We are almost done with forwards as we’ll get through the top 80 forwards after this post. Reminder that I will go through the top 100 forwards, then go to an overall top 200 at the end where more forwards will be added. To see my top 60 forwards, you can go through this link here. Let’s get to it!
61) Joe Pavelski – It is going to be weird seeing Pavelski in a Stars uniform. He’s coming off a great season with the Sharks with 38 goals and 26 assists in 75 games. I do have a few concerns though. One, he shot 20.2% last season, a number surely to regress. That success covered up the second point, that his shot rate dropped down to 2.5 per game, quite a down tick from previous levels. Three, he’s 35 years old now, and while I don’t expect a massive dropoff, we probably have seen the best of Pavelski. On the good side of things, the Dallas power play should be incredible, and odds are Pavelski will get to play with one of the other star forwards. Two seasons ago, Pavelski had 22+44. I do think the assists go back up towards that number in Dallas, but the goals probably go back below 30 unless the shot rate goes back up.
62) Jonathan Marchessault – Marchessault took some small steps back last season with 25+34 playing all 82 games. We love Marchessault for his incredible shot rate and very good PIM. The fact that he was +2 despite getting a .893 sv% from Vegas goaltending when he was on the ice shows that he should be a big plus player under most circumstances. My guess is that Marchessault falls somewhere in-between his first and second season in Vegas in terms of assists, which will be the swing in his value. If you need help in the secondary categories with upside, he’s your guy. I could see taking Marchessault much higher than this if you need the shot rate and PIM, because if the assists do come back or he has some shot luck, he pushes towards being a top 20 forward again. Once I update rankings, if it looks like Stone will be on the right wing with Marchessault and Karlsson, I could see myself moving him up quite a bit.
63) Phil Kessel – I kind of want to put Kessel lower, that’s how much the move to Arizona could hurt him. Kessel posted another point per game season in Pittsburgh last season, but there were some real concerns. Kessel was a disaster defensively with Malkin which led him to being -20. His shot rate dropped quite a bit to slightly above average from a forward. However, my main concern is that he had 36 PPP, a number that is extremely unlikely to repeat itself in Arizona. My hope is that the shot rate goes back up in the Desert, in which case he gets around 30 goals and possibly 45 assists, but there is some real downside here for the soon-to-be 32 year old. Whether he can transform the Coyotes PP or not will make this ranking too low or just right.
64) Logan Couture – Couture had the best season of his career with 27+43 and an average shot rate. It’s not flashy but Couture is pretty dependable. He clicked very well with Meier which should be a formidable duo again with Labanc now completely the line. Sharks goaltending had a .869 sv% (!) with Couture on the ice so the plus-minus should fix itself. With the Sharks losing some depth, my hope is that Couture gets up to 20 minutes a night to give him a bit more upside. He’s a safe pick in this range.
65) Tomas Hertl – I’ll be honest, starting with Hertl, I do not like the majority of these guys in this area of the rankings. They either have regression coming, or have downside because of their lack of contributions in the non-points categories. I’m a big fan of Hertl in real life, who finally had his big breakthrough with 35 goals and 39 assists in 77 games. However, the goals were mostly because he shot 19.9%. My hope is that some of the regression is cancelled out by a bigger power play role. With generally poor PIM and a slightly below-average shot rate, there is a chance that Hertl becomes a borderline hold, but I do think his talent will prevail.
65) Elias Lindholm – Lindholm’s first season in Calgary brought the offensive success that was expected when he picked fifth overall, scoring 27+51. The potential worries are quite plentiful though. Lindholm shot a career high 14.8%, but more importantly the Flames shot 12% with Lindholm on the ice. That’s not going to repeat itself. The shot rate was a career best, but it’s still below average. He doesn’t give much in terms of penalty minutes, and the +30 is extremely fluky because of that shooting percentage. Could Lindholm still score 70 points? Sure, the Flames top line is very good and they lacking depth. But he needs to be at 65+ points to pay off this ranking.
66) Pierre-Luc Dubois – Dubois took nice steps forward last season with 27+34 with 64 PIM and a +16 rating. Dubois is another guy whose team shot at an unsustainable rate with him on the ice last season at 12.2%. He has also lost Panarin which puts a damper on things. However, I’m still buying Dubois. We’re seeing all the signs that we want for stardom from a 21 year old that was the third overall pick. I think he takes on a much bigger power play role now, the minutes go up a bit, and we see his numbers repeat.
67) Evgenii Dadonov – I don’t think there’s much to say about Dadonov. Lots of points, no PIM, below average shot rate. My hope is that his minutes go up a bit with Quenneville, but even if it doesn’t, he’s one of the few guys who can go outside the top 100 overall that’s a near lock for 65+ points.
68) Kaapo Kakko – Alright, time to get sexy. Kakko should get every opportunity for instant success with the Rangers, playing on the first line and first power play unit. In Laine’s rookie season, he scored 36+28. I don’t think Kakko has the shot that Laine does, but his overall game is probably better than Laine’s was at 18, especially off the puck. He didn’t give PIM in Finland so we can’t expect them, but I’m expecting Kakko to be a fantasy stud right away and eventually a superstar.
69) Brendan Gallagher – Poor man’s Evander for fantasy, Gallagher had his best season to date with 33 goals and an absurd 302 SOG. He found chemistry with Danault and Tatar that should allow him to be the shot taker once again. We also know that Gallagher is going to give us quality PIM most seasons. The question is whether or not he can get back to 2017-18’s 17 PPP or be at 7 again. Yes, the assists will be poor, but Gallagher fits a lot of team builds extremely well in this area.
