This list will bring us through the top 100 forwards for this coming season. Consequently, in an RCL League (coming soon!), you’d either have one forward spot left or only your utility to be filled by forwards. This group is an interesting mix of more young guys that I like, guys who I am lower on than consensus, and some safe players that are nice for the bottom of your roster if you took some earlier gambles. If you want to look at my top 80, you can find those lists through this link. Let’s get to it!
81) Ryan O’Reilly – On the face of things, a trade to St. Louis from Buffalo, who was the worst team in the league over the last three seasons, appears to be an upgrade. However, I have some concern. One, RoR has played over 20 minutes per game every season in Buffalo. I expect that to go slightly down being on the second line in St. Louis. Two, the top line gets heavy offensive zone starts (Schenn at center was the lowest at 64%). That means that RoR is going to carry the weight defensively, probably even more so than in Buffalo. His even strength goal totals have decreased for five straight seasons, and he commits no penalties. That’s not to say he has no upside. However, I think his addition helps the other guys more (because of how bad the STL PP was last season) than the move directly helps O’Reilly.
82) J.T Miller – There’s a chance that I’m far too low on Miller since he should be on the first line in Tampa Bay with two superstars. He had 45 SOG in 19 games for Tampa, which would destroy his previous best pace. If Miller is even at two shots per game, he’ll be a value here with 60-65 points and decent PIM. However, his previous career high in shots was 135 in 82 games, which becomes a decent drain on your team, especially in roto leagues. I want to be optimistic but I’m remaining cautious.
83) Anders Lee – I have been the high man on Lee the last two seasons, but this year I’m probably the low man. Lee scored a whopping 40 goals last season as he somehow managed to increase his shooting percentage to 19.2% from 17.8%. However, now his main man, Mr. Tavares, is off the island. Yes, Barzal is already very good, but I’m extremely worried about this Islanders team. If Lee goes down to 13% shooting, we’re looking at 25 goals at his shot rate last season, which was a career best. He was already -25 last season as well, and I’m scared that it won’t improve. We’ve seen the upside, and maybe he’ll minimize the regression, but Lee screams schmohawk.
84) Bo Horvat – Long term readers know my love for Dr. Bo. Horvat made marginal increases on a per-game basis last season, except in shot rate, where he put as many shots on goal in 2017-18 as he did in 16-17 despite playing 17 fewer games. Horvat is going to play 20 minutes per game with one of the elite young wingers in the league on his side. Horvat was already going against the other team’s top lines, and if the young guys on the second line are good right away (mostly Elias Pettersson), then he’ll get more support than he did from the Sedins last season. The penalty minutes will be poor, but the upside is there for an offensive breakout.
85) Anthony Mantha – My other big sleeper from last season, Mantha was incredibly streaky leading to a boring 24+24. It’s not changing how much I believe in Mantha long term. He’ll have just turned 24 years old when the season starts, and Mantha managed to have only three power play assists last year. Add in that Larkin has grown into an even strength monster and Mantha is positioned to make the jump the season. The drop in penalty minutes is concerning but it’s still a plus regardless. Thirty goals isn’t an impossibility, but I think we see a boost in assists to the point that Mantha is a neutral or plus in every category. It might not be exciting but it’ll be valuable.
86) Andrei Svechnikov – The second Calder-eligible player in my rankings, Svechnikov has fantasy superstar written all over his future. If he doesn’t end up a multiple 40 goal scorer, I’d be surprised. For this year, I have a hard time figuring out how good he’ll be. On one hand, we’ve seen plenty of guys come into the league score a ton of goals right away in the past few years. On the other, the top two centers for Carolina haven’t played center much (Aho) or haven’t played in the NHL yet (Necas). I wouldn’t feel much better if Staal or Rask slid into the top six either. If you want to gamble on some upside, you can slide Svechnikov up about 20 spots, but I have a little trepidation.
87) Patric Hornqvist – This admittedly might be too low for Hornqvist. The shot rate is excellent, he should be in front of the net on the first power play unit again, and there are even less options to be on Crosby’s wing. My worry is that the injuries are starting to add up and that the penalty minutes drop back down to average. Hornqvist is a great fit if you’re in need of shots with goals and PPP, but you’d be lucky to get 25 assists from him. His value changes drastically depending on your league format.
88) James Neal – We’ve seen players much worse than Neal thrive on the first line in Calgary. He should go on the first power play unit as well, giving him a great opportunity to increase his 9 PPP from last season. However, the PIM have dropped off a cliff, the injuries are starting to mount up, and the assist totals are quite poor. I don’t like the contract because I don’t think Neal has much left, but the upside is high enough that Neal is worth a mid-round pick in the right team builds.
89) Ryan Johansen – It looks like Johansen was going to be a superstar four years ago, but everything is trending in the wrong direction. His shot rate has gone from pushing three per game to well below two now. It would take a lot of shooting luck or a big jump back in the right direction to score even 20 goals. The penalty minutes are now a big plus, but can we count on that repeating itself? The Predators don’t have to play Johansen big regular season minutes, he only has 8 PPG in 203 games with Nashville, and assists could turn out to be his only big positive. As much as I like him in real life, I’m fading him completely in fantasy.
90) Travis Konecny – Konecny had a great sophomore season scoring 24+23, almost entirely at even strength. I think we see a much improved second PP unit for the Flyers which would put Konecny in the 55-60 point range. Given that he has solid PIM, the shot rate could make another jump, and the minutes have a good chance to increase, I think we see Konecny jump from elite streamer to bottom end hold this season.
