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Fantasy Hockey Rankings: Sleepers, Breakouts & Busts

Chris Meaney FNTSY Senior Analyst September 27, 2017 3:45PM EDT

We are just days away from puck drop on the 2017-18 Fantasy Hockey season. There are plenty of battles left to be won throughout camp and the preseason, so the rankings will be updated daily. As you’ll see below in my Fantasy Hockey rankings, I’m different on a lot of players when it comes to the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) on FantasyPros. If you have a question, feel free to reach out @chrismeaney.

Fantasy Hockey Strategies: Keep Your League Settings in Mind

Part of the reason I’m different than others is that I rank as though people are playing in leagues with shots on goal, hits, faceoff wins and blocked shots. That’s why you see players like Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly higher for me than in other places. Keep that in mind when looking at my overall rankings. Faceoff wins obviously gives a center a significant boost. I don’t like to play in leagues with plus/minus or penalty minutes so adjust accordingly. I never understood rewarding someone for a trip to the box. If you’re playing in a straight points league then Tyson Barrie may have some value to you, if you’re playing in league with plus/minus, he may not. Again, if it’s a league with just goals and assists, no shots or hits, then take Jamie Benn over Alex Ovechkin. I have no problem with that. You’ll see some players like Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Patrick Maroon, Nazem Kadri and Nick Foligno ranked much higher due to the number of categories they contribute in. They are guys I like to call ‘touch em all’ players.

You’ll see defensemen ranked lower in my overall Fantasy Hockey rankings than others. I tend to wait it out at the position, much like the tight end position in Fantasy Football. There were only three 70-point defensemen in the NHL last season. Nine in the 50s and 23 in the 40s. To put that into perspective when it comes to forwards, there were 16 players with at least 70 points and 94 forwards finished with 50 plus points. I’d much rather take a forward early in drafts.

As for Fantasy Hockey goalies, take a Top 5 netminder if you can to start your draft. It’s very important to have a solid goalie. You don’t want to be chasing those categories on the waiver wire. There are tons from the 6-14 range that are very similar, but taking a top goalie has always been my priority and has treated me well, especially in leagues with eight categories and four of them being goaltender stats. I also don’t mind the strategy of taking both Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, or Martin Jones and Aaron Dell. Just remember, you may have a certain number of starts to reach each week.

Players I’m Higher On – Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

Brayden Schenn – If you are playing in leagues with hits (356 the last two years) and power play points (50 the last two years) then my ranking of Schenn is fair. Yahoo! has him pre-ranked at 85 overall. He finished 30th overall in leagues with hits, shots and PPP last season. He was slightly worse in leagues with plus/minus, but he still finished as a Top 50 skater. Schenn shouldn’t be a minus player with the move to St. Louis, as they are a much better defensive team with a better goalie. Even better still, don’t worry about plus/minus. Moving from Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds to Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, his value doesn’t really change, he just continues to be underrated. Schenn can play center or move to the wing, but one thing is certain, he’ll spend time on the Blues’ top PP unit. Whether it’s with Tarasenko or Alex Steen, Schenn has 28 power play markers in the last two years, so St. Louis will find a spot for him.

Rasmus Ristolainen – Ristolainen was the only defenseman last season to score 45 points and finish with at least 150 blocks, hits and shots. Dustin Byfuglien had the points, shots, and hits, but didn’t have the blocks. Drew Doughty lacked the hits and blocks while Shea Weber only had 140 hits with his 42 points. It’s rare to find a cross-category D like this. Ristolainen also had 25 power play points and should contribute more on the man advantage this season with a healthy Jack Eichel all year.

Patrick Maroon – Maroon has been one of the most added and dropped guys in Fantasy Hockey over the last three years, but he always finds a spot on my team, especially in leagues with hits. Maroon is one of three players (Alex Ovechkin and Brayden Schenn) with 25 plus goals, 170 plus shots and 180 plus hits. Simmonds, Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Milan Lucic and Tanner Pearson fell just short of this club. Maroon is great and he has chemistry with McDavid. Most do, but he’s proven to be the best winger for 97 so far in his short career.

Mathieu Perreault – Perreault has a spot inside the top-six in Winnipeg and it’s a deadly top-six. If it’s not with Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, it’ll be with Nikolaj Ehelers and Bryan Little. Perreault is coming off a career best season in which he had 45 points in 65 games. He also had 97 hits and 132 shots to go along with 15 power play points. Perreault had 42 points in his last 48 games. He can play and he deserves to play inside the top-six. Don’t let him go undrafted.