70) Jakub Voracek – How good Voracek will be comes down to the amount of PPA he gets. He’s scored exactly 20 goals the last three seasons so expecting 20, give or take a few, seems correct. Last season, he had 46 assists, 14 on the PP. The season before, he had 65, 30 on the PP. The penalty minutes dropped off last season too, although I’m expecting a bounce back there. The good news is that Hayes is a clear upgrade on Patrick as Voracek’s center so my hope is that those two and JVR become a strong second line. I don’t see another point per game season in him, but if the PIM go back up, 60+ is all it takes to pay this off.
71) Nico Hischier – I’m really torn on this one because I don’t know what the Devils will do with their lines. My guess is Hischier starts on the first line with Hall. Regardless, Hischier had 5 less points in his sophomore season than as a rookie, but it was in 13 less games. It was also without Hall for most of the season which shows a significant stride. The shot rate took a small jump forward and the power play should be much improved with Subban in the fold. I think we see a third year breakout, but I don’t feel great about it. If it looks like Hughes will be on the first line sooner than later, then Hischier will drop.
72) Chris Kreider – Kreider set a career high with 28 goals last season, including 57 PIM and over 2.5 shots per game. The concern is that he’s never been a big assist guy or PP player. On the other hand, the Rangers will be much improved. However, his real upside comes if he’s traded. I’m not sure what their plan is, and it’s not factored highly into this ranking, but if the Rangers can’t sign Kreider, who will want him? The answer is almost every team, but could you imagine him on the Avalanche for example? He could actually keep up with MacKinnon and allow Landeskog to go down with Kadri. Kreider is 28 years old and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. As he is in New York, he provides plenty of value in goals and PIM. The upside is still there though.
73) Brady Tkachuk – Another guy I’m torn on. Tkachuk had over three shots per game as a rookie with 75 PIM. He also had break even possession despite being on a terrible team. Could he see jumps in year two like most sophomores? I don’t see why not. The concern is that Stone carried the line and Tkachuk can’t actually break even in terms of possession going forward. He only needs to slightly improve on last year’s pace to pay off this spot. In terms of natural improvement, a big jump in PPP would help. That can happen regardless of team strength given the ability of Chabot.
74) Matt Duchene – I don’t know to do with Duchene. He had 31+39 last season in 73 games. He shot 18%. Nashville can easily put him in an offensive first role. He had 8 PIM. He gets to play Granlund and Turris, real offensive talent. He struggled mightily in Columbus, a team with a similar defensive structure. The offensive upside is so immense that he deserves to be ranked just outside the top 100, but there’s big downside here. It’s a side note, but the more I do these rankings, the more I want to take defensemen and goaltending in this area of drafts.
75) William Karlsson – Karlsson regressed as expected down to 24 goals shooting 14%. Karlsson is the type of player who should shoot 14% so 24 goals is within reason. If his shot rate goes back up, maybe it’s 27. Whatever, it’s in that ballpark. Call it 35 assists so 60 points is expected. What’s crazy is that he was almost as unlucky last season as he was lucky in the first Vegas season. Vegas goalies posted a .891 sv% with Karlsson on the ice last season, yet he was still a +1. I expect him to be a double digit plus, especially with Stone on his line. Yes, the PIM and shot rate is below average, but there are few players that aren’t superstars who are near locks for quality plus-minus. I normally don’t draft for it, but Karlsson is somewhere in-between last season and two years ago.
76) Clayton Keller – Keller suffered quite the sophomore slump. The good news is that Keller was unlucky last season, he has immense talent, and Kessel should help give pile up points even if his defense suffers. Am I bending over backwards for Keller? Absolutely not. But at this point, few players possess his upside.
77) Anthony Mantha – I’ve long been a fan of Mantha. He missed time last season, but over an 82 game pace, he shot at his career average percentage and was at an 31 goal pace. Add in almost three shots per game and quality PIM and there’s plenty to like. He’ll be 25 when the season starts, he’s in a clear first line role for Detroit, and his possession ability is incredible. I feel like this ranking undersells Mantha and the long awaited breakout could still happen.
78) Sam Reinhart – Reinhart made a big jump in year 4 to 22+43. Yes, the shot rate isn’t great and the PIM are poor. However, Reinhart went from 12 PPG in 2017-18 to 2 last season. What if he finds the middle ground? Then we’re looking at 70+ points. Sure, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be with Eichel, but that could easily change, and he’s shown the ability to carry a line in the past. It has to be in the right team build, and I think you can wait much longer than this, but I am a big fan of Reinhart in the middle rounds.
79) Kevin Labanc – A sleeper that I haven’t written a post about. Labanc had 56 points last season with 36 PIM. Solid stuff. 20 STP because he’s a very nice playmaker on the PP, great. Now, the Sharks have lost depth and he should be on the first line. Yet, he averaged 14:01 a game last season and had 56 points. What if he gets to 18+? We should see a huge point total. Perhaps the shot rate jumps back up to 2+ like it was two seasons ago given the time increase? You should be able to get him much later than this, but if you already have a bunch of high shot rate players on your team, Labanc should be an incredible value.
80) Ondrej Kase – You can read my Kase sleeper post here. You won’t have to take him nearly this early, but I want it to be clear how high I am on him this season.
Another post pushing 2500 words! Over the next two weeks, expect a ton of rankings posts to be released. I’m not sure of the order yet, but I will have one more forward post, along with two defensemen and two goaltending posts before my top 200 comes out. The good news is that I have 18 forwards that were considered for this post and didn’t make it so I don’t have to do much work to find two more. Anyways, please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions below. Now that football drafting season is over, it’s time to transition to hockey! Thanks for reading, take care!