Fantasy hockey 2022-23 NHL team previews
Well, do we have some good news for you! At a glance, you can see what’s going on with all 32 teams in the NHL below.
Jump ahead: Anaheim Ducks | Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Calgary Flames | Carolina Hurricanes | Chicago Blackhawks | Colorado Avalanche | Columbus Blue Jackets | Dallas Stars | Detroit Red Wings | Edmonton Oilers | Florida Panthers | Los Anglees Kings | Minnesota Wild | Montreal Canadiens | Nashville Predators | New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | New York Rangers | Ottawa Senators | Philadelphia Flyers | Pittsburgh Penguins | San Jose Sharks | Seattle Kraken | St. Louis Blues | Tampa Bay Lightning | Toronto Maple Leafs | Vancouver Canucks | Vegas Golden Knights | Washington Capitals | Winnipeg Jets
Fantasy managers should be excited about what Trevor Zegras has in store for an encore. After potting 23 goals and 38 assists his 75-game rookie campaign, and following the retirement of Ducks star Ryan Getzlaf, the 21-year-old launches 2022-23 as the club’s top-line/power play center. Competing consistently alongside last season’s points leader, Troy Terry, will translate in another jump in production, straight off. Both Zegras and Terry are capable of achieving a point/game stride, and should be drafted accordingly.
On the other hand, former Ranger Ryan Strome will likely see his numbers dip in serving as Anaheim’s No. 2 center after leaving an altogether more productive team in New York. There are probably more potent options in his fantasy class available. However, rookie Mason McTavish is one to watch closely, following most annual fantasy drafts, and how/where he settles into Anaheim’s lineup. A fine-tuned scoring apparatus at the international level, McTavish is going to rip it up in the NHL eventually. Whether eventually falls in 2024 or this November.
Shedding Texas’s state emblem for the stylized duck foot, John Klingberg jumps into the No. 1 power play role, leap-frogging Cam Fowler, Kevin Shattenkirk, and burgeoning star Jamie Drysdale. At 30 years old and on an expiring contract, Klingberg would be best served by maxing himself out in this fresh, if limited, opportunity. A 60-point season from the noted offensive defenseman is hardly out of the question. John Gibson remains a good goaltender, entrenched with a (still) rebuilding team. Set your fantasy watch to a hot start from the 29-year-old before he inevitably burns out and grows frustrated in the season’s second half.
Before flipping to the Coyotes’ next chapter – featuring prospects Dylan Guenther, Connor Geekie, and Logan Cooley – there’s not too much to appreciate, fantasy-wise, from the current assemblage. At the ripe old age of 24, forward Clayton Keller could finally hit the 30-goal mark this season, while racking up another 40 or so assists. Linemate Nick Schmaltz has a supporting fantasy role to fill in most scoring leagues. Same goes for offensive defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who amassed 51 points this past campaign, including 19 on the power play. A healthy Jakub Chychrun serves as a well-rounded fantasy asset in leagues that reward production and shots on net – especially if/when he gets traded to a better team (ie. any other team). End of fantasy list. Even if Guenther makes the Coyotes out of camp – hardly an impossibility – the teen is still likely a year or two away from flourishing. Particularly in considering his recent run of injuries and illnesses.
Through little fault of his own, goalie Karel Vejmelka projects as a fantasy liability in all categories outside of saves and save percentage. Sure, he’ll play a lot and face/stop plenty of shots, but altogether, this Arizona club isn’t going to win much this season.
Without their top winger and without their top two defensemen for months of the season, the Bruins are going to be actively seeking players to fill those voids.
David Krejci returns from a season in Europe to center what will be a new top line featuring David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall, while Patrice Bergeron bides his time waiting for Brad Marchand to return to health. It means reduced expectations for Bergeron to start, but maybe we’ll get the best we’ve seen of Hall for some time.
From a team full of lottery tickets, it’s probably worth purchasing a couple for your fantasy portfolio. Tage Thompson‘s breakout campaign was legit, Jeff Skinner still has more in the tank and Alex Tuch will play a heavy role in the offense. But that leaves some room for Victor Olofsson, Peyton Krebs, Jack Quinn, Casey Mittelstadt, Dylan Cozens or John-Jason Peterka to find a niche — but it won’t be all of them.