Nick Foligno – Foligno touches all categories. Last season he had 26 goals, 21 power play points, 185 shots and 157 hits. This was a high powered offense last season and the addition of Artemi Panarin makes them better. Foligno could hit 60 points this year while continuing to hit all other categories.

Cam Fowler – Fowler is getting drafted outside of the Top 30 when it comes to defensemen and I think that’s a mistake. Only 39 points, but a slow start to his season as I think he has a 50 point campaign in him. By the end of the year he was quarterbacking the power play where he ended up with 21 PPP. Sami Vatanenand Hampus Lindholm are expected to miss the first month of the season at least which means more ice for Fowler. He blocks a lot of shots, but he doesn’t provide any hits.

Fantasy Hockey Targets

Steven Stamkos – I know he’s burned owners over the past couple seasons, but he’s the only skater going in the third round who could legitimately finish first overall. Stammer has 582 points in 586 career games and he’s only ranked this low on Yahoo! and ESPN because he only played 17 games last season. The knee looks strong and so does his play during the preseason. If he stays healthy, he’ll score 35-40 and finish with 70-plus points. That is his floor. Stamkos is one of the biggest steals in Fantasy Hockey this season. Watch him and Nikita Kucherov pick up where they left off before the injury.

Blake Wheeler – While everyone jumps on Schiefele and Liane, make sure you don’t sleep on Wheeler, one of those touch em’ all guys. Wheeler ended up with 26 goals, 74 points, 259 shots and 130 hits. He also had 21 points on the power play. Wheeler does it all and he plays with superstars in the making.

Cam Atkinson – He’s one of the best late round or free agent pickups of the year and he’s still getting disrespected by many, even though he finished tied for eighth in goals. Atkinson has 20-plus goals and 200-plus shots in four straight seasons, and his last was his best – 35 goals and 240 shots with 21 power play points. I think he’s a strong fifth round pick and another 30 goal season is likely.

Viktor Arvidsson – It’s easy to be a bit skeptical of Arvidsson’s breakout season last year. He went from eight goals and 16 points to 31 and 61 points. That said, if you’ve watched him play, you know he’s good. Arvidsson has lightning quick speed and he loves to shoot the puck. His 246 shots on goal were tied for 20th and his 31 goals were tied for 21st. His ADP suggests he’s a ninth round pick after finishing as a sixth last season. He’s a great mid-round target and I expect similar numbers if not better as he gets more used to playing with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen.

Sebastian Aho – I’m buying Aho’s 24 goals, 49 points, 17 power play points and 214 shots from a season ago. That’s a pretty solid rookie campaign for the winger who will only continue to improve.

Ryan O’Reilly – He’s another one of those touch em’ all guys. ROR only lacks in the hitting department, but that’s OK because he does everything else. His 1039 FOW were the second most, 50 behind Bergeron who is going 50 picks earlier, which is weird because O’Reilly had one fewer goal and two more points in seven fewer games.

Jake Guentzel – Guentzel has 29 goals in his first 65 NHL games including a remarkable postseason run during which he scored13 goals and 21 points in 25 games. Part of that is playing alongside Sidney Crosby, but Guentzel belongs. He won’t continue to score at that pace, but with 33 points in 40 games last season, 50-60 across a full season is very doable. It’s only preseason, but so far Guentzel has six points in two games.

Vincent Trocheck – Another cross-category guy here in Trocheck, who broke out in a big way last season to the tune of 23 goals, 54 points, 12 power play points, 230 shots, 164 hits and 835 faceoff wins. Trocheck also played 20 minutes per game which was the sixth highest per game mark among forwards. He’s a very sneaky and underrated player if you play with those categories.

Anders Lee – Lee scored 25 goals in 2014-15 and 34 goals last season. His 15 goal campaign in 2015-16 was the outlier season. That year he had a career-low shooting percentage of eight. He’s also coming off a career-high shooting percentage of 17.8. He may not the 34 mark again, but 25 and 50 is a safe expectation. Plus, Lee has had 164 plus hits and 183 plus shots three seasons in a row.

Oscar Klefbom – The Oilers defenseman saw his ice time jump up to 22 minutes per game, and I expect that number to climb a bit more in his fifth season in the NHL. Klefbom had career highs in goals (13), points (38), shots (201) and power play points (16). He is the most offensive defenseman Edmonton has; he can skate and he’ll continue to QB one of the games best power plays. He also had 146 blocks last season. I think he has Top 10 upside at the position.

