And now we move to where around half of your starters come from. The guys who really put up the points, the forwards. Because I cover so many forwards in the Top 20 overall (18 to be exact), this post will cover the top 40 forwards instead of only the top twenty. From there on out, each post will be 20 players. Let’s get right to it!
1) Connor McDavid – Covered in the Top 10 here, as is the rest of the top 10.
2) Nathan MacKinnon
3) Leon Draisaitl
4) Nikita Kucherov
5) Brad Marchand
6) Auston Matthews
7) Artemi Panarin
8) David Pastrnak
9) Mikko Rantanen
10) Mitch Marner
11) Patrick Kane – Covered in the Top 20 here, as are the players from 12-18.
12) Aleksander Barkov
13) Jonathan Huberdeau
14) Mark Scheifele
15) Alex Ovechkin
16) Sebastian Aho
17) Kirill Kaprizov
18) Brayden Point
19) Max Pacioretty – He wasn’t one of the guys I mentioned in contention for this spot at the end of the Top 20 post, but a mind can be changed. Patches was absolutely incredible last season playing at a 41+45 pace with 3.5 shots per game. He’s a lock for an elite plus-minus because Stone is as good as it gets at even strength and Vegas should be a powerhouse once again. Patches is about to be 33 so this could be the last season he’s this high, but everyone after him has their own question mark. The last two seasons convinced me Pacioretty should be this high.
20) Mika Zibanejad – Zibanejad started horribly last season, but games against Philadelphia basically turned his season around. My hope is that Lafreniere takes a jump in year two on his wing, and that his power play assists go back up to where they were the previous two seasons. I don’t expect him to be at his 2020-21 level, but I think Zibanejad could be a bit better than last season.
21) Mark Stone – This is a bit risky considering how much Stone’s shot rate dropped last season. I’m expecting it to bounce back a bit, and there’s no denying that he’s going to crush at even strength and the power play. It was only the season before that Stone was over 2.5 shots per game so there could even be some value here if he gets all the way back to that level. Everything else is a near-certainty to be great.
22) Gabriel Landeskog – It feels weird to rank Landeskog this high, but if he repeats last season, he’ll be worth the third round pick. Landeskog crushed across the board and there’s no reason to question how good the top line will be for Colorado. The last three seasons, the Avs have shot exactly 12.1% with Landeskog on the ice, giving more indication that what happened last season was real. It can’t be bad to have more stock in Colorado.
23) Patrice Bergeron – Incredibly, Bergeron has shown zero sign of slowing down at 36 years old. I don’t have much to say about Bergeron. It’s been the same story for the past four seasons and we know within a reasonable range what Bergeron is going to do.
24) Jake Guentzel – It feels a bit weird to have Guentzel this high when Crosby and Malkin are missing the start of the season, but I’m buying in. One, Crosby will be back early in the season (more on him soon). Two, he should be featured on the power play now instead of being a secondary piece. Three, he should shoot the puck more to open the season due to the lack of other options on the Penguins. The bottom line is that Guentzel has been great for three straight years and I’m betting that he’s not a pure passenger.
25) Nikolaj Ehlers – The Ehlers full breakout finally happened last season as he was clearly the best forward on the Jets. I’ve long been a believer and think last season could even be topped. Ehlers played under 17 minutes per game last season which could easily go up, and Dubois can’t possibly be that bad again. Even if he doesn’t stay on the first power play unit, which he clearly should but I don’t trust Maurice, Ehlers should have great points with 3+ shots per game.
26) Matthew Tkachuk – Tkachuk is going to give elite PIM and strong shots, this much we know. The question is whether he’s right around a point per game, or in the 60’s. This ranking is banking on Tkachuk getting to play with Coleman, another great play driver. Tkachuk is dominant in terms of keeping the puck, but he needs his linemates to be better. I also think Calgary’s PP could improve with Andersson playing it full time. It’s a bit risky, but I’m holding strong to my beliefs that Tkachuk is elite.
27) Andrei Svechnikov – I still can’t quit Svechnikov despite last season’s disappointment. He’s still only 21 years old and the floor is proven to be quite high with the PIM and shots combo. Long time readers know that I’m all in on Svech long term and I can’t rule out the 40+40 season with elite PIM. If you’re looking to gamble in this range, I still prefer Svechnikov over anyone else.
28) Elias Pettersson – I’d have Pettersson a few spots higher but he remains unsigned. His season was ruined by injuries and the PIM are bad, but Pettersson is a lock for 30+ goals if he stays healthy. He’s also the focal part of the power play now, and Vancouver looks like a team that ends up in a bunch of high scoring games this year. Their blueline is a disaster and they have a strong top nine if Podkolzin gives them anything. I’m not all the way in Vancouver in real life because of that blueline, but for fantasy, I think we get a bounceback from most of their guys.
29) Sidney Crosby – This is simply a guess on how much time Crosby misses. If it’s only the first week, this is a huge steal. If it’s the entire month of October and goes into November, this feels right to me. When I post my Top 200, Crosby could move up or down depending on the information that is out by then. Crosby remains a lock to be over a point per game and crush across the board. I would have him even higher in head to head than roto where you really just want to make the playoffs and have a stacked team then.
