Who are the best long-term investments in keeper and dynasty fantasy leagues? Matt Larkin ranks the top 30 players at each position.
Playing in a standard hockey pool, in which GMs redraft entire teams every year? I’ve got you covered with my top 200 overall player rankings. Now it’s time to help out keeper-league GMs who run their franchises over many years, carrying over players.
Hammering out the top 30 keepers by position is no easy feat. It’s not a matter of merely listing all the NHL’s best prospects, nor is it a matter of putting all the best current NHLers at the top. The ranking must blend both. So let’s establish some rules:
1. Prospects several years away from making an NHL impact big enough to have fantasy value don’t make the cut. Ilya Samsonov is a great goaltending prospect, but babies born today might reach kindergarten before he plays in the NHL.
2. Veterans nearing the end of their careers are punished or omitted altogether. Joe Thornton and Roberto Luongo are poor keeper-league investments no matter how much we like them.
3. As a rough guideline, I forecast players over the next two or three years. Keeper leagues are for long-term roster building, but this is still pretend hockey. You want your team to be good in a few seasons, not half a decade. So players in the middle of their primes who should still stay handy for several more seasons crack the list.
4. These are fantasy rankings, not real life. I promise I don’t think Tyson Barrie is better than Duncan Keith, but Barrie has outscored Keith two straight seasons and is eight years younger.
5. I typically favor NHL-ready prospects over mid-tier veterans. Do I know Sebastian Aho will have a better three-year stretch than Reilly Smith? No, but Smith has established a relatively low ceiling. Guys like him are available on the waiver wire in plenty of leagues. So Aho gets the edge.
6. Player ages are as of opening night, Oct. 12, 2016.
Let’s begin. Voice your complaints and point out glaring omissions in the comment section below.
1. Connor McDavid (19) – The top overall keeper-league pick, and it’s not close. Already scored at a top-three pace at 18 years old in rookie year.
2. Tyler Seguin (24) – Has 234 points in 223 games as a Dallas Star. Injuries aren’t too worrisome, as they were of the freak variety.
3. John Tavares (26) – Admittedly, I expected a 90-point season by now. Still young enough to do it, though, and maintains extremely high floor for years to come.
4. Evgeny Kuznetsov (24) – A top-10 scorer in his second full season. We’ll find out this year if Kuznetsov has another gear and can challenge for the Art Ross.
5. Sidney Crosby (29) – Should still produce great point totals for a few more seasons, but he’s become such a complete two-way player that his offensive ceiling has lowered.
6. Jack Eichel (19) – McDavid gets the hype, but Eichel is also among the decade’s best prospects. Ripped off 24 goals as a teenager. Sky’s the limit.
7. Steven Stamkos (26) – A crucial season ahead. Healthy, no more contract distractions and a Cup-contending team. No excuse not to rejoin 40-goal club.
8. Aleksander Barkov (21) – His upside was supposed to be Kopitar-like, but he’s improving so quickly that he may surpass Kopitar, at least in terms of fantasy production.
9. Mark Scheifele (23) – Ascended to Jets’ No. 1 center position to replace injured Bryan Little, and Scheifele won’t relinquish the throne for many years now. He’s a franchise center.
10. Nathan MacKinnon (22) – Last chance to buy low. MacKinnon has underachieved, but he’s still younger than many rookies despite playing three seasons. Maybe new Colorado coach Jared Bednar brings uber-talented MacKinnon to life.
11. Sean Monahan (21)
12. Nicklas Backstrom (28)
13. Matt Duchene (25)
14. Alex Galchenyuk (22)
15. Claude Giroux (28)
16. Evgeni Malkin (30)
17. Auston Matthews (19)
18. Ryan Johansen (24)
19. Anze Kopitar (29)
20. Logan Couture (27)
21. Jonathan Toews (28)
22. Dylan Larkin (20)
23. Vincent Trocheck (23)
24. Tyler Johnson (26)
25. Leon Draisaitl (20)
26. Ryan Getzlaf (31)
27. Sam Bennett (20)
28. Mika Zibanejad (23)
29. Ryan O’Reilly (25)
30. William Nylander (20)
Just missed: Derek Stepan, Bo Horvat, Boone Jenner, Dylan Strome, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
1. Jamie Benn (27) – Two straight summer surgeries suggest he may not age gracefully, but that problem is years away. He’s still in his prime. A beast and perennial MVP candidate.
