Playing in a fantasy pool that includes forwards, D-men and goalies? Matt Larkin offers a definitive top 200 list for draft day.
Last chance to cram. The 2014-15 NHL season starts Wednesday, and a bunch of fantasy leagues still have drafting to do. I’m here to provide some 11th-hour help.
Most of what you need to know is in our crackerjack THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide, which is on newsstands now. You’ll even find a sorted list of the top 300 projected scorers.
One thing that list doesn’t cover, however, is any league not based entirely on points. What about the head-to-head formats in which you accumulate goaltending stats and penalty minutes on top of your offensive numbers? How do you know when to draft a goalie or defenseman over a forward?
I present to you a new ranking set. This list is based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.
Personally, I like scrapping penalty minutes for hits and adding saves to the goalie category, but I’ll stick with the standard configuration to ensure these rankings have a wider reach. Let’s get it on!
OCT. 6 UPDATE: The pre-season winds down, and we’ve learned a few things, from injuries to projected line combinations to buzzy rookies. With those factors in mind, here are my final rankings for 2014-15 drafts.
1. Sidney Crosby, C: Shut up, Crosby haters. He won the scoring title by 17 points.
2, Steven Stamkos, C: Rank him first in goal-heavy leagues. Best sniper in the game.
3. John Tavares, C: Improved supporting cast could spike his points into 90s and beyond.
4. Alex Ovechkin, RW: Not what he was, but remains a fantasy monster thanks to goals and insane shot totals.
5. Corey Perry, RW: Elite goal scoring harder to find than Getzlaf’s assists.
6. Ryan Getzlaf, C: Flip with Perry if your league counts hits instead of PIM.
7. Tuukka Rask, G: Only goalie I’d take in the first round. An absolute stud.
8. Phil Kessel, RW: Floor is 35 goals, 75 points. Safest pick on the board.
9. Evgeni Malkin, C: May miss the season opener with his mysterious injury, but the Pens insist it isn’t serious. I wouldn’t let him slip past ninth.
10. Claude Giroux, C (+1): Elite playmaker can carry your team when he’s hot. His groin injury appears to be behind him.
11. Tyler Seguin, C (-1): Borderline top-five pick once he strings two good seasons together.
12. Taylor Hall, LW: Hasn’t peaked yet. Extra valuable since LW are hard to find.
13. Patrick Kane, RW: Talent to win a scoring title, but never quite gets there.
14. Henrik Lundqvist, G: Wins may drop, but his rate stats will remain stellar. Plug him in and relax all year.
15. Jamie Benn, LW: Last year’s explosion was the real deal. A top-notch power forward.
16. Nathan MacKinnon, C: My fave breakout pick. Just don’t draft him before guaranteed 80-point guys.
17. Erik Karlsson, D: Beat next D-man by 13 points. Gives you huge advantage at his position, like Jimmy Graham in fantasy football.
18. Jonathan Toews, C: Not a true upper-echelon scorer, but has an extremely high floor.
19. Matt Duchene, C: Speed demon has found his consistency, still has additional upside.
20. Carey Price, G: Played best hockey of career last season and joined the elite tier.
21. P.K. Subban, D: Only blueliner capable of threatening Karlsson’s point total.
22. Shea Weber, D: Your go-to guy if you want goals from your defensemen.
23. Nicklas Backstrom, C: Not just Ovie’s stable mate. Plenty good on his own.
24. Chris Kunitz, LW: As long as he’s Crosby’s winger, he’ll remain a fantasy stud.
25. Joe Pavelski, C: First risky pick on the board. Pay for 30-plus goals, not 40-plus.
26. Anze Kopitar, C: Dominant two-way pivot in real life, just a safe second-round pick in fantasy.
27. Gabriel Landeskog, LW: Sneaky-good commodity, especially in leagues that count hits. Still just 21.
28. Duncan Keith, D: Guaranteed to be a high-end fantasy D-man, but his point totals vary year to year.
29. Patrick Sharp, LW: Now 32 and has young talent coming up behind him. Last season was probably his peak.
30. Zach Parise, LW: Point totals rarely reflect his talent, but he’s consistently very good.
31. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D (+1): Emerging stud the preferred Coyote rearguard if you want goals.
