For the last five NHL seasons, starting with the lockout-shortened campaign, I had been releasing my own draft guide at the now-defunct ProjectRoto.com. Included in those draft guides were my rankings for standard roto leagues. A few years ago, I began to post my rankings at FantasyPros.com, a site that publishes and aggregates the rankings of fantasy analysts across the four major sports. Because people paid, in part, for my rankings in my draft guide, I never released my rankings on FantasyPros until the day before the season began.
Of note in the above paragraph was the term ‘now-defunct.’ As in, ProjectRoto was sold back in the spring, which means I am now free to release my rankings. I did so a couple days ago over at FantasyPros. For those wanting to look at my full rankings (just under 300 players), head over there.
I thought it would be worthwhile to go through some players I’m higher on than the Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR). Note that to date, there are only five other rankings published, so it’s not nearly as comprehensive an ECR as NFL or MLB would be, but it does help give a baseline.
These rankings will change, likely considerably for some players. For example, Zach Parise is battling a back injury right now, and has a lengthy injury history to his resumé. I have him around the 40th left wing. If, in two week’s time, he appears to be fully healthy, he could move up several rungs. These are just an initial run through.
Finally, this isn’t necessarily where I’d draft these players, but rather where I think they’ll end up. If I have a guy ranked as a top-90 player, but the public has him as a top-120 player, it doesn’t mean you have to draft him in the eighth round. It means there’s value to be had at his consensus.
Expert Consensus Ranking: 77, Defenceman 17
My Ranking: 48, Defenceman 8
I get that after a poor year, players are going to be ranked lower than they had been. Ekman-Larsson, however, had been pretty much a top-10 defenceman off the board for a couple years, having posted three straight 40-plus point seasons from 2013-2016, with double-digit goals in all of them. Going back further, he was one of five defencemen (really it was four not including Brent Burns) to post 75 goals, 130 assists, and 900 shots on goal from 2010-2016. This is the entire list:
Does one bad year, a year where he was carrying around the weight of his mother’s health problems off the ice and playing with a broken thumb on the ice, erase five years of elite-tier roto production from a blue liner? Especially one that just turned 26 years old? It doesn’t for me. That’s why I have him as a top-10 roto defenceman, considerably higher than most, and a steal in drafts this year.
Expert Consensus Ranking: 109, Defenceman 22
My Ranking: 80, Defenceman 17
With Andrej Sekera injured, and Klefbom entering his age-24 season (his fourth full campaign), it’s now his blue line. That is both at five-on-five and on the power play. Not only did Klefbom take a step forward in the points department last year, but more importantly he took a step forward in the shots department, finishing top-5 in the league last year in shots per minute at five-on-five.
This is a year where the stars are aligning for the Swedish defenceman. He should be the go-to offensive option among the rearguards for a team that looks to be a Cup contender, and should boast a top-end power play. In standard roto leagues last year, he was a top-30 defenceman, and should fare much better this year given his circumstances. This is the guy you want as your second blue liner in 12-team leagues if Ekman-Larsson gets nabbed.
Expert Consensus Ranking: 104, Right Wing 25
My Ranking: 81, Right Wing 17
Following up his first career 30-goal season with a disappointing 2016-17 campaign plagued by injury and poor play nearly team-wide was always going to result in Toffoli being ranked low, much the same as Ekman-Larsson. That is, of course, the perfect time to draft him as his price will be depressed.
Of note is how Toffoli’s personal shot rate was basically unaffected last year. Yes, the team did poorly scoring chance-wise relative to their shots generated, but he did not; his scoring chances per 60 minutes last year (9.83) were lower than 2015-16 (10.97) but higher than the previous two years (8.98 and 7.71). The same pattern held up in high-danger shots. His shooting percentage was always going to regress, but it really bottomed out last year at five-on-five and should rebound this year.
Expert Consensus Ranking: 78, Right Wing 16
My Ranking: 51, Right Wing 10
I suppose we can wait to see what the lines are for exhibition games, but I don’t imagine Radulov spends the majority of the season off the top line. Lining him up with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn has me drooling on my keyboard as we speak, but it doesn’t seem everyone shares my enthusiasm.
