It’s finally that time! The season starts in just under 2 months so it’s time to get the first set of rankings out. Today, I’ll be posting my top 50 overall for the upcoming year. To save repeating myself, I’m going to limit what I write about guys who I had in my Way Too Early Top 20 to things that have changed for them, if any, and give more details on the other 30 players. You can find my original top 10 post here and top 20 here. Also, check out each team’s previews for additional in-depth analysis. Let’s get to it!
1) Alex Ovechkin – Best goal scorer in the world, so far ahead of the pack in SOG that he stays atop my rankings. You can make up the assists later.
2) Jamie Benn – Above average to elite in all categories, amazing track record of staying healthy. He’s ahead of schedule in his rehab from hip surgery and won’t have an issue being ready for opening day.
3) Sidney Crosby – A horrible start didn’t stop Crosby from scoring 85 points. I expect to see a slight uptick in points with a better start for the Penguins power play.
4) Tyler Seguin – Deciding to move him up one spot since the shot rate is so far ahead of McDavid’s. Three straight seasons of over a point per game plus Seguin entering his prime at 24 makes me lean towards his safety in this spot.
5) Connor McDavid – If his shot rate goes up, McDavid will be worth this spot. I fully expect him to battle for the most points in the NHL with good health.
6) Patrick Kane – I expect him to be closer to a point per game like in the previous few seasons than the 1.3 per game of 2015-16. As good as the Blackhawks PP is, 37 PPP for Kane is unlikely to be repeated. If he repeats the shot rate, he can be worth this spot even with a drop off in points.
7) Vladimir Tarasenko – Elite goals and shots while being above average across the board. I’m betting on him getting the bigger role that he deserves but he can deliver this spot either way; there’s upside for Tarasenko to outperform this spot.
8) Erik Karlsson – Point per game with 50 PIM and over 3 shots per game from a defenseman? Sign me up.
9) Steven Stamkos – I’m banking on a bounce back in his shot rate. If that happens, 40 goals is a virtual lock with solid contributions elsewhere.
10) Joe Pavelski – Three straight seasons of 37+ goals and 70+ points. Pavelski never misses time and is one of a few players you can count on having a positive plus-minus.
11) John Tavares – If the Isles power play fixes itself, then Tavares should be right at a point per game.
12) Braden Holtby – I hate taking goalies early but if I was, it’s Holtby. As safe as they come right now.
13) Evgeni Malkin – As good as anyone on a per-game basis, he just misses 10+ games a year. If you don’t want to take a big injury risk this early, then just take him off your board.
14) Ben Bishop – The best player last season; still uncertainty around the Tampa goaltending situation which brings him a little lower.
15) Brent Burns – 27 goals, 48 assists and 353 shots? Even with taking a step back Burns is worth a second round pick.
16) P.K. Subban – Almost moved him up higher since the trade to Nashville should boost his value. Took a step back last year yet was still the #8 D missing 14 games. As consistent as they come with 60+ point upside.
17) Kris Letang – If he didn’t have an injury history, Letang would push the top 10. He’s a virtual lock to miss 10+ games though.
18) Jack Eichel – Moved him down behind the defensemen mostly because you won’t have to take him anywhere near this high. Upside is through the roof while 60 points with elite shots should be his floor.
19) Nikita Kucherov – Still only 23 years old and he was arguably the best player in the playoffs. Should crack 70 points this year and if his linemates stay healthy around him, he could go even higher.
20) Evgeny Kuznetsov – 77 points with a +27 rating as a 23 year old; upside for even more with only 18 power play points.
21) Taylor Hall – Hall was a monster in the first half of the season before dropping off at the end of the season. Still, 65 points in 82 games with 54 PIM and 286 SOG is outstanding. Hall is now a member of the Devils and will be expected to carry their offense; don’t let the move scare you because he’s away from McDavid. With only 12 PPP last season, I expect him to improve and take another step forward. I think he reaches 30 goals for the first time with 40+ assists.
22) Blake Wheeler – Extremely underrated for years now, Wheeler just had his best season with 26 goals and 52 assists. He’s always a plus in PIM and shots as well. I expect the Jets to bounce back in a big way this season on the back of their top line (more on them soon). The floor is so high and with a better power play, Wheeler could cross 80 points while being a plus in all categories.
