It’s finally time! After hours of writing and nitpicking one or two spots for multiple players, my top 50 overall players for this coming season are complete. This post is long enough so no need to right a long intro, let’s get right into it!
1) Connor McDavid – He should be the #1 overall pick in all drafts for the next 10 years. McDavid had 100 points last season at age 20 which is simply absurd. The penalty minutes won’t be great but everything else is going to be elite. It’s scary to think about how much better McDavid will be down the line but for this season, I expect him to marginally improve across the board from last season. That’s more than enough to give him the #1 spot.
2) Sidney Crosby – Crosby had his best season in three years last year scoring 44 goals and 45 assists. The shot rate jumped quite a bit and while his power play assists went down, the power play goals went up. It was nice to see Crosby become a little more selfish and shoot the puck more. He’s only behind McDavid because he’s 30 and McDavid is 20 coming off a 70 assist season.
3) Nikita Kucherov – The summer didn’t cool off my love affair for Kucherov. 40+45 in 74 games, +13, 38 PIM, 32 PPP, well over 3 shots per game, what’s not to love? The crazy thing is his second half numbers are even more outrageous. I think his minutes increase to over 20 per game now and Stamkos’ return helps give Tampa some balance instead of teams loading up against Kucherov. I assume ranking him here will put him on a ton of my teams and I’m perfectly fine with that.
4) Patrick Kane – I considered moving him down one spot (it may happen eventually) but for now, I’m keeping Kane at 4th overall. While 2015-16 was surely not going to repeat itself, Kane scored 34 goals and added 55 assists last season. His shot rate marginally increased, he was a plus player for the eight straight year and while the power play points dropped, they remain at an above-average level.
5) Alex Ovechkin – I want to move him up but I can’t bring myself to do it. Ovechkin went from over 5 shots per game to just under 4, and now that he’s in a group with a handful of players pushing four shots per game, that kills his big advantage over the field. Could it go back up? Definitely, but it’s a little too risky for me to take him in the top four. Still, 33+36 with 50 PIM and 26 PPP is nothing to sneeze at and seems like his floor, at least in the goal scoring department.
6) Brad Marchand – My first change from my Way Too Early Top 50, Marchand slides up a spot. At first glance, I really hate being in the middle of the first round in a snake draft. The top 5 is clear cut and there are great options in the 13-16 range I’d rather get a chance to pick. Anyways, Marchand should regress this season, at least in the assists department, but he has plenty of room to spare given that he was the #1 skater last year. He’s the best six category player given he doesn’t have health concerns.
7) Brent Burns – Burns is my big mover in the early part of my draft board. After deliberating, I’m sliding him ahead of the next trio of forwards. The main reason is that he is a big contributor in every category. The guy I have at #8 is close but has a lower shot rate (although higher point potential) and 9-10 lack PIM. Burns won his first Norris Trophy scoring 29 goals and adding 46 assists. He had the most shots on goal in the entire league which is a massive boost coming from a defenseman. Although he is 32 years old now and the best may be behind him, I think there’s still enough here for Burns to deliver value in this spot.
8) Jamie Benn – I’m moving Benn up for a couple reasons. As mentioned above, Benn hits all of the categories. Last year was the year from hell for Dallas and Benn still posted 69 points (nice) in 77 games. That seems like his absolute floor and since he had 87 and 89 points the previous two seasons, I think it’s a good bet that Benn gets back to being a point per game player.
9) Vladimir Tarasenko – If Tarasenko’s penalty minutes didn’t drop from the 30’s to 12, he’d be one or two spots higher. Otherwise, we know exactly who Tarasenko is. We can mark him down for 35-40 goals, 35ish assists, 3.5 shots per game and decent power play points. The little bit of upside from here is if Tarasenko starts running the power play with Kevin Shattenkirk gone.
10) Tyler Seguin – Like Benn and the rest of the players on Dallas, Seguin had a down year last season. Still, 72 points in 82 games with almost 4 shots per game is nothing to sneeze at. I’m expecting him to get back to a point per game and the only reason he’s below Tarasenko is because it’ll probably be a couple less goals and a couple more assists.
11) Braden Holtby – I don’t expect to have Holtby on any of my teams but this is the spot I would start considering him. Holtby is incredibly safe and has been a top three goalie for each of the past three seasons. Even if Washington takes a slight step back, I think Holtby has to be the #1 goalie off the board.
12) Jack Eichel – The group of rankers (me) debated putting Eichel up to #8 but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Regardless, Eichel had the highest shot rate in the league in his second season. He had close to a point per game and with the coaching and defensemen
changes upgrades, there’s 90+ point upside. This will probably be the last season Eichel isn’t in the top 5 overall for the foreseeable future.
