Today, I move into the forwards section of my rankings. I’m going to go through the top 40 forwards overall, 18 of which were covered in my Top 10 and 20 posts (linked below). My plan for the rest of the week is to plow through 80 forwards before compiling a top 200 list to be out Friday for everyone’s drafts over the next week. I’m sure this will be a long one so let’s get to it!
1) Connor McDavid – Covered in the Top 10 here. The rest of the Top 9 are also covered in this post.
2) Auston Matthews
3) Nathan MacKinnon
4) Leon Draisaitl
5) Nikita Kucherov
6) Kirill Kaprizov
7) Mikko Rantanen
8) Matthew Tkachuk
9) Aleksander Barkov
10) Mitch Marner – Covered in the Top 20 here, along with the players through 18th in forwards.
11) Alex Ovechkin
12) Sidney Crosby
13) Jonathan Huberdeau
14) Artemi Panarin
15) Steven Stamkos
16) Kyle Connor
17) David Pastrnak
18) Jack Hughes
19) Johnny Gaudreau – Gaudreau had the second most points in the league last year with 115 and a +64 rating. Just bonkers stuff. He was under a point per game in each of his previous two seasons. What are we going to get from him in Columbus? On the bright side, Laine is a great compliment, at least in theory. Columbus plays an extremely open style of hockey as well. On the other, there’s no center on the roster that is top line quality, and Laine is horrible at driving play, unlike Tkachuk. He also went from 2 shots per game to 3.2. My guess is 2020-21 is the outlier, but no guarantees. I could see myself dropping Gaudreau lower, but for now, I’m putting him here.
20) Jake Guentzel – Guentzel is pretty much locked into the 40 goal range now with strong contributions across the board. He also raised his shot rate from very good to borderline elite. I don’t have a ton of say about him because Guentzel has established himself as a very safe player who belongs in this range.
21) Kevin Fiala – A longtime Razzball favorite, Fiala was sensational last season with 33+52 last season, strong PIM (but not hits for that format), and an elite shot rate. This is with playing with a guy who could barely stick in the NHL over the previous three seasons, and a rookie winger. Now, Fiala moves to L.A. and gets to play with Kopitar. Sure, he’ll be facing harder matchups, but I don’t see that as a serious concern. Additionally, his time on ice should go up a couple minutes along with a permanent role on PP1, something that took a few months last season. I’m all in on Fiala being just what the Kings need on the wing.
22) Gabriel Landeskog – Landeskog was phenomenal last season, but it went a bit under the radar due to the other stars on Colorado, and missing 31 games due to injury. The Kog isn’t going to quite put up the points of the people in front of him, but his all-around contribution should be terrific. The PIM and hits are among the best for top players, his shot rate hovers around three per game, the plus-minus will be strong, and you know he’ll get plenty of PPP. Landeskog fits every team build and there’s a lot of value in that.
23) Filip Forsberg – Forsberg finally had the breakout that Razzball Hockey (well, me) has been waiting for. He put up 42+42 in 69 games which is just bonkers. Forsberg is an elite source of shots, but he is due for some regression in the shooting department. I initially had him a few spots higher, but I had to bump him down because of the injury concerns. After playing all 82 games for three straight years, Forsberg has missed at least 13 games in four of the past five seasons. As much as I love his game, someone like Guentzel, who has very similar numbers, has a better history of being healthy.
24) Jason Robertson – Robertson proved his rookie season was no fluke, scoring 41 goals in his sophomore season. I suspect that his minutes will go up this season as well… assuming he gets a contract done. Robertson is holding out and as of now, I wouldn’t take him this high. I suspect a deal gets done though so I’m placing him in this spot on that assumption. I don’t want to trash on Bowness because their top line did thrive, but DeBoer has a long history of top players being excellent for him. He will ride his stars as much as possible which boosts Robertson. This might be a bit too high, but there’s room for him to grow on the power play, and I’m buying Robertson’s talent.
25) Timo Meier – After two seasons on the struggle bus, Meier put it back together last season with 35+41 and over four shots per game. He was also quite good at PIM, but elite in hits leagues (he’s much higher than this in a hits league). The one thing that I was glad to hear from David Quinn was he plans to ride his top PP unit quite a bit. That will only help Meier out. Nothing about last season looks like fools gold so I’m buying back in.
26) Andrei Svechnikov – I originally had Svechnikov about 10 spots lower because I’m starting to be a little skeptical that he becomes the goal scoring powerhouse I expected after his second season. Then I realized that was dumb of me because even without that breakout, he was the 20th best forward last season. Svech scored 30 goals, was elite in shots, PIM, and hits, while being great at even strength again. His floor is so high because he’s a major plus in every category. Unless Rod the Bod changes up and finally plays his top guys more minutes, that will keep Svechnikov from having the potential to be a borderline top 10 forward.
27) Jack Eichel – Eichel didn’t look like himself after the surgery, but I have a hard time putting him lower than this based on his talent. I can easily see myself taking a few guys lower than him with Eichel still on the board depending on team needs though. We know he’s going to shoot the puck a ton but that’s about it. Who is he going to play with? If it’s Smith and Kessel like in preseason, that’s not at all what I’m looking for. If Stone is with him and can stay healthy, that’s the kind of play driver that can make Eichel realize his potential again. My suspicion is that Cassidy fixes the PP and they get enough out of the top six to make Eichel deserve this ranking.
28) Elias Pettersson – Pettersson is a player I’m definitely targeting everywhere this year. I’m sure it’s a surprise to some that he’s the highest ranked Canuck, but I’ll explain. His dreadful start to last season is well chronicled, but I don’t think people realize how good Pettersson was the second half of last season. He had 56 points in 55 games with Boudreau, which obviously is solid. If you look at the last 43 games, he scored 26 goals and had 24 assists. That’s a long stretch of playing at a 50 goal pace. His ice time shot up as a result, and his shot rate was excellent to close the season. I’m buying into the Petey breakout into superstardom this season.
29) Patrik Laine – Laine went from being a whipping boy following his arrival in Columbus to having a nice bounce back, especially in the assist department. He was just below a 40 goal pace and got the shot rate back up to three per game despite poor quality of linemates. Now, he gets to play with Gaudreau. They might be a mess defensively (if Jenner is their center, he’s good, but not good enough to salvage that line defensively), but they could crush offensively. It’s been a while since everyone assumed Laine was going to turn into a 50 goal scorer, but if he stays healthy, I’m buying a new career high of 45+ goals.
30) Sebastian Aho – Aho might be the most boring fantasy star. He’s going to give you right around a point per game, be a plus in every category, and stay healthy. He’s as safe as they come, so if you take a swing early, he’s a nice way to back that up. There could be a little more upside, but I think we know what we’re getting here.
31) Evander Kane – Things could not have gone better for Kane in Edmonton last season. He played at a 40 goal pace, the assists were at a career high rate, and Kane maintained his elite PIM/hits/shots. The only thing really keeping him down is that he doesn’t get top PP time. I don’t see that changing just because stylistically, the Oilers PP doesn’t need him gunning shots out there. I also have a hard time thinking he keeps up the pace from last season, even though he’s playing with McJesus. That said, it should only be a small dropoff, and I’m expecting him to still be on his best behavior.
32) J.T. Miller – Miller set career highs across the board last season, putting up a whopping 99 points. He was also great in the hits department while being a plus in PIM. I do have some concerns though. He did get the shot rate to average, but it has been below average for much of Miller’s career. He also had 38 points on the power play. I’m not saying he has no chance of repeating it, but that’s a huge jump from the range he had been in the previous two seasons in Vancouver, around 25 per 82 games. I don’t expect a big regression from Miller by any means, but I also don’t want to pay for last season’s peak.
33) Roope Hintz – Hintz might have had the quietest 37 goal season that I can remember. Like Robertson, I’m expecting more minutes this season, and he’s proven himself to be a high percentage shooter. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another small uptick in his shot rate as well. I will also have to drop Hintz if the Robertson holdout drags, but I’m buying into that line sustaining their level of play over more ice time.