While Owen Power has the trendier appeal coming into his sophomore season on defense, a better breakout bet is Rasmus Dahlin ascending to the next level in his fifth NHL season at the age of 22.
Hard pass on the crease. Hard. Pass.
No, Nazem Kadri won’t replicate last year’s salivating pace of 1.23 points/game, but he won’t trip too far off that tantalizing stride. The newest Flame will still manage near a point/contest as a top-six center and precious No. 1 power-play asset in Calgary. Winger Tyler Toffoli is poised for a career year, slotted in on a new top line featuring Elias Lindholm and ex-Panther Jonathan Huberdeau. Throw in regular turns with the Flames’ premiere special team’s unit, and Toffoli should enjoy his first ever 65-point campaign. As for Huberdeau, he most certainly will not register another 85 assists this year. Because that was ridiculous, really. Sixty though? Quite possibly.
Jacob Markstrom is a top-five fantasy goaltender, however you slice it. In 2021-22, he started 63 games, won 37 of them (lost only 15), and pitched a .922 SV% and 2.22 GAA. One singular person wrapped up last season with more total fantasy points than Calgary’s No. 1 and that guy won the Vezina. There’s no reason to expect any different from Markstrom this round behind a defense that lost an Erik Gudbranson but gained a MacKenzie Weegar.
The Hurricanes have taken a good thing and sprinkled some veteran spice. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov — even on separate lines — will give you 2.0 fantasy points per game or better, with Teuvo Teravainen not far behind. Max Pacioretty will be there too, once he’s healthy for the final push. Until then, the top wing spot is Seth Jarvis‘s to build on his solid rookie showing, but Martin Necas is also hankering for more. Depending on deployment, Paul Stastny and Jesperi Kotkaniemi may also find themselves on fantasy rosters.
But the best thing the Hurricanes do as a team is make their goaltenders look good. It means Frederik Andersen should have no trouble repeating a campaign that could have easily had him finish third in the league for fantasy points among goaltenders if he hadn’t missed the tail end of it.
However long he lasts with the Blackhawks, Patrick Kane will continue to serve as a valuable fantasy commodity, in frequently shooting, often scoring, and habitually contributing with the extra skater. Always has and (probably) always will. However, the list of treasured fantasy forwards in Chicago begins and ends with Kane, who’s likely keeping a packed bag at the ready between now and the trade deadline. At this stage, there’s little use in prognosticating how Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou, and other new and not-so-new Hawks, will manage with an organization bent on tearing it all down to the studs. Fantasy managers should leave every forward other than the aforementioned sure-thing alone for now.
There’s a titch more to appreciate on Chicago’s blue line, beginning with Seth Jones, who averaged 2.2 fantasy points/game in ESPN’s standard scoring contest this past year. Jones endures as a hot fantasy commodity in all leagues that don’t count plus/minus. Then there’s the Hawks’ shot-blocking duo of Connor Murphy and Jake McCabe (on IR to start 2022-23) to consider in deeper leagues where such defensive stats make a difference. Again, like up front, the choice fantasy selection ends there.
Who ends up securing the gig between Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine? While it probably won’t impact either of them from a fantasy perspective, as they are good enough to be immune to the third member of the top line, this is a spot that could pay huge dividends for pivot that plays there over the long term. Is it gritty Boone Jenner? Jack Roslovic, who has been play-tested but underwhelmed so far? What about the youngsters Cole Sillinger or Kent Johnson?
With the talent being distilled so strongly toward Gaudreau and Laine, it’ll be a tall order for other forwards to gain fantasy footholds, leaving question marks next to Jakub Voracek, Gustav Nyquist and rookie Kirill Marchenko.