30) Alex DeBrincat – Here are DeBrincat’s shooting percentages for his first four seasons: 15.5%, 18.6%, 8.7%, 20.6%. It’s easy to see which season was his massive disappointment and where his goal scoring prowess was shown. The good news is that even with shooting regression to around 15%, DeBrincat would have scored at a 38 goal pace last season. A healthy Dach would help as well. Don’t bank on the 50+40 pace he played at last season, but DeBrincat should do plenty to justify this ranking.
31) Kyle Connor – Connor was become one of the best goal scorers in the league, but usually isn’t mentioned in that category. In his first four seasons, he has scored 31, 34, 38, and 26 goals, the last of which was a 38 goal pace over 82 games. He’s shot between 15-16.1% in all four seasons. In other words, we know what we’re getting, and that’s definitely worthy of a top 50 pick.
32) Zach Hyman – Time to get super bold! Hyman spent last season with Matthews at his center and somehow managed to massively upgrade to McDavid. Hyman played at a 63 point pace last season despite playing at a 9 PPP pace. There’s clearly a spot for Hyman on the first unit, which plays most of the entire two minutes. Additionally, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hyman play more than the 19 minutes he received last season. I know that’s a big number to top, but Tippett has given their top guys much more than that, and the contract shows that Edmonton clearly believes in the player. The PIM are solid and the shots are above average as well. I doubt you’ll have to take him nearly this high, but I’m all in.
33) Mathew Barzal – Fool me once, fool me twice, etc. That’s how I feel about Barzal getting above a point per game as he did his rookie season, but for the third straight season, it hasn’t happened. It comes down to one thing: power play points. He had 27 PPP as a rookie and has decreased every season, down to 8 last season in 55 games. Even if he gets in the low 70’s in points, Barzal will be worth this ranking with his strong PIM. I just can’t help but think the Islanders will be better on the power play with Lee back in the fold and Dobson becoming more comfortable in the role. Hopefully I’m proven to not be a fool this time.
34) Tyler Toffoli – Toffoli’s first season could have only gone better if the Canadiens won the Cup. He scored 28 goals in only 52 games on the back of high shooting volume and the highest shooting percentage of his career. Yes, some regression will happen, but both Caufield and Suzuki, his projected linemates, should improve as well. Montreal also coasted down the stretch last season while they’ll be in a dog fight all season in a much tougher division. We’ve reached another point where I don’t really love the options. This could be the range that I end up taking my first goalie.
35) Filip Forsberg – I can’t quit Forsberg. He played at the highest point pace of his career despite having his lowest shooting percentage. If he keeps up the volume, he’s due for some positive regression. I also think we can see a power play boost from Forsberg this season as the addition of Tolvanen really helped the Predators power play. Yes, this is admittedly risky as Forsberg is building up an injury history and his linemates probably won’t be first line caliber, but I’m being stubborn.
36) David Perron – Perron was over a point per game for the first time in his career last season. Additionally, his shot rate jumped to the point where it’s a small asset, a large gain from it being a negative two seasons ago. He’s borderline elite on the PP, the PIM are generally strong, and the Blues are heavily dependent on him offensively. Perhaps with their new depth (Buchnevich, Saad, Tarasenko back), the minutes are slightly scaled back, but I have my doubts for that. I think Perron and RoR will continue to be the workhorses of the team and Perron, if anything, is slightly undervalued with this rank.
37) Brady Tkachuk – How bad will the plus-minus be, that is the question. Tkachuk will have elite PIM and an elite shot rate, there is no doubt about that. The problem is that he’s stuck going against other first lines and he’ll be facing stronger competition this season compared to last. Tkachuk also remains unsigned at this time, although it appears likely that they’ll get something done. Either way, he can be drafted a few spots higher than this depending on your team build. For example, Tkachuk and Stone pair perfectly together.
38) Sean Couturier – Despite Philadelphia’s struggles last season, Couturier produced 41 points in 45 games with a slightly above average shot rate for a forward. Here’s an incredible stat that I found digging into the numbers: with Couturier on the ice at even strength last season, Flyers goalies had a .850 save percentage. Eight fifty! In other words, he was as dominant as usual in terms of possession, but the goaltending caused him to be a minus player. Given the workload that Couts receives, he’s a safe pick.
39) Brock Boeser – Boeser started off the season hotter than a pistol and rode that hot start to a very strong season overall. The one downside is that his shot rate is merely average now after it looked like he would be a volume shooter. Considering the injuries that the Canucks had around Boeser last season, he could play at the same level again and his points would almost certainly improve. Like Couturier, it probably won’t be exciting, but it’ll get the job done.
40) Sam Reinhart – Despite the Sabres being an absolute dumpster fire last season, Reinhart managed to score 25 goals in 54 games, a 38 goal pace. Considering his most common linemates, this was an incredible feat. Now, he gets to play with Barkov. He’s one of the most underrated players in the league because of how bad the Sabres have been, but now, people will get to see that he’s a bonafide first line winger. The one worry I have is that he’s not a lock for the first power play, but in my opinion, it would only be a matter of time until Coach Q realizes that Reinhart should be down low. I would be surprised if he doesn’t set a new career high in points, which means he’ll need 66+. Again, this is far earlier than you’ll have to draft Reinhart, but he’s another player I’m all in on this season.
That’s all for now guys. My hope is to get a ton of rankings stuff done over the next couple days while I’m traveling. I plan to get the top 60 out on Friday, and then the goal is to get the rest of the Top 100 out early next week along with the Top 200 overall. In the meantime, be sure to check out the team previews JKJ has been doing! As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!