Last year in standard roto leagues, playing for Montreal, Radulov was a top-100 player. I repeat: he was a top-100 player in standard Yahoo leagues with Phillip Danault as his centre for over half of his ice time. Both Dallas and Montreal struggled at times on the power play, but Radulov will be locked onto the top unit for Dallas, which may be one of the most prime spots to be in the league this year.
Once lines start coming out for exhibition games, I can’t imagine Radulov’s ADP doesn’t rise. However, if you can get him anywhere around the top-75 players, that is an automatic selection to make. In his situation, a 70-point season is eminently doable.
John Carlson (ECR 128, +30)
Expert Consensus Ranking: 135, Defenceman 26
My Ranking: 98, Defenceman 23
Over the last four seasons, Carlson’s 82-game paces are 11 goals and 36 assists. He is coming off a down year where he was sometimes injured, and eventually supplanted by Kevin Shattenkirk when he was acquired at the trade deadline. Though Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov are still in the fold, with Shattenkirk gone, Carlson is the unquestioned top defenceman for the power play until he proves otherwise.
The peripherals may leave a little bit to be desired but the point production, so long as he stays on that top PP unit, will be solid. His ECR has his selected as a high-end third defenceman, which is good value for a guy who should post double-digit goals, 40-plus points, and push for 20 power-play points. It’s very possible to grab an elite option early like Brent Burns, and then wait seven or eight rounds before grabbing guys like Ekman-Larsson, Klefbom, and Carlson. That is the route I would take for those drafting a top defence option in round one or two.
It was revealed a couple of days ago that Clarke MacArthur failed his physical at training camp, something obviously related to the concussion issues that have been plaguing him for a couple years now.
First and foremost, it is important for MacArthur to be healthy for life after hockey. We’ve seen story after story of not only hockey players, but professional athletes from many sports suffering post-concussion problems when they exit their respective sport. All we can hope is that he and his doctors take whatever steps they deem appropriate.
On the fantasy side, it does two things for Ottawa: open a right-wing spot in the top-nine, and makes the team weaker. MacArthur was very solid at both ends of the ice for the team in the playoffs, as he’s been for much of his career. We’ll have to wait and see how lines shake out in practice and preseason contests, but I’m keeping an eye on where Ryan Dzingel and Zack Smith are slotting.
The David Pastrnak contract saga is over, as the young star signed a six-year, $40 million contract on Thursday. He was in the Czech Republic at the time, so he obviously could not report to camp right away, but it’s all systems go for the Boston winger.
Darren Dreger of TSN intimated that Filip Forsberg’s contract was used as a comparable, which always kind of made sense to me, even though using Leon Draisaitl’s would work as well. This is a phenomenal deal for the Bruins, however, as they get a player through his prime at a contract that is team-friendly.
I understand the thinking behind Pastrnak wanting to get the deal done. In the near-term, he wants to be in training camp and get ready for the season. Looking years down the road, he’ll be going into his age-27 season when the contract runs out. Should he continue to produce at least to the level of last year – or even improve – then he’ll be in for a huge payday in unrestricted free agency.
It’s obviously his prerogative what he chooses to settle for, but this now sets the market in stone for elite wingers. Pastrnak, Filip Forsberg, and Johnny Gaudreau all signed contracts carrying an AAV under $7 million. Cap league owners for players like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Sebastian Aho now know what they’re in for a couple of years down the road. In that sense, there’s no need to worry about having to overpay for a player in salary cap fantasy leagues; the market is set at what it is now.
A few training camp notes:
It’s obviously very early to keep track of lines, especially ones that feature players that won’t be on the NHL roster at the end of October. But there are a few interesting ones to keep an eye on, such as…
Vladislav Namestnikov starting on the top line is something that was always a possibility. Keep in mind, though, that this would keep both Chris Kunitz and Alex Killorn in the bottom-6.
Maybe this is the year both Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist get the ice time they deserve? Maybe?
One battle that is very important to keep an eye on is the top-line right wing slot for the Habs. With Radulov gone, it seemed like it would go to Brendan Gallagher, or possibly Ales Hemsky.
Stay tuned as training camp progresses.
Ryan Strome appears to be Connor McDavid’s right winger:
That is, until he isn’t anymore. I still maintain this will be a frustrating, rotational thing as the year wears on.