Beyond the “Big Three” in Colorado – Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog – all who legitimately rank in ESPN’s gaggle of top-20 forwards, there’s a drop off to some still rather serviceable assets in conventional scoring leagues. Entering the first turn of his lucrative eight-year deal, Valeri Nichushkin will be tasked to pitch in more, now that Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky are plying their productive wares elsewhere. After last year’s career outburst of 52 points in 62 contests, Nichushkin – smack-dab in his prime – boasts 70-point potential in a full, healthy season. Sophomore Alex Newhook serves in a fantasy wildcard role, as Kadri’s projected replacement on the club’s second scoring line. Drafted 16th overall in 2019, and a proven scorer in the AHL, the 21-year-old deserves a toss of the dice in deeper fantasy leagues.
On the blue line, Cale Makar is any fantasy team’s choice No. 1 defenseman, particularly in leagues that reward power-play points at a premium. Second only to Roman Josi in points accrued with the extra skater (34) in 2021-22, and average fantasy points/game in standard leagues (2.9), Makar stands nearly alone in a class of three blueliners as an indisputably legitimate first round draft pick. His oft-underrated and overshadowed partner, Devon Toews, holds sneaky appeal as a fantasy No. 3 or 4 defender.
It’s a brand new day in net for the Avs, with Darcy Kuemper taking his Stanley Cup ring to Washington. The battle between import Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz should be an interesting one, from opening night onward. Neither should be counted on as a No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy netminder in most leagues until if/when one emerges as coach Jared Bednar’s go-to. No. 3? With this elite team, sure. The ceiling’s high, payoff-wise to that gamble.
Jake Oettinger is the starting netminder for the Dallas Stars. Not Braden Holtby, not Ben Bishop, not Anton Khudobin – but the player GM Jim Nill selected 26th overall in 2017. So that’s one 2021-22 fantasy headache from which we can move on. Plus, last season’s unanticipated No. 1 was pretty good, cobbling together a 30-15-1 record, along with a 2.53 GAA and .914 SV%, in helping his club secure a playoff spot. Toss in more starts in this, his first full year in the NHL, and the 23-year-old wades in as Top-10 fantasy netminder. There are about six or seven goalies to select before Oettinger in most drafts, and that’s about it.
Top-heavy in the fantasy department, only the club’s leading trio neared and/or cleared the 2.0 fantasy point mark in ESPN.com standard leagues. With Jason Robertson and his 41 goals leading the way, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski duly served as precious assets in contributing regularly at even-strength and with the man-advantage. Expect again similar performances from all three (even still Pavelski, yes) on a roster that was only lightly fiddled with this offseason. The exception being the addition of Mason Marchment from Florida, who captured our collective fantasy attention with last year’s 47 points in only 54 games. While Marchment won’t go in most drafts, he certainly deserves monitoring straight off, especially if a top-six slot is secured. Defenseman Miro Heiskanen climbs the fantasy ranks following John Klingberg’s departure for Anaheim.
As the vision for the Red Wings eventual return to competitiveness further crystallizes, one of the bigger fantasy questions is whether or not they are at a stage where the goaltenders begin to gain relevance. The Red Wings boast a very talented tandem in Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic, but does this team have the defensive chops to make them fantasy starters?
Moritz Seider is already a superstar for fantasy on the blue line, but it’s doubtful anyone else from the group will join him on fantasy rosters.
Up front, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are locks, but it’s not a sure thing that Lucas Raymond can take a step forward in his sophomore season and join them at the elite threshold of 2.0 fantasy points per game. David Perron, Andrew Copp and Jakub Vrana will be in the fantasy mix if the Red Wings are competitive; They’ll be on the bubble if the Wings are not.
If Jack Campbell could survive the blistering spotlight in Toronto’s suffocating hockey market and manage to not only survive but thrive, he can make it anywhere. Last year’s healthy version of the 30-year-old did just that. Some argue Campbell is no Mike Smith. Agreed. He isn’t. The Leafs’ ex-No 1 is a top-10 fantasy netminder, hitting his professional stride, with a legit Cup contending team in Edmonton. Plus, the team’s defensive collective performed significantly stingier once head coach Jay Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett.
