Breaking down the panorama forward

By | September 18, 2023

The Edmonton Oilers have two of the biggest stars in fantasy hockey in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.  (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Special to Yahoo Sports

The foundation for any successful fantasy hockey team, having a strong group of forwards is usually the top priority on draft day. Most of your initial choices will be upfront, and you’ll want to make sure you have high-scoring options on your list.

Here’s how the NHL’s best forwards break down into different tiers for this season. Players of similar levels have similar value, although the order in which players are listed should not be considered a definitive ranking. These levels are based on Yahoo’s default scoring settings.

[Join or create a 2023-24 Fantasy Hockey league now!]

Level 1: the oil rises to the surface and the cream of the rest of the crop

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews

What do these four players have in common? They’re all a virtual lock for 100 points and probably a lot more, as long as they stay healthy. McDavid may very well be in a class of his own. Draisaitl is his trusted partner, even though he is more than capable of doing his own things. MacKinnon and Matthews are superstars in their prime: He counts MacKinnon for a pure offensive push, while Matthews stands out for elite goals and saves for a forward.

Level 2: Everything except a Hart Trophy

David Pastrnak, Jason Robertson, Jack Hughes, Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Tkachuk, Kirill Kaprizov, Nikita Kucherov, Mika Zibanejad, Mitchell Marner, Elias Pettersson, Tage Thompson, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos

Any of these players could have a 100-point season this year and it wouldn’t be a surprise. They may enter the conversation for year-end awards, but Tier 1 players have likely locked up those nominations. Question marks like age (Crosby, Stamkos) or evolving team situations (Pastrnak, Pettersson) could pose some risk, but these players should probably be off the board after the first two rounds anyway.

Level 3: Reliable stars

Tim Stutzle, Nico Hischier, Brady Tkachuk, Timo Meier, Jack Eichel, William Nylander, Kyle Connor, Brayden Point, Artemi Panarin, Aleksander Barkov, Roope Hintz, JT Miller, Alex Ovechkin, Alex Tuch, Elias Lindholm, Sebastian Aho

Some emerging stars, some established names. They are all consistent, reliable forwards who will put pucks in the net while maintaining significant roles with their teams in 2023-24. There is some small risk of age-related regression with Ovechkin and Panarin, but they should still do enough with point production to be worth the early- and mid-round investment.

Level 4: No guarantee, but a decent advantage

Joe Pavelski, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jake Guentzel, John Tavares, Matthew Boldy, Zach Hyman, Dylan Larkin, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, Kevin Fiala, Anze Kopitar, Carter Verhaeghe, Adrian Kempe, Tyler Toffoli, Alex DeBrincat, Johnny Gaudreau, Clayton Keller, Martin Necas, Jesper Bratt, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mark Scheifele, Connor Bedard, Pavel Buchnevich, Matty Beniers

Each of these players should be capable of a 70-point season, though it could only take one or two things going wrong for them or their teams to derail those hopes. With Pavelski and Kopitar the risk is age. Nugent-Hopkins, Toffoli, Keller, Hyman and Skinner are among the notable names who could regress from career peak performances. Dubois and DeBrincat are players in new places. They could have impacts on the respective value of Larkin and Kempe, positive or negative.

Other players at this tier are typically reliable contributors, but at a lower level and with greater volatility than those at the higher tier. The silver lining is if guys like Gaudreau, Scheifele and Tavares can get back to their established levels. Verhaeghe, Buchnevich, Bratt and Boldy all have a brief history of success, but at a high enough level to be attractive to risk-averse fantasy managers.

Of particular note is Bedard, the No. 1 overall pick last summer. While there’s no doubting individual talent, the early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year will be playing on a team that is still deeply in the process of rebuilding. Therefore, his range of results could be between 60 and 90 points and probably with a poor plus-minus score.

Level 5: Proceed with caution

Bo Horvat, Brad Marchand, Claude Giroux, Andrei Svechnikov, Brock Nelson, Jordan Kyrou, Joel Eriksson Ek, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Evgeni Malkin, Jared McCann, Jamie Benn, Filip Forsberg, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dylan Cozens, Jonathan Marchessault, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Andrei Kuzmenko, Patrik Laine, Nazem Kadri

Most of these players have at least one major red flag: age, skewed percentages in 2022-23, unstable team situations, smaller roles on deeper teams, etc. It’s easy to see them as reliable contributors and potential draft steals, but it’s equally easy to see them suffer from severe regression. Pay particular attention to injury risk with players like Svechnikov, Forsberg, Ehlers and Laine.

Some of these traders are also solid rebound candidates, such as Huberdeau, Kreider and Horvat (post trade). Betting on them to reach the top levels may be risky, but they might be able to do better than they did last season.

Level 6: Over-the-counter fillers

Dawson Mercer, Viktor Arvidsson, Evander Kane, Rickard Rakell, Nick Suzuki, Valeri Nichushkin, Brandon Hagel, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikael Backlund, David Perron, Chandler Stephenson, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny, Mark Stone, Cole Caufield

These players will all play key roles on their teams, but without the gaudy numbers of some of their teammates. Many of these players are reliable options for the middle six who can move up the lineup. Again, some are at risk of injury (Nichushkin, Stone, Arvidsson), but that doesn’t disqualify them from being perfectly acceptable bench players in fantasy.

Level 7: More options

Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Troy Terry, Drake Batherson, Jake DeBrusk, Trevor Zegras, Taylor Hall, Seth Jarvis, Max Pacioretty, Lukas Reichel, Bryan Rust, Wyatt Johnston, Anton Lundell, Lucas Raymond, Brayden Schenn, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Patrick Kane , Ivan Barbashev, Tom Wilson, Robert Thomas, William Eklund, Nick Schmaltz, Josh Norris, Barrett Hayton, Matthew Knies, Adam Fantilli, Kent Johnson, Mason McTavish

A mix of decent veterans, top-six players from bad teams, middle-six players from good teams, and rookies. Players like Fantilli, McTavish, Zegras and Hayton are among the most positive given their growth potential, as they are still early in their careers. Hertl, Kuznetsov, Wilson, Raymond, Barbashev, and Thomas are all expected to play bigger roles on their teams than they would elsewhere, giving them extra potential.

Kane is the anomaly here, as his recovery from offseason hip surgery has gone well. While he will likely still miss time to start the season and remain a free agent while recovering, he could be available at a discount on draft day. However, hip surgery is difficult for any player to come back from and, at 34, the risks are many. He is best drafted by fantasy managers willing to be patient with his return and expect 50-60 points instead of his former points-per-game glory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *