The time has come! Today, we start our path ranking the top 200 players in this coming season for fantasy hockey. The plan is to do a post for the top 10 and 20 overall, top 40, 60, 80, and 100 forwards, the top 20 and 40 defensemen, one (or maybe two) large goaltending post, and then top 50, 100, 150 and 200. The last posts will only provide longer details on the players not covered in those other posts. These should come out over the next few weeks leading right into fantasy hockey drafting season. Without further adieu, my top 10!
1) Connor McDavid – Here’s what I wrote last year: “This will be one of the shortest blurbs of the next two months. This is like with Mike Trout in baseball; don’t get cute. McDavid is 21 years old coming of back-to-back 100+ point seasons and has made a huge jump in his shot rate. He’s the best player who is only going to get better. Sure, the PIM lag behind most of the other guys in this tier, but just like your sex ed teacher taught you, safety first!” And that’s me quote me. Well, McDavid made it three straight 100+ point seasons with a career high 116 buoyed by a big increase in STP. Again, don’t overthink this one.
2) Nikita Kucherov – Last season, I ranked Kucherov second overall although it was a difficult decision. I was the highest ranker of Kucherov for 3 years at that point and I saw no reason to stop on such an outstanding team. This year, it’s not so difficult. He blew everyone out of the water last season with 128(!) points along with a +24 rating, 62 PIM, and exactly three shots per game. Sure, expecting a repeat would be fool’s gold, but Kucherov has plenty of room for regression in terms of points to still remain the first or second best fantasy player. The floor is around 95 points and we saw the ceiling last season.
3) Nathan MacKinnon – The top 3 from last season remains in order for 2019. If you want to see that post that I’ve referenced a few times, check it out here. The last sentence of my MacKinnon blurb was “My guess is that we see similar totals for MacKinnon over an 82 game pace instead of the 74 he played last season.” Well, this came to fruition as MacKinnon scored two more goals and posted the same number of assists playing 82 games. NostraViz! Anyways, while the PIM went down as expected, MacKinnon made a huge jump in shot rate. MacKinnon had the best shot rate in the league posting a whopping 365 shots on goal. That shot rate makes him a slam dunk third overall for me and also puts him in tier one. I’m not concerned one bit about the increased depth reducing MacKinnon’s role or the loss of Barrie hurting the power play.
4) Patrick Kane – This is the start of tier two which goes through 7th overall. I’m still in shock that Kane managed to set a career high in points last season. Kane totaled 110 points, 4 more than his Hart winning season, and put an incredible 341 shots on goal. His minutes were through the roof once Colliton took over and there’s no reason to expect that to change. We should also be a few years away from any large regression. I think Kane has a lower floor than most of the guys in this post (more on that later) but his ceiling is higher than anyone but Marchand’s. In the last 4 years, Kane has those 106 and 110 point seasons, but also has 89 and 76 point seasons. However, I’m treating that 76 as a bit of an outlier as that Blackhawks team was a complete disaster. However, while Kane’s floor is around a point per game or slightly above, the main thing with Kane is 1. What’s 1? That’s how many games has missed over the last four seasons combined. If you want a higher floor, you can take any of the next three guys without issue. However, the combo of floor plus ceiling appears best for Kane.
5) Brad Marchand – Marchand was the #2 overall forward last season behind Kucherov. He managed to reach 100 points (36+64) smashing his previous career high of 85 (done twice, one of which was in 65 games). I expect him to drop back down to the 85-90 range mostly due to power play regression. Marchand had 34 PPP and 7 SHP last season; expecting 41 STP again would be a mistake. However, Marchand is going to give you elite PIM, a very good shot rate, and a guarantee of a strong plus-minus. Nobody hits all of the categories as well as Marchand does so if you want to have that incredibly balanced stat line to start, you could take Marchand even higher than this.
6) Alex Ovechkin – The fear for Ovechkin was a potential Stanley Cup hangover. Well, he managed to have an even better regular season, scoring 51 goals and 38 assists. We know the drill with Ovechkin at this point. Elite goals, elite shots, elite STP, solid PIM and plus-minus. The assists will lag behind the rest of the guys in the first round, but he makes up for it elsewhere. Like Kane, Ovechkin has remained remarkably healthy, missing 9 total games in the past seven seasons. He’s incredibly safe like we want in the first round.
7) Sidney Crosby – Just like his rival, we know what Crosby is. Crosby got back to 100 points last season, boosted his plus-minus back up to +18, decent penalty minutes, and great power play points. His shot rate dropped below three per game last season which is a bit of a concern and why I put him at the bottom of this tier. However, Sid is still an easy first round pick.
8) Leon Draisaitl – This is a new tier that will go into the top 20 overall. As I type this, I don’t feel good about putting anyone in the 8th overall spot so this is subject to change. It also indicates that at first glance, I really don’t want the 8th pick in snake drafts. Anyways, the Kaiser named Leon blew up last season scoring 50 goals and 55 assists. He also pushed his shot rate towards three per game and posted 52 PIM, easily a career high. The bad news? He shot 21.6%, which isn’t going to repeat itself despite McJesus’ playmaking and Leon’s elite shot. His goal total is surely going to drop. There’s also a chance his minutes go down (albeit slightly) with Tippett in town. The good news? He gets to play with McJesus and Edmonton still has brutal forward depth. It feels like this ranking has Leon slotted at his peak which I don’t like, and why I could end up sliding him down a bit. However, 105 points is 105 points, and he’s still only 23 years old.
9) David Pastrnak – Pastrnak took a big leap last season but it went a bit unnoticed since he missed 16 games. Pastrnak played at a 100 point pace and took a big jump in shot rate to over 3.5 per game. Pasta has also been a plus player every season, although it’s been nowhere near the gaudy numbers of Marchand or Bergeron. His penalty minutes are decent enough. Like Marchand, my slight concern is that these power play points won’t be repeated. 33 PPP in 66 games is a huge number that would be second over 82 games behind Kucherov. When I went into my research, I planned on putting Pasta in tier two, but for now he’s towards the top of tier three.
10) Mikko Rantanen – This is an incredibly difficult decision to close the top 10, but for now I’m going with Rantanen. I just think he has fewer question marks than the next few guys (more on them in the top 20) and the upside isn’t far off. Rantanen scored 31 goals and added 56 assists in 74 games last season. His line dominated possession at even strength leading to a +18 rating, the PIM went up to 54, and most importantly the shot rate took another jump. Every season, Rantanen has made a big jump in shot rate, peaking at last season’s 2.6 per game, an average number for a forward. Can we see it get up to right around three per game? If that happens, Rantanen has a very good chance of being a top 10 player. If he repeats last season, he’s close enough to this ranking that I’m perfectly fine with this.
That’s all for now guys. With 1400 words for the top 10, this year’s rankings are looking like they’re going to be as detailed as ever. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Sven’s team previews will continue to come out daily, while my next ranking post should come out on Monday. Thanks for reading, take care!