We’re pushing through the halfway point today in terms of forwards as I get through the top 60. To see my posts for the top 40 forwards, you can check that out here. Let’s get to it!
41) Jake Guentzel – Guentzel had his big regular season breakout with 40 goals and 36 assists last season. At first, I was a little hesitant to rank Guentzel this high, but now I feel really good about. One, he was stapled onto Crosby’s wing all season. I don’t expect that to change. Two, the shot rate took a huge jump forward in year three. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets to 3+ per game this year. Three, and the biggest thing, is that there’s a spot for him on the first power play unit with Kessel’s departure. Guentzel had only 6 PPG and 5 PPA last season. He could easily get to 20 PPP if he earns that spot in the preseason (his competition is Galchenyuk I guess?). Sure, we can’t expect 17.6% shooting again, but I don’t expect much regression getting to play with Crosby. I think Guentzel is a solid bet to get back to 40 goals again and boosts his assists to get up to a point per game. He should be a solid value at this point, especially if he falls between last season’s 26 PIM and his 42 in 2017-18.
42) Mika Zibanejad – Another big breakout from last season, Zibanejad took advantage of being the #1 center in New York with 30 goals and 44 assists. He pushed three shots per game and the PPP were already solid. Now, he’ll get first crack at playing with Panarin which should do wonders for his game. I’m not expecting the 47 PIM to repeat, but I think there’s a good chance for Zibanejad to get to 80+ points with Panarin. I don’t think that you’ll have to take him this high, but I’m targeting Zibanejad again this season.
43) Sean Couturier – The safety of Couturier puts him into this spot. He cemented himself as the first line center with Giroux and repeated his 2017-18 with 76 points. He’s a decent plus in every category and there’s no reason to expect any change. I don’t think there’s much upside from where he is (maybe 85 points if he gets more PPP) but if you took a risk or two earlier, taking Couturier to balance that out is a great idea.
44) Brock Boeser – I assume people will be surprised that Boeser is ranked ahead of his linemate, even though it’s only one spot (spoiler alert!). A couple things went into that decision. One, Boeser is already taking three shots per game, a number that could still increase. Two, his PPP dropped from 23 to 15 last season. I’d expect that number to get back up towards 23. Three, Miller’s arrival, albeit an overpay from Vancouver’s end, should help him even more than Pettersson. Given the large amount of offensive zone starts that this line receives while Horvat does the heavy lifting, I’m expecting them to make a fairly big jump forward this season. If he can play 82 games, Boeser is a lock to be around 35, with some upside from there.
45) Elias Pettersson – Pettersson carries a lot more risk than the players before him. He doesn’t contribute in penalty minutes, he took barely over two shots per game last season, and he shot over 19%. The good news is that he’s still 20 years old, his shot rate should increase from year 1 to 2, and as mentioned above, the Canucks acquired Miller, a very nice playmaker for the first line. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Canucks have two 40 goal scorers this season. I love Pettersson long term, but I can’t go higher than this until we see what happens with the shot rate. For him to eventually be a top 20 forward, he’ll have to get to 3.5+ shots per game, which is a large jump from where he is.
46) Jamie Benn – Benn’s season last year was a major dropoff from his elite level’s of the past, but I am expecting somewhat of a bounceback. Benn totaled 27+26 in 78 games. Most of his drop came in assists, where he went from having 43+ in each of the previous five seasons. In those five seasons, his PPA numbers were 14, 13, 13, 14, 13. Last season? Three. I don’t see any reason why Benn can’t bounce back to double digit assists given the presumed prowess of the Stars PP. Additionally, now that Pavelski has arrived, if Montgomery decides to balance the lines, he should still get to play with Pavelski or Radulov instead of taking a big hit like last season. Given the quality PIM and plus-minus, a jump back up in shot rate will go a long way to helping Benn get back to this level or higher.
47) Jeff Skinner – I know a lot of people are expecting major regression from Skinner, but I don’t agree. He’s always been among the league’s best at converting high danger scoring chances. You know who creates a lot of them? Eichel. We know Skinner is going to give us an amazing shot rate with decent PIM, and has even provided great health over the last five seasons. Should we expect 15% shooting again? No, but I don’t think it’ll be far off. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised by a slight uptick in minutes with Krueger in charge. The assists are lower than most in this group, but you’re drafting Skinner for goals and shots. His selection is based on who you get with your first 4-5 picks.
48) Viktor Arvidsson – Arvidsson’s injury last season made it difficult to notice how good he truly was. 34 goals in 58 games with 195 shots! Obviously we can’t expect 17.4% shooting again, but he was playing at a 48 goal pace. He’s been a double-digit plus in each of the past five seasons, the PIM go between slightly below average and average, but the problem is the power play. Four PPP isn’t going to cut it. The good news is that we’ve seen him crush even strength for years now and he is among the best in SHP. His skill set isn’t ideal for the power play, but there’s no reason why he can’t add 10 PPP if he plays there all season. Arvidsson also had 14 assists last season after being at 30 and 32 the previous two seasons. This ranking may be too low and I want Arvidsson everywhere so I could be moving him up in September.
49) Evgeny Kuznetsov – His IIHF suspension shouldn’t have any impact on his NHL standing as far as I can tell. Kuznetsov dropped off a bit last season to 21+51 in 76 games. He’s a nice source of PIM, and his shot rate did jump up to average. He’s been a plus player in all of his full seasons and is a great source of STP. Another small jump in shot rate could get him to 25 goals without the shooting luck he had in 2017-18. It’s reasonable to expect 50 assists from him at this point making Kuznetsov a rare playmaker I’d take this early.