32. Keith Yandle, D (+1): Cagey vet the preferred Coyote rearguard if you want assists.
33. Thomas Vanek, LW (+1): Guaranteed good linemates in Minnesota. Should flirt with a point per game.
34. Zdeno Chara, D (+1): Aging, but still a great source of goals, PIM and plus-minus from the blueline.
35. Milan Lucic, LW (+1): The forward equivalent of Chara. Contributes to every category.
36. Sergei Bobrovsky, G (+1): Jackets’ forward injuries shouldn’t scare you off. He won the Vezina in 2012-13 when they weren’t even a playoff team.
37. Jonathan Quick, G (+1): Top-three goalie in the world, but not in fantasy. Regular season rate stats are not elite.
38. Jordan Eberle, RW (+1): 76 points in 2011-12 looks like peak, but he’s young enough to get back to that level.
39. Max Pacioretty, LW (+1): League’s most underrated sniper? Sixth-most goals last two seasons.
40. Eric Staal, C (-9): I liked him for a bounce-back, but his supporting cast in Carolina is decimated by injuries. He could start slowly again.
41. Henrik Zetterberg, C: Still a great source of points, but at this point you have to bank on injuries, as we’ve already seen with his partner in crime.
42. Henrik Sedin, C: Roughly a point per game just two years ago. A better bet than his brother.
43. Logan Couture, C: Great real-life player. Overrated in fantasy. Now 25 and hasn’t topped 65 points.
44. Martin St-Louis, RW: Just 23 points in 44 games as a Ranger including playoffs. Won’t be that bad, but there’s a lot of downside here.
45. Ryan O’Reilly, C: Less pure talent than Colorado’s top young guns, but a safe bet for 60-plus points.
46. Ryan Johansen, C (+31): He’s back. The Jackets locked up their star with a three-year deal. He may have a tiny bit of rust adjusting to game action, but not enough to affect his season outlook.
47. Joe Thornton, C: Days as a first-round pick are long gone, but he’s settled into the 70-point range.
48. Victor Hedman, D: Don’t consider his monster season an aberration. He was always supposed to be this good.
49. David Backes, C: Not much difference between him and Lucic. Well-rounded roto contributor.
50. Alexander Steen, LW: Handy goal scorer if you get him in round 4 or 5, but don’t reach. Injury risk and regression risk.
51. Cory Schneider, G: Where’s the respect? Top save percentage in NHL this decade among qualified leaders.
52. Alex Pietrangelo, D: Rock-solid No. 1 defenseman on your fantasy team every year.
53. Semyon Varlamov, G: Believe the breakout under Patrick Roy’s coaching, but expect fewer wins.
54. Brandon Saad, LW: If last year’s playoffs were any indication, he’s just getting started. Major upside pick.
55. Ben Bishop, G: Has potential to be top overall fantasy goalie, but carries injury red flags.
56. Corey Crawford, G: Won’t carry your team, but he’s a steady low-end No. 1 fantasy goalie.
57. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C: Most encouraging stat last year was 80 GP. If healthy, should easily best his career high in points (56).
58. Daniel Sedin, LW: I’m avoiding him in drafts. Troy Brouwer has more goals than Daniel in the last two seasons.
59. David Krejci, C: We know his ceiling now, but he’s nothing to sneeze at as your No. 2 center.
60. Dustin Byfuglien, RW/D: Turns out he still qualifies at defense in standard Yahoo Leagues, which is fantastic news for his fantasy value.
61. James van Riemdsyk, LW: A lock for 30-30-60 playing with Kessel. Talented enough to sustain good production even if Randy Carlyle splits up the pair, as he’s mulled doing.
62. Patrice Bergeron, C: All-world in real hockey. Just a Krejci clone in terms of fantasy production.
63. Jakub Voracek, RW: Claude Giroux’s linemate is unappreciated. Top-25 scorer over last two seasons.
64. Gustav Nyquist, RW: I’m probably too conservative here, but his goal binge was almost too bananas to believe. Keep an eye on him for injury updates, though the Wings say he’s fine after last week’s knee-on-knee collision.