2. Johnny Gaudreau (23) – Dazzling puckhandler averages 71 points after two full seasons.
3. Alex Ovechkin (31) – Have to keep trusting him as long as he keeps scoring 50 goals. But now that the assists have dried up, his fantasy value will plummet when his sniping prime ends.
4. Filip Forsberg (22) – Should rise to the 35-35-70 range this season.
5. Taylor Hall (24) – Value pick in keeper leagues, as his production probably dips in Devils debut but should spike in years to come as the franchise adds more young talent.
6. Artemi Panarin (24) – Prefer to rank him just below the elite tier until I see him dominate two years in a row.
7. Max Domi (21) – Overshadowed in a great rookie class. Domi was quietly rosterable in most pools. Had 52 points with very little help in Arizona.
8. Jonathan Huberdeau (23) – Lacks the superstar ceiling of linemate Barkov but is still a productive playmaking winger who isn’t finished improving.
9. Max Pacioretty (27) – Gets 30 goals and 60 points in his sleep and has chance for career year if he plays with rising Galchenyuk all season.
10. Milan Lucic (28) – A fun keeper-league pick if you expect him to enjoy glory days riding shotgun with McDavid for next several seasons.
11. Nikolaj Ehlers (20)
12. Mike Hoffman (26)
13. Jaden Schwartz (24)
14. Brad Marchand (28)
15. Robby Fabbri (20)
16. Andre Burakovsky (21)
17. Brandon Saad (23)
18. Andrew Ladd (30)
19. Jeff Skinner (24)
20. Gabriel Landeskog (23)
21. Brayden Schenn (25)
22. James van Riemsdyk (27)
23. Ondrej Palat (25)
24. Tomas Hertl (22)
25. Teuvo Teravainen (22)
26. Mikael Granlund (24)
27. Kyle Connor (19)
28. Chris Kreider (25)
29. Rick Nash (32)
30. Zach Parise (32)
Just missed: Matthew Tkachuk, Adrian Kempe, Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Mikkel Boedker
1. Patrick Kane (27) – Should hang in the 90-point range or better for several more years. These are his halcyon days.
2. Vladimir Tarasenko (24) – Already one of the game’s best two or three goal scorers, and he’ll take over the top spot once Ovie ages out.
3. Joe Pavelski (32) – Deceptively old but hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down yet.
4. Nikita Kucherov (23) – Is he a poor man’s Tarasenko? Or is he just Tarasenko II? Kucherov is that good.
5. Jakub Voracek (27) – Feels like he’s been around forever, yet he’s younger than Kane.
6. Blake Wheeler (30) – His 78 points beat career high by nine, but as Wheeler’s linemates keep improving, he may have an 80-point campaign in him.
7. Patrik Laine (18) – He’s no sure thing, but…I can’t see myself taking anyone below ahead of Laine. Game-changing talent as a goal scorer.
8. Phil Kessel (29) – If success on HBK Line and playoff brilliance are any indication, Kessel should be much more valuable in fantasy as a second-year Penguin.
9. Mark Stone (24) – Not a sexy pick but has multiple 60-point seasons before 25th birthday.
10. Jordan Eberle (26) – Still has chance to become top-fight pool producer again if he’s healthy. Good chemistry with McDavid.
11. Corey Perry (31)
12. Kyle Okposo (28)
13. Sam Reinhart (20)
14. Jonathan Drouin (21)
15. Tyler Toffoli (24)
16. David Pastrnak (20)
17. Jesse Puljujarvi (18)
18. Mikko Rantanen (19)
19. Anthony Duclair (21)
20. Mitch Marner (19)
21. Wayne Simmonds (28)
22. Tomas Tatar (25)
23. Mats Zuccarello (30)
24. Kyle Palmieri (25)
25. James Neal (29)
26. Loui Eriksson (31)
27. Brendan Gallagher (24)
28. J.T. Miller (23)
29. Sebastian Aho (19)
30. Charlie Coyle (24)
Just missed: T.J. Oshie, Bobby Ryan, Gustav Nyquist, Jakob Silfverberg, Valeri Nichushkin
1. Erik Karlsson (26) – Best fantasy D-man of the past 25 years, and he’s nowhere near the end of his prime.
2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (25) – Already a beast with multiple 20-goal seasons on terrible teams. What will he accomplish now that the Coyotes are injecting some legit talent around him?
