NHL News

Early fantasy hockey rankings for 2019-20

A lot happened since we last checked in on these rankings. The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup, the New Jersey Devils won the draft lottery, and at least 20 of these top-250 fantasy players are now wearing a different jersey than the one they donned at the end of the season. There are still a lot of questions to answer between now and fantasy draft season but, based on preliminary depth charts and our best guesses for starting lineups, we can begin to cobble together a better picture of the 2019-20 NHL season.

Before we get to those updated rankings, let’s take a quick-hit look at each team for the biggest factors affecting our new list:

Anaheim Ducks: No Corey Perry and no major influx of fantasy-relevant talent means the Ducks will be content to find out which of a handful of budding stars are ready for prime time. The eventual deployment of Sam Steel, Max Comtois, Troy Terry and, to some extent, Daniel Sprong and Max Jones, are the most interesting storylines to watch for this rebuilding squad.

Arizona Coyotes: Can a 32-year-old Phil Kessel still score 82 points in a season? Not with the Coyotes he can’t. He was tied for 23rd in the NHL with 82 points last season, but tied for 60th in the league with just 46 even-strength points. The Coyotes’ power play is not the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ power play. … Darcy Kuemper finished fifth among goaltenders on the ESPN Player Rater for fantasy value, which shows the possible upside of tending net full time for this team. However, with a healthy Antti Raanta, Kuemper is — at best — going to get the weaker side of a 55-45 split.

Boston Bruins: There’s no discernible difference between the Bruins team that will open 2019-20 and the one that was oh-so-close to hoisting the Stanley Cup, except that everyone is a year older. In the cases of Zdeno Chara (42) and Patrice Bergeron (34), that’s not nothing. Bergeron, especially, is a catalyst for this offense and needs to be at top speed to keep David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand among the top-15 fantasy options.

Buffalo Sabres: Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey have been added to the mix, but neither are 100% locks for the top-six. That means the same Sabres players could be disappointing us for fantasy in 2019-20. That’s a bit facetious, as Jeff Skinner was a pleasant surprise last season, but most others fell below expectations. Can they take a big leap forward while still featuring question marks in net and overall depth? It would be nice to get players in your draft at a discount as we wait to find out.

Calgary Flames: Few changes for the Flames is a big positive as this is a team that found a deadly top unit last season and skated to the best record in the Western Conference. Mark Giordano will be 36 years old. But, to his credit, his 35-year-old season was the third-best of all time among defensemen. Can he repeat the feat? Only Nicklas Lidstrom has ever cracked the 70-point barrier at an older age than Giordano is now. … In net, David Rittich would be a fantasy darling if he can keep up his ratios over more starts.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes kept Sebastian Aho from being stolen by Montreal, re-upped with Petr Mrazek, and are said to be still mulling the return of free agent and captain Justin Williams. After an encouraging postseason run, the future is bright as the team still has solid prospects on the way at every position. Watching for next steps forward from Andrei Svechnikov and/or Martin Necas will be key for fantasy.

Chicago Blackhawks: The fantasy skaters remain valuable and consistent from last season, with the biggest offseason addition being goaltender Robin Lehner. With Corey Crawford struggling (both in terms of his health and his ratios), the situation is ripe for Lehner to usurp the starting gig. Still, how much of his league-leading ratios were a result of his playing for the defense-first Islanders?

Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche have completely revamped their lineup beyond the first line. Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi will jostle for top-six minutes (and a possible power-play role). Samuel Girard is the incumbent to the quarterback role vacated by Tyson Barrie, but rookies Cale Makar and Bowen Byram can’t be ignored. Philipp Grubauer will enter his first season as a bonafide NHL starter at the age of 27.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Ouch! Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene all opted to sign elsewhere during the offseason. That’s a lot of offensive looks up for grabs on a depth chart with no clear candidates to seize the power vacuum. Gustav Nyquist will get a look at the top of the depth chart for offense, while Joonas Korpisalo will try to fend off rookie import Elvis Merzlikins in the crease.

