We are reaching the forwards that either make the bottom of the top 100 or are just on the outside looking in. If you want to look back at my top 60 forwards, you can go through this link here. Let’s get right to it!
61) Mathew Barzal – I expect Barzal to be ranked higher elsewhere, and it somewhat pains me to put him so low given that Reid and I have been talking him up for two years. Barzal’s rookie season was tremendous, scoring 22 goals and dishing 63 assists en route to the Calder. I have a few worries that keep him here for this season (I still love him in dynasties). One, the loss of Tavares gives Barzal zero protection. Seriously, look at this Islanders roster now, it’s ugly. Two, the shot rate is below average. Three, I don’t see Barzal repeating last season’s 27 PPP with Tavares gone. You can hope the increase in minutes keep his numbers up, but there’s mediocre (at best) PIM, blah shots, and the risk of a bad plus-minus. Barzal has enough talent to potentially overcome all of the things stacking against him, but I’m not paying a higher price than this in redraft.
62) Nico Hischier – Hischier’s rookie year was solid, scoring 20 goals and adding 32 assists. Obviously those numbers aren’t close to being worthy of this spot, but he’s positioned for a second year breakout. One, he gets to play with Taylor Hall in his prime. Two, Hischier had only 6 PPP, a number that should only increase. Three, he played only 16:19 per game last season, a number that could push towards 20 minutes per game this year. It’s not a guarantee, but we usually see a jump in shot rate in sophomores as well. There’s some risk here, but the upside is massive.
63) Jason Zucker – Zucker took a huge step forward last season scoring 33 goals and 31 assists with an average shot rate and penalty minutes. The chances were largely brought forward by Zucker’s role increasing, especially on the power play. Zucker scored 16 PPP after never getting regular power play time in the past. He’s produced 46 even strength points in each of the last two season despite getting heavy defensive zone starts. If you look at his career numbers, last season’s numbers look like outliers, but it looks largely sustainable when you dig deeper.
64) Kyle Connor – At first, I thought Connor was going to slide into my top 60, but a few things kept him lower. The main thing is that Connor will almost certainly remain on PP2, a very good unit but it’s still secondary to Winnipeg’s lethal PP1. Additionally, the penalty minutes aren’t great and I’m not sure how much higher the minutes will go given the quality of Winnipeg’s lineup. That said, I still love Connor as a player and fully buy into him being a 30 goal scorer. If it looks like Connor is going to take Perreault’s spot on the top PP unit (the only one that could change), then I’m bumping him at least ten spots, if not more.
65) Max Pacioretty – Patches had a frustrating season, scoring 17 goals in 64 games after burying 30+ in four straight seasons. Part of that was bad luck in the shooting percentage department, part of it was Montreal being a dumpster fire. Montreal is almost certain to remain a dumpster fire this season too, putting Patches at risk for a bad plus-minus. The good news is that the shot rate is excellent and there’s a fairly good chance that he’s traded at some point. He’s still a great driver of possession, so his plus-minus might not be as bad as it appears on a bad team. Last season, Montreal goalies had a .881 sv% when Pacioretty was on the ice, which is a near lock to rise. You can certainly justify taking Patches a bit earlier depending on team needs.
66) Mark Stone – Stone is in a similar boat to Pacioretty in that the Senators are going to be very bad, especially if they trade Karlsson. Stone was excellent last season scoring 62 points (20+42) in 58 games with a nice jump in shot rate. He does most of his damage at even strength (career high in PPP is 11) so perhaps that number increases with Hoffman gone? The risk is that it doesn’t improve, the PIM stay poor, and he struggles with no support behind his line. Like many guys on this list, I’m a big fan of Stone’s play in real life, but there are lots of questions surrounding his short term success.
dubois, mantha, johansen, lee, hornqvist, r. smith, nylander, mittlestadt, horvat, teravainen,
67) Jaden Schwartz – Schwartz is becoming a leading member of the “Just stay healthy!” group. Schwartz thrived on the new first line in St. Louis scoring 24 goals and 35 assists in 62 games with a strong plus-minus. Schwartz has been a plus-minus machine throughout his career. The shots and PIM are decent enough, and there’s built in upside if he can start to be a power play producer. If I felt better about Schwartz’ chances to stay healthy, he’d be a top 50 forward.
68) Brayden Point – Point started last season on fire and never looked back, scoring 32+34 with above average shots and a +18 rating. The 22 year old could find himself in a better power play role, which is where any additional upside would come from (he already played 19:37 per game). With how good of a team Tampa is, Point is extremely safe.
69) Gabriel Landeskog – The Kog finally got back to scoring at a high level, finishing with 62 points. The bad news is that his once-elite shot rate is merely average now. He also finished with 37 PIM after recording 62+ the previous four seasons. I would be surprised if that number doesn’t go back up to the 60’s. Long story short, I believe in the top line for Colorado, and Landeskog should hit all of the categories at an average or better level.
70) Brendan Gallagher – Needs goals and shots? Gallagher is your guy. He finished with 31 goals and a whopping 278 SOG last season. Gallagher also played 82 games after missing time the previous two seasons. Like Patches, there is some plus-minus risk, but Gallagher has been a possession monster throughout his career, so perhaps he can avoid disaster in that category. His power play role increased last season, and it’s possible that it happens again. Additionally, he played only 16:09, and my hope is that number increases. There is an aggressive ranking, and you shouldn’t have to take him this high, but I’m a big fan of Gallagher for a lot of team builds.
