Last week we reviewed the Top 10 Fantasy Skaters for the coming season, and now we can start diving deeper into the fantasy hockey player pool, with a couple of the next tier of players being former top ten skaters themselves. But, along with the former top ten players, there’s a few on a meteoric rise to the top ten, and this may be the last year you will be able to get said skaters on the semi-cheap. So, here goes and tune in the coming three weeks as we will eventually review the Top NHL fantasy buys.
11) Evgeni Malkin (C, Pittsburgh Penguins): This is as low as I could possibly rank Malkin, and if he played all 82 games, I’d have him number one overall. Geno is simply too good of a skater to handle when his game is firing on all cylinders, and the Center has shown that resiliency game in, game out over his career. Geno hasn’t played all 82 games since 2008-09 but is still one of the top picks off the draft boards just based on what he can do with a full complement of games. Projection: 33g, 44a, 77pts.
12) Nikita Kucherov (RW, Tampa Bay Lightning): The way Kucherov performed during the playoffs--and all of last season--gave me serious reason to believe that Steven Stamkos was suddenly expendable. Kucherov was dominant last season and should continue to be so for the next 7-10 years. As long as the Lightning brass can keep their core unit of forwards together, there will be parades scheduled for Tampa Bay in June after Stanley Cup victories. Projection: 35g, 41a, 76pts.
13) Joe Pavelski (C, San Jose Sharks): The Little General, and former Wisconsin Badger, was so close to bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup to San Jose, and the window with the Sharks core is closing. Pavelski will still be a huge fantasy stud again this season along with Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Jumbo Joe Thornton. The Sharks Captain led San Jose in goals last season with 38 and led the NHL in Game Winning Goals with 11. One of the league's true pure goal scorers, Pavelski is a must-own everywhere. Projection: 37g, 39a, 76pts.
14) Evgeny Kuznetsov (C, Washington Capitals): Kuznetsov got lucky with the Nicklas Backstrom injury and got to center the Caps top line with Alex Ovechkin, never giving up the spot once Backstrom returned. A 40-point jump from his first full year to his second, Kuznetsov has a unique opportunity to play center with Ovechkin at even strength and the power play will rack up the points in the process. I will pay top auction dollar for the multi-point games Evgeny will post. Projection: 22g, 44a, 76pts.
15) Artemi Panarin (LW, Chicago Blackhawks): Reigning Calder Trophy winner for the NHL’s best rookie, Panarin landed the plum assignment last season of keeping up with Patrick Kane, and he passed the test with flying colors. Auction prices for Panarin will be interesting to watch this year, as many will have sophomore slump concerns. I, on the other hand, do not. Panarin will only get better with Kane as his running mate. Projection: 37g, 38a, 75pts.
16) Conner McDavid (C, Edmonton Oilers): This will be the last time McDavid is ranked this low, thus he is a must-own. I’m going to pay top auction dollar for him, so the guys in my leagues now know to be prepared to bid high or go home on McDavid. Conner scored 48 points in 45 games last season, which was shortened due to a fractured clavicle. McDavid will play in every key situation the Oilers have and will reward those who chose to pay for him. Projection: 29g, 46a, 75pts.
17) Joe Thornton (C, San Jose Sharks): Jumbo Joe was a man on a mission last season. The goal was a Stanley Cup for the San Jose Sharks, and the team just came up short. Thornton will continue to score points as long as his All-Star caliber teammates keep on playing so well. With Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau all the beneficiaries of Joe’s passing hand. Projection: 17g, 57a, 74pts.
18) Erik Karlsson (D, Ottawa Senators): The first defenseman in my rankings, and rightly so. With the green light from management to fire at will, Karlsson hasn’t missed a game over the past three seasons and scored 21 more points this past season compared to his 2014-15 totals. The Swedish sensation had 16 goals and 66 assists last year, which was tops in the NHL. Look for more of the same as the Senators are a growing young team and Karlsson is just skating into his prime at age 25. Projection: 20g, 54a, 74pts.
19) Anze Kopitar (C, Los Angeles Kings): Kopitar is one of the key factors in the Kings past success and any upcoming progress as well. He and Norris Trophy winning defenseman Drew Doughty are the straws stirring the drink in Los Angeles, and after a huge let down this past season, I feel the Kings will be one of the teams to beat again in the loaded Pacific, going deep into the Western Conference playoffs. Projection: 26g, 48a, 74pts.
20) Blake Wheeler (RW, Winnipeg Jets): With former Captain Andrew Ladd officially gone from the Jets, Wheeler took over as one of the young leaders on this soon to be amazing Winnipeg squad. Only 29, and in his prime, Wheeler will skate alongside Center Mark Scheifele, and will be the anchor of the Winnipeg top power play unit. Wheeler doesn’t miss many games and can be counted on night in and night out on your fantasy roster. Projection: 27g, 45a, 72pts.