34) Brady Tkachuk – In banger leagues, Tkachuk is a first round pick, it’s undeniable. He’s a great source of PIM and shots and took some strides offensively last season. I do have pause about whether or not he can produce more offensively. I don’t think the ceiling is much higher than it was last season, but last season is easily worth this spot. Perhaps the Ottawa second line improving so much helps, but he’s never going to be a huge PP producer being down in front of the net which stops him from piling up easy points. I’m a big fan of his game in real life, but fantasy, I do prefer Evander for a similar skill set.
35) Nazem Kadri – Like Miller, I don’t want to buy Kadri off his peak season last year. The good news is that his floor is still extremely high because of the PIM and shot combo. Also, if he was going to leave Colorado, Calgary was one of the best possible outcomes. Kadri will step into PP1 on Calgary and should get to play with quality play drivers on his wing. He should be a plus in every category which makes him a great fit for all teams.
36) Nikolaj Ehlers – Alright, I’m suckering myself into Ehlers again. I am begging Bowness to realize that Ehlers is the best player on the team. Yes, I know Connor and Scheifele get more pub, but Ehlers is an elite play driver while the other two are horrific defensively. If Ehlers got the chance on PP1 all season, he’d be well over a point per game and he’d get the recognize he deserves. Ehlers averaged almost four shots per game last season, making his 37 goal pace sustainable. If it becomes clear that Ehlers will be on the first unit, I’m completely all in.
37) Alex DeBrincat – There are some questions about how good life will be for DeBrincat without Kane on his wing, but I have no doubt that DeBrincat is going to score a lot of goals and take a lot of shots. That said, I have a very hard time seeing him averaging 21 minutes again in Ottawa. I wouldn’t be surprised if DeBrincat beats this ranking, but there’s enough worry to knock him down here. He does get a boost in hits leagues compared to PIM as he takes very few penalties.
38) Trevor Zegras – Zegras was outstanding in his first full season with 61 points. There’s a few ways that I expect Zegras to improvement. One, as always, is naturally as he moves towards the peak of his career. Two, the Ducks signed some better veterans for the second line to protect Zegras some more. Three, Klingberg should help PP1 quite a bit over Shattenkirk/Drysdale. Four, there is no four, I’m just copying Grey now. Five, his minutes should go up slightly. Zegras has also taken quite a bit of penalties in his young career. I’m buying his talent.
39) Mika Zibanejad – The last two guys in this post aren’t exciting, but we know what we’re getting. Zibanejad had exactly one point per game last season and was fantastic on the power play, like the rest of the Rangers top unit. The one concern is that the shot rate dropped to around average, but I’m not ruling out a bounceback there. It does keep him in this range because the PIM are low as well. Zibanejad remains a quality safe option.
40) Mark Scheifele – For six straight seasons, Scheifele has been a point per game or better. It seems blasphemous to have him this low. There are a lot of things that are trending poorly for Scheifele, but I also can’t rule it out that he turns it around under Bowness. The shot rate has never been better than average, the PIM/hits are low, and he’s so bad defensively that his plus-minus is now a concern. Does he buy into playing well in his own zone? If he doesn’t, that’s going to cause real problems with Bowness. Also, even if he does buy in, there’s no way Scheifele is getting the minutes he did under Maurice. He’s been over 20 minutes per game for six straight years, but the highest a Stars skater had the last seasons under Bowness was Pavelski at 19:01 in 20/21. That can be a 5-10% decrease in ice time for Scheifele, which is a big problem. I love the offensive ability, which generally means the most for fantasy, but Scheifele’s floor is lower than it has been in a long time.
And there’s 2500+ words for the Top 40. Apologies for getting these rankings out later than anticipated, but I’m out of Florida now and back home ready to crank out the rest of these rankings. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, and give any suggestions below. I’ll be back tomorrow with more forward rankings. Thanks for reading, take care!