65. Ryan Kesler, C: Don’t overpay. Still injury-prone, still the No. 2 center.
66. Torey Krug, D: He’s signed and ready to pile up points from Boston’s blueline again.
67. Marc-Andre Fleury, G: These rankings are for the regular season. Draft Flower and enjoy the counting stats.
68. Jason Spezza, C: New lease on life, but goes from No. 1 center to No. 2. I don’t expect an increase in offense.
69. Marian Hossa, RW: Still a great player, but he’s declining, and he’ll be drafted too high because of his name.
70. Kyle Okposo, RW: A steal as long as he stays on John Tavares’ line.
71. Mikael Granlund, C: Major breakout candidate. Should take over Wild’s No. 1 pivot job soon, if not right now. Already seeing time with Parise and Pominville.
72. Mark Giordano, D: Only Karlsson and Keith averaged more points/game among D-men.
73. Drew Doughty, D: Top-three player in the world in real life, but hovers around 40 points. You can do better in pools.
74. Loui Eriksson, RW: Poised to grab Iginla’s spot on Bruins’ top line. Bounce-back sleeper.
75. Kari Lehtonen, G: Injury-prone label starting to fade. Played 65 games last year, posted solid numbers.
76. Pekka Rinne, G: Even if he’s healthy, his team will allow more chances under Laviolette. Some bust potential.
77. James Neal, RW (+1): Don’t leap off the bandwagon too fast. Should still deliver 25-30 goals in Music City.
78. Jeff Skinner, LW (-32): Another head injury for a 22-year-old with a history of head injuries. Scary stuff for Skinner. He may not miss much time at all, or he may miss months. You never know with the brain.
79. Mike Smith, G : A workhorse who won’t win you your championship, but won’t hurt you.
80. Jeff Carter, C: Lack of assists drags down his value.
81. Kris Letang, D: Few D-men match his production, but few endure more health problems.
82. Jason Pominville, RW: While others grab sleepers too early, you can snag Mr. Consistency, who always seems to come cheap in drafts.
83. Marian Gaborik, RW: L.A. rejuvenated him, but don’t go crazy drafting him. He’s broken our hearts too many times.
84. Pavel Datsyuk, C: I was avoiding the Magic Man in drafts, but does his injury create a buying opportunity? He’ll miss a month with a separated shoulder, but could perform at a point-per-game pace from November on. Maybe you can steal him in the later rounds.
85. Patrick Marleau, LW: Boring, but remains a safe yearly choice at a premium position.
86. Blake Wheeler, RW: Relatively unnoticed in Winnipeg. Reliable source of points.
87. Jarome Iginla, RW: Not sure if he’s a fit for Colorado’s up-tempo game at his age, but he’s getting time with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog now. That’s a plum assignment for ‘Iggy.’
88. Paul Stastny, C: Will be overdrafted. He’ll be a cog in Hitchcock’s machine, which means fewer points. Then again, the advanced stats favor him.
89. Mikko Koivu, C: Strong two-way forward, but Granlund appears to have passed him on depth chart.
90. Andrew Ladd, LW: Not an elite talent, but you could do much worse at LW2.
91. Matt Moulson, LW: Will get his 25 or so goals, but assists will be lacking.
92. Tyler Bozak, C: A rich man’s Bryan Little. Never gets No. 1 center billing, but produces like one with Kessel. He’s close to earning an injury-prone label.