3. John Klingberg (24) – Stars already led NHL in goals last year, so 58 points may be Klingberg’s peak, but what a peak it is.
4. Roman Josi (26) – Every time it seems he’s as good as he’ll ever be, he gets even better. Somehow still underrated, too.
5. P.K. Subban (27) – Chance for best season yet playing for an offense-minded coach in Peter Laviolette and with Josi as probable ‘D’ partner.
6. Victor Hedman (25) – Still believe he can bust out for a Norris Trophy season. Many prime years left.
7. Brent Burns (31) – Top-two blueliner in redraft leagues, but we should pump brakes slightly in keeper formats, less because he’s 31 and more because some of his elite San Jose power play mates are in their late 30s.
8. Aaron Ekblad (20) – Third-most goals ever by an 18-year-old defenseman and fourth-most by a 19-year-old defenseman. He’s special.
9. Rasmus Ristolainen (21) – Teased franchise D-man ability last year and should blossom into a power play beast as Eichel and Co. improve in Buffalo.
10. John Carlson (26) – Was very durable before last season. Should return to being a 50-point guy as part of lethal Capitals attack.
11. Kris Letang (29)
12. Tyson Barrie (25)
13. Drew Doughty (26)
14. Shayne Gostisbehere (23)
15. Dustin Byfuglien (31)
16. Kevin Shattenkirk (27)
17. Justin Faulk (24)
18. Dougie Hamilton (23)
19. Keith Yandle (30)
20. Seth Jones (22)
21. Shea Weber (31)
22. Morgan Rielly (22)
23. Alex Pietrangelo (26)
24. Mark Giordano (33)
25. Torey Krug (25)
26. T.J. Brodie (26)
27. Hampus Lindholm (22)
28. Sami Vatanen (25)
29. Duncan Keith (33)
30. Ryan Suter (31)
Just missed: Alex Goligoski, Ivan Provorov, Cody Ceci, Jake Muzzin, Noah Hanifin
1. Braden Holtby (27) – Younger and more durable than Price. Safest long-term investment as the position.
2. Carey Price (29) – Still young enough to put the health woes behind him and reclaim the top spot.
3. Corey Crawford (31) – Doesn’t get proper respect in real life. We can make it up to him by at least honoring him in fantasy leagues. And 31 isn’t ancient in goalie years.
4. Cory Schneider (30) – Elite goalie, but Devils are so weak that they may take a few years to get good.
5. Martin Jones (26) – Showed he can handle a heavy workload in first season as a starter, and Sharks should be Cup contenders again.
6. Jake Allen (26) – Trading Brian Elliott confirms Blues see Allen as their long-term guy in net. That makes him an excellent keeper-league buy.
7. John Gibson (23) – Same rationale as No. 6, but swap Frederik Andersen in for Brian Elliott and Ducks in for Blues.
8. Petr Mrazek (24) – As much raw talent as any goalie but hasn’t mastered consistency yet.
9. Ben Bishop (29) – Top-three redraft goalie, but future is uncertain and seems to get hurt every year.
10. Tuukka Rask (29) – Career numbers trending in wrong direction. It’s not his fault, as his supporting cast has worsened, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
11. Jonathan Quick (30)
12. Andrei Vasilevskiy (22)
13. Henrik Lundqvist (34)
14. Matt Murray (22)
15. Devan Dubnyk (30)
16. Marc-Andre Fleury (31)
17. Connor Hellebuyck (23)
18. Frederik Andersen (27)
19. Pekka Rinne (33)
20. Semyon Varlamov (28)
21. Brian Elliott (31)
22. Cam Talbot (29)
23. Steve Mason (28)
24. Thomas Greiss (30)
25. Calvin Pickard (24)
26. Sergei Bobrovsky (28)
27. James Reimer (28)
28. Robin Lehner (25)
29. Thatcher Demko (20)
30. Michal Neuvirth (28)
Just missed: Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Malcolm Subban, Cam Ward, Jacob Markstrom
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin