Reacting to the 2018-19 fantasy hockey rankings

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As the 2018-19 NHL season draws closer, we’ve released our top 300 rankings for fantasy. As you rummage through the lineup, the ranking of some players might jump off the page. Sure, Connor McDavid topping the board isn’t going to surprise many, but there is some interesting ordering thereafter.

Here are my first impressions of the new season’s fantasy rankings.


Forwards

5. John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

Following his signing with the Maple Leafs, the 27-year-old former New York Islanders captain ranks behind only fellow centermen Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby and ahead of Evgeni Malkin, Nathan MacKinnon and Steven Stamkos. As promising as the Tavares/Mitch Marner forward duo is, fantasy managers should decide for themselves if, perhaps, expectations are slightly inflated here.

28. Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders

Succeeding Tavares as the Isles’ No. 1 center and top go-to producer, Barzal will be afforded every opportunity, on paper, to replicate his Calder-winning numbers from 2017-18 (85 points). Unfortunately, opposing clubs will also be better positioned to focus on the 21-year-old’s line with Tavares out of the picture. A mild sophomore hangover could develop here, largely through Barzal’s rise in the club’s pecking order.

45. William Karlsson, C, Vegas Golden Knights

Signed to a one-year deal, “Wild Bill” has intense incentive to duplicate this past season’s unexpected near point-per-game pace, including 43 goals. Centering a familiar top line with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith will help the 25-year-old in that charge — only this time around, the rest of the league will be better prepared.

66. Evander Kane, LW, San Jose Sharks

This placement is a bit of a puzzler. Sure, Kane erupted for 14 points in 17 games, including nine goals, following his welcomed exodus from Buffalo this past season. Does that make him a top-15 fantasy left wing? I’m not so sure. Linemates Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are 39 and 34 years old, respectively. Kane’s own health history has been spotty. Despite the potential for high-end production, there are less volatile options available.

74. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Carolina Hurricanes

Following the loss of Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm, the Hurricanes essentially need this year’s second-overall draft selection to contribute, early and often, on a top line with center Sebastian Aho. That’s a lot to demand of any inexperienced 18-year-old, deemed NHL-ready or not. Managers in re-draft leagues might be wary to jump on Svechnikov too early.

84. Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo Sabres

This top-100 ranking hints at a heavy fantasy ask for a kid slotted in as the Sabres’ No. 2 center behind Jack Eichel (No. 62) with only six NHL games to his credit. However, labeled a dynamic offensive presence, the 2017 eighth-overall draft selection could be a game-changer for Buffalo up front, flanking wingers Kyle Okposo (sleeper alert: No. 216), Conor Sheary (NR) and/or Jeff Skinner (No. 154).

87. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Los Angeles Kings

Does one of the most intriguing fantasy wildcards of 2018-19 flourish in his NHL return on a Kings top line with Anze Kopitar, or will he fall flat after five full seasons in the lesser KHL? Our guess is the 35-year-old’s comeback campaign settles somewhere in the middle.

94. Max Pacioretty, LW, Montreal Canadiens

Despite the messy relationship with the Canadiens, Pacioretty probably merits higher ranking. In the four seasons previous to 2017-18, the Habs captain averaged 35 goals. If he’s traded out of Montreal, as reportedly vowed, all the better.

100. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

While he’s likely to rebound from last year’s mediocre 52-point showing, there are centers outside the top 100 to consider ahead of Toews. For one, a healthy Jeff Carter (No. 104) with the Kings. San Jose’s Logan Couture (No. 114) is another.

106. Clayton Keller, C, Arizona Coyotes

After exploding for 17 points in his first 16 games, including 11 goals, Keller then wrapped up 2017-18 with 21 points in his final 20 contests. The season’s middle bit was less inspiring, but undoubtedly served as a valuable learning experience. The point is, ending on a high sets Keller up for a promising sophomore campaign as top-liner with a promising young team. I’d draft him ahead of Toews, too.