50) Sean Monahan – Yes, this is low for someone who scored 85 points last season, but I’ve never been a big Monahan fan for fantasy. At this point in his career, we know he’s going to score around 30 goals with a slightly below average shot rate for forwards and poor PIM. Last season’s success came down to him going to 48 assists from 33. Can we expect him to repeat that? I have my doubts. If he drops back to around 40 (which would be the second best of his career), then this ranking makes sense. When Monahan was on the ice last season, the Flames shot 11.4%. That’s a hard number to repeat, even though he’s been between 10 and 10.8 three other times. The other years, he was at 9.0 and 8.6, the 8.6 being two seasons ago. When you draft a player high that isn’t a plus in SOG or PIM, you better be sure he’s a point per game player or better. Monahan could be, but I’d bet he doesn’t repeat it.
51) Ryan O’Reilly – RoR set career highs across the board in his first season with the Blues. I do expect a slight drop in assists as the Blues shot an unsustainable percentage with RoR on the ice, but it shouldn’t be drastic. Yes, the lack of penalty minutes sucks, but he contributes very well in the rest of the categories. That makes him a great selection in the early middle rounds.
52) Nicklas Backstrom – We know what Backs is at this point. Around 20 goals, 50+ assists, great STP, solid PIM, but barely over two shots per game. He’s a player I usually pass on because I don’t like players with low shot rates, but I could see taking Backstrom in this range depending on team build. Also, I don’t see a reason why he would drop off because his style of play should age fairly well.
53) Mike Hoffman – Hoffman’s poor plus-minus can be contributed to both bad shooting luck and terrible goaltending while he was on the ice. Sure, part of that is because he’s not a good defensive player, but Bob will be a big upgrade no matter what. Hoffman scored 36 goals and added 34 assists with over three shots per game. Half of his points came on the power play which could be difficult to replicate. On the other hand, he should be better at even strength with a healthy Trocheck for (hopefully) most of the season. I’m not expecting a repeat of last season, but getting close will pay off this ranking with how much he helps the other categories.
54) Mathew Barzal – After Barzal was over a point per game as a rookie, he fell down to 62 points last season. His shot rate is still below average, but he boosted his PIM to a very solid number. The good news is that all of the underlying numbers suggest that Barzal is a budding superstar and a point per game could be expected. Sure, it’s going to be assist heavy, but there’s plenty of upside here. Hopefully his ranking stays lower because he burned so many people last year.
55) Cam Atkinson – Everyone expects Atkinson to drop from his 41 goals last season, but how far? I don’t think it’s far as you would think. Remember, he did score 35 goals the season before Panarin arrived in Columbus and Dubois is a better center than anyone he played with then. He should have a bigger power play role now and the shot rate will range between very good to elite. Atkinson is going much later than this so you don’t have to take him this high. Columbus should be better than people think and Atkinson is a big reason for that.
56) Kyle Connor – Connor took small steps forward in his second season which is all that I was hoping for. The jump in shot rate was very encouraging and he took on a big power play role. While I’m down on the Jets as a whole this season, the first line should still do a ton of damage. Connor won’t give you much in penalty minutes, but he should be a good contributor elsewhere. You’re drafting him for the 30-40 goals he should provide.
57) Max Domi – Domi’s first season in Montreal was a huge success from an individual standpoint. He scored 28 goals and added 44 assists with a +20 rating. He also jumped to an average shot rate from a poor one while finishing +20 and giving massive PIM. Well, color me skeptical he repeats any of it but the penalty minutes. Domi shot 13.8 after shooting 6.0 and 8.3% the previous two seasons. Regression is almost certainly coming. The team shot 11.5% when he was on the ice and the goaltending posted a .920 when he was on the ice. Neither of those numbers are likely to repeat which will drop that plus-minus and his assist totals. The shot rate could be maintained, but he has no track record of putting up this kind of shot rate. We’ve seen the upside last season and he’s still only 24 years old, but there’s quite a bit of risk with Domi.
58) Teuvo Teravainen – Teravainen’s stat line is similar to Backstrom’s at this point in this careers. We’re looking at around 20 goals with 50 assists and a poor shot rate. Sure, the upside is higher with Teravainen because of his age, but he also gives us next to nothing in PIM. The Hurricanes goaltending also posted a .935 sv% while Teravainen was on the ice last season. That’s why he was +30 and why it will drop. I like him a lot more in real life than fantasy because he hurts you in a couple categories, but Teravainen provides so much in terms of assists and quality STP that he is clearly a top 100 player.
59) Vincent Trocheck – I am having a hard time ranking Trocheck for this season. I almost want to throw last season’s disaster completely away. We know he’s going to give us elite PIM and shots so it comes down to how many points he has. The question is whether or not Trocheck is on the first power play unit. In 2017-18, he was and that got him 27 PPP en route to his 75 point season. Last season, he had only 13 PPP. Right now, I would say that the Panthers most likely go with Barkov-Huberdeau-Dadonov-Hoffman-Yandle on PP1, but if it looks like Trocheck will be on the first unit, then I’m moving him up at least 10 spots.
60) Nazem Kadri – The move to Colorado should do wonders for Kadri in terms of fantasy. Think of how good Kadri was in Toronto before Tavares arrived as the #2C. That’s what should happen now in Colorado. The bigger bonus is that he should be the fifth wheel on the first power play unit which is one of the best in the league. How good Kadri will be comes down to whether or not he can get his shot rate back above 3 like it was for a couple years in Toronto. If he does, then 30 goals is realistic along with good to great PIM. It’s a gamble that I’m willing to take.
That’s all for now guys as this post is approaching 2500 words. I’m not sure when I’ll be back with my top 80 forwards list, but it will be either Friday or Monday. Be sure to check out Sven’s team previews in the meantime. Please ask any questions, give any comments, or make any suggestions below. I know there are plenty of notables that I don’t have in the top 60 which is worthy of discussion. Thanks for reading, take care!