Others to target: David Pastrnak, T.J. Oshie, Nikolaj Ehlers, Evander Kane, Andrei Vasilevskiy & Anthony Mantha.

 

Fantasy Hockey Breakouts

Andre Burakovsky – After scoring 38 points in 79 games two seasons ago, Burakovsky totaled 35 in only 64 games last season. Burakovsky also impressed in the playoffs, as he was promoted during the Penguins and Capitals season, and he ended up with back-t0-back multi-point games. Burakovsky playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom is good for both players. When Backstrom plays with Ovie, he just ends up shooting the puck a ton. Burakovsky, believe it or not, may have more offense to his game than Ovechkin, and at least more creativity with the puck.

Jakob Silfverberg – Silfverberg continues to improve with each year that passes and that was clearly evident in the playoffs when he scored nine goals and added 14 points in 17 games. He’s also improved each year in the goal column (13, 20 & 23) and shot column (189, 215 & 227). Don’t be surprised if you see him playing some of his hockey with Ryan Getzlaf, as Kesler will be sidelined for the first couple months of the season.

Bo Horvat – Horvat went from 16 goals to 20 and 40 points to 52 from 2015-16 to 2016-17. I expect another jump in production this season. This is another player who is much better than his ADP suggests. If you play with plus/minus or without faceoff wins then he may be of no interest to you, but even in straight points leagues, 25 goals and 60 points are reasonable numbers to expect. His 756 faceoff wins were the 19th most last season. He’s one of nine players to score 20 goals and win 750 faceoffs.

Sean Couturier – With Schenn traded to St. Louis, the door is open for more ice time for Couturier, who has played some of his preseason games on a line with Giroux and Simmonds. Couturier is more of a shutdown guy, but keep notice on the opportunity that could present itself in Philly, including power play time.

Ryan Strome – Strome is another guy who will benefit from a trade. His value increases big time with the move from New York to Edmonton where he may play alongside McDavid. Even if he doesn’t, Strome will be surrounded by offensive talent and he’ll get plenty of time on the power play. It’s either McDavid or Leon Driasiatl.

Sam Reinhart – Reinhart has hit the 40 point mark in each of his first two seasons. Last year, he only scored 17 goals but had a career-high 47 points, 17 power play points and 178 shots. Half of his season was spent without Eichel, which won’t be the case this season. He’s a great late round pick and a good bet to play most of his hockey inside the top-six.

Late Round Fantasy Hockey Targets

Nick Schmaltz – Schmaltz only had four points in his first 27 NHL games. He had 21 in his final 26 while playing alongside Patrick Kane. That’s who I expect him to play with this season, whether it’s in the middle or on the wing. Schmaltz will go undrafted in most leagues. Make sure that doesn’t happen because he’ll score 50-plus points playing with Kane while getting power play time.

Bryaden Point – The lightning had a ton of injuries last season, so we may not have seen as much of Point as we did. Good thing, because the kid can certainly play. He had 18 goals and 40 points through 68 games as a rookie. This season, he’ll start the year inside the top-six, which is full of talent in Tampa Bay. Point had 26 points in his final 33 hockey games. He not only belongs in the NHL, he belongs with these skilled Tampa players.

Shea Theodore – I expect Theodore to be on the top defensive pair while quarterbacking the power play for the Vegas Golden Knights. Theodore has a ton of offensive upside as he had 17 points in 53 games. He only had five power play points, but there were a lot of bodies around in Anaheim over the past two seasons. Theodore also had eight points in 14 playoff games last season. The bottom line is the ice time should be high and he’ll get all the opportunity to play in Vegas. For those who love plus/minus, Theodore may not be the guy for you.

Calle Jarnkrok – Jarnkrok should see his role increase with Mike Fisher retired. Jarnkrok has had back-t0-back 30 point seasons, but his ice time has increased each year. Last season he spent time on the PP and the PK.

Christian Dvorak – Dvorak had a very impressive and under the radar rookie season with 15 goals and 33 points last year. He’ll go undrafted in just about every league this season, but he has a lot of skill and has put up big time points throughout his hockey career. That includes 121 points in 59 games in 2015-16 with the London Knights and 109 points in 66 games the year before. He can only go up from here and will probably be one of the better waiver wire grabs of the season. In deep leagues with faceoffs, draft him. He also had a few power play points last season.