137. Elias Pettersson, C, Vancouver Canucks

Without having played a single game in the NHL, Pettersson already ranks ahead of Canucks center Bo Horvat, who was no slouch himself last season when healthy. The 19-year-old led the Swedish Elite League in 2017-18 in both the regular-season and postseason scoring, in addition to claiming silver at the 2018 World Juniors and gold at the 2018 World Championship. Barring any serious translation problems to the NHL game, this kid is going to be a star.

223. Matt Duchene, C, Ottawa Senators

Remember, after a brutal start to the relationship, Duchene managed a better than point-per-game pace with the Senators after February 1, including 16 goals in his final 34 games. While this Ottawa club has its issues, its 27-year-old top center is still going to score, even with Mike Hoffman out of the picture. Don’t sleep on Duchene too long.

235. Milan Lucic, LW, Edmonton Oilers

The former fantasy darling in points and PIM promises to turn it around after his worst season since joining the league. There’s enough positive history in play here to offer the 30-year-old another fantasy shot, especially as a later-round draft selection and particularly if he sticks on a top Oilers scoring line.

256. James Neal, RW, Calgary Flames

Slotted this low, the veteran sniper presents as a legit fantasy steal if he settles in well on a Flames top unit with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. In such case, a 30-plus goal campaign is well within reach.

266. Michael Rasmussen, C, Detroit Red Wings

He has to make the NHL club first, but this towering WHL star sports formidable offensive potential as a future front-of-net presence for the Red Wings. Monitor the 19-year-old’s progress in training camp, although managers in dynasty leagues should be all over the 2017 ninth-overall draft pick regardless.

282. Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild

Parise is perhaps my favorite sleeper in the top 300. After losing half of 2017-18 to a nagging back injury, he slowly warmed up to a simmering finish (16 points in 19 games, including 12 goals). When healthy — as he is now — this top-line veteran winger still has 30-goal potential.


Defensemen

102. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes

Acquired in the offseason from the Flames, Hamilton inarguably takes over as the Hurricane’s No. 1 offensive-defenseman in Carolina. Entering his prime, the 25-year-old has the wherewithal to serve as a top-tier fantasy defenseman, surrounded by such promising young assets, including Aho, Svechnikov, Martin Necas and Valentin Zykov. If Hamilton falters or falls hurt, look to Justin Faulk as a backup fantasy asset.

203. Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens

In a perfect fantasy universe, a manager might stash Weber on IR until the veteran is fully recovered from offseason knee surgery (mid-December or so) to later reap productive rewards. However, the veteran’s recent run of injuries and related setbacks suggest that timeline is hardly concrete.

234. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres

Drafted No. 1 overall, Dahlin is expected to slide into an impact role with the Sabres at the season’s launch. Fantasy managers with a longer view might — should — already favor the future franchise defender over Rasmus Ristolainen, despite the five-year veteran’s higher ranking.

244. Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights

Still developing, Theodore wrapped up 2017-18 with nine points in 10 games (adding another three goals and seven assists in the postseason). This 23-year-old future star offensive-defenseman and current No. 1 power-play quarterback for the Golden Knights is underrated here.


Goaltenders

38. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Ranked fifth among netminders, Hellebuyck was great last year. Just super. He carries a bit of a limited resume, though. Fortunately, Winnipeg’s defense remains solid as ever, mitigating the risk in investing early in the Vezina Trophy finalist.

126. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

High placement for a guy who lost most of last season to a suspected head injury and remains a question mark for training camp, no? Fantasy investor beware! Newly-signed backup Cam Ward could be busier than anticipated.

158. Cam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers

Like so many other members of Oilers, their No. 1 netminder is determined to make amends for an underachieving 2017-18. Supposing the entire squad turns it around, at least to some degree, Talbot should be in for a more successful campaign. As a No. 2 fantasy tender, the 31-year-old is worth a dice-roll in most leagues.

270. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Even with full view of the last two disappointing seasons, we remain attracted to one of the best goalies of this generation over others in the current top-25 lot. Signed through 2021 and reportedly committed to the re-tooling process in New York, King Henrik appeals as a high-end No. 2 netminder in most fantasy leagues.



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