23) Wayne Simmonds – I expect to be higher than anyone else on Simmonds but I love him in the third round and would be more than willing to take him at the back end of the second round. Now that he’s playing on the first line, 30+30 is certainly reasonable for Simmonds and that comes with 100+ PIM (147 last year). He’s an elite power play presence in front of the net and his shot rate is now pushing elite status. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushes 70 points this year. You’ll be a little bit behind in total points but that will be easier to make up than most think.
24) Patrice Bergeron – Set a career high in goals this season and tallied his most points in 10 years. Bergeron set a career high in PIM and has turned that into a plus (3 straight years of 40+). The biggest thing is his shot rate soared to elite status at over 3.5 per game. His plus-minus has been positive for 9 straight years and he has a remarkable track record of staying healthy. I’m not convinced Bergeron can improve on last year but he doesn’t have to; he was the #8 skater last year.
25) Carey Price – Goalie run! I purposefully started the run here and am lumping these guys together because I don’t like taking goalies before the third round in a roto league. I felt obligated to rank Holtby and Bishop higher but I can’t see them ending up on my teams this year. In a head to head league, I’d be waiting even longer. The next five guys are the goalies I’d think about taking in the third round but there’s a good chance I wait longer and skip ahead down to 30th in my ranks.
Anyways, I assume this will put Price out of my range and I’m okay with it. As much as I like him as a player, the trade of Subban really cripples the Montreal defense so I slid him down 11 spots. The save percentage will remain terrific but the goals against is likely to go from elite to above average. Add in the fact that he’s coming off a serious injury and there’s some questions here. He has the upside to be the #1 goalie so he remains in this spot; it depends on how much you want to gamble.
26) Cory Schneider – Would have pushed for the #1 goalie last season if not for injury. If he stays healthy, Schneider could start 70 games. His worst numbers for the past 6 seasons are 2.26 GAA and .921 sv% which is insane. The wins inched towards average last year but I don’t see that getting any better next year on a mediocre Devils team in a loaded division; that’s the only thing keeping him here.
27) Henrik Lundqvist – As consistent as they come, the only worry is that the Rangers defense is quite a mess in front of him. He’s very similar to Price in that regard; I don’t think Lundqvist has #1 overall goalie upside anymore though while Price does.
28) Corey Crawford – Criminally underrated for years now, Crawford still doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his abilities. His 2.37 GAA last season was his worst since becoming a starter but his save percentage was an outstanding .924. Add in that he wins over half of his starts every season and there’s plenty to like. The only downside is he’s never started more than 58 games in a season so he’s not a true workhorse. Those games are still plenty to boost him into this range. In a roto league, I’d take Scott Darling at the end of the draft just to ensure all 82 Blackhawks starts.
29) Jake Allen – As I mentioned in my offseason winners post, Allen benefited as much as anybody over the summer. The job in St. Louis is clearly his following the departure of Brian Elliott to Calgary. Allen’s numbers were terrific in 47 starts last season and the Blues should be very good again guaranteeing him a strong win total. The only concern is that he’s never carried the load for a full season but he didn’t show any problems last year before the injury while Elliott was injured. It’s an aggressive rank but I think he ends up a #1 goalie this year.
30) Claude Giroux – Even in a down season, Giroux came in as the 25th best forward last year. He’s a virtual lock for 70 points, over 3 spots per game and excellent special teams points. Giroux is an excellent choice in this spot because he has an elite shot rate to go with 45+ assists for 6 straight seasons.
31) Dustin Byfuglien – He’s a poor man’s Burns but that is in no way a slight on Big Buff. For the past 6 years, we basically knew what he was going to give us: approximately 20 goals, 35 assists, 100 PIM, and 250 shots. Until something else happens, I expect that to repeat itself. Add in that the Jets are loaded with young talent that is certain to improve and the power play points could even improve. Incredibly safe at this point.
32) Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The similarities between OEL’s stat line and Byfuglien’s last season are striking. Buff had a few more penalty minutes and shots while OEL scored more power play points. OEL has upside to push past the 55 points he scored on an improving Coyotes team. The only reason he stays below Buff is that his 96 PIM last season were much higher than his previous high of 50. I believe that number will decrease this season as he had a surprisingly high 3 games with 10+ PIM last year.
33) Mark Scheifele – Another player that I expect to be higher on than anyone else, everyone who reads my posts on a regular basis knows how much I love Scheifele. He was one of the best players in the league to close the season with 17 goals and 17 assists in his last 26 games. Add in strong penalty minutes and shots on goal and we have a true stud on our hands. He’ll be on the first line with Blake Wheeler going forward which is great for his game and Scheifele had only 4 power play assists last year, a number that will surely increase. I want him on all of my teams this year.