13) Patrik Laine – This will probably be a controversial ranking having him one spot ahead of the guy who went one spot ahead of him in the draft. It’s nitpicking but I lean towards Laine because he has plenty of room to improve on the power play. Laine had only 14 PPP which will certainly increase. Laine’s scoring rate was even with Matthews but his shot rate was behind. It’s reasonable to expect that to increase so while it’s a bit of a gamble, I’d rather take a shot on Laine at this point.
14) Auston Matthews – Forty goals as a rookie is nothing to sneeze at. Matthews was outstanding and I see no reason to expect regression. If anything, we could see some improvement in the assist department with a minutes increase. The lower PIM keeps him here but you could easily put Matthews up to 12th or even a couple spots higher.
15) Evgeni Malkin – On a point per game basis, Malkin was the #1 overall player last season. The problem is that he’s a massive injury risk. He should pay off this spot even if he misses 15 games but I have no issue dropping him lower than this. I simply can’t justify spending a first round pick on a guy who will probably miss 20 games with a bunch of 20 year olds on the verge of superstardom.
16) Erik Karlsson – I also dropped Karlsson a bunch of spots because his shot rate continues to drop. The penalty minutes also dropped to slightly be average. The assists are going to be amazing but I’d rather gamble on the previous forwards.
17) Blake Wheeler – There honestly isn’t much difference between Wheeler and Benn. A six category stud with no injury history, Wheeler scored 74 points last season with 47 PIM and over 3 shots per game. He set a career high in STP but I think he could actually improve there with the rest of the Jets core moving towards their prime. Wheeler is incredibly safe even if the Jets load up on the first line and he’s carrying the second line.
18) Mark Scheifele – Perhaps my best prediction from last season was ranking Scheifele in my top 40. Scheifele posted 82 points in 79 games despite having only 15 PPP. It’s crazy to think Scheifele has more upside from here but it’s not crazy to think he reaches 90 points this year. He’s been at least +9 every season of his career and the penalty minutes are solid. The only thing keeping him this low is his shot rate dropped to right around two per game. If it gets back into the 2.5 range, Scheifele can provide a top 10 value.
19) Joe Pavelski – I can’t believe Pavelski, he actually missed a game for the first time in six years. What the hell is wrong with him? Little Joe dropped from his usual 35-40 goals down to 29 last year. That said, Pavelski is a lock for 65+ points, close to three shots per game, a +10 or better and solid PPP. If you want to gamble later on, Pavelski is incredibly safe.
20) Steven Stamkos – The opposite of safe is Stamkos. He was coming off a down year in 2015-16 and was crushing it to open last season only to suffer a season-ending injury. Two of the last four seasons, Stamkos missed over half of the season. However, in the other two seasons, Stammer stayed healthy and had at least 36 goals. His days of being a point per game player are probably in the past but a 40+30 season could certainly happen. The upside is high so you can slide up to around Malkin’s spot if you like.
21) Nicklas Backstrom – Backstrom is basically Scheifele except he already has 35 PPP (killing the upside) and he’s about to be 30 years old. I couldn’t drop him any lower being over a point per game with elite assists and PPP.
22) David Pastrnak – We debated Pastrnak extensively on Thursday’s podcast. Pastrnak broke up earlier than expected scoring 34 goals and 36 assists. The Boston first line was the best in hockey and Pastrnak was a big part of it. He’s still only 21 years old so there is built-in upside. The minutes should go up marginally and Pastrnak should top 3.5 shots per game. It’s a little risky but I’m liking him towards the end of the second round.
23) John Tavares – Johnny Who? Tavares! That’s for the lacrosse fans out there. If Tavares is going to pay off this value, his power play points will need to increase. He’s had seasons of 25+ points and others in the teens. Add in a great shot rate and solid penalty minutes and he’s a safe pick. His quality of teammate should improve with Jordan Eberle in the fold but there will be a lot of turmoil around the team with Tavares’ free agency looming. This is the end of this tier starting with Wheeler so if you buy into Eberle helping out Tavares, you can move him up a few spots.
24) Matt Murray – It’s finally Murray’s job without Marc-Andre Fleury looming in the background. Murray was excellent in his 49 starts last season having 2.41/.923 with 32 wins. The Penguins have shown no signs of slowing down meaning the wins should keep piling in. He’s a bit of a risk over the next two guys but I actually feel better about Murray.
25) Carey Price – I’m worried that the Canadiens defense is going to be so poor that Price will have to stand on his head to repeat his previous numbers. That’s certainly possible because he’s an elite goalie but there’s some more downside for Price than usual.
26) Sergei Bobrovsky – While Columbus was much improved last season with Bob being the main reason, we’ve also seen his downside. Three of his five years in Columbus have been terrific but the other two were below average. I think we’re far more likely to see Bob be a top 5 goalie this season than drop back into the #2 goalie range but there is a small chance he bombs like Bishop and Schneider did in this range last season.
