2018-19 Fantasy Hockey: Forward Tiers
How to sort out the huge group of NHL forwards in Fantasy terms? Evan Berofsky does it for you, with nine tiers starting with the exclusive “Royalty” group.
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It's summer and hot outside in most parts of the world. Naturally, the best way to cool off is to talk about Fantasy Hockey.
Forwards comprise the largest group on the ice, but not all are created equal. When it comes to categorizing them, there are several levels to consider.
The following groupings will work in any Fantasy format using a 12-team setup. The standard scoring categories have been used to rate these players, so hits, blocked shots or Twitter followers are not included.
We'll go from the cream of the crop down to the projected disappointments and round out with unknown achievers and filler material. Pick and choose from each section to end up with a solid, well-rounded lineup:
Tier 1: Royalty
Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin
This is the top of the heap. McDavid stands alone from the others in this section by continuing to do more with less supporting talent. Ovechkin now has his Cup, but that doesn't mean he's lost his drive to keep winning. Malkin missed some time during the playoffs but still should be dominant enough to keep his place among the elite.
Tier 2: Nobility
Nathan MacKinnon, Taylor Hall, Blake Wheeler, David Pastrnak, Patrik Laine, John Tavares, Brad Marchand, Vladimir Tarasenko, Steven Stamkos, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Mark Scheifele, Claude Giroux, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf, Jack Eichel, Logan Couture, Nicklas Backstrom, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel
Not far from the first group, but the difference is noticeable. MacKinnon and Hall showed their true Hart-worthiness last season. If Stamkos can complete another injury-free campaign, he would jump up to the first grouping. It doesn't matter whether Panarin leaves Columbus or not, because he is capable of posting significant stats anywhere. Kessel maintains his spot thanks to his 2017-2018 league-leading power-play point total (42).
Tier 3: Consistency
Aleksander Barkov, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron, Filip Forsberg, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Johansen, Jakub Voracek, Mikko Rantanen, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Radulov, Ryan Kesler, Matt Duchene, Mats Zuccarello, Gabriel Landeskog, James van Riemsdyk, Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Mikael Granlund
Dependable, capable and safe -- exactly what you're looking for after the major names have gone off the board. Thanks to playing in South Florida, Barkov is probably the least-mentioned soon-to-be-superstar. Rantanen finished tied for 16th in scoring and could crack the top 10 by continuing to ride shotgun with MacKinnon. Despite recently turning 32, Radulov remains an offensive force. Miller can play all three forward positions and regularly skates on Tampa's lethal first man-advantage unit.
Tier 4: Expectancy
Ilya Kovalchuk, William Karlsson, Mathew Barzal, Mitch Marner, Sean Couturier, Max Pacioretty, Brayden Point, Alexander Steen, Ryan O'Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Eric Staal, David Krejci, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews, Mika Zibanejad, Tyler Bozak, Evgenii Dadonov, Tyler Toffoli, T.J. Oshie, Evander Kane, Tyler Johnson, James Neal, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Marchessault, Jason Zucker, Brendan Gallagher, Derek Stepan, Patric Hornqvist, Kyle Okposo
Player projections are difficult to create for those who recently moved locations, returned from injury, or significantly over/underachieved last year. Kovalchuk may have excelled in the KHL the past five seasons, but what level can we truly expect from a 35-year-old? Barzal is projected for a drop-off as a result of the added pressure following Tavares' departure. Depending what position O'Reilly is assigned, Bozak will either occupy the Blues' second- or third-center role. After a solid season in Vegas, Neal's skills and experience should earn him the opportunity to skate on Calgary's top trio with Gaudreau and Monahan.