93. Ryan Suter, D: One of the more consistent assist contributors on ‘D.’
94. Ryan Miller, G: Rate stats up in the air, but the counting stats will be there. Could be a value pick.
95. Tyson Barrie, D: In New Year, had 30 points in 39 games. A secret star.
96. Christian Ehrhoff, D: Exciting news in fantasy circles if he continues to play with Kris Letang.
97. Justin Schultz, D: Hurts you in plus-minus, helps you in other scoring categories.
98. Andrei Markov, D: Only missed one game last two seasons. Time to put away red flag.
99. Jimmy Howard, G: Overrated. Hasn’t been the same since signing big contract.
100. Rick Nash, LW: Still draftable and good enough to recapture his magic, but don’t build your team around him.
101. Jaden Schwartz, LW: Good enough to maintain last season’s breakout pace.
102. Patric Hornqvist, RW (+1): Should have best season yet, but I don’t like drafting linemate-dependent players.
103. T.J. Oshie, RW (+1): Steady contributor for the back of your starting lineup.
104. Aleksander Barkov, C (+1): He’ll be a star, but it’ll be hard for him to top 50 points this season without more help.
105. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (+1): Talented enough to score 40 goals right now, Will he get the ice time to do it?
106. Tomas Hertl, C (+1): Tantalizing skill, but sample size was just 37 games. Careful not to reach.
107. Jacob Trouba, D (+1): Total package. I’ll pursue him aggressively in all leagues, especially keeper formats.
108. Evander Kane, LW (+1): Frustrates Jets and their fans, but underrated commodity in PIM and hits leagues.
109. Alexander Semin, RW (+1): Goes off once in a while, but the inconsistency is tiresome.
110. Kyle Turris, C (+1): Ottawa’s top center now, but hard to see him improving on last year without much talent around him.
111. Bobby Ryan, RW (+1): A Senator for the next seven seasons, but will he produce like a $7-million man?
112. Wayne Simmonds, RW (-10): Didn’t skate all last week, and he’s wearing a walking boot. In serious jeopardy of missing start of season.
113. Alex Goligoski, D: Safe choice. You’re laughin’ if he’s your No. 2 defenseman.
114. Radim Vrbata, RW: Sedins can get him back to 30 goals, but he could just as easily wind up off their line.
115. Mats Zuccarello, RW: Rangers need Norwegian Hobbit even more after losing depth via free agency, injuries.
116 Alex Galchenyuk, C: I expect a leap similar to Ryan Johansen’s a year ago.
117. Kevin Shattenkirk, D: Doesn’t play on top pair, but a handy PP contributor.
118. Brad Marchand, LW: Super-pest is super-consistent in fantasy leagues.
119. Jaromir Jagr, RW: He’s not done, but he can’t possibly put up 67 points again…right?
120. Johnny Gaudreau, LW (+9): A winner, a scorer, and perhaps the Calder frontrunner after his dazzling pre-season.
121. Mark Scheifele, C (-1): More of a two-way presence for now, but he’s a big part of Jets’ plans. Maurice plans to give him big minutes, better linemates right away this season.
122. Bryan Little, C (-1): Productive, but likely keeping seat warm for Scheifele – which Paul Maurice confirmed Sept. 18 when he said he’d try Scheifele with Kane and Wheeler.
123. Ondrej Palat, LW (-1): Pedigree didn’t predict last year’s breakout, so I want to see him do it two years straight.
124. Valeri Nichushkin, RW (+3): Slated to stay on Seguin-Benn line. He has the talent to make my ranking look foolishly low by year’s end.
125. Cody Hodgson, C (-2): The Man in Buffalo – unless Sam Reinhart is ahead of schedule.
126. David Perron, RW (-2): Good second-tier scorer who plays with an edge, gets PIM.
127. Tyler Toffoli, RW (-2): One of my favorite deep sleepers. I like him for 25-25-50.
128. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C (-2): Don’t forget, a sexy rookie pick doesn’t have to be a guy drafted this past June.