34) Nathan MacKinnon – Call me a sucker but I’m fully expecting the true breakout for MacKinnon this year. The firing of Patrick Roy gives me a new sense of optimism around the entire Avalanche roster due to their lack of a competent system. MacKinnon is still only 20 years old (will be 21 when the season starts) and should be able to find consistency in his fourth season with better coaching. The shot rate took a big jump forward last season to 3.4 per game and with how thin the Avalanche forward group is, his minutes could be huge. If you want to shoot the moon, I love doing it with MacKinnon at this point in the draft because he has point per game upside.
35) Anze Kopitar – This admittedly feels a bit low for Kopitar but as good of a player he is, there is some concern from a fantasy perspective. He was the #12 forward last season but a lot of that value came from being +34 on the season. Could that repeat itself? Sure, he did it three seasons ago too. However, in the middle year, he was -2. Kopitar doesn’t take penalties and his shot rate has gone from elite to slightly below average now. He has a history of staying healthy and 70 points are well within reason; the problem with drafting him earlier is you are counting on him posting a great plus-minus. I think you can justify sliding him up a few spots but he has to stay behind Giroux for me.
36) James Neal – The next three guys are their own tier of 30 goals and strong penalty minutes. There are a few reasons why I have Neal higher than the other two. One, his shot rate is the best and has been well over 3 per game for 5 years running. Second, he’s an amazing possession player giving him a consistently good +/- and a ton of offensive zone time. With P.K. Subban in the fold, they’ll have the puck even more now. Also, the bigger benefit of Subban is a true PPQB. Despite scoring 31 goals last year, Neal only had 4 on the power play. He was consistently scoring double digit PP goals with Pittsburgh and I expect that again this year.
37) Corey Perry – The biggest concern with Perry is that his even strength play took a big step back last year. 38 points in 82 games at even strength isn’t going to cut it from somebody who doesn’t get a ton of power play points; his 24 last year was his best in 4 years. If you’re strictly looking for goals, then Perry’s safer than Neal. However, he’s had 4 straight years of 65-72 PIM after 5 straight years with 100+ and his shot rate is now above average instead of elite. Perry was still a top 20 forward last season despite some warning signs so I still like him in this spot, he just doesn’t have the upside anymore to be a top 10 forward.
38) Brad Marchand – I can’t put off ranking the troll any longer. Marchand was incredible last season with 37 goals, 90 PIM and a +21 rating. The biggest thing was he had 250 shots on goal after never topping 180 in a season before. The amazing thing is his shooting percentage was almost 15% despite the huge shot rate. Perhaps it’s personal bias but I don’t see Marchand being able to maintain both his shot rate and the shooting percentage, especially the shot rate. Players can change their games but last season is such an outlier in that regard for Marchand. That said, even if it falls off a bit, Marchand can still pay off value in this spot with 30 goals and 90 PIM. He’s never been good on the power play or topped 30 assists in a year so you’ll have to make that up elsewhere but the goals, PIM and an almost certain elite +/- is in the cards.
39) Filip Forsberg – Forsberg’s second season was even more successful than the first despite a horrible start to the season where Forsberg scored only 2 goals in 21 games. On the season, Forsberg dropped 6 assists but added 7 more goals, 23 PIM, 5 STP and 10 shots while playing all 82 games again. Like the other Predators, he also gets a boost with P.K. Subban on the team. He’s still only 22 years old so he’s only going to get better from an individual standpoint and with Ryan Johansen (more on him soon) centering Forsberg for a full season, there’s a chance I’m too low on Forsberg.
40) Artemi Panarin – Panarin is probably the most difficult guy for me to rank. On one hand, he just scored 77 points as a rookie with decent contributions everywhere else. On the other hand, that only put him at 18th on the player rater because he wasn’t elite in anything but assists. We also don’t know if his 16% shooting was a fluke or the norm for him. The Blackhawks forward depth is extremely thin meaning Panarin’s minutes should be quite high. I think his points will take a step back this year just like his linemate Kane but not enough to drop him terribly far.
