THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Sport)

It’s never too early. Not even in the middle of summer.

The ideal image of fantasy hockey prep at this time of year might be curling up on a dock with THN’s Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide. That’s a great idea. It’s loaded with useful information, it projects the NHL’s top 300 scorers and it hits newsstands any day now.

But what happens when you’ve read that paper edition cover to cover? As the summer inches closer to fall and training camps start up, you’ll want another update in hockey pool expertise. That’s what this specialized list of rankings is for. I will update my top 200 players periodically, and with increasing frequency, until opening night of the 2015-16 season.

Think of this ranking set as a companion piece to the pool guide. The former focuses on points, while this list blends goalies and skaters into a master breakdown tailored for anyone drafting in leagues with multiple stat categories. The rankings below are based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Did last year’s list steer you right? It helped me win both my pools, so hopefully that buys your trust. Remember, these rankings are about fantasy, not real life, so a few stars will be listed lower than you might expect. Enjoy, and feel free to debate the rankings – and let me know about any glaring omissions – in the comment section below.

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Fantasy hockey Q&A: Should you trade Evgeni Malkin?

Matt Larkin
Evgeni Malkin

A thought that occurred to me while we finished up our Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide, which hits newsstands in the next few weeks: we’ve entered a golden age of fantasy hockey. Traditional, pen-and-paper office pools still exist, but we also have massive online league engines and keeper formats that let us track salaries and trade draft picks. The latest revolution, daily fantasy sports, has players changing their lineups seven times a week based on matchups. We’ve never had so many options.

All the different modes of play complicate roster decisions and led to many questions submitted from readers over the past several weeks. They were supposed to run in the magazine, but our 2015-16 Pool Guide is so packed with content that there wasn’t room. I’ll answer them online instead. Here goes…

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Who has lost the most fantasy value this off-season?

Matt Larkin
Antti Niemi. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

On Monday I explored which players have gained fantasy value based on off-season trades and signings so far. Some NHLers, however, lose value based on roster moves, whether it’s because they’re pushed down the depth chart by a new addition or because they’ve lost their key linemate to a trade or free agency.

Which players stand to produce less in 2015-16 based on summer transactions so far? Consider these names.

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Who has gained the most fantasy value this off-season?

Matt Larkin
Phil Kessel (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

With every off-season comes a flurry of trades and signings, which alter many players’ fantasy values. It’s not just the guys switching teams who change in fantasy pool worth, either. There’s a ripple effect. Player X may skyrocket in projected production after being dealt to Team Y, but the roster spot he leaves behind may open a hole for a certain prospect to climb the depth chart.

Which players have ascended the most in 2015-16 fantasy draft rankings so far? Here are some names to consider.

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Fantasy hockey mailbag: deciding whom to cut from your keeper league team

Matt Larkin
Kris Letang (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

May and June allow most fantasy hockey poolies to put their feet up. Their regular seasons are over, and most of them are eliminated from their playoff pools by this stage, too.

For the diehard keeper league players, though, there’s never really a break. They must decide which players to retain for next season before a deadline. They must assess how the post-season and the NHL draft affect player values and the overall talent pool.

Today, I take questions from that demographic. The fun part about keeper league inquiries is that they are essentially hockey questions about the long-term value of player A versus player B or C. The answers can spark debate among fantasy players and general hockey fans alike. Let’s get started!

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Fantasy hockey: When can you trust surprise playoff breakouts?

Matt Larkin
Fernando Pisani.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Fernando Pisani. Chris Kontos. Ville Leino.

Those names elicited joy from their teams’ fan bases for a few magical months. Now? More like shudders of horror. That trio, along with countless other players, came out of nowhere to dominate in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now they belong on the Mount Rushmore of guys who created sky-high expectations with spring heroics only to flop over the rest of their careers.

In hindsight, though, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Pisani, Kontos or Leino fail to translate playoff success into a successful regular season career. I feel for anyone who reached for them in fantasy drafts the following autumns, because we should’ve seen their struggles coming. The warning signs were there.

Not every surprise playoff stud comes back to Earth the next season, though. The key is to know what to look for – the green lights and red lights. When it’s your turn to pick a few months from now, and the 2015 version of Bryan Bickell is in your queue, consider these questions.

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THN’s top 100 playoff fantasy players for 2015

Matt Larkin
Steven Stamkos. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Congrats if you won your regular season fantasy pool. Apologies if you didn’t. Now it’s time to (a) win another pool and further annoy your pals or (b) redeem a nightmare season with a magical playoff run.

Playoff fantasy rankings are a vastly different beast. We can no longer evaluate players on merely their skill, role and teammates. Now we must factor in how far we believe each guy’s team will go. Note the lack of Sidney Crosby atop these rankings. Sorry, but given how done-like-dinner his Pittsburgh Penguins looked down the stretch, and that they face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers, we can’t expect to have Crosby alive for long.

The list below reflects a blend of my personal Eastern and Western Conference team predictions and players’ overall values. Even if I don’t see the likes of Crosby or Carey Price going far, I recognize some people will disagree, so I won’t bury those superstars in the rankings too much. Above all else, playoff pools are about playing your hunch of what team will do well – and loading up on that team’s players. Juggle the rankings for yourself if you have a different idea of who goes far. But consider these 100 names within whatever order you set.

Positions listed reflect Yahoo league eligibility.

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Fantasy hockey mailbag: MacKinnon vs. Drouin, and other keeper league pickles

Matt Larkin
Jonathan Drouin. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Seeking advice in your fantasy hockey pool right now? You must be:

(a) Seeking upgrades or smart last-minute roster adds for your post-season push
(b) Scraping the roadkill that is your team off the pavement, and assessing keeper players

Today’s mailbag tackles questions from both perspectives.

Jeremy Aubin (@JAubs19) asks
Strictly a points league, better player to draft next year: Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin?

Answer: Who knew this would be such a good question? It boils the blood of any MacKinnon owner, especially after he was shut down with a broken foot last week, adding injury to the insult of his sophomore slump. MacKinnon made poolie mouths water as an 18-year-old rookie in 2013-14, churning out 63 points, spurred by a great second half, and dominating in the post-season.

This year? A measly 12 goals and 38 points in 64 games. Yikes. And just when he showed signs of life with five goals and nine points in his past 10 games, his season ended. So it’s understandable to wonder if Tampa Bay left winger Jonathan Drouin, Mackinnon’s former Halifax Mooseheads teammate and the young man picked two spots after him in 2013, is a better keeper-league option.

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