Dallas Stars: The Stars added some significant veteran presence in Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. Pavelski is still at the top of his game, while Perry has been on a downward trend. Yet, both could find some much-needed rejuvenation on the wrong side of 34 as they mix into a lineup with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov.

Detroit Red Wings: A patient rebuild will give emerging fantasy assets such as Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanasiou another chance to advance their position. The same is true for less-proven commodities like Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Evgeny Svechnikov. … Who is going to play the point on this power play? The Red Wings have no new options and Dennis Cholowski‘s nine power-play points topped the squad last season.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers didn’t do anything to add new potential weapons for Connor McDavid, but that likely means Leon Draisaitl remains in the conversation as a first-round pick. … Is veteran Mike Smith the answer here in goal? No. No, he is not. Still, his presence will vex us by taking some of the shine off Mikko Koskinen, who maintained months-long stretches as one of the league’s best fantasy goalies last season.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers got the goaltender they needed in Sergei Bobrovsky and are ready to make a run. The established top group is fueled by the power play, but secondary scoring hasn’t been ideal. Perhaps the addition of Brett Connolly or the further development of Henrik Borgstrom can help with that.

Los Angeles Kings: Things are looking down for a Kings team that is paying a lot for just a handful of players. Ilya Kovalchuk, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick combine for $23 million in contracts.They are also all at least 33 years old — with at least two years left on their deals. It makes for a less-than-appetizing depth chart, outside of the stars. We will have to wait and see if any of the younger prospects like Gabriel Vilardi and Jack Campbell can push for a role at the top of the depth chart. That’s where some wise fantasy investment could come.

Minnesota Wild: The biggest addition to the Wild lineup will be a healthy Matt Dumba, who was easily the team’s best fantasy defenseman last season before he was felled by an injury after just 32 games. Ryan Suter may be handing over his mantle for good. … The theme of ascension rings through the forward ranks as well. Kevin Fiala, Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson Ek will look to establish themselves in place of veterans like Eric Staal, Zach Parise and newcomer Mats Zuccarello.

Montreal Canadiens: This team wasn’t a big factor in the offseason, outside of a matched offer sheet to Sebastian Aho — but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Carey Price is still young enough to be close to his prime, while Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi are emerging as future stars. There could be some jostling in the top-six, as Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen are by no means locks. Meanwhile, youngsters like Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling and Jesperi Kotkaniemi may warrant expanded roles.

Nashville Predators: The Predators’ secondary scoring gets a big upgrade by adding Matt Duchene, which solidifies a top-six that should be tough to keep down. … Pekka Rinne will be 37 in November, so this should be the season we see him hand the reins off to Juuse Saros. You can count on your fingers the number of goaltenders in NHL history who have turned in what would equate to No. 1 fantasy goaltender seasons at 37 or older.

New Jersey Devils: There were big, positive changes for the Devils this offseason, who will enter the year tabbed as playoff contenders thanks to the additions of P.K. Subban, Jack Hughes and Wayne Simmonds. Until someone says otherwise, I’m operating under the assumption that Hughes becomes the team’s No. 1 center, as neither Travis Zajac nor Nico Hischier blossomed in the role last season. Subban, Simmonds and Hughes will all elevate a power play featuring Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri.

New York Islanders: The Islanders didn’t make any changes, outside of subtracting Robin Lehner and adding Semyon Varlamov. With Thomas Greiss still around, Varlamov won’t be a workhorse in the crease, so his value is likely limited, depending on your league format. … Nick Leddy had 10 power-play points in 229 minutes last season, while Ryan Pulock had nine power-play points in 154 minutes. Perhaps the team finally makes some changes to their first unit.