71) Sam Reinhart – In the first 38 games last season, Reinhart scored five goals. In the final 44, Reinhart found the back of the net 20 times. Did he finally come into his own? I’m inclined to think so. He was a possession monster, he was great in front of the net on the power play, and the Sabres had an unlucky shooting percentage with Reinhart on the ice. The team is much improved around him, he’s still only 22 years old, and the penalty minutes jumped to a level where he isn’t a blank. Reinhart is positioned for a breakout season.
72) Evgeny Dadonov – This tier from Reinhart down to 80th is full of breakout candidates or incredibly safe players depending on what you’re looking for. Dadonov falls into the safe category. Dadonov’s return to the NHL was a success, scoring 65 points in 74 games with an average shot rate for a forward. His role is locked in on one of the best lines in hockey, and there’s some power play upside. The penalty minutes are non-existent (8 last season) but everything else should be helpful.
73) Alex DeBrincat – Everything is in place for DeBrincat to score 35+ goals… if Quenneville plays him the minutes he deserves. DeBrincat scored 28 goals and 24 assists as a rookie despite playing only 14:48 per game. It was infuriating that DeBrincat’s minutes down the stretch didn’t drastically increase with the Blackhawks out of the playoff race. He’s a natural goal scorer who needs to get more playing time for the Blackhawks to have any chance at a bounce back. The penalty minutes won’t be there, but 30+30 is well within reason, and there’s still upside from there. The two players with the closest similarity scores for DeBrincat are Boeser and Laine. I really want to put DeBrincat 10+ spots higher, but I don’t know if I can do it yet. Regardless, I can smell a sleeper post in his future.
74) Logan Couture – I went into this thinking Couture was going to be ranked higher, but while he’s still a safe pick, the decrease in shot rate over the years puts me off a bit. Couture scored a career high 34 goals, although that did come with a career high shooting percentage as well. He’s locked into a big role (18:33 per game, including PP1) and his linemates (Hertl and Meier) should improve. The problem is that Couture is only average in assists and poor in penalty minutes. If we knock the goals back down to around 30 because of the shooting percentage, even if the assists go to 30, 30+30 with solid shots but bad PIM is a fringe top 100 guy. Couture looks to be a guy who is better in real life than in fantasy at this point.
75) Cam Atkinson – I suppose it’s a bit controversial to call Atkinson safe, but his slow start to last season was incredibly fluky because of an absurdly low shooting percentage. Atkinson then finished the season on fire, scoring 25 points in his last 20 games. His shot rate reached elite status coming in at over 3.5 shots per game. It’s goals and shots heavy, but there’s plenty of value here. I think the top line finds more consistency (more on the guy I think changes that later) and we see Atkinson set a new career high in points (62).
76) Pierre-Luc Dubois – That later is now! This is more of a bet on Dubois’ skill set and role than on anything else. Dubois was solid as a rookie, totaling 20+28, but took off once he was put into a top six role. He should be locked into playing with Panarin and Atkinson, who receive absurdly high offensive zone starts from Torts, generating extra opportunities and positions them for a high plus-minus. Dubois picked up his shot rate in the second half, and he finished with 49 PIM, a solid total. If he continues to boost that shot rate, I would not be surprised to see a 65 point season, if not more. With the penalty minutes, that would be plenty to pay off a spot around 100th overall.
77) William Nylander – Nylander is the type of fantasy player that I normally avoid, with poor PIM and a mediocre shot rate. The shot rate is the frustrating part as he dropped 21 shots last season playing one more game. Nylander did repeat his 61 points, and that is encouraging given that his PPP went from 26 down to 12. I assume that number goes back up to somewhere in the middle, giving Nylander the opportunity to put up 70 points. I want to go higher for that upside, but the questionable secondary numbers scare me.
78) Teuvo Teravainen – Teravainen took a nice step forward in his third full season putting up 23+41. Just like Nylander, the shot rate is below average for a forward, and there are no penalty minutes, so his fantasy ceiling is quite capped and the floor is low. I could see a 70 point season if things break right, but there could be stretches where Teravainen is doing nothing for your team.
79) Casey Mittelstadt – The first rookie on the list and my pick for the Calder, Mittelstadt looked like he belonged at the end of last season, scoring a goal and adding four assists in six games playing 14:11. The offensive ability is through the roof, and his linemates will be improved whether he’s at center or on the wing. The Sabres should be able to give him a sheltered role giving him the perfect opportunity to thrive. I assume you won’t have to draft him this early, but he’s a clear draft target of mine. I’m not saying he’s going to have a Barzal level rookie season, but there is some chance that he pushes 70+ points if things break right.
80) Reilly Smith – I have no idea what to do with Smith. His numbers are nowhere near as fluky as Karlsson’s, but they’re still outliers from where Smith was in the past. Smith scored 22+38 in 67 games but didn’t provide much help elsewhere. Smith’s rookie season in Boston looked like he could be on the path to being a top line player, which was expected being a key part of the Seguin trade. He was then shipped to Florida, and while he was solid there, it was nothing special. I still believe Smith will have plenty of value next season, but expecting a repeat would be a huge mistake. Smith finishes a group of four guys that should put up points, but the other categories are all question marks. I might end up dropping Smith a bit later on because I don’t feel great about him. For now, I’m putting him here because we’ve seen the upside, he’s in his prime, and the top line could see even more work this year to cancel out some of the impending regression.
That’s all for now guys. Be sure to check out Lackeydrinksonme’s rankings that went up on Monday, and Sven’s team previews that will continue to go up on a daily basis. As always, feel free to ask any questions, make any comments, or give any suggestions below. I will have one more forward post before moving onto defensemen, then one or two goaltending posts, before making a top 200 list, and perhaps a top 250 or 300 list after that. Thanks for reading, take care!