Apart from those who believe Auston Matthews has a pressing 70-goal season in him, the Oilers’ top-two forwards are no-brain, first and second draft selections, in all fantasy scoring leagues. Sniper Evander Kane has the wherewithal to score 40 goals on Connor McDavid’s wing, while tossing in a few with the extra skater, in a complete 82-game season. Since Kane has yet to manage any such healthy campaign, pencil him in for 30 instead.
Fourth-year skater Kailer Yamamoto needs to finally break out, in his projected prime spot on McDavid’s other wing, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins remains a steady-Freddie fantasy asset in deeper leagues. Wilier fantasy managers may want to give Jesse Puljujarvi a whirl in the season’s early stages, before he runs out of initial steam (mark it). Defenseman Darnell Nurse obliges as a superb No. 2D in fantasy leagues that reward doing everything well.
There are countless combinations you can pencil in for the Panthers deployment — a product of having two superstar players that are good enough to carry a line single-handedly (Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk) and a sophomore on a path to be able to do the same one day (Anton Lundell). It means the Panthers don’t have to play Barkov and Tkachuk together, just as they didn’t regularly play Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau together in recent seasons.
But that means more princes to be made kings by the duo, as Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Colin White and Sam Reinhart all have a chance at big campaigns — as well as Anthony Duclair once he’s back from injury.
The defense is negatively impacted by the loss of MacKenzie Weegar, but should still be good enough overall to keep Sergei Bobrovsky in the mix for plenty of wins. Just don’t expect anyone but Aaron Ekblad to be welcome on your fantasy roster.
Fantasy fanatics are ready to fall for Fiala in L.A. After busting out for a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists this past campaign in Minnesota, the former Wild and Predator is taking his speedy services to the west coast. Alongside star center Anze Kopitar, the (still only) 26-year-old is capable of nearing, if not quite equally, last year’s outlying haul. Grand totals of approximately 70 points from both Fiala and Kopitar, including special teams production, falls within scope of realistic expectation. Third top-line musketeer Adrian Kempe – who led his squad with 35 goals in 2021-22 – is useful as a 60-point producer in deeper fantasy leagues. Further down the lineup it’s all about the Kings kids (princes?), including Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield, who likely remain a season away from demanding selection attention in most fantasy redraft leagues.
On Los Angeles’ blue line, veteran Drew Doughty endures as fantasy royalty. The experienced offensive defenseman kicked in 31 points, including 13 with the extra skater, in last year’s injury-shortened 39-game season. He’s healthy now. Eventual heir to the Kings’ defensive throne, Sean Durzi – also healthy again – is ready to take his next leap as a producer and prolific shot-blocker. The 23-year-old certainly deserves later-round attention in deeper leagues that reward both categories. However, projected to split time in L.A.’s crease, Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick should appeal to few fantasy managers above the No. 3 netminding slot. At least if/until one of the two runs with the starter’s gig. That isn’t to suggest either doesn’t make for a strong streaming option when appropriate.
Superstar Kirill Kaprizov earned his fresh $9-million annual keep in scoring 47 goals on 289 shots, while pitching in another 61 assists. Entering season two of his rich five-year deal should produce similar results. Kaprizov’s a stud, fantasy- and other-wise, and should be drafted in most first rounds in leagues including 12 or more managers.
Linemates Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman (a lottery winner as far as securing centering assignments go) should remain in place because why mess? Zuccarello has 85-point potential should he ever manage to stay healthy all year. But the two most intriguing assets up front are barely permitted to buy alcohol in the states. While Matthew Boldy is looking to build on last year’s total of 39 points in only 47 games, Marco Rossi is hoping to be this year’s Boldy when finally making his proper and full NHL debut. Both dynasty gems could even reward managers as a valuable sleepers in redraft leagues. Especially the Sophomore.
The offense will be in the hands of youngsters Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield for the first of many seasons to come. Oops. That’s a copy-paste of last season’s fantasy preview. That should read “second” of many seasons to come. Neither set the world aflame in 2021-22, with Suzuki earning modest fantasy value but Caufield struggling to find his footing early. If they can help create a dangerous line of offense for the Habs, the third member of the unit is probably interesting too; It’s just a matter of whether that’s Mike Hoffman, Brendan Gallagher or Evgenii Dadonov, who all have scoring-line experience.
