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The foundation for every successful fantasy hockey team, having a strong group of forwards is usually the top priority on draft day. Most of your early-round picks are forwards, and you want to make sure you have high-scoring options on your roster.
Here’s how the top NHL forwards break down at different levels for this season. Players of the same level have the same value, although the order in which the players are listed should not be considered a firm ranking. These levels are based on Yahoo’s default branding settings.
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Tier 1: The oil rises to the top and the cream of the rest of the plant
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews
What do these four players have in common? All of them are a virtual lock for 100 points and possibly more, as long as they stay healthy. McDavid may be in a class of his own. Draisaitl is his reliable partner, even if he’s more than capable of doing his own thing. MacKinnon and Matthews were superstars in their prime – consider MacKinnon for a pure offensive boost, while Matthews distinguishes himself in goal scoring and elite shot blocking for a forward.
Tier 2: All but one 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 tend to have nominations locked up. Question marks such as age (Crosby, Stamkos) or changing team situations (Pastrnak, Pettersson) may invite some risk, but these players should be off the board after the first two rounds everywhere.
Tier 3: Trusted 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 are up-and-coming stars, some are established names. All are consistent and reliable forwards who will put pucks in the net while continuing to play key roles on their teams in 2023-24. Some minor regression risk exists with Ovechkin and Panarin, but they have yet to produce enough point production to be worth an early to mid-round investment.
Tier 4: No guarantees, but decent upside
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
Any of these players should be capable of a 70-point season, even if it only takes one or two things that go wrong for them or their teams to derail those hopes. For Pavelski and Kopitar, the risk is age. Nugent-Hopkins, Toffoli, Keller, Hyman and Skinner are among the notable names that could be pulling back from career-long performances. Dubois and DeBrincat are players in new areas. This may have effects on the respective values of Larkin and Kempe, either positive or negative.
The other players at this level are usually reliable contributors, but at a lower level and with more variability than those at the top level. The upside is if guys like Gaudreau, Scheifele and Tavares can get back to established levels. Verhaeghe, Buchnevich, Bratt and Boldy all have short histories 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 this past summer. While there’s no doubting the individual talent, the early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year will be playing on a team that’s still deep in a rebuild. As such, his range of results will be anywhere from 60 to 90 points, and will likely have a poor plus-minus rating.
Tier 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 percentage in 2022-23, shaky team situations, small roles on deeper teams, etc. It’s easy to see them as reliable contributors, and potential draft-day steals, but it’s just as easy to see them suffering a drastic change. Especially aware of the risk of injury to players like Svechnikov, Forsberg, Ehlers and Laine.
Some of these players are solid bounce-back candidates, such as Huberdeau, Kreider and Horvat (post trade). Betting on them to reach their peak would be risky, but they could do better than last season.
Tier 6: Bank 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 important roles in their teams, but without the large numbers of some of their teammates. Many of these players are reliable middle-six options that can boost the lineup. Again, some have injury risks (Nichushkin, Stone, Arvidsson), but that doesn’t stop them from being perfectly acceptable fantasy bench players.
Tier 7: Other 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 on bad teams, middle-six players on good teams and rookies. Players like Fantilli, McTavish, Zegras and Hayton have one of the highest given their potential for growth, because they are still early in their careers. Hertl, Kuznetsov, Wilson, Raymond, Barbashev and Thomas should all play more roles on their teams than they can elsewhere, giving them more potential.
Kane is the outlier here, as he is recovering well from offseason hip surgery. While he will likely miss more time to start the season, and he remains a free agent while rehabbing, he could be available at a discount on draft day. However, hip surgery is a tough one for any player to come back from, and at the age of 34, there is a lot of risk here. He is best drafted by fantasy managers who are willing to be patient with his return and expect 50-60 points over his former point-per-game glory.