27) Max Pacioretty – 35+ goals, 30+ assists, elite shots, below average STP for a star player. You can lock all of that in for Patches who is as consistent as they come. He’s a great guy to pair with someone who is below average in shots like Scheifele or Backstrom.
28) Artemi Panarin – The trade to Columbus removing Kane as his linemate doesn’t concern me one bit. If anything, it may increase his role on the power play. Panarin has had two straight 30+ goal, 40+ assist seasons and I see no reason to expect that to change. The increase in shot rate in season two gives me optimism for more improvement in that department.
29) Nikolaj Ehlers – After last season where my team was loaded, it’s going to be much more difficult to own a ton of Jets this year. Laine and Scheifele receive most of the attention but Ehlers also had a terrific 2016-17 scoring 25 goals and 39 assists with a solid shot rate and PIM. The upside comes from being 21 years old and having only 12 STP last season. I’m still all in on the Jets!
30) Jeff Skinner – I may end up sliding Skinner down a few spots when I update but for now, I’m putting him at 30th overall. Skinner had a terrific season scoring 36 goals on a whopping 281 shots. If his power play points go up, he won’t have an issue paying off this draft slot. The team around him is drastically improving so that should happen. I’m a big fan of the entire Carolina team and Skinner leads that charge.
31) Victor Hedman – Hedman isn’t that far off from Karlsson at this point; it’s basically a drop in shot rate plus Karlsson has done it for longer. It’s possible Tampa has some issues re-acclimating Stamkos into the lineup but with all of the talent they have, the Lightning power play should be just fine. The goals will probably drop back into the 10-12 range but 50+ assists again should be a lock with health. Also, please Jon Cooper, keep Dan Girardi away from him. Hedman doesn’t deserve that. Nobody does.
32) Leon Draisaitl – I have a feeling people are going to be higher on Draisaitl than I am. He’s another player who is a slightly worse version of Scheifele, this time lacking penalty minutes and already having the power play points. Sure, he could improve slightly due to his age but it’ll take a big jump in shot rate for him to outperform this rank. To show that, Draisaitl was the 28th ranked forward based on the RCL format last year and that was with 77 points. I think he’ll be overrated much like Johnny Hockey was last year.
33) Devan Dubnyk – Being the highest ranker of Dubnyk by almost 50 spots paid amazing dividends last season. Dubnyk won 40 of his 63 starts and posted a 2.25 GAA and .923 sv%. Being Bruce Boudreau’s goaltender almost guarantees elite stats. He has #1 overall goalie upside as he showed being on top of the player rater until the last six weeks of the season.
34) Filip Forsberg – I think Forsberg can still take another step forward. Last season, Forsberg scored 31 goals and 27 assists, a slight step back from last season. His real drop was on the power play going from 24 to only 9 PPP. I don’t see any chance Forsberg repeats that; in fact I’d be shocked if he’s not in the 20’s. Now we’re looking at a 35+35 player with almost 3 shots per game that hasn’t missed a game in his entire NHL career. He’s a safe pick with upside.
35) Mike Hoffman – Don’t hassle the Hoff, man! Hoffman took a small step back in goals but progressed significantly everywhere else, finishing with 26/35/+17/51/26/224. His even strength point totals dropped from the previous two years which gives him a little more upside from last year’s numbers. Quick, guess where Hoffman finished in the player rater among forwards last year? 9th. I’m counting on a little regression, mostly in PIM, but he’s the real deal.
36) Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron was dreadful for the first two months of the season and still finished with 21+32 and 302 SOG. He’s been a plus player for the last decade and his penalty minutes should go back up. This tier from Forsberg to Kuznetsov may move around a bit for now, I’ll put Bergeron’s high floor here.
37) Wayne Simmonds – Yes, he’s hurt your plus-minus every year, but Simmonds is a 4 category stud. He’s a lock for close to 30 goals, 100+ PIM, great STP and solid PPP. It’s all about your team fit but if you get a big assist guy early, I love taking Simmonds.
38) Dustin Byfuglien – Big Buff doing Big Buff things! Buff was great across the board for a defenseman last year, scoring 13+39 with 3 shots per game and 117 PIM. Like the rest of the Jets before him, he should improve on the power play. especially in the goals department. How a guy this good scores 1 PPG is beyond me. There also is a lack of defenseman in this range which gives him a bit more value.
39) Phil Kessel – Get this man some hot dogs! Kessel is another player with a very high floor and he actually set a career high in assists last season. Kessel hit the 70 point mark for the first time in three years and while the shot rate keeps falling, it’s still above average. Add in elite power play points and there’s enough here to justify a 4th round pick.
40) Mitch Marner – Marner’s rookie season was terrific scoring 19 goals and adding 42 assists. He also contributed positively in the other categories besides plus-minus where he was break even. Marner’s upside is tremendous; there’s plenty of Patty Kane in his game. He’s still only 20 years old so it may be a year or two away but I think he pushes 70 points this year.
