The ESPN top-300 rankings for fantasy hockey were released in early August and, like them or lump them, those rankings will be front and center for fantasy hockey manager in the ESPN draft room. You are strongly encouraged to create or adjust your own rankings based on your own decision making and evaluations.
Pre-ranking your players, a tool provided on your team page, is the best way to be able to assess picks on the fly while you are drafting. Being able to see your own valuation of a player, in addition to the default ranking and ADP, allows you to make those important snap judgements during a draft about whether you need to take a player now or can afford to wait on them.
With that in mind, here’s a few players I will be moving down my pre-ranking list and would not draft them at their current ranking.
Filip Forsberg, RW, Nashville Predators (No. 13): Is it possible Forsberg has another gear he could shift into this season? Yes, it’s in the realm of possibilities. He’s just turned 24 and should be hitting his prime years on offense. However, Forsberg has also been the same guy offensively for four years running. His totals during that time haven’t varied from 26 to 33 goals, 27 to 38 assists and 58 to 64 points. Could he suddenly be in line for 35 goals, 45 assists and 80 points? Because that’s what he’ll need to return value as the No. 13 overall player. Forsberg is consistent and has some upside beyond his No. 50 overall status, but I don’t think the upside is this high, and I certainly don’t think it’s a price you should consider paying on draft day. I wouldn’t balk at taking him mid-to-late fourth round, but that’s about as high as I’d go.
Jakub Voracek, LW, Philadelphia Flyers (No. 25): In the past six seasons with the Flyers, Voracek has been a point-per-game player in three seasons, while scoring closer to 0.75 points per game in the other three. It matters a lot because having him among the top 25 fantasy assets means you expect 80 points and power-play dominance again this season. Voracek should remain a power-play mainstay for the Flyers, but he’s no sure thing at five-on-five play. Last season, the Flyers moved Voracek off the top line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to have him on a unit with Nolan Patrick to close the season. That’s not a bad place to be, and Voracek will certainly still score a bunch of points. However, if he’s not on that super line with Giroux, he’s not going to be a point-per-game player. With Travis Konecny emerging and James van Riemsdyk now in the top-six mix, there’s no way we should be taking Voracek for his ceiling. I’m comfortable with a top-50 ranking and would even prefer to wait until the fifth round of a 12-team draft.
Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders (No. 29): He surprised the league last season, but even after he did, opposing teams couldn’t take their eyes off John Tavares to focus on Barzal’s line. Well, all of that shutdown focus from opponents this season will be squarely on Barzal. Furthermore, the power play won’t have Tavares’ creativity to fuel it. I actually don’t mind the idea of Barzal coming close to repeating his rookie campaign. The problem is that he was a top-75 fantasy player as a rookie, not a top-30 one. To meet his draft ranking here, Barzal is going to have to repeat his scoring numbers, add 100-plus shots and finish with a competitive plus/minus. That’s not happening without his Tavares shield.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche (No. 49): The beneficiary of Nathan MacKinnon‘s re-breakout season, Landeskog will be hard pressed to crack the fantasy top 50, even if MacKinnon repeats his campaign. Landeskog is a great supplementary stat-stuffer, but his ceiling is about 60 points. I liked him a lot for this coming season because he looked like he would be an under-the-radar addition to your team who would boost the periphery categories like time on ice and plus/minus, but a ranking inside the top 50 feels like it’s even higher than his ceiling.
Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers (No. 55): If the Edmonton Oilers power play returns to form in 2018-19, then this ranking will be OK. But after the Oilers finished dead last in power-play performance last season and didn’t really address it in the offseason, why would we draft Draisaitl as if everything was peachy? The power-play points for Draisaitl are the difference between finishing outside the top 100 and inside the top 40 for fantasy assets. Since those power-play points didn’t materialize last season, I’d be more comfortable splitting that difference and making Draisaitl a sixth- or seventh-round pick in 12-team leagues.
Evgenii Dadonov, RW, Florida Panthers (No. 82): The addition of Mike Hoffman and late-season emergence of Nick Bjugstad as a winger is going to keep Dadonov on a short leash to start the season for both a top-line role and a first power-play unit presence. Dadonov’s return to the NHL last season was, by all accounts, a success. But the number of mouths to feed on this Florida offense is increasing again this season. Hoffman commands a role on the power play that already includes Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck as virtual locks. The bottom line is that Dadonov’s numbers last season placed him outside the top 125 on the ESPN Player Rater. Do we really think the situation is going to help him improve on those numbers enough to earn a ranking at No. 82? There is a path for him to repeat his success this season, but I don’t think there is a path for the massive improvement built into this draft position.
Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo Sabres (No. 84): This ranking seems to suggest a lack of faith in the ankles of Jack Eichel. Not a completely unfair position given the past couple seasons, but you don’t draft players projecting injuries in front of them. The only real way Mittelstadt returns this draft capital is if he is the Sabres’ No. 1 center. That isn’t happening with Eichel around. To finish in the mid-80s for value, Mittelstadt will need 30 goals, 30 assists, more than a handful of power-play points and rock-solid periphery stats. That’s putting a lot on a rookie who isn’t of the “generational” talent pool. I want shares of Mittelstadt this season on a rising Buffalo offense, but not at this cost.
Getting outside the top 100 in the rankings, it becomes difficult to quibble with a lot of the positions. After all, this isn’t a linear scale of fantasy value. They are graded on a curve and the distance between two values becomes closer and closer the deeper you go in the rankings. That said, here’s a list of players who are currently in the top 300 rankings who absolutely will no be in my personal top 300 after I’m done pre-ranking.
Outside my top 300: Kevin Labanc, Craig Smith, Alex Killorn, Patrick Maroon, Josh Manson, Tyler Myers, Josh Anderson, Austin Watson, Mathieu Perreault, Tyler Bozak, Michael Matheson, Ryan Dzingel, Micheal Ferland, Miles Wood, Vinnie Hinostroza, Blake Coleman, Brent Seabrook, Stefan Noesen, Mattias Janmark, Andrew Cogliano, Charles Hudon.
Finally, you may be wondering about the lack of representation for goaltenders and minimal mentions of defensemen so far. Well, as you may have guessed, there doesn’t seem to be any overvaluation of them in these rankings. What I see instead are several undervalued assets among both the goaltenders and defensemen, while at the same time not having any major issues with where other players are listed. What that combination means is that goaltenders and defensemen as a whole are undervalued on these rankings. When I do my pre-ranks, I’ll be moving up a lot more goaltenders and defensemen than I will forwards.