Drafting for the playoffs requires assessing skill but also how far each player’s team will go. Matt Larkin offers his definitive top 100.
Congrats if you won your regular season fantasy pool. Apologies if you didn’t. Now it’s time to (a) win another pool and further annoy your pals or (b) redeem a nightmare season with a magical playoff run.
Playoff fantasy rankings are a vastly different beast. We can no longer evaluate players on merely their skill, role and teammates. Now we must factor in how far we believe each guy’s team will go. Note the lack of Sidney Crosby atop these rankings. Sorry, but given how done-like-dinner his Pittsburgh Penguins looked down the stretch, and that they face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers, we can’t expect to have Crosby alive for long.
The list below reflects a blend of my personal Eastern and Western Conference team predictions and players’ overall values. Even if I don’t see the likes of Crosby or Carey Price going far, I recognize some people will disagree, so I won’t bury those superstars in the rankings too much. Above all else, playoff pools are about playing your hunch of what team will do well – and loading up on that team’s players. Juggle the rankings for yourself if you have a different idea of who goes far. But consider these 100 names within whatever order you set.
Positions listed reflect Yahoo league eligibility.
1. Steven Stamkos, C: A superstar on the team we predict will win the Stanley Cup. Where do I sign?
2. Henrik Lundqvist, G: Safest goalie choice happens to play for the Presidents’ Trophy winner and the team with the top Cup odds. If you believe in the Rangers and your pool gives enough weight to goalies, ‘King Henrik’ can go first overall.
3. Jonathan Toews, C: He’s overrated in regular season pools, but the ideal first-round pick in playoff pools is someone you believe will play enough games to amass 20 points. Toews fits that bill.
4. Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW: His team has a decent chance of reaching round 2, and Ovie can do four rounds of scoring in two rounds.
5. Ryan Getzlaf, C: Numbers underwhelmed versus last year, but Ducks clinched Pacific so early and gave him some rest. He’s still a stud pick.
6. Corey Perry, RW: Maybe he comes at a mild discount since injuries shortened his season and softened his stats.
7. Rick Nash, LW/RW: Chance for monster numbers and a deep playoff run. As long as he doesn’t repeat last year’s performance…
8. Tyler Johnson, C: Equalled Stamkos’ point total in five fewer games. He’s a premier selection if you believe in the Bolts.
9. Patrick Kane, RW (+8): Cleared by doctors to participate in Game 1 of the playoffs. That’s great news, but it doesn’t mean there’s no risk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joel Quenneville eases Kane back in or gives him an extra game.
10. John Tavares, C (-1): Road to a large sample of games isn’t easy, as the Isles must defeat Washington and likely the Rangers after that. But Johnny T is elite enough that you can’t let him fall too far.
11. Carey Price, G (-1): The best fantasy player, not just goalie, in the league this year. I believe the Habs will flop, but I can only drop Price so far in the ranks. He and his team have plenty of believers.
12. Nicklas Backstrom, C (-1): Like linemate Ovechkin, Backstrom should rack up enough points to be worth owning even if it’s just for a series or two. And the well-rounded Caps have sleeper potential.
13. Sidney Crosby, C (-1): Can’t go higher than this. Sorry. The Penguins seem to have no fight left in them, unless you count beating Buffalo as a rallying cry.
14. Evgeni Malkin, C (-1): See No. 12.
15. Derek Stepan, C (-1): Should flirt with the playoff scoring crown if Rangers go all the way.
16. Corey Crawford, G (-1): Extremely underrated in post-season pools. Hawks’ odds skyrocket with Patrick Kane on the mend, too. What Western Conference goalie would you rather pick?
17. Marian Hossa, RW (-1): Lots left in the tank. Will rack up points thanks to sheer volume of games (if you believe Chicago goes far, which I do).
18. Nikita Kucherov, LW/RW: Great guy to pair with his center Tyler Johnson after breakout season.
19. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW: Amazing talent, one of the league’s most exciting players, but how high can you take him knowing the Blues keep stalling in the playoffs?
20. Ondrej Palat, LW: See No. 18.
21. Martin St-Louis, RW/C: Healthy for the playoffs and will play significant top-six minutes on a major contender.
22. Braden Holtby, G: Remarkably consistent this season and has succeeded in the playoffs before. Like the Caps as a whole, he’s one of my favorite sleepers.
23. Ben Bishop, G: Despite liking Tampa to win it all, there’s reason for caution with Bishop. Unproven in the playoffs, prone to nicks and has a stellar backup in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
24. Zach Parise, LW: Wild are a popular upset pick for round 1, and Parise should be their leading scorer.
25. P.K. Subban, D: Dominated with 14 points in 17 games last post-season. Elite at his position and even better if your playoff league counts PIMs.
26. Max Pacioretty, LW: On track to play Game 1. Montreal needs him to be its top goal scorer, and not just in the regular season. ‘Patches’ has five goals in 21 career playoff games.
27. Devan Dubnyk, G: It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Dubnyk stand on his head and carry Minnesota, like Jean-Sebastian Giguere did Anaheim in 2003. Imagine saying that a year ago. I’d be laughed out of the room.
28. Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW: Still a phenomenal real-life and fantasy player, but Detroit’s low team ceiling caps the Magic Man’s value.
29. Pekka Rinne, G: A high-end goalie, but picking him means picking Nashville to beat Chicago. Godspeed.
30. Ryan Callahan, RW: A classic playoff pick in that there are plenty of more talented players below him, but I like him to play more games than most of them. Bonus if your pool counts hits.
