect a lot of sports talk, especially centered around my teams (Bills and Sabres). Take care Razzball Nation!