The beginning is nigh! Yes my dear readers we’re drawing near to the start of the season so I won’t waste your time with a long blurb to kick this post off. I will say that this list is pretty comprehensive and if you can’t fill out your D based on this list you’re either playing in the deepest of leagues of you’re not very good at this fantasy hockey thing and should take up knitting. I covered as many guys as I could, but when I hit around the 65th rearguard there wasn’t much to say about the last ten guys so they became the honorable mentions. I guess that makes this a top 65 in some ways, but whatevs. There’s 75 names and sets o’ projections so I’m sticking to my guns. Plus, 75 sounds so much better than top 65, you know? As usual if I missed your guy or you have any questions, hit me up in the comments! At any rate, without further ado (there’s that word again), here are the 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Top 75 Defensemen:
Due to popular demand and a number o’ requests I’ve put together my list of guys to watch out for breakout seasons or, failing that, another step forward in young but promising careers. I am a benevolent god, what can I say? The people speak and I listen. I have a feeling this is going to be a series of posts because there’s just too much to say about too many guys. As such this list isn’t exhaustive and if I didn’t touch on one of your guys let me know in the comments and I’ll assemble another list or just tell you what you need to know directly. For now these are the top guys I think you should be targeting in mid to late rounds. Every one of the names on this list are keepers so if you’ve got room consider adding a few of them; you’ll thank me in a few years. If you don’t have room, well, make some! How? I don’t know. What am I, some kind of expert? Puh! Anyway, there’s a lot to cover in this lists so without further ado (I love the word ado, I don’t know why), here are my 2014-2015 Players to Watch:
Honestly folks this is getting ridiculous. If you care about your star players please, do the right thing, lock them up somewhere safe, padded and guarded, because we haven't played a single game that matters yet and key guys are dropping like flies.The pain train continues to chuggeth along around the league and picked up not one, not two, but three new passengers guaranteed to make their owners bust out the sadface. I'm not sure what the hell is going on this preseason but it seems like everyone and their mama is getting hurt before a single game that means anything is played! At any rate, all we can do is take it in stride and not get stuck drafting the wrong guys and the wrong guys start with Derek Stepan. Step broke his leg in an apparent non-contact injury during a conditioning drill. So not only did the Rangers no. 1 center break his leg at a time where nothing counts, he wasn't even in a game. He couldn't be in a game because he missed the previous tilt with the Devils due to a foot injury. Yikes. He followed that up by fracturing his fibula and unfortunately there is no timetable for his return. It sounds like he could easily be out 4-6 weeks and possibly as long as two months or more. I know his deal was way out of whack for what he could contribute, but you have to think that Brad Richards stings the Rangers just a little bit right now. This injury really leaves them in a bind and J.T. Miller seems like a possible replacement for Step on the top line with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. Whoever it is it's someone you don't want to bother with. Drop Stepan off your draft sheets because baby, he isn't even worth drafting right now unless you're in a very deep league with IR slots to burn.
Less than 24 hours after Josh Harding lost an epic battle with a wall after getting into tizzy with one of his teammates the Minnesota Wild ended a brief contract dispute with sophomore netminder Darcy Kuemper signing him to the two-year, one-way deal worth $2.5 million ($1.25 AAV) he originally asked for. I’m still reading mixed reports on whether it’s Harding's ankle or his foot that he broke, but what is being consistently reported is it that Harding is out for months and, to make matters worse for Josh, he was suspended by the team yesterday for injuring himself in a non-hockey related activity. Apparently kicking walls is a non-hockey related activity? Who knew? Frankly I think wall kickin' should replace the shootout. Everyone lines up and kicks the wall and whichever team has fewer broken feet (or ankles!) wins! Now that’s what I call action! At any rate, there’s no word on how long Harding be suspended, or whether the suspension will kick in immediately or when he’s healthy, but one can assume that if and when Harding does get healthy again it’s in the Wild’s best interests to get him out there as soon as possible. In the meantime, there’s upside here for fantasy owners errywheres, because Kuemper is now locked in as backup to Niklas Backstrom to start the season, but that may change quickly enough as the season gets underway.
Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they're going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren't, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot's stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard's 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o' the matter, Razzball's 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings:
And so it goes and so we goes! I've already covered our top 10, top 20 and top 50 for 2015, so with 30 days left before the first puck drops here's the next 50 to round out the top 100 for our 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Rankings: 51) Jordan Eberle – has quietly established himself as one of the most consistent options on the right side in fantasy or otherwise. He’s only missed six games over the last three seasons, scored more than 30 goals once, nearly hit the mark again last year with 28 and so long as he stays on the Nuge/Hall line, he’s going to put up another solid 30 goal year. His plus/minus drops him out of the top 50 by a smidge, but just a tiny smidge. 2015 Projections: 30 G, 41 A, 71 PTS 52) Ryan Johansen – is capable of being a top 25 player but his contract concerns have me, well, concerned. He’s missing camp and that’s not good for team chemistry or his conditioning. Yeah, I’m sure he’s taking care of his conditioning on his own, but it’s just not the same. I’d have ranked him much higher if he was signed a while ago, but with just over a month left before the season all reports are that he isn’t close to signing a deal. His projections will get adjusted if he misses games due to the contract dispute, but if he starts the year and gets a chance to play 82 games, he’s going to take another step forward this season. 2015 Projections: 30 G, 42 A, 72 PTS
I've already covered our top 10 for 2015 and top 20 for 2015 so without further ado, here's the rest the top 50 for our 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Rankings: 21) Matt Duchene – had his breakout season last year posting nearly a point per game (0.99) posting 70 points in 71 games. I don’t see him ranked this high often and I’m not sure why. He’s the best offensive threat on a team loaded with talent up front. Lucky for him Ryan O’Reilly re-signed so expect Duchene to skate with him again after spending nearly 80% of his time on a line with O’Reilly last year. Don’t worry about the MCL injury he suffered last last season, he’s fine going into camp and should be a top fantasy asset this season. 2015 Predictions: 27 G, 48 A, 75 PTS 22) Nicklas Backstrom – found a new allergy medication in the offseason, or so I hope, because his value is nil if he gets caught with amphetamines in his system again. Meth? Adderall? Allergy Meds? Same stuff! But seriously, Backstrom was the heart and soul of the Caps offense and has been one of the most consistent scorers in the league since 2008-09 (9th overall in points, 7th in points per game). So long as he’s paired with Ovi all is well, but if for some insane reason they are broken up again (it happened for 18 games total last season and Backstrom tallied just 5A over those games), he could have trouble meeting expectations. 2015 Predictions: 16 G, 60 A, 76 PTS
Figuring out the top 10 is pretty easy. You basically can’t go wrong slotting most of those guys in anywhere in those 10 slots, they’re so good that barring injury you’re going to be at least in the ballpark of correct. I have Tyler Seguin higher than most, but what do they know? No Geno, though? On noes! He’s the biggest question in the top 20 and I already had a few pings about why he wasn’t slotted in the top 10. See what I’m saying? I like Geno, I really do, but I don’t like those bum wheels of his and it gives me pause. That’s it? Really? Yes, that’s it. Corey Perry didn’t break my top 10 either but no one cares about that. Maybe that’s because Corey be throwin’ dem bows! Does anyone really like him outside of Cali? I doubt it. At any rate, lets keep at it. Here’s the rest of the top 20 for 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey: 11) Jamie Benn – would have lead the Stars in goals, assists and points if it wasn’t for Tyler Seguin’s dominance. What’s more his numbers goals (34), assists (45) and points (79) were all career highs that I think he at least matches this season, with a slight uptick in assists but fewer goals. He should still break the 30 goal mark and easily keep a point per game pace all season. 2015 Predictions: 30 G, 52 A, 82 PTS
With just a little over a month left before the puck drops it’s time to drop the rankings on y’all and get this party started! Last season saw the predictable end of Crosby leading the way yet again and guess what? Nothing changes this season. Well, that’s not true, a lot changes this season. Tons of new faces in new places and now the Central Division might be the toughest division to play in, maybe in all of North American sports. This season we’ll finally get a look at all-world rookie Jonathan Drouin and from the video I’ve seen the kid should be a hot commodity right off the bat, or off the stick, or… I get my metaphors mixed up sometimes. Anyway, there’s no need for a lengthy introduction here so lets get right to the top 10: 1) Sidney Crosby – remains king of the mountain going into 2014-15 and barring an injury he should be the only guy who breaks the century mark for a second straight season. That alone nets him the top slot again, but consider that last season he won the Art Ross by 17 points while putting up 1.3 points per game, the top mark in the league. The only guy who came close in points per was Evgeni Malkin at 1.2 points per game, and Geno isn’t trending up this season. Granted, had Steven Stamkos not broken his leg, he would likely have challenged Sid for the scoring title, which he’ll do this season, but inevitably Crosby remains the best player in the world. I would talk about who he’s going to skate with, but it almost doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine they’ll break up Crosby and Chris Kunitz, who he spent about 80% of his time with last year. Throw in a dash of Geno here and there and Sidney will be just fine. At 27 years old he could be poised to put up the best season of his career, the only question is whether or not the concussion bug will bite him again. He played 80 games last season, a career high, but the injury risk remains. Still, I doubt it stops him from making a run at another Hart Trophy. 2015 Projections: 35 G, 65 A, 100 PTS