The defense is so devoid of obvious offensive talent that youngsters like Justin Barron or Jordan Harris could find themselves quarterbacking a power play. But I don’t mind betting on David Savard either, as he’s a minute-munching veteran that has plugged PP holes in the past.
Don’t even think about the goalies. Just don’t.
Goalie Juuse Saros and defender Roman Josi are elite top-three fantasy assets by their respective positions and should be selected accordingly. As in, the first or second round of most drafts. Done. Moving on.
Matt Duchene isn’t going to score 43 goals again this season. Not because last year’s shooting percentage of 18.9 will be too difficult to copycat (although it will be), or that there isn’t much to appreciate about a veteran finally finding his loose scoring groove in shrugging off the suffocating pall of unachievable expectation (since for sure there is), but because he’s never even neared that mark before. Not with his current team in Nashville, or ex-clubs in Columbus, Ottawa, and Denver. So pencil in Duchene for 35 goals or so – which would still rank second most in his career – and grab him in mid rounds of most drafts. But not before his linemate, Filip Forsberg, who will score 40-plus in a full healthy season. Then leave that top trio’s talented center until later rounds in most drafts, unless chasing assists. Of which Mikael Granlund will provide plenty.
Further down the Predators’ lineup, Nino Niederreiter presents as an under-radar gem in deeper leagues. Historically one for positive first impressions, Niederreiter will feel extra inspired to make his productive mark as member of Nashville’s new-look top-six. Sophomore Tanner Jeannot carries extra fantasy swagger in leagues that reward penalty minutes and hits, as well as points. Thirty goals from the rough-and-ready power forward could well be in the cards his second full year through.
All the pieces are beginning to fall into place and there might be enough here now to see some of the long-building stars truly shine. Jack Hughes is primed to put himself into the conversation as one of the league’s elite, with Nico Hischier only a small step behind. Jesper Bratt‘s breakout will be allowed to continue with big minutes and key power-play time, while Ondrej Palat is the veteran presence that can bring the whole offensive stew to a simmer.
If this offense clicks, Dougie Hamilton has a road map to return to the heights he saw with the Hurricanes that had him in the conversation to be a top-five fantasy defenseman. This team might even be good enough to give Vitek Vanecek and Mackenzie Blackwood a shot at fantasy value whenever they start.
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Will they pop or won’t they? There isn’t much to say about the foundational pieces the Rangers are lucky enough to have at each position in their lineup. You know who they are and what they offer (though maybe don’t bank on repeat value from Chris Kreider after he almost doubled his previous career high for goals). The big fantasy question surrounds some youngsters with very high upside that just haven’t clicked in the NHL yet. It’s doubtful there is enough ice time for all three of Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov to take a leap forward, but there is room on the top line with Kreider and Mika Zibanejad for one of them. And there’s room on the second line with Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin for another.
Adam Fox is one of only maybe five defensemen that you’d want to bet on leading his position in fantasy points, while goaltender Igor Shesterkin might lead the entire league in fantasy points regardless of position.
If you end up with only goalies and defensemen from the Islanders on your fantasy team, you drafted well. Built for stopping the puck instead of advancing it, the Islanders boast three defensemen worth rostering, two on the bubble and a goaltender that has an outside shot at top value at the position.
Of course, that top value only happens if the offense finds way to win games for Ilya Sorokin, so it’s definitely an outside shot. With Ryan Pulock established and Noah Dobson emerging last season, it’s Alexander Romanov‘s turn to translate his physical presence into fantasy points on this stalwart blue line. Meanwhile, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield do enough defensively to have low-end value in deeper leagues.
Forget what you know about the Senators from a fantasy perspective. A year ago, the conversation basically started and finished with Brady Tkachuk. Now, Josh Norris and Drake Batherson teamed up with Tkachuk to form a dominant breakout trio. The Sens brought in sniper Alex DeBrincat from the tanking Blackhawks and lured veteran captain Claude Giroux from free agency to add to another rising star in Tim Stutzle for one helluva top six. However they line up, all six have relevance for fantasy.
