The engine of most Fantasy teams, having a good forward group is critical to success in most of the scoring categories. From established superstars to rising prospects and fading veterans, here's a look at how the forward tiers shake out. Please note that this is not a precise ranking, but more a measure of what general level of value a player provides. Same tier, roughly same Fantasy value.
Dynamic duos and unquestioned superstars
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Artemi Panarin, Sebastian Aho
The grand majority of this best-of-the-best tier consists of dynamic partnerships. These are six of the best duos in the league, and they'll typically share top-line minutes with first-unit power-play time. All of these players have a legitimate chance at 40-goal, 100-point seasons -- don't expect to scoop any of them up later than the second round. Honorable mentions to Panarin and Aho, who don't quite have a teammate that's on par with their capabilities, but they remain clear superstars in their own right. You probably can't expect to unite any of these pairings on one Fantasy squad, but just getting one of these players is a great place to start.
30-goal and/or point-per-game potential
Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Mark Scheifele, Mika Zibanejad, Kirill Kaprizov, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Jake Guentzel, Andrei Svechnikov, Kyle Connor, Elias Pettersson, Matthew Tkachuk, Nikolaj Ehlers, Roope Hintz, Evander Kane
These are still superstar-caliber players, albeit without quite as high of a ceiling as their peers in the highest tier. Some are older veterans like Crosby and Ovechkin, while others like Scheifele, Barkov, and Guentzel have established themselves as reliable 70-to-80-point performers. You'll find some reliable duos in this tier as well -- specifically from the Panthers, Penguins, Golden Knights and Jets. Kane is in this group as well, but it's unclear how allegations of gambling on hockey will affect his season. He could be available at a discount on draft day given the uncertainty. As for Hintz, the potential for a full season unimpeded by injuries after he produced 43 points in 41 games should be worth some intrigue.
Aging stars, playmakers, clear top-six
David Perron, Joe Pavelski, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan O'Reilly, Mathew Barzal, Pavel Buchnevich, Tom Wilson, Sam Reinhart, Kevin Fiala, Anders Lee, Elias Lindholm, J.T. Miller, Jonathan Marchessault, Johnny Gaudreau, Taylor Hall, Anze Kopitar, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Yanni Gourde, T.J. Oshie, Jason Robertson, Blake Wheeler, Ryan Strome, Bryan Rust, Nicklas Backstrom, Ondrej Palat, Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, Brock Boeser, William Nylander
At a bare minimum, players in this third tier should be good for a 50-point pace. Many of the more established players in this group, like Malkin, Benn and Backstrom, are probably looking at their best years in the rear-view mirror, but they should remain productive enough to warrant strong consideration on Fantasy rosters. Others are steady and high-quality options like Boeser, O'Reilly, Buchnevich and Lindholm. There's still some potential breakout candidates in the group -- Robertson and Necas to name a couple. Most of these forwards should be drafted to fill out the starting group of a Fantasy roster in the middle rounds.
Risk/reward -- win big or lose big
Jack Eichel, Cole Caufield, Zach Hyman, Carter Verhaeghe, Brady Tkachuk, Patrik Laine, Mike Hoffman, Alexander Radulov, Jonathan Toews, Joel Farabee, Vincent Trocheck, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Tyler Bertuzzi, Teuvo Teravainen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Maxime Comtois, Blake Coleman, Dominik Kubalik, Travis Konecny, Josh Norris, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Conor Garland, Sam Bennett, Denis Gurianov, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Anthony Duclair, Joel Eriksson Ek, Andrew Mangiapane, Oliver Wahlstrom, Trevor Zegras, Tim Stutzle, Evgenii Dadonov, Charlie Coyle, Sean Monahan, Drake Batherson, Cam Atkinson, Kailer Yamamoto, Jack Hughes, Robby Fabbri, Nils Hoglander, Robert Thomas, Kirby Dach, Jesse Puljujarvi, Jack Roslovic, Jonathan Drouin, Viktor Arvidsson, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Dylan Cozens
Like it or not, almost all of these forwards have a "yeah, but..." argument to made about them. The first such group is players coming off of significant absences. Eichel (neck) is likely to miss the start of the year amid an ongoing battle between player and team for a herniated disc; Toews (illness) missed all of last season; Tarasenko has had a handful of shoulder surgeries that have limited him to 34 games over the last season; Monahan (hip) is coming off two noticeable scoring declines and hip surgery. All of these players would be Tier 2 or 3 if fully healthy -- consider them clear top-six players with lingering question marks.
A second group in here are players who need to prove themselves over a full season. Caufield leads the way within this category -- he's got Calder Trophy potential, but he's only played 10 regular-season contests. Likewise, young players like Stutzle, Zegras, Hoglander, Cozens, Comtois, Dach, Thomas and Wahlstrom have all shown they can play well in short bursts, but they'll need to show some consistency throughout the year. As mainly younger players, the gamble here is on potential versus production. Ideally, many of them will land between 40 and 60 points for the year.
