Ramblings: Draft-Eligible Player Rankings

by Ian Gooding on June 26, 2018

Draft-Eligible Player Rankings

I’ll get to my draft-eligible player rankings in a moment, but first some news items of the day.

John Tavares continues to meet with teams, including some team that we never hear about with blue and white jerseys – the name of that team escapes me? I don’t know if I have much to add on this, except that my personal preference would be for him to return to the Islanders. But even if he chooses another team, has this offseason been a total waste for the Isles? This organization has at least taken steps toward re-establishing credibility, between the GM/coach hirings and the draft.

J.T. Miller has signed a five-year contract worth $5.25 million per season. That might seem expensive, but Miller seemed to be good fit with the Bolts, scoring 18 points in 19 regular-season games with his new team. Although the playoff production dipped (8 points in 17 games), it appears that his fantasy value improved with the trade. Unless the Bolts make some other personnel moves, it appears they are out of the Tavares race with about $5 million in cap space left and a few more bodies to sign.

Not being qualified for arbitration doesn’t necessarily mean that the same team won’t sign you. A day after being denied arbitration, Derrick Pouliot signed a one-year contract worth $1.1 million to remain with the Canucks. Remember when Pouliot was a must-own prospect in keeper leagues? He was still second among Canucks’ blueliners last season in averaging 1:35 in power-play icetime.

Fresh off a career-best 38 points, Bryan Rust is back with the Penguins, signing a four-year contract worth $3.5 million. Rust has fantasy value when he’s with the right linemates, but only four of his 38 points were with the man advantage, which limits his upside.

Alex Burrows has been placed on waivers for the purposes of a buyout. I know that the Senators were one overtime goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final one season ago, but his acquisition and subsequent signing could really come back to bite the Senators if Jonathan Dahlen turns into any kind of player for the Canucks. With six goals and 14 points last season and at 37 years of age, this could be the end for Burrows, who scraped together a solid NHL career (like him or not) in spite of never being drafted.  


As mentioned in my last Ramblings, here is my draft-eligible player ranking list for keeper leagues. I’d already listed my first three players, but I’ll provide more commentary on my picks. Assume full multicategory leagues with categories such as power-play points, shots on goal, hits, and penalty minutes. However, I’ll mention where a certain player might be higher or lower in a points-only league.

Does draft position matter? Well, let’s say you have two players with relatively even upside. One is chosen within the first 10 picks of the first round, and the other is chosen within the last 10 picks. I’m taking the player picked within the first 10 picks, mainly because the other player is more likely to be there for the next round or as a free agent, depending on your league rules.

I’ll go 12 deep to represent 12-team leagues that draft one player. I may also add to this list throughout the summer and also reserve the right to modify it as well.

  1. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF – As much as he deserves to be the top pick of this group in both real life and fantasy, I wouldn’t draft him until the later rounds in a standard single-season league. Fantasy-wise, I see his numbers projecting similarly to those of Victor Hedman. So you might have to wait 4-5 years for him to blossom, as 18-year-old defensemen don’t take the league by storm. Or to put it another way, I’m betting the under on him reaching 50 points in his first season.
  2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, CAR – It sounds like the sniper will not only be in the Canes’ lineup this coming season, but also in a top-6 role. His stock could rise even further if the Hurricanes trade Jeff Skinner. 40 goals and 72 points in just 44 OHL games in his draft season season. Svechnikov should score more points than Dahlin in their first season, but Dahlin is ranked higher even in single-season leagues because he is a defenseman.
  3. Filip Zadina, LW, DET – He fell in the real-life draft, but rest assured he won’t fall in fantasy drafts. With Detroit’s scoring depth not what it used to be, he could also suit up in the NHL in 2018-19 and could also push for a top-6 role. A total of 44 goals and 82 points in just 57 QMJHL games in his draft season.  
  4. Brady Tkachuk, C/LW, OTT  – In a multicategory league with penalty minutes and hits, Tkachuk should definitely be ranked here. After all, he is a Tkachuk. You could make the argument to push him down in points-only leagues, though. But so far the people I’ve corresponded with on this topic play in multicategory leagues. If older brother Matthew was able to jump right into the NHL after being drafted, then theoretically so could Brady.
  5. Quinn Hughes, D, VAN – Jim Benning couldn’t believe his luck when Hughes was available to him at number 7. I still think the Red Wings had their eye on him, but couldn’t pass up on Zadina after he fell. The top name of any blueliner not named Dahlin, Hughes should be ranked especially high in power-play point leagues. He’s going straight to the first-unit power play when he arrives in Vancouver, which he is targeting this season. Considering the Canucks’ projected place in the standings, he might be better off with one more year at Michigan.


  1. Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, NYI – I realize this could be a reach for him, and he might be a year or two away on a relatively deep (knock on wood, Tavares) Islanders’ scoring attack. But his game was made for fantasy. Lots of goals (22 goals in 26 games for US U-18 team), so he could be similarly ranked to Zadina when all is said and done. More proof: Wahlstrom went fifth and seventh in two recent fantasy drafts for draft-eligible players.
  2. Evan Bouchard, D, EDM  – This also might seem like a reach, but there’s a few reasons I’m ranking Bouchard this high. For starters, he might be the most NHL-ready defenseman of the group save for Dahlin. Also, he led all OHL defensemen with 87 points in just 67 games in his draft year. To validate this position, he went at least this high in two recent fantasy drafts. He’s also a player that will help in other categories as he attempts to generate offense.


  1. Adam Boqvist, D, CHI – Boqvist has a high ceiling, but he may take more time to arrive than the others (possibly 2-3 years). This matters in smaller keeper leagues, where you may have limited bench slots. Opportunity cost (ie. having a player that can contribute to your roster this season) is something to think about when acquiring him. But so is high offensive upside. Check out this side-by-side comparison with Erik Karlsson at the same age (you’ll need to scroll down to find it).
  2. Noah Dobson, D, NYI – Because he fell in the draft to 12th overall, he’ll have to fall here as well. But in the year of the defenseman, Dobson should also be drafted higher in fantasy leagues than he was in real life. 69 points in 67 games and a Memorial Cup championship.
  3. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, MON – Kotkaniemi is the top center in a what is projected to be a weak year for centers. Guess what position is already the deepest in fantasy leagues? In one league Kotkaniemi was picked eighth, whereas in another league he wasn’t even picked in the top 10. But given where the Canadiens drafted him and their lack of depth at center, they will give him every opportunity to succeed.
  4. Barrett Hayton, C, ARI – I think Hayton and Kotkaniemi should be very similarly ranked, given that both were off-the-board picks. I’d perhaps give the edge to Kotkaniemi because he was chosen higher. Hayton could turn out to be a better real-life player than fantasy player, but it’s worth mentioning that he was also a point-per-game player in the OHL this past season.
  5. Joel Farabee, LW, PHI – Picked #10 in one of the aforementioned fantasy drafts. Second on the US U-18 team (behind Wahlstrom) with 40 points in 26 games.

Honorable mentions (or potential next picks): Dominik Bokk, LW/RW, STL; Martin Kaut, RW, COL;  Grigori Denisenko, LW, FLA; Vitali Kravtsov, RW, NYR; Ty Smith, D, NJ; Rasmus Kupari, C, LA; Ryan Merkley, D, SJ; Joe Veleno, C, DET


Congratulations to all of the Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. Yes, even Mr. Bettman.


For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.