It’s that time of the year in the hockey world when we are about to hit free agency. Many teams will look slightly different come October when training camp and the regular season roll around. Between now and then, all the moves in free agency will be hotly debated as to how they affect teams.
Before all that begins, lets take a look at the top-50 forwards heading into next season. Bear in mind that these rankings could change based on players entering or leaving during free agency. A player could leave a team and go to a better situation and jump up, as could the players he is slated to skate with. And vice-versa if a player were to leave and someone on this list slides because of it.
These rankings will change over the course of the next few months, not only because of free agent signings but also the unforeseen trades that could happen. So without further ado, lets take a look at the end of the year, pre-free agency Fantasy Hockey forward rankings:
The Top 10
- Patrick Kane, RW CHICAGO
- Jamie Benn, LW DALLAS
- Sidney Crosby, C PITTSBURGH
- Alex Ovechkin, LW WASHINGTON
- Tyler Seguin, C DALLAS
- Joe Pavelski, C/RW SAN JOSE
- Vladimir Tarasenko, RW ST. LOUIS
- John Tavares, C NEW YORK (ISLANDERS)
- Claude Giroux, C PHILADELPHIA
- Connor McDavid, C EDMONTON
Primary assist leaders, 2015-16 regular season:
Evgeny Kuznetsov, 43
Patrick Kane, 41
Blake Wheeler, 37
Erik Karlsson, 35
Joe Thornton, 34
— Pete Jensen ? (@NHLJensen) June 29, 2016
As you can see this is a very potent list of players. Some will be surprised to see McDavid this high, but after the season he had for Edmonton he will be in the conversation to be a top-10 player early next season. It will be interesting to see the effect on Taylor Hall not being on a separate line for McDavid, meaning opposing defenses will be able to key in on his line as the Oilers big threat. However those in keeper leagues could go be tempted to take him in the top-5, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Tavares had a down year for the Islanders but he is still capable of being a top-10 player and has been drafted in that spot the last few seasons, delivering on that ranking in the past.
Forwards 11- 20
- Johnny Gaudreau, LW CALGARY
- Steven Stamkos, C TAMPA BAY
- Anze Kopitar, C LOS ANGELES
- Evgeni Malkin, C PITTSBURGH
- Blake Wheeler, RW WINNIPEG
- Phil Kessel, RW PITTSBURGH
- Logan Couture, C SAN JOSE
- Nikita Kucherov, RW TAMPA BAY
- Nicklas Backstrom, C WASHINGTON
- Artemi Panarin, LW CHICAGO
The second 10 of the forwards ground is arguable as stacked as the first 10. You can make the argument that Stamkos should be higher, but he gets knocked for missing the playoffs and having the looming questions about his long-term health with regards to the blood clot issue that caused his surgery. Gaudreau is on the cusp of being a top-10 player after an almost point-per-game sophomore season with 79 points in 78 games, following his impressive 64-point rookie campaign.
Couture arguably could have won the Conn Smythe even with the Sharks losing the Stanley Cup, and after his playoffs he easily could be a top-15 fantasy forward to start next season. Wheeler is one of the most underrated players in the league and finished tied for sixth in scoring with 78 points and was fifth in the league with 52 assists on an improving Jets team.
Forwards 21- 30
- Evgeny Kuznetsov, C WASHINGTON
- Patrice Bergeron, C BOSTON
- Joe Thornton, C SAN JOSE
- Corey Perry, RW ANAHEIM
- Wayne Simmonds, RW/LW PHILADELPHIA
- Filip Forsberg, LW NASHVILLE
- Jack Eichel, C BUFFALO
- Ryan Getzlaf, C ANAHEIM
- Ryan Johansen, C NASHVILLE
- Tyler Johnson, C TAMPA BAY
Another list with a ton of talent and a few players that made massive jumps this past fantasy season. One surprising name is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has blossomed into a solid fantasy contributor in his five season in Philly and was fantastic playing with Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux for most of the season. The talented winger tied his career-high of 60 points and broke the 30-goal barrier for the first time. Eichel arrived to much of the fanfare that McDavid did last season and solidly put up 56 points in 81 games. He finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting behind Panarin, McDavid and Shayne Gostisbehere.
Eichel could potentially have much-coveted college free agent Jimmy Vesey joining him in Buffalo this season, but if not he should still take a step forward offensively and is a top-25 player to draft in keeper leagues. Johnson dealt with injuries to him and his linemates, and saw lineup shuffling as well. He should see a bounce-back season this year for the Lightning especially after his 17 points in 17 playoffs games.
Forwards 31- 40
- Alex Steen, C/W ST. LOUIS
- Jason Spezza, C DALLAS
- Max Pacioretty, LW MONTREAL
- James Neal, RW/LW NASHVILLE
- Zach Parise, LW MINNESOTA
- Aleksander Barkov, C FLORIDA
- Nathan MacKinnon, C COLORADO
- Taylor Hall, LW NEW JERSEY
- Mark Scheifele, C WINNIPEG
- Sean Monahan, C CALGARY
Over the last four seasons the following players have more 5 v 5 points than Taylor Hall:
— Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell) June 30, 2016
This is really where the debates begin about who should be where in the ranks. Hall’s fantasy value gets dinged because of his recent trade to New Jersey. He goes from an up-and-coming situation and playing with the likes of McDavid, Eberle and Draisaitl to the Devils, the team that finished dead last in goals scored per game last season (2.22). There are questions going forward with Hall: Is Adam Henrique a number one center for him to play with? Will Mike Cammalleri return from his injuries next season and back to his near point-per-game form? And who will be on the Devils power-play unit with them going forward?
Barkov and Scheifele took huge steps forward last year and will be in better situations next year. Barkov’s offense and PP production will be helped by the addition of Keith Yandle and Scheifele could potentially add Patrik Laine to his line with Blake Wheeler, number 15 on this list. Don’t be surprised if both centers are top-30 fantasy forwards by the end of next season with one creeping into the top-25. Monahan is a solid center and could easily jump up near the top-30 as well thanks to his centering Johnny Gaudreau.
Forwards 41- 50
- Brad Marchand, LW BOSTON
- Matt Duchene, C/LW COLORADO
- Jonathan Toews, C CHICAGO
- Daniel Sedin, LW VANCOUVER
- Patrick Sharp, RW/LW DALLAS
- Jonathan Huberdeau, LW FLORIDA
- Jonathan Drouin, LW TAMPA BAY
- Patric Hornqvist, RW PITTSBURGH
- Brayden Schenn, C/W PHILADELPHIA
- Rick Nash, LW NEW YORK (RANGERS)
A few surprises in the final 10 here. Sharp could be higher if he player permanently with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, both top-5 fantasy forwards. He drops to here if he players with Jason Spezza and is still productive from a fantasy standpoint. Huberdeau could take another step forward next season with a full year of Barkov and Jaromir Jagr. With everything cleared up in Tampa Bay between Jonathan Drouin and the team, and with Steven Stamkos coming back, Drouin finds himself penciled into a top-six role there alongside the Bolts captain.
Hornqvist will break camp where he finished the year, on Sidney Crosby’s right wing. Schenn looks to be a lock to return to a line with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds in Philadelphia to continue their solid play together. Nash had a bad fantasy season, after a 40-goal season the year before. If he’s fully healthy this season he could find his way back to 25+ goals easily playing with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.
A lot will change over the coming weeks and months with regards to the fantasy hockey landscape. Things already have with the three major moves earlier this week. We do not know how free agency or the trade market will shake out before fantasy draft season, but this list will look different by the time September and October roll around and we get a clearer picture of the roster landscape. Until then, enjoy the frenzy.