Others to consider: Jonathan Marchessault , Micheal Ferland, Artturi Lehkonen Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Players I’m Lower On – Fantasy Hockey Busts

Eric Staal – What a surprise season last year for Staal, his first with the Minnesota Wild. I did not see that coming, and I don’t see him repeating it. His 66 points were the most since his 2011 season, and his 28 goals were the most since his 2010 season. Staal’s 13.3 shooting percentage was the second-highest mark of his career and the highest since 2005. Don’t draft Stall based on last season’s numbers; he’s more of a 20 goal, 50 point guy.

Mitch Marner – Did a Toronto Maple Leafs fan come up with the top overall Fantasy Hockey Rankings on Yahoo!? Marner is ranked as the 26th best skater (one spot ahead of Steven Stamkos) and 31st overall. He’s ahead of guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Joe Pavelski, Blake Wheeler, David Pastrnak and Ryan Getzlaf. I can’t justify taking Marner in the third round when he’s a fifth round pick. Marner is the only player ranked inside the Top 37 to play fewer than 17 minutes per game.

Ryan Kesler – Kesler is not expected back until the end of December due to offseason hip surgery. No need to draft and stash. He just isn’t worth it, but keep an eye on his progress and if he goes undrafted, snag him when the calendar turns to December. If you are playing in leagues with hits and faceoff wins, I would consider drafting him towards the final rounds only if you have an IR spot.

Zach Parise – Not counting his first season in the NHL or the lockout year, Parise’s 19 goals, 42 points and 194 shots last season were all career lows. As were his 12 power play points. Parise is currently day-to-day with a back injury, the same injury which forced him out of the lineup at the end of last season.

Jason Spezza – Speaking of back injuries, Spezza was limited to only 68 games last season. Now that doesn’t seem like a lot of missed games (14), but it was his shortest season since playing only five games in 2012-13. Spezza’s 50 points last season is his lowest total since his rookie season. He’s going too high for my liking and just someone who is more suited to DFS formats.

Kris Letang – There’s a theme here for the most part and unfortunately, Letang is just another player on this list who has had some bad luck. Letang hasn’t played a full season in the NHL since 2010-11. I get the temptation to draft him; 101 points in his last 112 games with 41 of them coming on the power play. That said, Letang only played 41 games last season and he’s coming off neck surgery, which kept him sidelined for 4-6 months. I’m actually shocked he’s going in the first three rounds of Fantasy Hockey drafts. My plan is to just draft Justin Schultz three or four rounds later.

Patrick Sharp – Sharp dealt with numerous injuries last season including multiple concussions which resulted in only 18 points over 48 games. He’s back for a third stint in Chicago, where he’s had four 30 goal seasons and seven 20 goal seasons. Sharp had 20 goals just two seasons ago with the Dallas Stars and I’d say that’s his ceiling this year. He’ll be hard-pressed to do better than that, as he’s just not the same guy anymore. His health his a big concern of mine. Ryan Strome, Matt Duchene and Anthony Mantha are going in the same range and I would much rather those players. If Sharp falls then grab him, but make sure it’s with one of your last picks.

Others to avoid: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Joe Thornton.

Fantasy Hockey Rookies to consider

Charlie McAvoy – McAvoy’s first six games in the NHL were all playoff games and he did alright for himself with three assists, two on the power play, five shots, 11 hits and nine blocks. This kid is a stud, and if you haven’t seen him play you are in for a treat. Torey Krug is the guy on the power play, but McAvoy will play himself onto that top pair over time.

Alex DeBrincat – DeBrincat has been playing alongside Kane and Schmaltz during the preseason, and he looks like he belongs. He’s also been getting some power play time. If you are looking for some upside with your last pick, look at DeBrincat. The former second-round pick from 2016 can score. He had 331 points in his last three years with the Erie Otters of the OHL. That’s 300-plus points in 191 games played.

Clayton Keller – Keller is making a case for himself as he picked up two goals and five points in his first two preseason games. It’s not like there is a lot of competition for Keller in Arizona. Keller balled out during the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship, scoring three goals and adding 11 points in seven games for the gold medal-winning Americans. He also contributed during the World Championships, scoring five goals and seven points in eight games.

Others to consider: Julius Honka, Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, Tyson Jost and Charles Hudon.

 

Fantasy Hockey Rankings

 

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