New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin, Kappo Kakko and Jacob Trouba are all top-of-the-depth-chart additions to this squad. It’s easy to envision Panarin and Mika Zibanejad on the top line together, but Kakko isn’t guaranteed the third spot. That’s a training camp battle to watch, for sure. Trouba was fourth in the NHL for scoring among defensemen after Jan. 1 last season and will be the unquestioned No. 1 on this team. The sky is the limit. … Will the team’s overall improvement be enough to secure a last hurrah for 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist? I’ll be taking him as my third goalie in many leagues to find out.

Ottawa Senators: This is going to be ugly again as the team didn’t really improve for the coming season. Sure, Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk can rise above the funk for value, but beyond that we are talking about dart-throws for fantasy value. Colin White? Drake Batherson? Erik Brannstrom? Anthony Duclair? All of these guys — or none of them — could be relevant this season.

Philadelphia Flyers: Kevin Hayes is a nice flex piece for the team, as he can play in the top-six — or not, depending on how Nolan Patrick and/or Morgan Frost fare this coming season. … There is still lots of value at the top of the depth chart, but the defensemen are a big question mark. While Shayne Gostisbehere regressed (as expected) last season, Ivan Provorov failed to step up in his stead.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Alex Galchenyuk is a poor-man’s Phil Kessel (at a much cheaper cost), so this deal may not disrupt the Penguins’ elite power play all that much. Other than that swap, the Penguins just have to hope for health to be competitive in the NHL, as well as be helpful for fantasy leagues. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are getting older, but still have a few years left.

San Jose Sharks: The San Jose depth chart could still change a lot if Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau end up returning for one more run. Brining back Erik Karlsson will be huge, assuming he comes into this season fully healthy for a change. Other than that, this team is about maintaining the breakouts they enjoyed last season such as Timo Meier, Evander Kane and Kevin Labanc, while limiting how much they miss Joe Pavelski.

St. Louis Blues: No big changes are expected for the Stanley Cup-winning Blues, but Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn certainly added to their appeal with a strong postseason on the top line with Vladimir Tarasenko. One has to assume the trio sticks together to open the 2019-20 campaign, and it’s hard not to recall their magical start to the 2017-18 season. … Jordan Binnington comes into the campaign as a projected top-10 fantasy goaltender.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Assuming the team gets its deal done with Brayden Point, the winningest team in NHL history is back in earnest. They can absorb the loss of J.T. Miller easily enough.

Toronto Maple Leafs: We’ve seen some intriguing changes by Toronto as they manage the salary cap with their superstars. Out are Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner. In are Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie. The team also managed to re-sign up-and-coming pieces Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. As long as nothing goes awry with the Mitch Marner contract this summer, he’ll join John Tavares and Auston Matthews in the task of “lifting all boats” when it comes to fantasy. … One big question will be how Morgan Rielly copes with the addition of another proven power-play quarterback in Barrie.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks just have to be patient now, as Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser rise to the top. As far as new faces, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes could both carve out fantasy-relevant jobs with the team. The Canucks boast three potentially elite-level young goaltenders, but Jacob Markstrom proved he deserves another chance as the starter for now.

Vegas Golden Knights: If Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone play like they did in the playoffs, the Golden Knights will have a new top line. It makes sense, as the trio of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith has been successful because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. … Where does Alex Tuch fit in? He was fourth on the team in scoring last season (and could have been first with a full 82 games), but comes into this season penciled in outside the top-six.

Washington Capitals: The Capitals bring back the same fantasy-relevant pieces alongside Alex Ovechkin, who seemingly has proved that he doesn’t age. The only real question for fantasy is whether Jakub Vrana has done enough to cement the final spot in the top-six, or if an upstart Richard Panik or Brendan Leipsic can push for a shot.

Winnipeg Jets: Two of the Jets’ top-six pieces remain restricted free agents, so there is some intrigue left. But, assuming everything comes together, not much will change for your fantasy league from this team. While Jacob Trouba is gone, that should clear room for Dustin Byfuglien to have a bounce-back campaign and/or Josh Morrissey to have a breakout year.

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