Fantasy Hockey 2018: NHL Player Rankings, Draft Strategy, Sleepers You Must Add

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2018

The speed of Connor McDavid is a remarkable fantasy hockey asset.
The speed of Connor McDavid is a remarkable fantasy hockey asset.Joe Skipper/Associated Press

Fantasy hockey gives fans one more way to enjoy the NHL and show off their knowledge about the game as a whole and not just their favorite team.

While it's obviously a huge advantage to select at the top of the draft and have a chance to take Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or Auston Matthews, it's just as important to find the depth players who can provide scoring and make key plays when the superstars don't produce.

Below is our top 40 player rankings, followed by a draft strategy and several sleepers for your consideration.

       

Rank, Name, Team, Position

1. Connor McDavid, EDM, C
2. Nikita Kucherov, TB, RW
3. Sidney Crosby, PIT, C
4. Alex Ovechkin, WSH, LW/RW
5. Nathan MacKinnon, COL, C
6. Auston Matthews, TOR, C
7. Brad Marchand, BOS, LW
8. Taylor Hall, NJ, LW
9. Tyler Seguin, DAL, C
10. Steven Stamkos, TB, C
11. Patrik Laine, WPG, RW
12. Mathew Barzal, NYI, C
13. Jonathan Marchessault, VGS, LW/C
14. Jakub Voracek, PHI, RW
15. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ, G
16. Blake Wheeler, WPG, RW
17. David Pastrnak, BOS, RW/LW
18. Patrick Kane, CHI, RW
19. Vincent Trocheck, FLA, C
20. Claude Giroux, PHI, C/LW
21. Brent Burns, SJ, D
22. Evgeni Malkin, PIT, C
23. Jamie Benn, DAL, LW
24. Andrei Vasilevskiy, TB, G
25. John Tavares, TOR, C
26. Erik Karlsson, SJ, D
27. Victor Hedman, TB, D
28. Braden Holtby, WSH, G
29. Evgeny Kuznetsov, WSH, C
30. Artemi Panarin, CBJ, LW/C
31. P.K. Subban, NSH, D
32. Aleksander Barkov, FLA, C
33. Filip Forsberg, NSH, C/LW
34. Artemi Panarin, CBJ, LW/C
35. P.K. Subban, NSH, D
36. William Karlsson, VGS, C
37. Johnny Gaudreau, CGY, LW
38. Reilly Smith, VGS, RW
39. Patrice Bergeron, BOS, C
40. Vladimir Tarasenko, STL, RW

McDavid is clearly the No. 1 pick and is getting better as he starts his fourth year in the NHL. He is coming off a 108-point season, and he is the fastest skater in the league.

When it comes to fantasy hockey, McDavid can take over with his ability to score multiple points in any game and become the league's most explosive scorer.

Crosby has proved himself in all aspects of the game and multiple times over. His talent has been immense since he came into the league as the No. 1 draft pick as an 18-year-old in 2005-06, and he still has his skills and far more savvy at age 31. Crosby has been a part of three Stanley Cup champions, and winning is far more important to him than individual honors.

Seguin came to an agreement on an extension with the Dallas Stars that will keep the scorer with the team through the 2026-27 season. He has scored 384 points in his five seasons with the Stars, and there is every reason to think he will only get better. He is a far better defensive center than most give him credit for, but it is his ability to score and set up his teammates that sets him apart.

       

Draft Strategy

There is a huge difference between fantasy hockey strategy and fantasy football. While those playing fantasy football want to load up on star running backs and receivers at the expense of quarterbacks, tight ends, placekickers and defense, the key in fantasy hockey is balance.

Yes, you want your stud scorers at the top of the first round, but you want an elite defenseman in the second round and one of the best goalies in the third round.

Here's how we see an ideal 12-round draft

Round 1: Top scorer
Round 2: Game-changing defenseman
Round 3: Elite goaltender
Round 4: Second-tier defenseman (not an All-Star, but strong at both ends)
Round 5: Second-tier forward (close to All-Star level)
Round 6: Up-and-coming forward (players with great value)
Round 7: No. 2 goaltender
Round 8: Up-and-coming defenseman (athletic ability and potential
Rounds 9 through 12: Additional forwards (two or three) and defenseman (one or two).

This strategy is just a suggestion, and you can vary from it. But balanced teams regularly win daily fantasy hockey and also league championships, so you can never ignore defensemen and goaltenders just to load up on high-scoring forwards.

Balance wins in the NHL and fantasy hockey.

          

Sleepers

Players who come in the late rounds of your fantasy league, or bargain performers in a daily game, are often the difference between staying close to your opponents and winning the game. 

We offer two forwards, two defensemen and one goalie who can provide an edge for fantasy general managers.

1. RW Kyle Okposo, BUFThe Sabres look like one of the most improved teams in the league after drafting Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, and Okposo is healthy once again this year.

He should be able to get back to the form he had earlier in his career with the New York Islanders. Okposo can fill it up with his wicked wrist shot and his strength and power around the net.

2. C Alexander Wennberg, CBJWennberg has been hurt by nagging injuries to this point in his career, and he has been somewhat disappointing. However, he is just 24 years old and has the ability to become a key contributor for head coach John Tortorella. Look for Wennberg to exceed his career-best total of 59 points.

3. D Mikhail Sergachev, TBSergachev made a name for himself as a rookie with 40 points last year, and his development should continue this year. While Victor Hedman is the top defenseman on the Lightning and possibly the league, Sergachev is surging.

4. D Oscar Klefbom, EDMThe Oilers were perhaps the league's biggest disappointment after making the playoffs and winning a round in 2016-17. Klefbom had a disappointing season with five goals and 16 assists for 21 points. He had 38 points the season before, and we expect a return to that form this season.

5. G Cam Ward, CHIIt may simply be a matter of opportunity for Ward because starting goalie Corey Crawford (concussion issues) does not appear ready to take on a regular role. If the Blackhawks can play just a bit better than last year, Ward could be a difference-maker because the Blackhawks suffered whenever their backup goaltenders played last year.

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