Early Fantasy Hockey Rankings

by Mat Vilcek
Aug 14, 2019

San Jose Shark’s defender Brent Burns is in a tier all by himself. This year we should expect no less than another great fantasy performance.

August is upon us and we are now less than 2 months away until the first puck drops. As we get closer to the opening games the excitement of the season will grow, renewal of fantasy leagues will begin, and before we know it draft day will be here.

We find ourselves in a stall pattern, waiting for camps to start within a month, and with that, our first look at the 2019 players and coaches. As fantasy owners, we want the edge in the knowledge of how players are adjusting to new roles, new teams, and new teammates along with seeing if certain players have lost or gained a step on the ice. Experts are starting to crunch the numbers and prepare a list of players that you as a fan will hopefully follow. I say let’s start now with an early look at the players we will see going at the top of your draft.

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Forwards

Tier 1

All three players had a career-high in points this past season. Nikita Kucherov will be skating with the majority of his teammates from last year which will continue to produce scoring. Also, Tampa Bay upgraded their playoff-collapsing defense which will lead to more offensive pressure.

Connor McDavid has eclipsed 100 or more points in the past three seasons and will have some help both in net and in the offensive zone with the signings of forward James Neal and goaltender Mike Smith.

Patrick Kane saw a career year in his prime wasted last season with Chicago not making the playoffs. In response, the front office has made some defensive adjustments and kept the majority of the forwards intact which will produce another great fantasy year.

Tier 2

There is sure to be some backlash with this tier, but ask yourself what each organization has done this offseason to help or hurt star players.

Sidney Crosby lost some valuable teammates but is still one of the elite hockey players in the world, but how long can he continue his dominance?

Johnny Hockey will be on the ice with the same young core along with the addition of veteran Milan Lucic.

Draisaitl smashed his career-high in points racking up 105 at the young age of 23 and will still be playing alongside Connor McDavid.

Jonathan Huberdeau is a player that will make an impressive leap this year. He is a great talent and with the addition of a proven NHL head coach in Joel Quenneville look for Huberdeau to reach and possibly pass his career-high performance of 92 points last season.

Tier 3

This is a tier where players can easily be moved up or down. It’s hard to say that with Ovechkin mixed in but he has not scored over 90 points since the 2009-10 season in which he had 109. Brad Marchand is also another year older and despite his first and only season with 100 points, it would be difficult to project that number as his floor for fantasy value in this upcoming year.

Aleksander Barkov may have beaten out teammate Huberdeau this past season in points by four, but tighter defensive play in a new system will see these two flip in points to the benefit of Huberdeau. It will still be close between these two teammates. Call it a gut feeling but Huberdeau gets the edge.

Defensemen

Tier 1

Burns is by himself in this one. Father time has no grasp when it comes to the 34-year-old defenseman, and this year we should expect no less than another great fantasy performance.

Tier 2

Erik Gustafsson has the makings of a top-line defenseman. With the help of offseason signings and being paired with top talent on the ice, this should help the young player reach the next level.

Morgan Rielly is another young player who has found his footing in the NHL and will see top tier defensive output in the next year.

Mark Giordano did win the Norris Trophy, but understand he is no Brent Burns. Yes, he did play four fewer games with only nine fewer points than Burns, however turning 36-years-old this October, Giordano may have used up what was left in the tank this past season. It was fun to watch, however, Giordano has only topped 50 plus points one other time in his career and may slide further down rankings as the season approaches.

Tier 3

Trouba is the most intriguing option in this group. If the belief is the New York Rangers are an instant contender his ADP will rise quickly. The only concern would be past health issues. Trouba has sustained several injuries over his career ranging from a concussion to an ankle sprain.

John Carlson is 29-years-old and has two straight top-four finishes in points, but he is only as good as the team around him.

Torey Krug makes a jump on the stat sheet this year with hopes to play a full season after ankle injuries in two consecutive years.

Goalies

Tier 1

Pick one, and fast. Whether it’s a points league or head-to-head, these goalies put up numbers and will be a target for each fantasy owner this year. This is truly a grouping that is hard to pick apart.

Jordan Binnington was placed third in the tier for a simple reason of not having a full season on the ice. In 32 games played (30 of those started), he had 24 wins, which equates to a projection of 45 wins if he had played 60 games. That would have led the league by six.

Tier 2

These are goalies that are proven assets on any fantasy team and once again can be interchanged within the tier. Martin Jones may slide in drafts because many fantasy owners will believe a big-name loss like Joe Pavelski has a negative impact on the organization.

Carey Price has started in 50 plus games in the regular season six times out of his twelve seasons. In those six seasons, he posted less than 30 wins one time. It’s a safe bet when Price stays healthy he will start a lot of games and pile up wins.

Tier 3

If we could name this tier it would be the “Mr. Consistent” tier. Let’s break it down by wins.

Hellebuyck’s previous two years of 44 wins in 2017-18 and 34 last year equal an average of 39 over that span.

Rinne boasts an average of 35.6 wins over the last five years. Andersen 35.6 wins in his three years with Toronto. Dubnyk 34.5 over the last four years. Among the fourteen years noted, each of these players started no less than 55 games.

Bishop is the outlier of the group, but the Dallas Stars had a solid offseason and should be right back in the winning mix. Dallas will also look to ride the veteran goalie on an all-in season which will help fantasy owners.

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Mat Vilcek is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Mat, check out his archive and follow him @Mat1Thockey.

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