With the start of the NHL preseason, it's time to start preparing for our fantasy hockey drafts. In an effort to help you (and me) win some fantasy hockey chips, I've inhaled the tape, poured over the stats and even ritually sacrificed a Sean Avery card to appease the hockey gods. In doing so five lists were created of the top ten fantasy hockey players at their position, players were only assessed at their primary position; without further ado let's go into it.
1. Conner McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
Yes, McDavid is still the best player in the NHL in both real and fantasy realms. McDavid is a near-lock to lead the NHL in scoring for a 5th time if healthy. Squarely in his prime McDavid’s game seems to only be getting better as he is shooting the puck at the highest rate yet and averaging roughly a hit per game. McDavid’s otherworldly playoff performance reminds us that if any player has a shot to be the first to break 130 points since Jaromir Jagr in 1996, it's the Man known as McJesus. Don't overthink this one if you can take him in your draft, do it; as long as he's healthy his ceiling is above all others. The only question left regarding McDavid is just how high that ceiling may be.
2. Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
With sincere apologies to Alexander Ovechkin, it's hard to put anyone above Auston Matthews as the league's premier goal scorer. After last season, you can stop talking about potential or pace and point at results. Matthews Scored 60 goals and 106 points in only 73 games last year taking home the Hart, Rocket, and Lindsay Awards. If your league gives extra points for goals you have my permission to take him first overall, and in any other era of hockey, you’d be silly not too. Matthews is another player without an established peak (see the conclusion to McDavid excerpt), so last year may not stand as Matthew’s peak for long.
3. Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)
Three, four and five got real tough here as they are basically interchangeable and honesty may depend on the health of the respective players. MacKinnon tallied absolutely furious point-per-game trajectory last year, piling up 88 in 65 games, he however has missed games in all of the last three seasons to the tune of 38 contests combined. After inking a monstrous contract recently, the apprehensions of the Avs seem to be minimal regarding his injury history, proceed in kind.
4. Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)
It's crazy to say but he might actually be too low on this list, as we see what he can do whether or not he's playing alongside McDavid. Overall, regardless of his linemates, he's more than capable of clearing 100 points, as you can see from his previous 4 seasons (84 points in 56 games in the shortened COVID season).
5. Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)
With a Selkie and the Lady Byng under his belt, it's easy to see why Barkov is one of the game's premier two-way superstars. If you're still unfamiliar turn on the Florida Panthers game, it will show up easily both there and on your fantasy stat sheet. Quite similar to MacKinnon, the main concern here is health as Barkov has missed time in each of the last three seasons amounting to 37 total games. Last season he had 88 points and 67 games, a very similar pace to most players above him on this list.
6. Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Stamkos is coming off his highest scoring season as an NHL Superstar overall, setting a career mark in points at 106 and +/- at 24. It may have been almost a decade now since Stamkos won the second of his two Rocket Richards yet Stammer is still a solid bet to be in the running for the award and to cross the 100-point threshold; in ,short he is still a superstar.
7. Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Crosby remains unwilling to show his age, at least on the ice as his 1.2 points per game last season was his best scoring average since the 13-14 season. Sid, while no longer a kid, may not possess the upside he once had, however, he's a darn good bet for 80 points even if he only plays 70 games.
8. Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricanes)
The Finnish phenom Is coming off his best season as an NHLer in which he took a step toward becoming a full-on point-per-game producer scoring 81 points in 79 games. Carolina may have improved their supporting cast as well, so expect more of the same.
9. Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers)
I’m not sure if Z is the straw or the drink in the Big Apple, with he and Panarin pairing up to be one of the most dynamic duos in hockey. He might not quite get as much media talk as the gentleman above him, yet there is no arguing he doesn’t deserve it as he produced at an elite level scoring a point per game last year. He seems primed to quench your thirst for points and provide plenty of goals in the process.
10. Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils)
There were a couple of guys who were well deserving of this spot, but I really wanted to pick somebody I think has room to grow and could even climb a few more spots up this list if the stars align. For me, Black Jack Hughes has grown steadily since arriving in the NHL and is truly the focal point of what should be an improved New Jersey Devils attack.
- Jack Eichel (Vegas Golden Knights) - His first full season in Vegas should be a good way of identifying where Eichel truly stands at this point in his career. Don’t reach high on him, but if he starts to drop in your draft could be a very interesting pick. The collective health of him and Mark Stone could swing the fortunes of the Golden Knights, and any fantasy owner willing to stomach the risk of owning them.
- John Tavares (Toronto Maple Leafs)- You know what you're going to get here, a reliable guy that's going to score just under a point per game, as he has in the last four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. JT registered 274 points in 280 leafs games, and even though the physical skills may be diminishing, his feel for the game and supporting cast seems enough to buoy his totals over that span. On top of that this has all been without ever really finding a pairing for him and William Nylander on the left second line; a spot Nick Robertson could be the best fit for yet.
- Elias Pettersson (Vancouver Canucks)- While he was looking lost for a moment in the early going last season, Bruce Boudreau quickly righted the ship after coming in as a midseason coaching replacement. Pettersson turned it on scoring 28 goals and 56 points in the remaining 55 games, including 44 points in 34 games after the All-Star break. He may be undervalued as he's coming off of a 32-goal, 68-point season, yet this year 40 goals and a point-per-game season seem within his reach.