There’s little doubt the Sens have the pieces to average 3.3 or more goals per game, but the question Cam Talbot wants to answer is whether they can prevent that many. If the defense doesn’t hold up, Talbot won’t have a lot of fantasy appeal, regardless of how many goals the team scores.
Reports hinting at Sean Couturier‘s injury outlook being worse than suggested really changes the dynamic of the Flyers. Instead of having their catalyst center at the top of their depth chart to potentially elevate those around him and give the Flyers offense a solid chance of competing, everyone in the lineup is going to have to be at their very best, forced to play up a station.
As for Carter Hart, you are either a believer or not. The team, even without Couturier available, has the defensive prowess to allow Hart to shine. But he hasn’t done it yet and you’re taking a risk by betting he will.
If looking at the Penguins for fantasy feels tired to you, that’s because it is. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Penguins enter what is essentially their 15th season with the same C1, C2 and D1 core. In 2008-09, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang shared the power-play minutes with the likes of Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan. Now, in 2022-23, they’ll be out there with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust — which also feels like old hat.
But it works. Guentzel might be the most valuable of the bunch, with Crosby still maintaining fantasy presence. Rust has been fantastic when healthy and Malkin is also an injury risk.
Tristan Jarry has the tools here to be a top-10 goaltender, but will need his team to stay healthy to get there.
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With Brent Burns gone for Carolina, it’s up to Erik Karlsson, solo, to provide the productive push from the Sharks’ blue line. This team – with a fresh coach and GM at the helm – needs a resurgence from the former Norris winner in the worst way. If he can stay healthy – and ifs don’t rule much larger than this one – Karlsson is utterly capable of enjoying a 70-point season, with a substantial fraction counting on the power play. New bench boss David Quinn (publicly) believes the 32-year-old, owed another $51-million over five years, still has something left in the tank. Fantasy managers who agree are encouraged to give Karlsson a whirl, particularly in a draft’s mid-to later rounds. Fellow defender Mario Ferraro sports fantasy punch in competition that treasures blocked-shots.
Forwards Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture round out an otherwise limited corps of Sharks with fantasy panache – led by Meier, who finished third only behind Auston Matthews and Alexander Ovechkin in shots with 326 this past campaign. The now point/game player also isn’t reluctant to throw a hit, and blocks more shots than the clear majority of NHL forwards. Many managers are turned off the Sharks, meaning Meier could slide a bit in some fantasy drafts. Make sure to grab the Top-20 forward – who’s in a contract year! – before he falls to someone else.
This time last year, there was concern about where the goals would come from in Seattle. In year two, that worry continues to burble unabated. But there’s scoring hope on the approaching horizon, in the form of rookie center Matty Beniers. In last spring’s brief taste of NHL competition, Beniers collected nine points in 10 games for one of the league’s least productive teams. Impressive stuff. A full season alongside ex-Blue Jacket Oliver Bjorkstrand – the Kraken’s only other viable fantasy asset in most leagues – should result in a respectful compilation of 65 for Beniers, heavy on the assists.
Beyond that top-line coupling, new power-play anchor Justin Schultz might be worth a fantasy gamble in deeper leagues, while this year’s No. 2 draft selection Shane Wright merits keeping an eye on. Winger Jared McCann too, perhaps, if he can near another 30 goals. Otherwise, it makes greater sense to target fantasy assets elsewhere around the league.
As far as purported top-12 fantasy netminders are concerned, Jordan Binnington is nearly 10/10 on the volatility scale. Remember, the Blues No. 1 wasn’t great for most of 2021-22, floating a 3.13 GAA and .901 SV%. Sure, he was then fabulous through the playoffs, but that run lasted only six games. After Binnington’s half-year run to and through the postseason in clinching the Cup in 2019, he’s been only largely okay at best, for a balanced St. Louis team that holds it’s own otherwise. There are more reliable options to select as a No. 1 – or even No. 2 – fantasy netminder elsewhere.