41) Jonathan Quick – Outside of his incredible 2011-12 season, Quick is coming off the year of his career. The 40 wins were a career high and the .918 sv% was second best. He’s always posted a great goals against average so the question is the save percentage. At .918, you’re getting an above average number but not an elite one; that number was 21st in the league last season, granted a few of the people in front of him were backups. I have him a little lower only because we just got virtually the best season possible for Quick which put him as the 5th overall goalie. Having him 8th among goalies isn’t much of a dropoff.
42) Devan Dubnyk – His first full season in Minnesota was solid posting above average numbers across the board to finish as the #11 goalie. I have him ranked slightly higher this season for one reason: Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau is an amazing coach that is solely worth about 5 wins to a team over the course of the season; those wins are going to Dubnyk.
43) Martin Jones – In his first season as a full time starter, Jones was the #9 overall goalie with a strong win total of 37, 2.27 GAA and .918 sv%. I’m not knocking him down at all, my only concern is that he starts slow after a deep run in the playoffs. I still expect him to be a bottom end #1 goalie by the end of the season.
44) Ryan Johansen – After a horrible start to last season, Johansen salvaged it with a turn around in Columbus, then thriving in Nashville after the blockbuster trade. His 46 assists were a career high and while his goals dropped to 14 with 185 shots, I expect those numbers to rise back up to the mid 20’s and over 200 respectively. His average time on ice is surely going to increase, the 61 PIM were a career high and to sound like a broken record, Subban will help the rest of the Predators on the power play. He has the upside to get back into the top 25.
45) Johnny Gaudreau – Coming off a 78 point season, this is another guy that seems low on first instinct. The problem is that even with those points, he was only the 28th ranked forward. This is because his shot rate is merely average and the penalty minutes are non-existent. If you’re short on points e.g. you draft Simmonds or a different PIM guy early, Gaudreau is an excellent pick at this spot because he should get back to 70 points with his big minutes.
46) Aleksander Barkov – He’s in almost the same boat as Gaudreau, just a few points behind and with even less penalty minutes (8 last season). At 20 years old, there’s certainly another step in his game that he’ll eventually take. 70 points is certainly within reach, especially since the Florida power play gets a big boost with the addition of Keith Yandle. It’ll take another big shot rate increase for him to push into the top 30.
47) Phil Kessel – His first season with Pittsburgh was nowhere near as successful as people thought it was going to be. In fact, it was his worst season in 8 years going back to when he was 21 years old in Boston. He certainly has the chance to improve as he showed he can do in the playoffs. Regardless, at this point, there’s plenty of value in a floor of 25 goals, 30 assists and a shot rate well over 3. The upside lies in his power play point total; on that first unit he could push 30 STP after having 17 last year. There’s no reason for him to have only 4 PP goals.
48) Max Pacioretty – I love the player but I’m a little scared for Patches this season. The shot rate is incredible and he’s had 30 plus goals for 3 straight seasons. Alex Galchenyuk took a huge leap and Brendan Gallagher should be back healthy (they’ll be coming up soon). Those two things are keeping him in the top 50. The problem is that his big season in 2014-15 was bolstered by being +38. Last season, he was -10 and I think it could get even worse this year without Subban. In the right team build, I could see taking him higher; I could also see letting him drop past this spot.
49) Roman Josi – After putting up a career high 61 points, he gets to pair up with Subban to make arguably the best pair in the entire NHL. Josi also set a career high in PIM with 43, the shots are above average for a defensemen and now his plus-minus should get a big boost. After I get further along in my rankings, I may end up sliding Josi up some because the gap between him and OEL isn’t as large as it seems being 17 spots apart.
50) Nicklas Backstrom – It feels dirty to rank Backstrom this low. He’s as good as it gets in the league at assists and power play points. The problem is that his 20 goals were a complete fluke; his shot rate dropped to well below 2 per game but was covered up by a career high shooting percentage. It’s been on the steady decline for years now where it peaked at 222 (no coincidence his 33 goals that season are by far a career high). The assists and STP are amazing but you have to be able to stomach the shots. Ideally, you pair him up with Ovechkin, Burns or another player with an elite shot rate to balance it out.
Man, we’re at over 3600 words and I didn’t even give great details on the first 20! This is going to be quite the process. My goal is to have 51-75 out by Monday next week, if not earlier. There are a bunch of big names that are still to come that I’m sure people are surprised that they’re outside of my top 50. As always, feel free to ask any questions or post any comments below. I’ll be back tomorrow with my preview of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Take care!