91) Nazem Kadri – I might end up moving Kadri up a bit when I post my top 200. He scored 32 goals for the second straight season, which by itself gives him plenty of value. Sure, the penalty minutes regressed more than expected, and the shot rate fell to average, but 30 goals with average numbers elsewhere has plenty of value. The concern is that he’s going to have two young wingers and is the clear 3C now. However, Kadri might not have to do the heavy lifting anymore, and he’s a strong power play player. He’s a clear hold in all formats and we’ve already seen the upside before.
92) Yanni Gourde – There were plenty of surprises last season, but Gourde is right up there for the biggest. A 26 year old rookie just comes in and scores 25+39 with 50 PIM and a +34 rating. Seems good. The problem is that Gourde shot 18.4% last season on barely over 1.5 shots per game. In other words, if he shot 10%, Gourde would have scored 15 goals and been a streamer. My hope is that he sees more offensive zone starts and that he stays on the point on the second power play unit. There’s a chance he loses his PP spot, in which case I’d only have Gourde as a streamer. My guess is that we see the shot rate jump up a bit so Gourde scores 20ish goals, and then he’ll provide enough elsewhere to be owned. Just don’t overdraft him based on last year’s numbers or think he could take another jump forward.
93) Jonathan Toews – Toews has reached the point of ultimate yawnstipation. He grades out as nearly average in every single category, especially if his power play points climb back up by 2-4. The chance that Toews outperforms this rank is that DeBrincat plays on the first line with him and DeBrincat is as good as I think he is.
94) Nolan Patrick – I am going to move Patrick up higher if necessary when I get some better ADP data. You can’t ask for a better situation than being the center on the second line with JVR and Voracek. Patrick finished the season with 18 points in his last 25 games after his playing time started to increase. Now he enters his second season, he’s long past the injury that set him back to open last year, and the ice time is going to jump drastically. I’m banking a big jump in shot rate in year 2, but I think Patrick proves himself to be a hold for the whole season.
95) Corey Perry – Perry has been on a decline, especially in terms of shot rate. He doesn’t have much time left as a first liner, but I think he gets through this season and gives us just enough. Perry finished last season with 17+32 in 71 games with a slightly below average shot rate. However, the penalty minutes remain as a plus asset and if the Ducks power play can bounce back (mainly need Getzlaf to stay healthy), Perry should be able to repeat last season’s totals. I see next to no chance of a big bounce back, but he should be fine.
96) Kyle Palmieri – We know what Palmieri is at this point, and his statline provides value across the board. He’s played last season at a 30+27 pace over 82 games, which is exactly what he did in 2015-16, and pretty close to his 2016-17. The shot rate has been in flux, but last year’s jumped back up to a career high. My only concern is that we see the Devils on the whole regress, but we have also seen Palmieri produce when the Devils were bad, so I’m not too worried. Another boring player but hey, we’re down past 150th overall at this point, anything that’s potentially sexy is a big risk!
97) Wayne Simmonds – I assume this prices me out of Simmonds which is what I am looking to do. It looks pretty clear at this point that Simmonds is going to be on the third line. If he loses his spot on PP1, I’m not sure he’s even ownable in a 12 team league. I still think there’s some chance he’s traded before the season which would be great for his fantasy value. The penalty minutes dropped drastically last season too, although I think we see them go back up towards 100. Regardless, I want absolutely nothing to do with Simmonds this year barring a trade.
98) Derek Stepan – Stepan’s first year in the desert was a success despite a career low shot rate, scoring 14+42. If he shoots at his career average, we’re looking at better than 20+40 with average shots. That’s certainly worth owning. My fear is that Galchenyuk ends up playing with Keller while Stepan enters a more defensive role, but as of now, it appears that Stepan will stick with Keller. If he does, we should see a new career high in points for Stepan.
99) Nick Bjugstad – Bjugstad finally made a big jump, especially to close the season. There is a ton of upside here, and one main concern. First, the upside. Bjugstad played only 15:07 last season; if he stays on the second line, that number is going up significantly. Two, the shot rate has jumped towards three per game. Three, the penalty minutes have jumped up to average or slightly above. Four, Florida’s PP2 should be better this season. The concern is that Borgstrom is so damn good (I’m all in on him long term and he’s worth the late round gamble) that the Panthers move him to RW2 from C3 to get him more playing time. I don’t think that happens, at least not early in the season, but a slump by Bjugstad could drop him down the lineup quickly. The good news is that Trocheck is one of the most consistent players in the league and Bjugstad is about to enter his prime, so I’m gamble on his situation.
100) Mika Zibanejad – Zibanejad made a big jump in shot rate last season resulting in 27 goals. His plus-minus is dreadful, but both his on-ice shooting percentage and his goaltending’s save percentage while he was on the ice are both due for positive regression to the mean. I don’t think the Rangers are going to be as bad as people think, and a big part of it is that the top line should be able to score plenty. The penalty minutes are bad, but Zibanejad has proven to be a power play threat and should see big minutes on a rebuilding Rangers team. If things break right, 30+30 isn’t out of the question.
That’s it for now guys. I’ll be back later in the week (probably Friday) with my top 20 defensemen post. Be sure to check out LDOM’s rankings and Sven’s team previews; lots of good stuff out on Razzball at the moment! As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!