We’re keeping things moving right now with the Top 60 forwards. For those who missed the beginning of the forward rankings, you can see the Top 40 here. JKJ is cranking out his team previews right now so be sure to check those out! There’s a lot of great stuff in each section. And with that, let’s get going!
41) Kevin Fiala – He started off slowly once again, but at the end of the season, Fiala was on pace for 33+33, 66 PIM, and 266 SOG over 82 games. That’s an extremely good line across the board. The only slight concern is that the Wild balance out their lines so Fiala doesn’t get a ton of minutes (he averaged 16:54 last season). However, I don’t really see a decrease coming, and if anything, that gives him a little more upside. He’s not the biggest name on this list, and honestly, this post is arguably one huge tier, maybe two, so I’m not going to quibble with the order too much if you think Fiala should be in the 50’s. However, I like him the most of everyone in this post.
42) John Tavares – If I see that this doesn’t price me out on Tavares once I look at ADP’s, I may slide Tavares down a bit. It wasn’t that his production fell off a cliff, but Tavares didn’t look good down the stretch and I don’t expect him to receive a massive workload. Last season was the first time he shot under 3 times per game since his rookie season. Things are trending in the wrong direction and I’d rather get out a year early than get burned ranking Tavares as a top 50 overall player/
43) J.T. Miller – Miller was stuck with weaker linemates than usual last season, but his production only slightly decreased. It’s hard to say who Miller ends up playing with, but he skated with Garland and Podkolzin in their first preseason game. I like the thought of Miller getting to play with Garland, and if it’s not Podkolzin, there are plenty of alternatives. Obviously a lot can change once Pettersson comes back, but regardless, the Canucks are looking very strong offensively. The shot rate did drop back down to two per game, but that would be fine. The worry is it goes back to where it was with Tampa, but I don’t think that happens. There’s very good PIM/hits here as well giving him an excellent floor with a ceiling over a point per game.
44) Steven Stamkos – Health is obviously a major issue here, as is Stamkos’ shot rate trending down. At some point, you can’t ignore this type of production. He’s still deadly on the power play and with his shot in general. If Stammer did play 70 games, 35+35 is well within reason. It just comes down whether or not you want to take the risk.
45) Ryan O’Reilly – RoR’s shot rate found a middle ground between being a positive asset where it was most of his career, and being a huge negative in 2020-21. His points per game was the highest of his career last season despite having a drop in PPP. With Hoffman gone, he could have the puck a bit more on the power play again. We know he’s going to play a ton of minutes as well. He’s incredibly safe in this range.
46) Anze Kopitar – I went into this having little expectation of putting Kopitar this high. There are a few reasons why I’m bullish on Kopitar in his age 34 season. One, he’s elite on the PP, even better than I thought. Two, I have no doubt that even in a worst case scenario, the assists will be elite. Three, his shooting percentage was low last season compared to his career norm. Four, Arvidsson should slide right onto his wing and instantly become the best winger he’s played with in years. Five, there is no five, four should be enough! It’ll be assist heavy, but he’s a good fit for a lot of builds.
47) Cole Caufield – Expectations are through the roof for Caufield after his run in the playoffs. There certainly won’t be many PIM or hits, but Caufield should come in somewhere around 30+30 with around three shots per game. There’s some upside from there which is why I’m ranking him in this range. I could end up dropping him a bit, but I value the shot volume a lot. Montreal’s margin for error is smaller this year in a tougher division, and the top line should remain isolated from the tough matchups with Dvorak sliding into Danault’s spot.
48) Ryan Strome – It doesn’t feel right to have Strome this high, but the numbers speak for itself. As long as he’s with Panarin, and there’s no reason to expect a change, he’s going to be great. The PIM are very good, the shots are passable, and the STP are excellent. The only downside I see is if Strome gets traded because he’s a pending UFA, but I don’t see the Rangers being out of it to where that’s a real option. The best case is probably 20 goals which does hurt for someone this highly ranked, but everything else should be as good as the players in the 10ish spots ahead of him.
49) Teuvo Teravainen – Injuries cost Teravainen a large part of last season, but he’s established himself as a 70+ point player when healthy. The PIM and hits are virtually non-existent, but he’s a great value at this spot in the rankings purely from a points perspective. It’s not the most exciting, but Teravainen is very safe.
50) Blake Wheeler – I’m been one of the biggest Wheeler supporters out there but I’m very torn on what to do with him this year. He’s going to be very good on the power play and get a ton of minutes. The points are still extremely good with 50 in 56 last season. The problem is that the Jets got destroyed at even strength last year with him on the ice even though the Jets shot almost 12% with him on the ice. Wheeler’s shot rate, which used to be a big positive, became a negative as he fell to 2.25 per game. I may be selling him a bit short because he’s played almost every game throughout his career and Maurice loves to pad his numbers (along with Scheifele’s and Connor’s) with empty net points. Like Tavares, I’d rather be out a year early.
51) Vincent Trocheck – Trocheck bounced back in a big way in his first full season with Carolina. He was a positive across the board except for plus-minus, which looks like it was a fluke. The Hurricanes have great depth so no matter who skates with Trocheck, he’ll have two quality wingers. I’m a sucker for guys like Trocheck who can have across the board production. There’s also some additional shooting upside depending on who he skates with. I doubt we see him get back to the 3.5 per game level, but back to 3 per game isn’t out of the question.
