2019-20 Fantasy Hockey: Forward Tiers
Having trouble figuring out how to value this year's crop of Fantasy forwards? Mike Gay is here to help with his tiered breakdown of this season's top options.
Forward is the most plentiful position in Fantasy hockey, but that doesn't mean you should skimp out on quality options. Let this non-exhaustive tiered preview guide you to glory.
Tier 1: Best since sliced bread
Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, Alexander Ovechkin, John Tavares, Mikko Rantanen, Auston Matthews, Tyler Seguin, Mark Scheifele, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Leon Draisaitl, Johnny Gaudreau, Evgeni Malkin, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, Claude Giroux, Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, Sebastian Aho, David Pastrnak, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner
A posterboy for the NHL, McDavid is destined to reach 400 career points before his 23rd birthday. Panarin -- the "Bread Man" himself -- now represents a Rangers club that should be reeling from a seventh-place finish in a highly competitive Metropolitan Division. Ovechkin has matched his jersey number with eight Rocket Richard trophy wins to reign supreme in the goal-scoring category. Not counting the aforementioned forwards, this group collectively amassed 534 goals to average around 30 for the season. Consider team context when choosing between these high-profile studs in order to achieve the best result in drafts.
Tier 2: Money in the bag
Brayden Point, Filip Forsberg, Mathew Barzal, Patrice Bergeron, Nicklas Backstrom, Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier, Logan Couture, Dylan Larkin, Jake Guentzel, Cam Atkinson, Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Max Domi, Brendan Gallagher, Brock Boeser
This secondary tier features low-maintenance forwards capable of exploding on short notice. Huberdeau bagged 30 goals to smash a point-per-game pace in 2018-19, while the opportunistic Gallagher set the gold standard with 128 high-danger chances at even strength. Catch Larkin if you can -- the fleet-footed pivot figures to inherit the captaincy role in Detroit after recording 32 goals and 41 assists in his fourth season. Pavelski settles into the Big D after signing a three-year, $21 million deal. The captain surprisingly abandoned ship in the Bay Area, but the pride of Plover, Wisconsin is still assured a top-six role that naturally comes with No. 1 power-play duties in Dallas.
Tier 3: Costing an arm and a leg
The Blues won the Stanley Cup despite all of their wingers and centers falling below a point-per-game pace, effectively overshadowing Tarasenko's output of 33 goals and 35 assists from the regular season. Still, Fantasy owners need more from the Russian, especially with league scoring having climbed for a fourth straight year. Skinner is making $9 million per season in Buffalo, and with that kind of dough, he sneaks into an elite monetary class with the likes of top-tier centers Steven Stamkos and Tyler Seguin. In order to justly appear in the same sentence as the aforementioned players for Fantasy purposes, Skinner will need to flirt with a point-per-game pace in 2019-20.
Tier 4: Getting the benefit of the doubt
A trendy bust candidate on the heels of Vegas' fairytale run, Karlsson experienced a 22-point slide last season, but the Golden Knights recently granted this "misfit" an eight-year contract extension with hopes that he'll remain a driving force behind a punchy offense that has averaged 3.13 goals since franchise conception. John Tavares' departure from the Islanders was supposed to leave a crater-sized hole in the lineup, but Lee -- a sixth-round draft pick from 2009 -- graciously took the wheel as team captain and steered New York back to the playoffs. Even though teammate Mathew Barzal presents greater offensive upside in comparison, Lee's missed only three games in the past four years while averaging a respectable 0.61 points per game during his seven-year career.
Tier 5: Jump on the bandwagon
Elias Pettersson, Elias Lindholm, Mika Zibanejad, Clayton Keller, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan O'Reilly, Daniel Sprong, J.T. Compher, Andreas Athanasiou, Timo Meier, Matthew Tkachuk, Brady Tkachuk, Jared McCann, Jason Dickinson, Alex Nylander
Pettersson won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie last season, so if his bandwagon is full, there's an intriguing alternative feverishly honing his craft in the Motor City -- Andreas Athanasiou. Double A's attacking-zone numbers have steadily climbed in each of the four years that he's been in the NHL. Last year, he potted 30 goals to complement 24 helpers and 11 points on the power play, where his role is growing substantively. Nylander, whom the Blackhawks acquired in exchange for defenseman Henri Jokiharju this summer, suddenly has a real opportunity to escape his older brother William's shadow. Nylander assuredly didn't go eighth overall in the NHL draft with the expectation that he'd be permanently stuck in the AHL.
Tier 6: No spark of decency
Marchand's deposited at least 34 goals in four straight seasons. He even hit the century mark in points for the first time in 2018-19, but the higher Fantasy pick should go to members of the elite group possessing Lady Byng-like qualities. Last year, Kane led the league in penalty minutes (153), with three game misconducts factored into the total. Roussel was assessed five misconduct infractions throughout his first year in Vancouver. Most of these players would qualify for the "money in the bag" class if not for a mean streak or bad boy reputation that places them in hockey purgatory from time to time. Since PIM is a dying stat, that game misconduct whistle only means less ice time for these prolific offensive producers, and it has a negative concomitant effect on Fantasy owners abound.
Tier 7: On thin ice
Kovalchuk's highly anticipated return to the NHL couldn't have gone much worse. The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder stuffed only 16 goals and 18 assists against a minus-26 rating in his debut season with the Kings. Of course, being away from hockey's biggest stage for five years prior didn't help the transition, nor did the firing of coach John Stevens, as Kovalchuk butted heads with his successor, Willie Desjardins, through season's end. Will the Russian power flanker be invigorated under new bench boss Todd McLellan? Time will tell, but he'll certainly need to step up in all three zones to yield returns on that three-year, $18.75 million contract. And then there's Lucic; he's become a one-dimensional Fantasy player with hits being the only constant to his game. The brawny winger has accumulated 501 points (198 goals, 303 assists) between three clubs and 12 years of NHL service time, though he's been relegated to a bottom-six role, and actually cost the Oilers $1 million per goal based on his scant production last season.
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