In more positive fantasy talk, Vladimir Tarasenko appears happy enough to contribute for the Blues once more. Alongside new best (linemate) buddy Pavel Buchnevich, the St. Louis lifer erupted for a career-high 34 goals and 48 assists in 75 games. And guess what? Entering the final year of his current contract, the 30-year-old is now incentivized in playing for the next one. Meaning fantasy managers should again reap rich fantasy rewards from Tarasenko, along with, to a slightly lesser degree, Buchnevich and young Robert Thomas – who also eclipsed a point/contest pace this past season.
Blossoming point-per-gamer Jordan Kyrou, who finished second only to Tarasenko in power-play production, is another forward to target before most fantasy drafts are through. On defense, Torey Krug brings it on the power play, Colton Parayko pitches in with the tougher heavy lifting (blocked shots), while Justin Faulk is appreciated as the full fantasy package. There’s a lot for managers to mine from Craig Berube’s crew; only the Maple Leafs and Panthers scored more in 2021-22.
Still boasting a championship core, but further trimming from the fringes leaves the Lightning in worse position than the previous season — again — but still the envy of all but a handful of teams. Nikita Kucherov is due for a healthy campaign to remind everyone he should also be in the same conversations as the McDavids, Matthews and MacKinnons of the world. Steven Stamkos will help drive the bus, with Brayden Point and other wingers, such as Alex Killorn or maybe Brandon Hagel, elevated by their peers.
Victor Hedman can still push to be the top defenseman in the league, but Mikhail Sergachev is also primed to take a step forward. And, of course, Andrei Vasilevskiy is the ever-present linchpin that makes the whole machine function.
They are truly one of only a few teams that could legitimately feature the top player at each position when the season is done and tallied.
The story with Toronto is similar to past seasons: It’s all about what you don’t see. There wasn’t an obvious winger for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner last season, and the end result was a Michael Bunting campaign that helped propel some fantasy champions. This season, John Tavares and William Nylander will be seeking a winger to complete their line. Candidates include Adam Gaudette, Calle Jarnkrok, Denis Malgin and Nicholas Robertson. In the end, expect one to emerge for your lineup.
Morgan Rielly is probably the only defenseman worth rostering in shallower leagues, but there’s a chance Timothy Liljegren can emerge (post-injury) or Mark Giordano can summon one last season of glory.
Like the gamble the Leafs have taken with Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov in the crease, fantasy managers can play the same high-risk, high-reward game by adding one to their roster. The trick is that if both have good seasons, they’ll probably mute each other’s value for fantasy.
The Canucks are better under Bruce Boudreau. All of them. So a full season with Double-B at the coaching helm should translate into more wins and other improved numbers for Thatcher Demko, specifically. Before Boudreau took over on Dec. 5, the Canucks’ No. 1 was 8-11-1 with a .908 and 2.97 GAA. In the post-Travis Green era, Demko upgraded to 25-11-6, while boasting a .918 SV% and 2.61 GAA. Whoomp, indeed. If Vancouver’s go-to isn’t a Top-10 fantasy netminder to launch 2022-23, he’s pretty close.
Forward J.T. Miller should be drafted early in any and all leagues that reward power-play scoring. Only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl amassed more points with the extra skater this past season. Erupting for 38 (of 99 points total), Miller ranks sixth in special teams’ production since 2019-20. Contemporarily, there are only a handful consistently better in that specialization.
Center Elias Pettersen and winger Brock Boeser (out until late October) merit targeting in mid (Pettersen) to later (Boeser) rounds in most fantasy drafts. Bo Horvat provides extra fantasy pop in leagues that reward faceoff success. KHL export Andrei Kuzmenko – projected to compete in Vancouver’s top-six – sports wildcard appeal after potting 20 goals and 33 assists in 45 games with St. Petersburg last year. (Remember Artemi Panarin, circa 2015? This successful defection smells similarly.) On the blue line, Quinn Hughes, like Miller, serves as one of the NHL’s elite power-play performers, in respect to his position.