52) Roope Hintz – I want to have Hintz higher. I’m a huge fan of his talent, especially his skating ability. Hell, he was over a point per game last season! I fully acknowledge that he could be a top 30 forward and that it could burn me. The first thing holding me back is that he could be off the first PP unit with everybody back healthy. He had 18 PPP in 41 games last season, a number that only the truly elite can sustain over 82 games, and that is impossible without PP1 time. Two, the Stars shot almost 14% with Hintz on the ice at even strength last season. That’s a huge number. The shots are also below average and the PIM are non-existent. To counter myself, I would argue that Hintz played with a groin issue all of last season and his goal scoring rate actually went down from the year before, albeit barely. I have no doubt that the goal scoring is sustainable, but tripling his primary assist rate is almost unheard of. The good news is that you’ll probably still be able to get him in this range which would be incredible.
53) Taylor Hall – To the shock of nobody, Hall looked like himself the second he got to Boston. I fully expect him to get back to 3+ shots per game with quality point totals. He did lose Krejci though, which is a hit due to Krejci’s playmaking. Hall will shoot up these rankings if it looks like he’s going to take that PP1 spot, but early indications are that Foligno is going to play down low. Hall did have 12 even strength points in 16 games for Boston which shows what he’s capable of. He just won’t have a very high ceiling without that power play time.
54) Conor Garland – The real price of the big Arizona-Vancouver trade this offseason, Garland was superb for Arizona last season with 39 points in 49 games. That happened despite his shooting percentage being low for a player of his standards. If Green gives Garland PP1 time on one of the best units in the league, and a playmaker like Miller as his center, the ceiling is incredibly high. The PIM are solid, the shot rate is average with room for improvement, and the vast majority of his assists were primary, showing that his game grew last season. Perhaps he doesn’t get that top PP time, but Garland only had 10 PPP last season anyways. If Garland had 30+40, I wouldn’t be shocked. I smell a bold prediction for my post to come later…
55) Anders Lee – The assists will be bad, but the goals and shots will be very good. The Islanders power play hasn’t been good since Tavares left, but if it does fix itself this year, then even more upside here for Lee. He has scored 34 and 40 goals before so it’s not like he’s a one hit wonder in the goals department. Lee is a nice fit for a lot of team builds.
56) Sam Bennett – If one of these rankings is going to look bad at the end of the year, I would guess it’s Bennett. In a six year career, he didn’t show anything remotely worth being ranked this high until going to Florida. With Florida, he had 15 points in 10 games with 33 PIM and 39 SOG. In other words, he was the best player in fantasy from the trade deadline on. He’s still going to play with Huberdeau and should be on the first unit. Obviously 120 points isn’t on the table, but 60+ points with great PIM and SOG? He’d be like a Tkachuk brother you get rounds later. Maybe he loses his spot altogether as the 2C and is a fantasy bust. I’m willing to be overly optimistic because of Huberdeau’s ability and Bennett’s upside being a league changer. If only he could wear chain mail on the ice like Bennett in Commando!
57) William Nylander – The question with Nylander is whether or not he goes back on the first power play unit this season. He’s probably going to end up somewhere in the low 60’s in points, but perhaps he could push towards 70 if he takes the 5th spot on that unit. Nylander is pretty boring in that we know what we’re going to get, and that’s somebody that comes in somewhere in the 75th-100 overall range.
58) Joe Pavelski – Pavelski won’t be as good as he was last season, and he certainly won’t be as bad as he was the year before. I just can’t fully buy back in to Pavelski scoring 38+37, the rate he was at last season. He shot 18%, most of his gains in assists were on secondary assists, and his PDO was 106.6! The Stars shot 13.4% with Pavelski on the ice, a career high for him in a career full of high on ice shooting percentages. If anything, I’d rank Pavelski lower, but as mentioned with Hintz above, I love the talent and Pavelski should be stapled on his wing barring something unforeseen.
59) Oliver Bjorkstrand – Bjorkstrand has proven himself to be a very good goal scorer in the NHL. The exciting development last season was that his assist rate jumped, almost all from primary assists. The plus-minus was bad on the back of horrible goaltending when he was on the ice, which I don’t expect to happen again. It won’t be a great plus-minus, but not dreadful. The upside that I see is on the power play. He’s never had more than 3 PPG in a season which is simply too low for a player of his caliber. Hopefully there’s an improvement there with new coaching and Jones gone. It also looks like Voracek could play with Bjorkstrand which would be excellent for increasing his shot rate and goals. There’s bias in this as I predicted that Bjorkstrand would develop into a top line player five seasons ago now, but I want him everywhere.
60) Viktor Arvidsson – Arvidsson has really struggled the past two seasons after a run of three excellent seasons. My expectation is that he gets back to that level moving to LosAngeles. Arvidsson has never player with a center of Kopitar’s caliber, even at this later stage in his career. Sure, RyJo was good when Arvidsson was peaking, but not Kopitar good. The exciting part is that Arvidsson’s shot rate is still there; he was at three per game last season. He’s never been a big PP producer and I’m not sure he’ll even be on L.A.’s first unit which caps his upside somewhat, but he also should play much more than the 16 minutes he’s averaged the past two seasons. I’m buying Arvidsson as a 30 goal, 250 shot guy. You’ll be able to get him at least 50 spots after this, if not more.
That’s all for now guys. My plan for next week is to actually plow through the 61st-100th forwards all in one big post, with less detail than this one. I’ll comment in detail where necessary, but a lot of the guys in that range are super straight forward. Then, I’ll have my top 200 list out as well. The Eastern Conference previews from JKJ will be out all of next week as well. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!