31. Erik Karlsson, D: Was a man on a mission during Ottawa’s late-season run. Talented enough to rank among top-scoring playoff D-men even if he only plays a couple rounds.
32. Victor Hedman, D: The No. 1 defenseman on the NHL’s highest-scoring team. Ended the season on a cold streak, however.
33. Jiri Hudler, LW/RW: Don’t sleep on the Flames. Hudler finished as the NHL’s eighth-leading scorer, and the Pacific Division path isn’t the scariest. Calgary beating Vancouver plus the winner of Anaheim/Winnipeg isn’t the most ridiculous idea.
34: Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW: I’ll let someone else reach for him at the draft table. I only expect him to play five games.
35. Henrik Sedin, C: After the elite options go, there are chances for discounts on high-scoring players on teams with foggy forecasts. Vancouver could beat Calgary, as the series looks extremely close on paper.
36. Daniel Sedin, LW: Anyone picking the Canucks over the Flames can pencil both Sedins in for at least 10 points, which makes them draftable.
37. Brandon Saad, LW/RW: Didn’t explode like expected this year, but he was hardly a bust, and he found an extra gear in the 2014 playoffs.
38. Duncan Keith, D: A safe pick, and it helps that Keith plays 27 minutes a game in the playoffs.
39. Alexander Steen, LW/C: Streaky scorer can give you a nice short-term burst – or a whole lot more if St. Louis finally puts it all together.
40. Patrick Sharp, LW/C: Do you believe he can shake off a bad year and deliver when it counts? He’ll be a steal if he does.
41. Jaden Schwartz, LW: His 28 goals show he’s a good player in his own right and not just dependent on linemate Tarasenko.
42. Derick Brassard, C: If Rangers shuffle back to their common regular season lines, he centers Nash for the playoffs. Boom potential here.
43. Sean Monahan, C: Scored 31 goals as a 20-year-old and Flames will need him as first-line center against Vancouver.
44. Johnny Gaudreau, LW: Sometimes smaller guys end up more durable, not less. Johnny Hockey played 80 games and didn’t stop scoring down the stretch.
45. Andrew Hammond, G: No goalie was better from March onward. Can he lead Ottawa to an upset over the Habs?
46. Mark Stone, RW: Sizzled with 13 points in final nine games and may have stolen the Calder Trophy in the process. He or Karlsson should lead Sens in playoff points.
47. Radim Vrbata, RW: Sniped with our without the Sedins this year and deserves a boost in leagues that weigh goals heavier.
48. Keith Yandle, D: Had 11 points in 21 games as a Ranger, but 10 points came in his last 12 games of the season.
49. Filip Forsberg, LW/RW/C: Rookie seemed to be tiring but reignited late in the year for Nashville.
50. Frederik Andersen, G: John Gibson’s injury erases the debate over who mans Anaheim’s crease…for now. Andersen is a high-risk, high-reward pick. He could still give way to Gibson later in the playoffs.
51. Kyle Okposo, RW
52. T.J. Oshie, RW/C
53. David Backes, C/RW
54. Chris Kreider, LW
55. Andrew Ladd, LW
56. Blake Wheeler, RW
57. Tomas Tatar, LW
58. Gustav Nyquist, RW/C
59. John Carlson, D
60. Bryan Little, C/RW
61. Mike Ribeiro, C
62. Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW
63. Jonathan Drouin, LW/RW
64. Kevin Shattenkirk, D
65. Roman Josi, D
66. Shea Weber, D
67. Jason Pominville, RW
68. Kevin Hayes, C/RW
69. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW
70. Ryan Kesler, C/RW
71. Sami Vatanen, D
72. Mark Scheifele, C
73. Petr Mrazek, G
74. Thomas Vanek, LW/RW
75. Mikael Granlund, C
76. Ryan Strome, C/RW
77. Valtteri Filppula, C/LW
78. Brendan Gallagher, RW
79. Jaroslav Halak, G
80. Anton Stralman, D
81. Anders Lee, C/LW
82. Andrei Markov, D
83. Mike Hoffman, LW/C
84. Brent Seabrook, D
85. Ryan McDonagh, D
86. Brad Richards, C/LW
87. Marc-Andre Fleury, G
88. Marek Zidlicky, D
89. Ryan Suter, D
90. Mikko Koivu, C
91. Mika Zibanejad, C/RW
92. Brian Elliott, G
93. Jake Allen, G
94. Bobby Ryan, RW/LW
95. Patric Hornqvist, RW
96. Mike Green, D
97. Troy Brouwer, RW/C
98. Ondrej Pavelec, G
99. James Neal, RW/LW
100. Nick Leddy, D
ON THE BUBBLE: Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Pietrangelo, David Desharnais, Jonas Hiller, Kris Versteeg, Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack, Matt Beleskey, Marcus Johansson, Chris Kunitz, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart, Nino Niederreiter, John Gibson, Tomas Plekanec, Jimmy Howard, Jori Lehtera, Andrew Shaw, Paul Stastny, Bryan Bickell, Patrick Maroon, Kyle Turris, Alex Killorn
Any egregious misses? Speak your mind in the comment section below. For what it’s worth, my pre-season top 200 didn’t steer me wrong. I won both my regular season pools this year. Hopefully that earns your trust. Good luck!
Matt Larkin is an associate 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