The NHL Draft kicks off in New Jersey this weekend. Every sports website is announcing its final prospect rankings and mock drafts. While Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones have flip-flopped all season, it looks like MacKinnon will be the number one overall selection by Colorado unless it trades the pick.
In last week’s column, I wrote about six suggestions for fantasy managers to keep in mind as the draft approaches. My first tip (not necessarily the most important one), was make a list before the draft. I’m going to share my personal rankings. These assume you’re playing with basic stats (goals and assists) in a points league. Player rankings are influenced by how NHL-ready the player is along with potential. My personal preference is to not hold onto prospects if I’m going to have to wait more than 2 years to see fantasy value. I am somewhat biased towards players who played in North America this year mostly because those are the players I saw on TV and in person while covering the CHL Top Prospects game and the QMJHL.
1. Jonathan Drouin
In February, I wrote about the Drouin vs. MacKinnon debate from a fantasy perspective. Since then, the Mooseheads have won the President Cup in a QMJHL playoff where both players played extremely well. Additionally, the team won the Memorial Cup where MacKinnon stole the show with two hat-tricks. Still, I’m going to stick with Drouin in the top slot. In fantasy, goals and assists are what matter most. Drouin is going to be a fantasy treat.
2. Nathan MacKinnon
If I were picking number two in a rookie draft and landed MacKinnon instead of Drouin, I wouldn’t be too upset. MacKinnon is more NHL-ready and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the big leagues this year. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Drouin return to major junior for one more year.
3. Valeri Nichushkin
Earlier in the year, I profiled Nichushkin and how he moved through the different levels of Russian hockey and skyrocketed up the rankings of International Scouting Services. At the end of the year, he finished number four in their rankings. Since writing the article, Nichushkin was traded to Dynamo Moscow. He had a big postseason scoring six goals in 25 games and was named the KHL’s top rookie. Oh, and he announced he was moving to North America. After preaching caution, I’m going all in on this big Russian. The risk factor has decreased but the potential remains sky high.
- 4. Aleksander Barkov
The perfect blend of size (6-2 and 205 pounds) and skill (21 goals and 27 assists for 48 points in 53 games). This skilled and creative playmaker is one of the best players to come out of Finland in quite a few years. Draft with confidence.
- 5. Sean Monahan
After the top four, there is a bit of drop off in fantasy potential. While Monahan didn’t up his point totals (he had 78 points again, but in four fewer games), he went from a powerhouse Ottawa 67s team to a re-building project. He was one of the last cuts for Canada’s world junior team and scouts have said his skating needs to improve. He’s closer to being NHL ready than you may think, and that means closer to fantasy relevance.
6. Hunter Shinkaruk
Shinkaruk is a fast forward who knows how to find the back of the net with his hands and hockey sense. A few years ago, he was compared to Patrick Kane on Dobber Hockey. While that would be the ceiling of his point potential, the floor for this gifted goal scorer is high as well. If you play in a league that values goals more than other points, Shinkaruk is a player to target.
7. Anthony Mantha
Plain and simple, Anthony Mantha scores goals. He led the QMJHL with 50 tallies for Val-d’Or this season. The 6-3 and 200 pound left-winger has size and good skating. His draft stock may fall due to some concern about his work ethic. Good thing you get fantasy points for scoring, but not work ethic.
8. Elias Lindholm
Ranking Lindholm this low could be turn out to be a big mistake as he has the potential to end up as one of the top fantasy performers of the draft class. He could end up getting drafted higher than many are expecting and that undoubtedly will drive up his fantasy stock. He’s a hard working Swede who plays an excellent two-way game. That may get him to the NHL faster but limit his fantasy value.
9. Max Domi
Domi could see his rookie draft ADP (average draft position) vary the most, especially if he ends up going to a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs. The hockey world knows Domi’s name because of his father, although Max is to scoring what Tie is to fighting. He’s a hard-working player with great vision and offensive skills. Don’t reach too high, but draft with confidence.
10. Seth Jones
Depends on your team needs. Exceptionally skilled d-man will be the first at his position off the board.
Previously from Briggins