41) Cam Talbot – Prince Cam was the #5 goalie overall last season mostly due to his volume. Talbot started an absurd 73 games and the main reason he’s ranked this high is I think he can come close to that again. The Oilers are going to get better as a team but they still lack a quality backup behind Talbot. There will probably be guys who are marginally better than Talbot in GAA and sv% but Talbot will be more valuable because of the extra starts.
42) John Gibson – Speaking of guys who will probably have better numbers than Talbot, Gibson posted a 2.22 GAA and .924 sv% last season, his first as the full-time starter. The problem is that Gibson won’t come close to playing 70 games with Ryan Miller coming in as the backup. He’s one of my favorite goalies, especially in dynasties, but he lacks elite volume.
43) Johnny Gaudreau – Look guys, I don’t hate Gaudreau! People ranked Johnny Hockey ranked in the teens or higher going into last season but he barely cracked my top 50. Once again, he’s down in the 40’s for me. Gaudreau had 18 goals and 43 assists last season, a steep drop from the 30+48 he had in 2015-16. The problem is that he hurts us in penalty minutes, the shot rate is merely average and he’s never been elite on the power play. In other words, it’s a lot of points and not much else. This early, I’d rather have guys who contribute in most, if not all of the categories or are elite in multiple. Gaudreau is neither of those things.
44) Mikael Granlund – The former #1 prospect was a post post-hype breakout scoring 26 goals and dishing 43 assists last season. He’s basically a Gaudreau clone except with slightly more STP and a better plus-minus. That said, Gaudreau remains ahead of him because he’s done it for multiple years and has a marginally better shot rate. His shooting percentage was also much higher than in previous years meaning regression may rear its ugly face.
45) Cam Atkinson – I may end up sliding Atkinson ahead of Gaudreau when I update these rankings. Look at me talking about updates and these haven’t even posted yet! Anyways, Atkinson set career highs across the board with 35 goals, 27 assists, +13, 22 PIM, 24 STP and 240 SOG. He’s also missed 8 games total over the previous four seasons. I’m intrigued at the possibility of Atkinson playing with Panarin. If it looks like that will happen, that may be enough to move him up this tier.
46) Evgeny Kuznetsov – Like Bergeron, Kuznetsov was awful to start the season but rallied. The 25 year old finished with 59 points after scoring 77 the previous season. The good news is that he was +18, his minutes should increase and more importantly, he should move onto the first power play unit. A below average shot rate and a slight concern that the penalty minutes were fluky are the only thing keeping him here instead of 10 spots up.
47) Ryan Getzlaf – Why is Getzlaf this low you ask? Because they are my rankings, that’s why! In all seriousness, Getzlaf started slow once again but rallied to almost reach point per game status, 73 points in 74 games. The issue is that his shot rate has fallen below two per game meaning he’ll be hard pressed to top last season’s 15 goals without a rebound. Getzlaf also averaged over 21 minutes per night and I’d be shocked if they use him that much again. I’ll probably pass unless I have a ton of goal scorers already.
48) Viktor Arvidsson – The biggest surprise of last season was Arvidsson coming completely out of nowhere. The Swede scored 31 goals on over 3 shots per game and added 30 assists. His upside from there comes from the fact that he had only 9 PPP last season. Like the Jets, I expect the Smashville power play to be much improved this season with a healthy Subban and Josi. I may end up sliding him down a few spots but the playoffs convinced me that Arvidsson is the real deal.
49) Aleksander Barkov – Like Gaudreau, the penalty minutes aren’t there but the points should be plentiful. Barkov finished last season with 52 points in 61 games. Yes, he’s missed time in every season to this point but they have been fluky injuries and Sasha will only be 22 years old when the season starts. A healthy Huberdeau next to him should also help plenty.
50) Matthew Tkachuk – The summer wasn’t enough to cool my love affair for Tkachuk. Tkachuk scored 13 goals and 35 assists as a rookie while adding 105 PIM. Sure, that’s nice, but how is that a top 50 player Viz? Well, let’s run it down. One, he had only 13 PPP which is easily improvable. Two, he was a dominant possession player meaning the opportunities will be there. You rarely see rookies maintain zone possession like Tkachuk did. Three, I’m loving what the Flames did this offseason on the blue line giving them a core right there with Nashville’s. That will help all of the forwards. Lastly, teams have to focus on stopping the Gaudreau line. You won’t have to take Tkachuk this high but I want him everywhere. 60-65 points with 100+ PIM and a good plus-minus are well within reach. Eventually, if the shot rate can go up, we could be looking at Simmonds with a good plus-minus.
And there’s 50! Boy, was that a lot of work. Please ask me any questions or leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I’ll be back Monday with a preview of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Thanks for reading, take care!