Embracing some very ordinary (and almost welcome, for a change) leg soreness brought on by skating hard after a long pause, Mark Stone appears in good health and spirits once more. “Night and day” is how the winger describes feeling after undergoing surgery to relieve debilitating back pain. Any Vegas fan could tell you the perennial Selke consideration appeared a hobbled sliver of his former self in battling through excessive nerve discomfort for about a year. Once warmed back up, which could take a little bit, Stone should fall back to his reliable point/game stride, while otherwise contributing to overall team success. Perhaps even a greater pace, if the 30-year-old jives on a new top power play including Jack Eichel and Phil Kessel.
As for that particular fresh fantasy forward pairing, prescient managers everywhere could be in for a real treat. Shouldering chips, and with several doubters to quiet, Eichel and Kessel could combine for some jaw-dropping digits. While the former Sabres captain isn’t likely to survive many draft rounds unclaimed, his new ironman winger well might, in turn serving as one of this season’s more valuable sleepers. On the Knights’ rich blue line, Shea Theodore puts up the points, Alec Martinez and Brayden McNabb block the shots, and top-tier D asset Alex Pietrangelo does it all.
On the subject of top-tier, there isn’t another such quality team in the NHL – the Maple Leafs deserving a second-place nod in this vein – with such an imposing question mark looming between the pipes. With Robin Lehner out for the season and Laurent Brossoit (hip surgery) sidelined to begin the year, Logan Thompson and Adin Hill are left to battle for starts with what presents as an otherwise strong Knights’ team. Of that pair, Thompson initially sports greater promise, despite his glaring inexperience. Through only 19 appearances in 2021-22, the rookie (still) posted a 10-5-3 record, with a 2.68 GAA and .914 SV%. Not bad at all, for a young goalie’s first run through with a club that endured more than it’s share of difficulties. If all goes to script, Thompson could serve as a surprisingly valuable No. 3 goalie in many ESPN fantasy leagues.
Alex Ovechkin is up against it now. He’s entering his age-37 season, which means for almost any other player on the planet, you’d get ready to be disappointed. But Ovie is Ovie. Coming off another 50-goal campaign, the expectation is that he can become the 13th player in the past seven years age 37 or older to finish among the top 144 forwards for fantasy points. In fact, he’ll probably finish near the top again.
With no Nicklas Backstrom and no Tom Wilson for quite some time, there are gaps open for Anthony Mantha and Dylan Strome to establish themselves as key parts of the offense with Ovie and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
John Carlson is as deep as you want to go on the blue line and Darcy Kuemper is in a spot here that’s only a small step down from the prime position he was in with the Avalanche last season. He won’t make a run at the top spot for goaltenders in fantasy, but top 10 is reasonable.
Top-15 fantasy forward Kyle Connor is a scoring machine and should be honoured as such in all goal-friendly leagues. Irrespective of linemates, the former Wolverine could tally 50 this year, plus another 40 or so assists. As for who might line up next to Connor, rookie Cole Perfetti intrigues as a sleepy fantasy rookie with surging upside. The dynasty league gem will fall into a point/game pace at some point, it’s only a matter of when. He’s certainly worth grabbing as a wildcard in most draft’s later rounds. Even if the 10th overall draft pick (2020) settles next to Pierre-Luc Dubois and Blake Wheeler instead.
Shifting to the former captain, it’s a whatcha-got-left year for Wheeler. Stripped of Winnipeg’s ‘C’, the veteran should feel justifiably annoyed and (hopefully) equally motivated to stick it to his new bench boss. A rebound campaign of sorts could be in the cards for Wheeler, who plateaued in the production department during the pandemic.
Defenseman Josh Morrisey isn’t secure enough in his top power-play position to warrant grabbing too early. That gig could fall – as it has fallen – to Neal Pionk on any given evening, especially with newbie Rick Bowness at the coaching wheel. In most fantasy leagues of a reasonable size, hold off on either until filling a depth roster slot. If anything, Pionk strikes more attractive as a semi-captivating preseason sleeper. Outside the belief the Jets will completely disintegrate this season, No. 1 Conner Hellebuyck ranks as a Top-10 fantasy goalie. With David Rittich next available in the wings, goodness knows Hellebuyck will play a ton.