There is still plenty of elite talent left on the board after the top 40 forwards are off the board; you can look at the top 40 list here. The next group contains a mix of breakout candidates, regression candidates, bounce back candidates, and guys that I expect to stay around last season’s production. Let’s get right to it!
41) Mike Hoffman – We’ll start off this list with a bounce back candidate. Hoffman played all 82 games last season, totaling 22+34 with 32 PIM, a -20 rating, and 257 SOG. There are a few things that are working in Hoffman’s favor. One, he’s off Ottawa and on the Panthers. That alone should fix his plus-minus. Two, being on Florida should increase his minutes, as Boughner loves to play his top six more than any other pair of lines in the league. Three, Trocheck as his center is an upgrade. Four, (presumably) being on the second line gives him easier matchups. Five, his shooting percentage should see an uptick as it was the lowest of his career in a full season. Six, there is no six, that should be enough! Don’t hassle the Hoff, Man!
42) Brayden Schenn – I didn’t think I was going to have Schenn this high, but the more I dug in, the more I believe. Schenn’s first season in St. Louis was a massive success, scoring 28+42 with 56 PIM. His shooting percentage was in line with his previous seasons in Philly, the top line dominated the puck, and his numbers were even better when Schwartz was healthy. Granted, Schwartz is injury prone, but the Blues have better replacements for him this year if he goes down again. Additionally, RoR on the second line will give the top line even more protection and help the top power play unit. I’m buying Schenn stock.
43) Nikolaj Ehlers – The next two guys are very similar in terms of their stat lines, and your first few picks can help make the decision for you. Ehlers made a nice jump in his shot rate allowing him to score 29 goals at a reasonable shooting percentage. The penalty minutes aren’t great, but everything else could be. I say could because it’s hard to say how much power play time Ehlers will get. Regardless, I think Ehlers get a little boost in playing time now that he’s in his fourth season. The 22 year old, along with 20 year old Laine, are ready for even bigger roles. I think last season’s 29+31 is a pretty realistic floor, but there’s a chance Ehlers pushes a point per game with a three shot rate.
44) Viktor Arvidsson – Trade Ehlers’ power play role (which is much bigger than Arvidsson already and can get much bigger) for a strong plus-minus and we have virtually the same player. Arvidsson proved that his massive breakout wasn’t a fluke as he nearly duplicated his numbers across the board. He’s not sexy, but the all-around contribution warrants this ranking.
45) Ryan Getzlaf – Getzlaf was terrific while on the ice last season scoring 61 points (11+50) in only 56 games, with 42 PIM and a +20 rating. He showed no signs of slowing down, and the emergence of Rakell (more on him later) gives him a true scorer on his wing as Perry declines. That said, it’s hard to justify taking him any higher than this given that the shot rate is below average (bordering on poor), resulting in 15 goals being a realistic total for Getzlaf. That said, if you end up with a bunch of goal scorers to open your draft, Getzlaf is the perfect compliment.
46) James van Riemsdyk – JVR returns to Philly off a career high 36 goals. Depending on how things look in the preseason, I could see sliding JVR up a few spots. The assists are going to bounce back up towards 30, I’m not concerned about that at all. The main reason I like JVR is that the minutes are a lock to increase by a significant margin. He might not get 62% O-Zone starts as he did in Toronto, but he’s certainly going to play more than the 14:54 he averaged for the Maple Leafs. Think more like 18-20 minutes. If he has a role on the devastating first power play unit, JVR should set a new career high in points to go with a three shot rate.
47) Eric Staal – Staal is a pretty clear regression candidate for me, although he’s still my favorite of those players. Staal scored a whopping 42 goals last season. While his shot rate was his best in over five years, his 17.4% shooting percentage surely won’t repeat itself. So why is Staal still a top 50 forward? His floor is incredibly high across the board. He’ll be a plus player with how well the Wild top line dominates the puck, the shot rate will be above average to good, and the penalty minutes are decent. Expect the goals to go back to around 30 goals, maybe 35 if the shot rate remains at three per game and his shooting percentage remains high, and that’s plenty for Staal to be a pick around the 65-70th overall mark.
48) Ilya Kovalchuk – I honestly have no idea where to put Kovalchuk so I’m going with where my gut feels is right. It’s been five years since the 35 year old Russian was playing in the NHL so we don’t have much to work with. What we do know is that Kovalchuk has one of the best shots in league history and he takes it a lot. Getting to play on Kopitar’s wing is a massive bonus (just look at what he did for Dustin Brown and others last season). Kovalchuk was historically a poor plus-minus player, but that should change playing with Kopitar. My guess is we see something like 30-35 goals, 30ish assists, and a very good shot rate. Given his age, there is some downside, but I still believe that Kovalchuk can score with his high quality shot.
49) Nicklas Backstrom – Backstrom is a player that I never own, and I could see myself dropping him down these rankings a bit down the line. That said, he still scored 21+50 last season with elite power play points and solid penalty minutes. You’ll need to compensate for his shot rate (right at two per game), but if you have a ton of shots in the early going and need assists, he’s the perfect complement. Let your team build guide your picks at this part of the draft.
50) Rickard Rakell – Rakell made tremendous strides last season scoring 34 goals and 35 assists in 77 games. The huge jump in shot rate to almost exactly three per game allowed him to set a career high in goals despite shooting 18.6% in 2016-17. If Rakell can increase his points on the power play, there’s point per game upside here. The main thing we have to hope for is that Getzlaf stays healthy. If he does, there’s a good chance Rakell outperforms this mark and is a five category stud (PIM will be quite bad).