129. Nick Bjugstad, C (-1): He’s a monster, but supporting cast caps his ceiling.
130. Carl Soderberg, C: Quietly effective. A viable No. 3 fantasy center
131. Jiri Hudler, RW: You know what you get with Hudler, and what you get is boring.
132. Tyler Johnson, C: See No. 123.
133. Ales Hemsky, RW: Looks like he’ll play on second line with Spezza.
134. Scott Hartnell, LW: PIMs make him very draftable, but points should dip with trade to Columbus.
135. Niklas Kronwall, D: Goal totals fluctuate, but he gets his points.
136. Valtteri Filppula, C: From underrated to overrated and back to underrated.
137. Nazem Kadri, C: Better than last year. Not as good as the year before.
138. Mikhail Grabovski, C: Should get 50 points. Isles offense has major potential.
139. Cam Fowler, D: Realized potential last season. Time for him to show consistency.
140. Mike Ribeiro, C: Still got 47 points in “bust” season. That’s not a bad floor.
141. Tomas Tatar, LW: Should be available many rounds after Nyquist, but he has similar potential.
142. Johan Franzen, RW: Productive when in the lineup, which isn’t often these days.
143. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW: Many will rank him higher, but to me he’s the third-best breakout candidate on his own team.
144. Roberto Luongo, G: My current honorary boss will play a lot, and he tends to play better with lots of rubber.
145. Dan Boyle, D: Will get PP time. That’s why Rangers signed him.
146. Jonathan Bernier, G: Even with awful defense in front of him, posted a .922 SP. He’s for real.
147. James Wisniewski, D: Last four seasons: More points than Doughty – in 50 fewer games.
148. Ryan McDonagh, D: Didn’t know he had that offense in him. Let’s see him do it again before we take the plunge.
149. Steve Mason, G: Seems to have figured it out. Emery not healthy enough to threaten his workload.
150. Braden Holtby, G (+1): Intriguing sleeper with goalie guru Mitch Korn joining Capitals.
151. Jake Allen, G (+1): Not starting in St. Louis yet, but I expect him to by year’s end.
152. Brian Elliott, G (+1): If you live in the now, draft him instead of Allen.
153. Chris Kreider, LW (+1): Rangers need him too much not to give him bigger role.
154. Mikkel Boedker, LW (+1): Young, fast and supporting cast is improving.
155. Reilly Smith, RW (+1): I can’t seem to get excited about him, even after he signed. Handy player, but raw skill isn’t tremendous.
156. Dion Phaneuf, D (+1): As long as your league doesn’t count Corsi, draft him. He’ll give you goals and PIM.
157. Sean Monahan, C (+1): Scored 22 goals as a teenager. Lots of room to grow.
158. Sam Gagner, C (+1): Someone has to center Arizona’s first line.
159. Tanner Pearson, LW (+1): Playoff monster on Kings’ second line. No reason he shouldn’t stay there.
160. Ryan Callahan, RW (+1): A depth forward who can be a lot more if he sticks on Stamkos’ line.
162. Brendan Gallagher, RW (+1): A loveable overachiever who is probably close to his ceiling.
163. Flip Forsberg, LW (+1): Poised to start season on a line with Mike Ribeiro and James Neal, and Forsberg may have the best raw talent of that trio already. Sleeper alert.
164. Tobias Enstrom, D (+1): A good bet to improve on last season’s 30 points.
165. Jay Bouwmeester, D (+1): Doesn’t score goals anymore, but good for 30 assists.
166. Jaroslav Halak, G (+8): Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk undoubtedly improve the defense in front of him.
166. Mike Cammalleri, C: Can still score, but has missed 15-plus games four of last five seasons.
167. Nino Niederreiter, RW: Buy into the hype, but just remember, even 45 points means ascension.
168. Brayden Schenn, C: Career highs across the board last season. Low-risk, high-reward.
169. Tyler Ennis, C: Should break 50-point barrier for first time.
170. Brent Seabrook, D (+1): Really useful if your league counts blocked shots.
171. Jake Gardiner, D (+1): Scored 10 goals despite an erratic season. Oodles of fantasy potential.
172. Dustin Brown, RW (+1): Still gold if your league counts hits, but where did the offense go?
173. David Desharnais, C (+2): Keeps defying the odds but lacks upside.
174. Craig Anderson, G (+2): Sens paid to keep him their starter. But he’s a health risk and the team in front of him stinks.
175. Jonas Hiller, G (+2): Draftable in leagues that require more than one goalie per roster. Rate stats will suffer in Calgary, though.
