It’s never too early to start thinking about your NHL fantasy hockey draft, especially if you are joining a keeper league. The players you draft in the early rounds of the first season are going to form the core of your team for years.
Taking some time over the offseason to map out your draft day strategy could make the difference between a dynasty or living in the basement of your league for eternity—besides, you don't want to be that guy.
You know, the one who doesn't show up for the live draft, forgets to pre-rank their players and loses interest by Christmastime.
With that said, there are a few simple rules to keep in mind:
1. Draft young. You need to think long term when drafting in a keeper league. It might be tempting to just take the highest point-leaders in each category from the previous season, but if those players are likely to retire in the next few years, then they are a wasted pick. In the age of the salary cap, post-clutch and grab hockey, the NHL is getting younger and faster, and many impact players are stepping right into the NHL from junior.
2. Reduce your risk, and draft durable players. While a career-ending injury can happen at any time, you should look at the games played over the past few seasons to find the players who are most likely to not miss too much time in the future.
3. Draft all-around fantasy hockey monsters. The best fantasy players do everything; they play in all situations and put up numbers across all the categories in your league. There's not much sense in drafting a player who scores only on the power-play and is a minus-26 on the season.
4. Draft "franchise" players. The best players to build your fantasy team around are the same players whom NHL teams build around. These are the players who make the other players around them better, not the ones who only produce when playing with players better than themselves. Look for players under long-term contracts for big-time money who have already proven they perform at a high level even when they are not in the final year of their contract. Consistency, stability and longevity are key.
5. Think with your head, not your heart. While you may be in love with that new third-line center your favorite team just signed, save him for the later rounds. In all likelihood, he will still be available, and the opportunity cost of taking him in an early round is just too great.
While most "top" lists go from last to first, I don't know any fantasy hockey draft that does, so this list is starting with the best. Here are the top 25 forwards for a fantasy hockey keeper league.