51) Matthew Tkachuk – While his total points didn’t change much in his sophomore campaign, I was incredibly encouraged by what I saw from Tkachuk. One, the shot rate made a huge leap to about 2.75 per game, making it a plus instead of a big negative. Two, he managed to post a 57.7% Corsi despite getting only 45.7% O-Zone starts. That is absolutely remarkable and puts Tkachuk in position to put up a big offensive season. Now add in great penalty minutes and a new coach who should use him more, and I think we see Tkachuk take another jump forward. I’m hoping people are down on him after his raw totals from last season appear underwhelming, but if not, I may move him up my board a few spots. He is his own animal among these players (Schenn is probably the closest comparable) so his ranking is somewhat fluid.
52) Jeff Carter – Let’s prorate Carter’s 27 games from last season since he has a fairly good track record of staying healthy. Carter would have scored 40+27 with over three shots per game. Now, his shooting percentage will probably fall, but Carter scored 62-66 points in each of his previous three seasons. I don’t see any reason why that number should drop. The floor is high which is enough to warrant a pick in this territory. There’s a chance Carter sees a marginal boost with Kovalchuk being added to the first power play unit.
53) Jonathan Huberdeau – Another guy who won’t be exciting but is extremely safe. Huberdeau produced a nice 69 points last season with average PIM and shots. His role on the top line is locked in and the minutes will be excellent. We’re near the point where these guys are either giving up a category or put up quality points but are only decent elsewhere. Huberdeau falls into the second category, and as I’ve said plenty of times before but it’s worth repeating, you need to make the choice during your draft what type of players you want to be targeting.
54) Jeff Skinner – Skinner falls into the first category mentioned in the Huberdeau section as he falls behind most of these guys in assists and PPP. That said, Skinner is a three time 30 goal scorer who will be put into a bigger role in Buffalo. It honestly doesn’t make a difference for me whether he’s with Eichel on the first line or on the second line with Reinhart and/or Mittelstadt, Skinner should be around the 30 goal mark with an elite shot rate. Also, I have zero concern about his -27 last season; Carolina goaltenders had an .878 sv% while he was on the ice. That’s not repeating. Additionally, his past injury issues appear behind him as Skinner has missed eight games total over the past four seasons.
55) Sebastian Aho – I wanted to put Aho higher but his shot rate actually took a very small decline last season. That said, he still had a terrific sophomore season with 29+36. My hope is that the 21 year old pushes towards three shots per game, or that a minutes increase gets him up towards the 70 point mark. A few guys below him are safer, but Aho’s floor is still high enough that his upside warrants a higher spot on this list.
56) Mikael Granlund – I feel much better about Granlund after his shot rate took another step forward last season. It’s still not great, and the penalty minutes are poor, but everything else is plenty good enough to take up this spot. 60 points appears to be the floor with a quality plus-minus.
57) Sean Monahan – Monahan is the epitome of yawnstipating. That’s not to say he’s a bad player by any stretch, he’s just incredibly consistent and boring. He’ll be somewhere between 27-32 goals, 30-40 assists, have poor penalty minutes, and a mediocre shot rate. I have never owned Monahan because he tends to go earlier in drafts than I think is warranted, and I don’t plan to have him again. I could see it on a team that I take a few risks early on and want somebody steady behind them, but that’s not my typical style.
58) Clayton Keller – Keller’s rookie season was a success scoring 23 goals and dishing 42 assists with a solid shot rate. A massive breakout is on the horizon, but I think we’re another year away from that. The Coyotes are incredibly young on the whole and are still a bit away. Keller’s offensive talent is undeniable, and a repeat of last season is realistic, if not expected. My hope is that the shot rate increases to almost three per game and that the rest of the team grows around him so we see him make a jump towards being a top 25 player in 19-20.
59) William Karlsson – Wild Bill had the most shocking season of my life time scoring 43 goals and 35 assists with an insane +49 rating. Regression is certainly going to rear its head, but how much so? Karlsson shot 23.4%(!) last season. It’s difficult to even fathom how absurd that is on the NHL level. Add in that he already has a mediocre shot rate and that he contributes next to zero penalty minutes and we don’t have much of a margin before even this pick slot could turn ugly. That said, I do love Marchessault on his line, and the top line was a possession monster. As long as they keep the puck that well again this season, the offense will come, just not to last season’s level. Perhaps Karlsson’s minutes even push 21 per game given how the Golden Knights roster has thinned out? I’m certainly not targeting Karlsson, but it’s very hard to judge how far he’s going to fall off since we don’t have much to work with besides last season. I’m placing him here but this certainly could change.
60) Joe Pavelski – Another guy that I certainly won’t be targeting, but Little Joe should be able to repeat last season’s 22+44 with solid numbers elsewhere. There’s a chance that the goals go back up with Thornton returning and Pavelski shooting his lowest percentage in almost a decade, but his shot rate could also go down because Kane shoots it so much. Regardless, Pavelski is going to have good to great numbers across the board, and given that he has missed one game over the past seven seasons, that’s enough to remain in the top 60 forwards. Just don’t expect a massive bounce back at age 34.
That’s all for now guys. Be sure to check out Lackey’s Top 25 rankings and to give him your thoughts on them in the comments section. As always, please leave me any comments, questions, or suggestions below. I will be back towards the end of the week with 61-80 for forwards. My tentative plan is to go through the top 100, then move to defensemen (do top 40-60 there), then one massive goalie post, then either continue my forward list or put together a top 200. Any thoughts on that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading, take care!