Tier 5: Prodigy
Brock Boeser, Nico Hischier, Clayton Keller, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, William Nylander, Viktor Arvidsson, Bo Horvat, Nikolaj Ehlers, Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brayden Schenn, Dylan Larkin, Rickard Rakell, Jonathan Drouin, Jake Guentzel, Elias Lindholm, Travis Konecny, Kyle Connor, Sam Reinhart, Alex DeBrincat, Alexander Wennberg, Kevin Labanc, Alex Galchenyuk
These are the 25-and-unders who have shown enough to deem them worthy of earlier selection. Had Boeser not missed 20 games, he may have given Barzal a better run for top rookie honors. Dubois slowly earned more responsibility and is projected to start the season as the Blue Jackets' No. 1 pivot. Drouin could be asked to do too much within a lackluster Montreal attack. Galchenyuk should immediately slide into a scoring role with Arizona, but his numbers will be impacted negatively by a weak supporting cast.
Tier 6: Misery
Yanni Gourde, Kevin Hayes, Josh Bailey, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Spooner, Bobby Ryan, Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad, Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny, Gustav Nyquist, Corey Perry, Henrik Zetterberg, Wayne Simmonds, Reilly Smith, Dustin Brown, Kyle Palmieri, Kyle Turris, Nick Bjugstad, Nino Niederreiter, Micheal Ferland, Bryan Little, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jeff Skinner, Derick Brassard, Mikael Backlund, David Perron, Brock Nelson, Alex Killorn, Adam Henrique, Thomas Vanek, David Backes, Zach Hyman, Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, Jordan Staal, Craig Smith, Milan Lucic, Mikko Koivu, Patrick Maroon, Artem Anisimov, Valtteri Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Mathieu Perreault, Tom Wilson, Nick Bonino, Tomas Tatar, Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi, Erik Haula, Lars Eller, Riley Nash
It's not as if this group should be avoided; just don't expect previous peaks to hold up. Gourde made an immediate impact in his first full NHL campaign, but it's going to prove difficult to consistently post 60-plus points as a third-liner. Bailey gets bumped down a notch without Tavares as his primary provider. Perry's scoring days have long passed him by. Now that Stastny has left Winnipeg, Little should renew his rapport with Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, but there's no guarantee he'll be able to hold onto that sweet gig.
Tier 7: Maturity
Elias Pettersson, Andrei Svechnikov, Casey Mittelstadt, Eeli Tolvanen, Jake DeBrusk, Alex Tuch, Jakub Vrana, Nolan Patrick, Anthony Mantha, Danton Heinen, Nick Schmaltz, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Martin Necas, Valentin Zykov, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Cirelli, Tomas Hertl, Max Domi, Pavel Buchnevich, Timo Meier, Alex Kerfoot, Sven Baertschi, Vladislav Namestnikov, Alexander Nylander, Anthony Beauvillier, Valeri Nichushkin, Josh Ho-Sang, Kevin Fiala, Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Victor Rask, Ondrej Kase, Jack Roslovic, Ryan Donato, Christian Dvorak, Andre Burakovsky, Tyson Jost, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, Artturi Lehkonen, Jimmy Vesey, Connor Brown, Tanner Pearson, Adrian Kempe, Ryan Hartman, Alex Iafallo, Phillip Danault, Tobias Rieder, Josh Anderson, Sven Andrighetto, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Andreas Johnsson, Radek Faksa, Sam Bennett, Jared McCann, Chris Tierney, Sonny Milano, Tyler Bertuzzi, Brendan Perlini, Nick Ritchie, Oskar Lindblom, Frank Vatrano, Joel Eriksson Ek, Charles Hudon, Markus Granlund
These guys are similar to Tier 5 but not as polished at the NHL level. If the first four names get decent minutes, they could easily be considered in the top youth group – or possibly higher. Cirelli made his Tampa debut late last season into the playoffs, proving himself an adequate contributor. Hopefully the two-year KHL sabbatical renewed Nichushkin's desire to perform at a higher level in Dallas. Kase exceeded expectations by notching 20 goals, and his value will only increase if he's provided with power-play minutes.