176. Antti Niemi, G (-26): Reports out of San Jose have Alex Stalock on the verge of stealing Niemi’s No. 1 gig or at least earning a major timeshare.
177. Brandon Dubinsky, C (+1): Stands to see increased minutes and responsibility with Johansen, Nathan Horton absent from Columbus’ lineup.
178. Jonathan Drouin, LW (+1): Out about a month with a thumb fracture, but that could be longer for a rookie whose role in Tampa’s lineup wasn’t clear yet anyway.
179. Frans Nielsen, C (+2): Last season may be outlier. Two-way pivot has too much competition on depth chart now.
180. Brent Burns, D/RW (+3): Value takes a hit now that he’s a full-time D-man again. If you’re playing him at right wing, you’re booking your ticket for the basement.
181. John Carlson, D (+3) Good, not great fantasy D-man. Will Niskanen cut into his PP time?
182. John Gibson, G (+3): Has to win job from Andersen, and hasn’t done enough to do so this month. Even if he’s in a split, rate stats will be superb.
183. Frederik Andersen, G (+3): Flip with Gibson if Andersen earns No. 1 gig outright.
184. Roman Josi, D (+3: A bargain playing in shadow of Weber, Jones.
185. Nick Bonino, C (+3): Should be undervalued now. Never relied on Getzlaf and Perry for points anyway.
186. Clarke MacArthur, LW (+3): Never gets respect, always scores more than expected. A poor man’s Pominville.
187. Andrej Sekera, D (+3): Career high was 29 points before 44 last year at age 27. Color me skeptical.
188. Brian Campbell, D (+3): Still gets enough ice time to pile up assists.
189. Alexander Edler, D (+3): Lost his confidence. A change of scenery would help.
190. Sami Vatanen, D (+3): Has Krug-like upside, but it’s highly unclear where and if he fits into Anaheim’s top six yet.
191. Brad Richards, C (+3): Will help Hawks, but don’t count on a return to glory days.
192. Joffrey Lupul, LW (+3): Effective when he plays, but a near-lock to get hurt again.
193. Mike Green, D (+3): Looking at a diminished role as long as he’s still a Capital.
194. Jason Garrison, D (+3): Good fit on what should be a dangerous Tampa power play.
195. Patrik Elias, LW (+4): Tank is almost empty, but it’s not empty.
196. Travis Zajac, C (NR): He isn’t exciting, but he’s the Devils’ No. 1 center.
197. Jori Lehtera, C (NR): The Blues depth chart is crowded, but the Finnish import is talented and creative. He’s slated to play with Tarasenko.
198. Jake Muzzin, D (NR): The Corsi King also gets a lot of ice time as Doughty’s partner, not to mention power play minutes.
199. Mika Zibanejad, C (NR:): Chance for a breakout centering Ottawa’s second line, if he can stick there.
200. Derek Stepan, C: Broken leg makes him a mere endgame pick in leagues with deep benches. Will still be a first-liner once he returns.
On the bubble: Matt Niskanen, Zack Kassian, Dan Hamhuis, Devante Smith-Pelly, Calle Jarnkrok, Justin Williams, Jakob Silfverberg, Shane Doan, Sam Bennett, Dougie Hamilton, Charlie Coyle, Anton Khudobin, Olli Maatta, Darcy Kuemper, Morgan Rielly, Daniel Alfredsson, Cam Atkinson, Leon Draisaitl, Anders Lee, Lubomir Visnovsky, Hampus Lindholm, Nail Yakupov, Matt Read, Curtis Lazar, Jiri Sekac, P-A Parenteau, Nick Leddy, Alex Stalock
Dropped out: Max Domi, RW (was 170th): failed to make the Coyotes roster; Boone Jenner, C: (was 180th): broken hand renders him merely an in-season waiver wire grab; Sam Reinhart, C (was 182nd): Even if he makes Sabres, they can send him to junior after nine games; Ryan Strome, C (was 198th): He may be the odd man out in Long Island. Check for the final cuts.
Disagree with the ranks or think I’ve missed a crucial name? Share your thoughts in the comments, please.
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