The third group here includes rebound and breakout candidates. Laine, Radulov, Teravainen, Bertuzzi, Yamamoto, Drouin, Arvidsson and Larkin have all produced good numbers, but various circumstances led to an underwhelming showcase in 2020-21. Again, hope for 60 points, but know that they may average out lower than that mark if they don't have a rebound season. Meanwhile, guys like Verhaeghe, Farabee, Gurianov, Eriksson Ek, Mangiapane, Batherson and Roslovic need to prove that they're not just one-hit wonders after greatly exceeding expectations last year. Players like this could see large regressions, which serves as the risk factor.
Finally, there's faces in new places, where the potential for a big season is offset by the change of scenery and the chance of a bad fit with a new team. Hyman, Hoffman, Dubois, Coleman, Bennett, Dadonov, Atkinson, and Arvidsson (again) have all switched teams within the last 12 months. There's some value in a speculative middle-to-late round pick on these guys -- it'll pay off if they can find sustained success, but it's far from guaranteed. Many have an established level of performance, but expectations may be higher than reality dictates they should be.
Steady but unremarkable
Alex Killorn, Chris Kreider, Patric Hornqvist, Tyler Toffoli, Brayden Schenn, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tomas Hertl, Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter, Filip Forsberg, Bo Horvat, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux, Joonas Donskoi, Jared McCann, Brendan Gallagher, William Karlsson, Anthony Cirelli, Jordan Staal, Mikael Backlund, Craig Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, Andre Burakovsky, Mats Zuccarello, Jordan Eberle, Nazem Kadri, Logan Couture, Frank Vatrano, Jeff Carter, Nico Hischier, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, Kasperi Kapanen, Jaden Schwartz, Clayton Keller, Brandon Saad, Kevin Hayes, Tanner Pearson, Jakub Vrana, Victor Olofsson, Alex Iafallo, Kevin Labanc, Josh Anderson, Jesper Bratt
For risk-averse Fantasy managers, these players are pretty much open books. Some have flirted with 60-point potential at times, but their best years may be behind them, like Giroux, Hornqvist, Palmieri and Karlsson. Others are role players on strong teams. The key here is that they'll be consistent, they're reliable, and there's little chance they wear out their welcome with their coaches. Another perk: the vast majority are well-established veterans unlikely to have much fluctuation in role. For those in need of 30 to 50 points (and maybe more) from their depth forwards, you can count on these guys to bring a fairly steady stream of offense.
Low risk of explosion
Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith, Phillip Danault, Brock Nelson, Jordan Greenway, Nick Ritchie, Connor Brown, Christian Dvorak, Dustin Brown, Tomas Tatar, Max Domi, Timo Meier, Scott Laughton, Jason Zucker, Jakub Voracek, Adrian Kempe, Alexander Wennberg, Mikael Granlund, Miles Wood, Paul Stastny, Nick Schmaltz, Zach Sanford, Yegor Sharangovich, Eeli Tolvanen, Calle Jarnkrok, Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, Dylan Strome, Jordan Kyrou, Phil Kessel, Luke Kunin, Filip Chytil, Nolan Patrick, Rickard Rakell, Valeri Nichushkin, Jakob Silfverberg, Pavel Zacha, Erik Haula, J.T. Compher, Teddy Blueger, Adam Henrique, Alex Kerfoot, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cody Glass
Much like Tier 5, these players have a pretty well-established level of play. That said, they won't have quite as much appeal in standard formats, instead carrying more Fantasy value in bigger leagues. There may be a few diamonds in the rough here -- think Tolvanen, Sharangovich, Tatar, Zucker -- but most of them will settle into a solidly middle-six role with their teams, or a low-end top-six role on teams with less talented forward groups. When filling out a Fantasy bench from this group, consider taking younger players, as their upside produces a better chance of these late-round picks paying off. The older players here will still be solid contributors, but many such veterans play a more limited role or aren't expected to be on a high-scoring team.
Patrick Maroon, Andrew Copp, Garnet Hathaway, Corey Perry, Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Hartman, Lars Eller, Brandon Tanev, Ryan Getzlaf, Brendan Lemieux, Milan Lucic, Kevin Rooney, Zach Parise, Nick Cousins, Colin Blackwell, Nic Dowd, Warren Foegele, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Dzingel, Joel Armia, Wayne Simmonds, Tyler Johnson, Carl Hagelin, Nick Paul
For the most part, these guys will bring a little offense, but many of them are either past their prime or physical presences only. Some, like Perry, Getzlaf and Simmonds, are both. They're veteran names, but unless you need a boost in the rough stuff, most of these guys will probably be left on the board on draft day. In the deepest formats, these players find their value by chipping in 20 to 25 points in addition to boosts in PIM.