Tier 8: Mystery
Rick Nash, Patrick Eaves, Martin Hanzal, Travis Zajac, Jakob Silfverberg, Robby Fabbri, Conor Sheary, Jason Spezza, Henrik Borgstrom, Brady Tkachuk, Filip Zadina, Andrew Ladd, Anthony Duclair, Ryan Dzingel, Dylan Strome, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Jonathan Dahlen, Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi, Calle Jarnkrok, Patrik Berglund, Daniel Sprong, Sam Gagner, Adam Lowry, Michael Grabner, Evan Rodrigues, Derek Ryan, Matt Nieto, Jordan Greenway, Justin Abdelkader, Boone Jenner, Carl Soderberg, Jake Virtanen, Victor Ejdsell, Michael Frolik, Nikita Scherbak, Loui Eriksson, Mark Letestu, Jan Kovar, Cody Eakin, Richard Panik, Marian Gaborik, Dylan Sikura, Devin Shore, Leo Komarov, Tyler Ennis, J.T. Compher, Mattias Janmark, Jason Pominville, Andrew Cogliano, Melker Karlsson, Zack Smith, Denis Malgin, Mark Jankowski, Jordan Weal, Antoine Roussel, Vinnie Hinostroza, Colton Sissons, Ryan Strome, Joel Armia, Scott Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky, Bryan Rust, Michael Rasmussen, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Drake Caggiula, Jamie McGinn, Carl Hagelin, Blake Comeau, Vladimir Sobotka, Brett Ritchie, Nicolas Petan, Jesper Fast
Sometimes it's impossible to know what will happen until competitive games begin and regular units form. If Nash decides to continue playing, he'll serve as a decent scorer wherever he goes. Unfortunately, the fates of high-end prospects like the younger Tkachuk, Zadina, and Kyrou will be decided closer to opening night. Edmonton must really be thin on the right side if they've penciled in Rattie and Puljujarvi as its top two available options. If Eriksson can stay healthy, he's in line to benefit alongside some very talented youngsters.
Tier 9: Sufficiency
Anders Bjork, Joel Ward, Ryan Callahan, Christian Fischer, Dmitrij Jaskin, Chris Kunitz, Michael Raffl, Brendan Leipsic, Brett Connolly, Martin Frk, Dominik Simon, Matthew Peca, Brandon Sutter, Devante Smith-Pelly, Riley Sheahan, Brian Boyle, Marcus Foligno, Miles Wood, Michael Amadio, Ryan Reaves, Blake Coleman, Darren Helm, Marcus Kruger, Zemgus Girgensons, Tomas Plekanec, Matt Beleskey, Johan Larsson, Cedric Paquette, Kasperi Kapanen, Brandon Tanev, Jay Beagle, Austin Watson, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Colin White, Vladislav Kamenev, Marcus Sorensen, Ivan Barbashev, Jacob De La Rose, Kyle Clifford, Benoit Pouliot, Jannik Hansen, Michael Cammalleri, Drew Stafford, Curtis Lazar, Stefan Noesen, Troy Brouwer, Colin Wilson, Pontus Aberg, Nikita Soshnikov, Phil Di Giuseppe, Carter Rowney, Matt Calvert, Zack Kassian, Colton Sceviour, Trevor Lewis, J.T. Brown, Andrew Shaw, Paul Byron, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Magnus Paajarvi, Tom Pyatt, Jori Lehtera, Scott Laughton, Barclay Goodrow, Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Andrew Copp, Marko Dano, Nick Cousins, Joakim Nordstrom, David Kampf, Eric Fehr, Dale Weise, Tyler Pitlick
Unless something drastic happens, none of these guys will be relevant come Draft Day. Fischer possesses the pedigree to hit the 40-point plateau. Peca didn't get much of a chance with the Bolts, but can potentially inject some life into an anemic Habs offense. Kapanen destroyed the AHL but will find it harder to break out in the bigs. Based on last season's team concept success, odds are at least one of the Golden Knights listed here (Reaves, Bellemare, Lindberg, Nosek, Carrier) will perform above his ranking.
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